The Martian: A Novel
Andy Weir (Facebook)
Audiobook read by R.C. Bray
Crown (February 2014), hardcover (ISBN 0804139024 / 9780804139021)
Fiction (science fiction/suspense), 384 pages
Source: Purchased audiobook (Podium Publishing, March 2013; Audible ASIN B00B5HO5XA)
The Martian is almost certainly one of those books that I wouldn’t have noticed in my pre-book-blogging life, and given that my pre-book-blogging reading life didn’t include audiobooks, I absolutely wouldn’t have read it by ear even if I had become aware of its existence. I started seeing excited reviews of this novel on the blogs a few months ago, and although I only skimmed many of them–I went into this one without a clear idea of what the title actually meant–I made some mental notes about it; and when the audiobook won the 2014 Armchair Audies “Listeners’ Choice” Award, moving it up in my listening queue was an easy decision. (Can I just say, not for the first or last time, how much I appreciate what book blogging has done for my reading life?)
The Martian begins on Sol 6 (a “sol” is the length of day on Mars) with NASA astronaut Mark Watney’s first log entry after being left for dead on the Red Planet by the rest of the Ares 3 mission team. Mark understands that decision—the entire team could have died if they’d stayed behind—but he also understands that he’s not dead. Yet. Once he does the math–how much food he has, how long until the next Mars mission is scheduled–he sees that he’ll most likely get there eventually. However, Mark’s drive to survive, and the ingenuity he employs in applying his skills as an engineer and botanist to that goal, is a bit of a surprise to him. NASA’s eventual discovery that he’s still on Mars, and clearly not dead, is an even bigger surprise, and their necessary response to that discovery–finding a way to bring him home–will bring more surprises, some of which will be quite unwelcome.
To be honest, I had a few doubts in the early going that this novel was going to work for me, but just as Mark’s log entries were starting to feel a little tedious–they weren’t boring, but was the entire story going to be told this way?–author Andy Weir switched gears. The narrative expanded to include the Earth-based NASA team and Mark’s fellow crew members on the Hermes space station, and as these strands became braided more tightly together, the suspense built and I grew more invested, both intellectually and emotionally, in The Martian. Strangely and surprisingly, building out the cast of characters made the central one that much more interesting to me. I really grew to like Mark, and his log entries proved to be both genuine expressions of personality and engaging accounts of an inspired survival mission that took me on an emotional roller-coaster ride.
I’m not sure I would have found this one quite as affecting in print, but I absolutely understand that “Listener’s Choice” selection. The Martian was my first experience with narrator R.C. Bray, but I’m pretty sure that seeing his name in an audiobook’s credits will be a recommendation for me in the future. I really enjoyed his character-voice work, and his reading of the tightly-plotted final section had me nearly breathless. (I listen to audiobooks while driving, so this may not have been entirely safe.) When the book ended with the “Audible hopes you have enjoyed this program” message, my answer was an enthusiastic Yes.
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.
Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.
Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.
But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
“I’m pretty much fucked.
“That’s my considered opinion.
“Six days into what should be the greatest two months of my life, and it’s turned into a nightmare.
“I don’t even know who will read this. I guess someone will find it eventually. Maybe a hundred years from now.
“For the record…I didn’t die on Sol 6. Certainly the rest of the crew thought I did, and I can’t blame them. Maybe there’ll be a day of national mourning for me, and my Wikipedia page will say, ‘Mark Watney is the only human being to have died on Mars.’”