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The Martian – by Andy Weir

By Kellie Purcill

Mark Watney is not having a good day.

It started out great: he’s on Mars, part of a manned mission of exploration.

His day got a bit worse: A savage storm blows in, its intensity and size enough to warrant the crew deciding to ditch the mission. Immediately.

Promptly went awful: Mark gets hit by a piece of communication equipment, and his suit is punctured. He flatlines.

Absolute worst: The crew scrambles to evacuate, abandoning Mars and Mark’s body.

Only thing is, Mark is still alive.

But he’s the only person who knows. He has to survive his injury, get back inside shelter, and work out what to do next.

The Martian is one of the few books in the last year that has had me sneaking paragraphs and pages at every opportunity. More telling is the number of times I grabbed whichever son was nearest to read aloud a particularly wonderful snippet – it’s been years since I’ve done that!

While being mostly set on Mars, The Martian  is far more an action filled adventure than science-fiction. There is science, of course – it’s a book about astronauts and Mars, of course there’s science! – but any detailed science is explained smoothly and easily in the course of the story.

“The oxygenator will turn it [CO2] into oxygen in its own time.

Then, I’ll release hydrazine, very slowly, over the iridium catalyst, to turn it into N2 and H2. I’ll direct the hydrogen to a small area and burn it.

As you can see, this plan provides many opportunities for me to die in a fiery explosion.

Firstly, hydrazine is some serious death. If I make any mistakes, there’ll be nothing left but the “Mark Watney Memorial Crater” where the Hab [Habitat] once stood.

Presuming I don’t f*** up with the hydrazine, there’s still the matter of burning hydrogen. I’m going to be setting a fire. In the Hab. On purpose.

If you asked every engineer at NASA what the worst scenario for the Hab was, they’d all answer “fire”. If you asked them what the result would be, they’d answer “death by fire.”

Not only is The Martian a gripping read, told mostly from Mark’s diary entries, but it’s carrying a whole lot of humour, dry wit, determination and emotional impact as well. Mark’s efforts on Mars are interspersed with the fallout on the crew (still months from landing back on Earth) and within NASA. There is some swearing (c’mon, he’s stranded on Mars without means of escape or long-term food supply, who wouldn’t curse?) but there’s also disco, heartache, refusal to give up, adventure and a guarantee that you will never, ever look at a potato the same way again.

Rated: PG – intermittent swearing, survival and mature themes

Recommended to:

  • The adventurous (at heart, in reality, in books read)
  • Anyone wanting a thrilling, exciting read
  • Stargazers, adrenalin junkies, scientific-bent types
  • Potato farmers
  • McGuyver fans and wannabes

Not recommended for:

  • Agoraphobes
  • Claustrophobes
  • Strictly “romance-only” readers
  • Anyone on medical advice to stay calm and relaxed


About Kellie Purcill

lives way on the other side of the planet in her native Australia and gives thanks for the internet regularly. She loves books, her boys, panna cotta, collecting words, being a redhead and not putting things in order of importance when listing items. She credits writing as a major contributing factor to surviving her life with sanity mostly intact, though her (in)sanity level is subject to change without warning.

6 thoughts on “The Martian – by Andy Weir”

  1. So glad you reviewed this. We just listed to it on a trip from AR to UT to AZ and home again. I watched "Gravity" just afterwards and thought it so similar to "The Martian" but not as believable as the book. I've had friends who were concerned about the profanity, but I found it to be cheerful and not offensive though others may be offended and I'm not sure I'd want a young child thinking it was acceptable. Love your choices.

  2. Be warned, the reviewer downplays the language. It is really bad…overused, distracting, etc. Read the first page. If you can't stomach that then don't read on. If you read on, the book is a great adventure. You've been warned.

  3. Thanks to all who have commented.

    As as has been mentioned, yes, there is swearing. Whether it is too much or not is an individual decision. If you click on the cover art, it will take you to the book's website, where you can read a fair chunk of the first chapter and that may help you decide if the book is for you or not.

    Happy reading, whatever you're reading!

  4. Ack! I love this book! I'm a scientist, so it immediately appealed to my nerd-side but it really is fantastic. If I ever taught an intro science or an order of magnitude physics class I would totally use this as my text book, at least for a couple of weeks. I love how Weir interweaves real problem solving, with real science and real numbers into a gripping plot. It is so awesome. I can't recommend it highly enough.

    In defense of the language, that really is how a lot of (non-religious) scientists talk, especially in field/stressful situations. In fact, I've heard much, MUCH worse in some situations.


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