Reader’s Report: The Martian

The third installation for my Reader’s Report Series! The Martian by Andy Weir

For those who are unfamiliar, a reader’s report is a report that an editorial assistant will write on a recently submitted manuscript as part of their weekly tasks. This reader’s report is for editors who are too busy to read the manuscript. In a way, an EA will help the editor to decide whether or not to acquire the book. Basic information is given like a complete summary of the plot, a critique, overall conclusion, positioning, comparative titles, and the jacket copy.  In order to be hired as an editorial assistant at a certain imprint, you not only have to know the imprints titles, but also comparative titles. I definitely need more practice writing them since I work in medical publishing, where they are unnecessary. Since reader’s reports are generally more comprehensive, the one’s on my blog will be shorter and not contain spoilers for those who have not read the books! I am definitely open to critique, so comment away!

Reader’s Report: The Martian by Andy Weir, Crown/ Random House, February 11, 2014.

I received this book from BloggingForBooks.org  in exchange for an honest review.

Fun fact about this title: it was originally self-published in 2012!

***** 5 stars out of 5

The Martian by Andy Weir
The Martian by Andy Weir

 

Synopsis:

Mark Watney, a botanist and engineer for NASA, has been left for dead on the desolate desert planet Mars. He doesn’t blame the crew for leaving him, they were following procedure and were sure he was dead anyway. It was a freak accident in a dust storm that blew him away from his crew in zero visibility. The crew aborted their mission and started their return trip to Earth. Once Watney regained consciousness, he returned to the “Hab,” short for Habitat, an air-locked living quarter for Astronauts (they are the thrid set of astronauts to visit Mars). Watney assesses his situation and figures that he only has 1 year to live on the freeze dried food packs, but since he’s a botanist he devises and executes a plan to grow potatoes inside the Hab. This extends his life significantly. The other problems he has to solve include creating water, Hab and rover maintenance, and communicating with NASA.

Meanwhile on Earth, the NASA scientists only realize he’s alive after noticing that the solar panels of the Hab are being dusted regularly (to keep power going). They immediately jump into action to send rescue packs and plan to bring him home.

Watney explores Mars in a modified rover vehicle to retrieve an old communication system abandoned in an earlier mission. With the new communication system he is able to convey to NASA that he is still alive and his plans for food. NASA and Watney agree that his best chance of rescue is to go to the Ares 4 Station (set up for the next crew) and have his former crew-mates rescue him from there.

There are continuing challenges through each part of the book, Watney (as we are consistently, but not overly reminded) is always in a fight for survival. At one point the Hab explodes because of pressure and luckily he survives, but he has to repair it, which causes delays for his rescue plan. He’s also modifying the rover even more for a long distance trek to the Ares 4 station. This trek causes a lot of complications.

For a spoiler free ending, I’m declining to tell you what happens at the end!

Critique:

The voice is strong. The pacing is quick. The language is difficult to follow at times (very “math” heavy), but beyond that, it was structured well, made sense, and was an enjoyable read. The author made it sound like he had been to Mars and learned everything firsthand and was putting it into layman’s terms.

Conclusion:

This was a fun read. I enjoyed the voice and humor that was brought to the dire situation. There were some parts that were very “astronaut” heavy, where Watney describes chemistry or engineering (i.e. math) situation that went completely over my head, but I was able to gather when things were going good or bad. I was definitely rooting for him the entire time. At first I was thrown off by the NASA perspectives, but I think they enhanced the narrative, and I secretly enjoyed the panic they were experiencing verses the calm demeanor of Watney. This is a great addition to the Crown list.

Positioning:

Robinson Crusoe on Mars! Since this book has already been published, I would agree with the positioning that it is like “Apollo 13” meets “Cast Away.”

Competitive Titles:

  •  Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe: (synopsis from Goodreads) Who has not dreamed of life on an exotic isle, far away from civilization? Here is the novel which has inspired countless imitations by lesser writers, none of which equal the power and originality of Defoe’s famous book. Robinson Crusoe, set ashore on an island after a terrible storm at sea, is forced to make do with only a knife, some tobacco, and a pipe. He learns how to build a canoe, make bread, and endure endless solitude. That is, until, twenty-four years later, when he confronts another human being. First published in 1719, Robinson Crusoe has been praised by such writers as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Samuel Johnson as one of the greatest novels in the English language.

 

  • The Grey by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers: (synopsis from Goodreads) John Ottway has found the job at the end of the world, working as a hunter for an oil-camp on the North Slope of Alaska. It’s brutal, cold, and isolated, and there’s little he needs to do but wait for the day when he has the courage to end his life, as he plans to, some day, “at a time to be determined.” But the plane that ferries him and the other camp workers between the Slope and civilization crashes in the tundra, leaving Ottway alone with a handful of terrified survivors to face a punishing landscape, wolves who see them as an invading pack, and, ultimately, the prospect of a death he didn’t choose in its most insistent, inexorable form. As he battles to save the lives of those with him, he looks into the darkness of an unforgiving nature and must weigh the abysses in himself and the wrongs he carries against what he leaves behind, and choose whether his own life is worth saving, or not. This is an expanded version of the novella Ghost Walker by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, on which the film ‘The Grey’ is based.

Jacket Copy:

Marc Watney, boatanist and engineer for NASA, is stranded on Mars after his crew-mates leave him, thinking he died in a sandstorm. As Watney points out, it’s not their fault. And now he lives in a self-sustaining habitat and has everything he needs: food, water, and shelter, but he soon realizes that his food supply will dwindle before NASA has time to rescue him. In a fight for his own survival, he rigs an old communication system to talk to NASA, begins growing potatoes (on Mars!), and makes a plan for his rescue. Will it be enough?

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