The Martian, written by Andy Weir tells the fictional story of astronaut Mark Watney becoming stranded on Mars with seemingly no means of rescue and a planet intent on shortening his lifespan considerably. And it is a weird book.
A weird, brilliant book.
The reason I tout weird as part of its components is that for the opening section of this Wil Wheaton narrated journey, the story is heavily doused in pure science-fact to the point that at times it almost feels like part book, part university lecture.
I can only begin to imagine and then gasp at the amount of research Weir had to have done to bring this incredible tale to life. But somehow, he did it. I Googled him expecting to see background as a serious scientist with a bit of writing on the side, but no, this guy did his research, and it shines from every single page.
Back to the story.
Perhaps you’ve already seen the 2015 film adaptation starring Matt Damon? I know I had prior to reading. I knew the way this would play out, but the additional depth offered by the written version, or in this case the audiobook version, really elevates the story to even greater heights. In fact, you might say it sends it into orbit.
The basics for those out of the loop. Mark Watney is part of a six-person crew to Mars. A few days into their short stay on the red planet, a serious storm hits forcing an emergency evacuation. En-route to the vessel, Watney is hit by debris, lost in the dust storm, and based on the bio readings from his suit, presumed dead. A pretty bad day at the office.
What follows is the still alive Watney playing a game of survival that includes trying to fend off starvation, dehydration, isolation, and depression at the over-abundance of disco tunes and ‘70s TV shows he’s been left with as entertainment on other crew members personal files. Rough. He also needs to somehow let NASA know he’s still breathing so they might think about drawing up a rescue plan.
From here we spin away into a magnificent ride through the peaks and troughs of the human spirit and the desire to live. I will say no more for those who still have the pleasure of this before them.
In terms of the audiobook
I thought Wil Wheaton did a brilliant job of breathing life into Watney and the assorted cast of astronauts, scientists, and desk jockeys. He carries the tale at a good pace and captures the balance beautifully between the darkness of the drama and the consistent humour of Watney’s log entries. He reads the text like a man enjoying his work which in turn makes every note truly sing.
The actual story itself, as I mentioned, is an odd one initially. I found myself listening to a lot of scientific reasoning as to why Watney was doing certain actions on Mars to survive. Why this combination of elements and machinery would produce result x if it worked and blow him up if it didn’t. That sort of thing, Yet I found myself utterly hooked. I suppose the combination of a strong narrator and powerful text is a marriage made in audiobook heaven and that is exactly what this version of The Martian holds.
If you are seeking an audiobook to carry you through the shortened winter days and lift you to the stars, then this one is about as good as it gets. Also, don’t be put off if you are not a science fiction buff. I’m not, but The Martian, despite its setting, is about science fact and more importantly, about celebrating the human spirit in the face of adversity. If anything, The Martian is a celebration of humanity, oh, and a damned good listen!
Below is an interview Wil Wheaton carried out with Andy Weir. Enjoy.