The Martian

“The screen went black before I was out of the airlock. Turns out the “L” in “LCD” stands for “Liquid.” I guess it either froze or boiled off. Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.” (The Martian by Andy Weir)

“As with most of life’s problems, this one can be solved by a box of pure radiation.” (The Martian by Andy Weir)

The MartianIf you were to guess the genre of The Martian based on the title, cover, and press, you’d probably think ‘sci-fi’. Yet, you’d be wrong. Science fiction envisions a future based on current trends, scientific discoveries, or blind hope. Science fiction novels focus on atmosphere, create new language, or scare you with their believably. The Martian does none of this. After reading the first few pages, you might take another stab at picking out a genre for this book: survival. Yet, your standard survival genre novel hinges on the reader being scared for the characters’ lives. It is almost impossible to be afraid for the excessively competent, always-optimistic Mark Watney (aka The Martian). So where does that leave us?

The Martian creates its own genre. It is a genre of pure problem solving. Mark is confronted with a problem (i.e. surviving on Mars) and he solves it step by step, letting the reader in on his original, humorous thought process as he plants potatoes, calculates oxygen levels, and plans for every scenario. The sparsely defined outer space setting is merely an excuse for more problems to thoughtfully solve. Unlike any other book or genre, you leave this one with the sense that all of life could be led like this – moving from one solvable problem to the next – if only you yourself could keep the setting and background noise down to a minimum.

Recommended Action: Buy Borrow NowBorrow SometimeAvoid
Length: 385 pages
Ending: Satisfying, but I wish Weir would’ve gone on to show life back on earth and how this adventure had changed it
Incidental Learning: Science – tons of it, problem solving, outer space, mars, space travel
Further Reading: I’ve heard that the TV show MacGyver might be in this same problem solving genre, but I can’t confirm myself.

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