The Martian as an audiobook is far better than it has any reason to be. Andy Weir the author has managed to do something I hitherto considered impossible. Take a book where the plot is eighty-five or ninety percent complicated science complete with fairly detailed albeit somewhat simple explanations for the average reader and make it entertaining. Not just entertaining either. Absolutely hilarious to the point I burst out laughing on multiple occasions while relistening to the book for purposes of review.
The plot is relatively simple. Aries 3 is one of a series of manned missions to Mars for the purpose of scientific study. After six days on the planet surface a huge storm begins to approach them. They begin to evacuate but Mark Watney – the group’s botanist and mechanical engineer – gets stranded on Mars. He has to survive on his own. Just how will he escape Mars and will NASA be able to help him in any way?
The book is extremely well written and very engaging. The characters ranging from Watney himself to Commander Lewis and Dr Kapoor are all very believable as people. Mark is extremely intelligent while also being very witty and sarcastic. His sarcasm makes up half of the book’s humour so it’s something you definitely learn to appreciate. He also comes across as very likeable although I don’t know if it’s a good thing that I found him relatable! Lewis however becomes very important late in the book – although I won’t say how – and certainly takes no nonsense from anyone. Dr Kapoor and the rest of NASA however spend the rest of the book trying to help save Watney and come across as very realistic considering the sheer amount of stress they are under in the situation…well except for the Media Relations Office. They seemed somewhat intentionally unbearable. One particular personal favourite moment of mine was when NASA refused Watney’s request for “anything please oh god anything but disco.” I promise it makes sense in context!
The narration by R.C Bray is very on point and can make the complicated jargon both understandable and the dialogue flow very naturally. I certainly hope to hear him in future audiobooks I listen to. Even if his accents – where he occasionally either comes across as a little too much or like he’s trying too hard – aren’t that bad compared to what I’ve heard in other releases.
The Martian is also one of the few stories where I would say the film version released in 2015 and the original book are both very much worth your time. In my opinion the book is definitely superior out of the two but I would highly recommend them both. In fact during the production of the film Weir and the production had a fairly large amount of NASA co-operation from a variety of different departments (This is probably the only time you will see me actively recommend a film in this column. Don’t get used to it.)
Somewhat sadly the audiobook doesn’t contain music even if only as an ambient mood setter of sorts. But I can understand that it’s quite possible the main counter argument to its inclusion would be the possibility of distracting the listener from the science. Which would be a problem since said science is the only thing keeping Watney alive!
One final comment is that I would also recommend Weir’s other works. His second novel – Artemis – set on the moon in the semi near future is equally as entertaining as The Martian even though I prefer The Martian out of the two. There is however an audio exclusive release by Weir I may review at some point in the future so I won’t give that one away.
Long story short? READ, LISTEN AND WATCH THE MARTIAN!