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'The Martian': Author Andy Weir discusses his new sci-fi novel

Weir's debut novel is experiencing good sales and is receiving praise for the scientific detail involved in his tale of an astronaut stranded on Mars. The author says he was inspired by the movie 'Apollo 13,' where it's 'man versus nature... it's all of us against the physical world.'

By Staff Writer / February 20, 2014

'The Martian' was released on Feb. 11.

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Author Andy Weir has garnered good sales and positive reviews for his debut novel “The Martian,” which follows an astronaut who is left for dead on Mars.

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“Martian,” which was released on Feb. 11, centers on Mark Watney, who is left by his fellow crew members on the red planet after a dust storm makes them return to Earth, believing an injured Mark to be dead. Left behind, Mark must use the scant available materials to keep himself alive.

The novel debuted on the IndieBound list for the week of Feb. 20 at number six and has received mainly positive reviews, with Publishers Weekly calling it an “excellent first novel… Watney’s solutions to food and life support problems are plausible, and Weir laces the technical details with enough keen wit to satisfy hard science fiction fan and general reader alike… Weir uses Watney’s proactive nature and determination to survive to keep the story escalating to a riveting conclusion.”

Meanwhile, Kirkus Reviews noted that “the modern dialogue at times undermines the futuristic setting” but said that “Weir displays a virtuosic ability to write about highly technical situations without leaving readers far behind. The result is a story that is as plausible as it is compelling… sharp, funny and thrilling.”

Weir told industry newsletter Shelf Awareness that in his book, he wanted to get the same feeling of excitement he has when watching the film “Apollo 13,” in which astronauts and NASA staff scramble to create unorthodox solutions to rescue the spacemen. (The author said he penned the book without contacting anyone at NASA.)

“It's like MacGyver in space, with billions of dollars of equipment being misappropriated to barely stay alive, and everybody working together,” he said of the film. “And I just love that.” 

He said he thought the best way to balance out the science talk in his story for readers would be to make his hero, Mark, as relatable as he could.

“If the reader is rooting for the protagonist, they'll forgive you just about everything else,” Weir said. “He's really snarky and self-effacing… I had to get the humor in there, otherwise it's just a dry science lesson.”

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