Sunday, March 20, 2016

Review: The Martian

When it comes to movies and books, I’m not a first-run or first-edition kind of guy. I will almost always wait until the works are inexpensively available before taking a look at them.

Such was the case with The Martian by Andy Weir. I wanted to jump into the story as early as 2013 -- when I first became aware of a self-published novel that was taking the nation, or at least its science-fiction community, by storm -- but it wasn't until recently that I did so. And when I did, I picked the picture over the words.

I finally saw the movie, based on the New York Times bestselling novel, last night and must say it is every bit as good as most people say it is. With an 8.1 average rating on IMDb.com and 92-percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, it has drawn almost universal acclaim.

The story of Mark Watney, an American astronaut stranded on Mars, The Martian covers familiar ground. It is a little Robinson Crusoe on Mars and a lot of MacGyver with some high-tech spin. Watney survives by using his wits and does so with humor and flair.

The Oscar-nominated movie, directed by Ridley Scott, succeeds on several levels. The cinematography is breathtaking and the acting is compelling. Matt Damon is superb as Watney, a wisecracking loner who looks at every deadly challenge as an opportunity.

(Those who watch this film, released last fall by 20th Century Fox, will never again look at potatoes and duct tape the same way.)

As one who knows the challenges of writing, publishing, and marketing an indie novel, I can only admire Weir’s rags-to-riches success. In fact, I am somewhat indebted to him.

When Podium Publishing contacted me three years about turning The Mine into an audiobook, it noted a link between readers who liked Weir’s self-published work and those who liked mine. Ten months later, in January 2014, The Mine was released on Audible.

I don’t know if Weir, a California computer programmer, plans to write more books, but I hope he does. His first novel, and the blockbuster film it inspired, are each worthy of a sequel. Rating: 5/5.

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