Andy Weir’s trilogy leaves a lot to think about


Though the impact of COVID 19 is waning, there is a possibility that many activities could be cancelled this summer. Because of this, many of us will want something to do. Personally, I would recommend trying three  books, all by the same author. That author is Andy Weir.

Andy Weir is a science fiction writer who has gained significant popularity and prevalence in pop culture since his debut book, “The Martian”, in 2014. Weir’s three novels are filled with humor, action, suspense, and high stakes that will leave readers unable to put the books down.

Each of these books has its own unique plot that stands on its own. There are also so many twists and turns that it is near impossible to predict what will happen. Below I present highlights of each book, summarizing their similarities and differences. There will be some minor spoilers, as the books’ merits cannot be discussed without the key events mentioned.  Still, the spoilers that are present don’t ruin any of the books’ extraordinary appeal.

Weir’s first novel was “The Martian”. The book kicks off with astronaut and biologist Mark Watney giving readers a very bleak glimpse of his situation through a recorded log. Readers soon learn that Watney was the botanist and mechanical engineer on a space mission to Mars. Alongside his five crewmates, Watney manned Ares III, a mission NASA orchestrated to see whether Mars could be habitable. 

Watney quickly realizes that the rest of his crew is no longer with him. When a sandstorm more severe than any predicted during the duration of the mission struck, the crew fled to a smaller spacecraft.  This craft  took the rest of the crew from Mars back to the floating space station Hermes, from which they would go back to Earth. Believing him to be dead, the crew left Watney behind.

The thing is, Watney wasn’t dead. Although he was severely injured during the storm, his spacesuit managed to keep him alive. When he regained consciousness, he managed to get back to the team’s main base. From there, he had to figure out how to survive on Mars in hopes that he would someday be able to get back to Earth.

“The Martian” is mostly told through Watney’s logs that were recorded during his time on the red planet. There are also parts that take place on Earth, in addition to a couple of flashbacks sprinkled throughout the story. This format allows Weir to give insight into what happens on Mars while giving readers the context to understand it.

Mark Watney is an extremely well developed protagonist. He has become known in the literature world for his quick humor and accurate, if profane, outlook. Since the book’s initial publishing, a movie has been released based on its story. As a form of accolades to the written work, the movie’s plot closely follows the book’s twists and turns.  In addition, many teachers would like to use the book to supplement science classes but were unable because of the extreme foul language. For this reason, Weir worked with publishers to create a PG 13 version that is now used in schools.

Unfortunately, Weir’s second book was not as captivating. Called “Artemis”, it was published in 2018. The book follows Jasmine Bashara, or Jazz, a thief living in a colony on the Moon.  The stakes are not nearly as high or well defined, it is significantly more difficult to be empathetic to the characters’ plights and although the setting is more attainable to reality, the plot does not succeed in engaging readers. I tried multiple times, but  I was unable to become invested in the book’s plot and therefore did not finish it-a true rarity for me.

With the books’ polar levels of appeal,  I was apprehensive to pick up Weir’s third, and currently final book, published earlier this month. This third book, titled “Project Hail Mary”, quickly regained my confidence and allegiance to Weir’s writing. 

Though it was not as ground-breaking as “The Martian”, “Project Hail Mary” was an incredible read. “The Martian” was the first science fiction book I picked up and enjoyed.  My earlier genre of comfort had always been fantasy.  “Artemis” made me wonder if I could enjoy a second genre nearly as much.   “Project Hail Mary” restored my faith that I could.  The protagonist is a man who wakes up in a spaceship with no idea of how or why he is there. He experiences amnesia and takes time to discover his past, what his purpose is on the ship, and even his own name. Eventually, he remembers that he was one of three astronauts sent on a last-ditch mission to save humanity from a single celled organism absorbing the Sun’s rays. 

He realizes that his two crewmates are dead, he has no way to contact Earth, and must work alone with his very limited memory. On his journey, he meets an unlikely ally and together they work to save not just Earth, but the entire galaxy.

In a way similar to “The Martian”, this book contains gripping action and high stakes. In this book those stakes are even higher. Rather than saving one man from an isolated death, the plot presents the challenge of saving an entire species from a slow, dreadful dissolution. “Project Hail Mary” already has a movie in the works, though there is no release date available at this time.

Both “The Martian” and “Project Hail Mary” include descriptions of  scientific processes that are wordy, complex, and may lose the attention of some readers. However, both summarize the processes and their  findings in most, if not all, of these instances. Both novels are stories of hope and perseverance against natural threats. Both encounter struggles and even tragedy, but bring resolution that is both fulfilling and leaves readers wanting more. If you are even considering a science fiction novel to read over summer break, I highly recommend either of these books. Andy Weir’s first and third works truly are stellar.