The Martian

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The Martian Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Andy Weir 's The Martian. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Andy Weir

Weir was born the same year that NASA’s last two Apollo missions took place. He grew up in California, and, as the son of a particle physicist and an electronics engineer, he was interested in science and technology from an early age. Weir attended UC San Diego, where he studied computer programming and began writing fiction in his free time. After college, he worked as a computer programmer, but continued to write science fiction and fanfiction on his website. He also wrote Casey and Andy, a semi-autobiographical web comic. Weir currently lives and writes in California. He is afraid of flying.
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Historical Context of The Martian

In The Martian, Weir references the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1972, when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on the moon. NASA’s 1997 Mars Pathfinder mission, which landed an unmanned roving probe on Mars in 1997, also plays a role in the events of the novel.

Other Books Related to The Martian

In The Martian, protagonist Mark Watney reads several Agatha Christie novels, including Evil Under the Sun.
Key Facts about The Martian
  • Full Title: The Martian
  • When Written: 2009-2011
  • Where Written: California, USA
  • When Published: 2012
  • Literary Period: 21st Century Popular Fiction
  • Genre: Speculative Fiction / Science Fiction
  • Setting: The events of The Martian take place on Mars, Earth, and in outer space. The novel is set around the year 2035.
  • Climax: When Watney’s modified Ares 4 MAV launches him into space and the drag from the flapping canvas on the front of the ship slows his ascent. As a result, Hermes is no longer on track to intercept the MAV and rescue Watney. On Earth, NASA scientists watch this crisis unfolding, but are unable to help. The Ares 3 crew on Hermes successfully rescues Watney by speeding up the ship and then intentionally breaching Hermes’ airlock to slow the ship in time to intercept the MAV.
  • Point of View: Much of the novel is told from Mark Watney’s point of view; these passages take the form of Watney’s log entries during the Mars mission. Weir alternates between the log entries and passages narrated from third-person omniscient and third-person limited perspectives.

Extra Credit for The Martian

Publication History. Weir originally published The Martian in serial form on his website—a fact that explains why many of the novel’s chapters close with cliff-hanger endings. In 2012, Weir self-published the novel as an ebook on Amazon. After becoming an Amazon bestseller, The Martian was picked up by Random House Book’s Crown Publishing imprint. It went on to become a #1 New York Times bestseller.

Film Adaptation. A star-studded film adaptation of The Martian was released in 2015. The cast includes Matt Damon as Mark Watney, Jessica Chastain as Commander Lewis, Kristen Wigg as Annie Montrose, and Jeff Daniels as Teddy Sanders. The film won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture, and Damon won a Golden Globe for Best Performance.