A decade stranded

Celebrate 10 years of The Martian with a new entry from Mark Watney

A decade stranded
Image: Andrew Liptak

Author Andy Weir celebrated a fun milestone over the weekend: his debut novel The Martian turned 10 (sort of), and to celebrate, he wrote a bit of additional content in the form of a new diary entry from the book's main character, Mark Watney.

The Martian is nothing short of a lightning-in-the-bottle example of overnight success for Weir. He was a computer programmer and began writing science fiction on the side. He began writing this story, about an astronaut stranded on Mars and his efforts to survive, in 2009, initially serializing the story on his website. He began incorporated the advice and corrections he got from readers as he went, and began selling the book on Amazon's Kindle store, where it raced up the charts.

That success earned the attention of major publishers, and in the spring of 2013, he sold the audiobook, print, and film rights to the book: Crown released an updated version of the story in hardcover, which debuted on February 11th, 2014. The book quickly became a major bestseller, and 20th Century Fox fast-tracked a film adaptation. Directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner) and starring Matt Damon as the lead character, it debuted on October 2nd, 2015.

This, is should be said, is not the story for most books: it's a remarkable and rare success story for Weir, who told me in an interview back in 2017 that it made releasing another book pretty daunting. That book was a crime thriller set on the moon called Artemis. He's since released another book, Project Hail Mary, which was another big hit for him.

Ten years is a long time in the book world, and it's pretty remarkable for a book to remain on shelves (and to continue to sell well) for that period of time. It's not hard to see why: Weir's book is breezy and accessible, with an appealing and funny main character solving a formidable problem. I blew through the book in a single sitting. As I wrote in my review a decade ago: "you can't help but cheer for him as he overcomes just about everything that Mars throws at him. This is high-tech Robinson Crusoe, with a much steeper difficulty curve."

So, it's exciting to see that Weir's returned to the world for a small addition to the story, which he posted on his website. It's in the form of one of the journal entries with an explanation that it was a corrupted entry, given that his laptop was on Mars longer than anticipated, and thus subjected to more radiation.

Destination: Mars
How we imagined the Red Planet

The story's from later in the story, following Watney after he encountered a problem as he drove out to his launch site at the Schiaparelli crater to get rescued. It's a fun excerpt: Watney's just as profane and entertaining as I remember, and I sort of wonder if Weir will use this conceit again to add to the story. It's a fun story that I wouldn't mind returning to if he finds the right way to do it.