Fans of "Star Trek" and "The Martian" (Crown Publishing, 2014) — the hit novel by Andy Weir about fictional astronaut Mark Watney being stranded on the Red Planet — have an exciting audiobook to look forward to.
The bestselling novel got a new audiobook treatment through Audible. In this new version, the book is narrated by actor Wil Wheaton ("Star Trek: The Next Generation," "The Big Bang Theory"). The audiobook also includes an exclusive for fans of "The Martian": several new short stories from Weir about Watney.
Weir loved the previous audiobook version from Podium Publishing, recorded by R.C. Bray when both the narrator and Weir were just starting out in their careers, Weir told Space.com. "The narrator did a fantastic job. Everyone loved his version, and all was right with the world. Everybody made out like bandits," Weir said.
Listen to an excerpt from the new audiobook, voiced by Wheaton, below:
Author Andy Weir's science fiction hit "The Martian" about an astronaut stranded on Mars is now an audiobook from Audible narrated by actor Wil Wheaton of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Big Bang Theory," and more. You can get it free with an Audible trial or download with one-click from Amazon for $30.58.View Deal
Behind the audiobook
Since they collaborated on the audiobook, both of their careers took a great turn.
For Weir, "The Martian" ended up a Hollywood hit, with Matt Damon starring as Watney, and Weir also penned another hit space novel, called "Artemis" (Crown Publishing, 2017). Meanwhile, Bray expanded his sci-fi audio readings and is now the narrator of 250 books. With the rising success of both the site and the book, the audiobook company Audible looked to obtain the original audiobook of "The Martian."
"So, Audible came in and said, 'We'll give you a pile of money for the [audiobook] rights.' I've personally always been a fan of huge piles of money," Weir said. But Audible was unable to come to an agreement with Podium to purchase the audiobook, and when the company asked Bray to rerecord the work, it couldn't meet his new budget, Weir explained.
So, the company asked Wheaton, who Weir described as a natural choice, to lend his voice to the book. Wheaton has narrated dozens of well-known sci-fi and science titles, including Ernest Cline's "Ready Player One" (Crown Publishing, 2011) and webcomic "xkcd" creator Randall Munroe's "What If?" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).
"Yeah, I'm a huge fan. I read that book when it came out," Wheaton said about "The Martian" in a separate interview with Space.com. He said that the publishers never fully explained to him why they chose him to narrate the new version of the audiobook but added that he was "so excited to bring the book to life, I chose not to keep asking those questions."
Wheaton said he felt his performance was extra-important because another version of the audiobook already exists, one that audiences already love. "So I needed to give people … the very best narration I was capable of giving," he said.
Before recording his reading, the actor skimmed through the book to remind himself of the plot, being careful to think about how he would play Watney himself. "It was very important to me that I do not blend my performance with Matt Damon's performance. So I stayed away from the movie," he said.
While Wheaton and Weir are still excited that they got to collaborate, they're also busy working on new, separate projects that fans will see in the next year or so. Weir is finishing the first draft for his next novel, but he said he can't say much more about it than to share the scheduled publishing date of spring 2021.
Why the wait, you might ask? "You don't want to release a fiction book near a presidential election," Weir said, further explaining that the bestselling books in an election year tend to be about politics. "So all the fiction writers wait. If you want to go shopping for good books, it's spring of 2021. That's when an entire year of book publishing constipation is going to come out."
Wheaton also has two books coming out in the next 12 months, including a novel (the topic of which has not been revealed) and a series of essays and speeches about living with depression and anxiety. Additionally, he said, "there are all these other things that are happening which are really exciting, but I'm not allowed to talk about it."
Well, actually, there is one exception. Wheaton is also behind a new "Star Trek: Picard" aftershow called "The Ready Room," named after a Trek term for the commanding officer's office on a starship. The first episode of the discussion show dropped Thursday (Jan. 23), and Wheaton has already signed on for a second season.
In addition to the new sci-fi projects, Wheaton has been following events in real-life spaceflight and space exploration lately, he said. During the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11's July 20, 1969, touchdown, the first crewed moon landing, Wheaton logged on to a website that showed the Apollo mission unfolding in real time. By chance, he tuned in just minutes before the anniversary of the exact moment that Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon's surface. "So, I got to watch that, and it felt very special to me," the actor said.
Wheaton said he is skeptical about the Trump administration's plans to return humans to the lunar surface by 2024, because, the Trek star said, he feels that the administration is self-serving. "When they say we're going to do a thing that benefits all humanity, I feel that's a lie," Wheaton said. Still, Wheaton isn't opposed to space exploration in general. He said that he is in favor of more space exploration in the short term, whether by robots or by humans.
"I think more space is better — and that sounds like a cave man said it, I know — but that's what I've always thought," Wheaton said. "The sooner we can get to having a space station that lots of people can live on, the better. The moon can be used for a stepping-off point for further human exploration of the galaxy.
"We are murdering our planet, and for a whole host of despicable and indefensible reasons, and the people who should be saving us from that [threat] are pretending it doesn't exist," Wheaton added, referring to climate change, which has been caused and worsened by human activities. "We have to get off this planet if this species is going to survive."
- Take a peak at the 'The Martian' Blu-ray Bonus Features
- Mars Radiation Threat to Astronauts Explained (Infographic)
- Six Surprising Facts About 'The Martian'