REVIEW: The Martian by Andy Weir

Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
My overall rating: 3/5
Get it here from Amazon
First thoughts

I'm not entirely sure what drew me to this book. Maybe it was my cousin's unhealthy obsession with Matt Damon that introduced me to the film and then I found out it was a novel first. Or maybe it was the cool cover. Who knows.

I think its important to mention that I read the majority of this book whilst sitting on an aeroplane. Probably not the best place to read a story about a man trapped in space with no escape - a bit like watching Life of Pi whilst on a cruise ship, which I've also done.



Good bits

The Martian is super entertaining. After much consideration I have decided that Mark Watney is the funniest character I have ever had to pleasure to meet, which is a massive credit to Weir's writing. Watney reminds me of the 'fun Uncle' type who doesn't take himself too seriously and is always there to lighten the mood; the perfect antidote to all the near-death experiences. I didn't expect to be laughing out loud as much as I did whilst reading The Martian, something about being trapped on Mars doesn't exactly scream 'comedy' but, hey, I was pleasantly surprised.

Overall, the characters are my favourite part of the book. The story is very character-driven and what makes it work so well is Weir's grasp on humanity. Each and every character is so... human. Even though they are under a lot of pressure and stressed to the max, mission control and Watney still manage to make little jokes to each other which I think is fantastic. In other representations of NASA and astronauts everyone is so serious. Would that really happen? Would the astronauts spend years in space without at least a little bit of banter? It was so refreshing.

At first, I found it a little hard to remember who all the characters were in the NASA sections of the story. I thought maybe there were too many unnecessary characters. But as time went on I saw the juxtaposition between the busy and frantic world of mission control and the lonely life of Watney on Mars. Once I recognised this I didn't mind the number of names I had to remember as much as I knew it was important.

Furthermore, I absolutely loved the use of different perspectives. It was so well written. Switching between perspectives made scenes like the the first supply probe's lift off so gripping and realistic, probably my favourite scene of the book.

Bad bits

Look, I dropped science at school as soon as I could. I know the book is called 'The Martian' but I did not sign up for pages and pages of sciencey stuff. Before I read it, I thought maybe Weir would write it in a way that appeals to all readers, but sadly this was not the case. The passages of science stuff (I'm not even sure what to call it) were confusing, hard to follow and badly written. I found myself skim reading or even skipping these passages completely, otherwise I would have given up on the book altogether.

I know I said The Martian made me laugh out loud a lot, but there were definitely parts where I did not agree with the humour. For example, when Operation Elrond was being discussed, Annie made the classic joke of  'none of you got laid in high school'. How hilarious. I have two problems with this joke. 1) Making fun of the lack of action 'nerds' got in high school is probably the most overused joke in history and 2) Annie, you work for NASA, babe. Why are you surprised they like books like Lord of the Rings?

I only noticed this over half way through the book but it bugs me nevertheless. The way Weir has written Watney's sections in 'logs' doesn't work. I find it hard to believe that Watney would actually write like that in official logbooks. Bearing in mind the 'audience' of these logs is supposed to be NASA, Watney says things like 'follow me closely here, the science is pretty complicated'. Umm... You're talking to the people in charge of aeronautical and aerospace research. I'm pretty sure they can keep up.

Even though I praised Weir for presenting every character as human, it has come to my attention that Watney is almost presented as superhuman. He's fine. He's trapped on Mars for well over a year and he's absolutely a-okay. He's fully functioning with no sign of a breakdown. There's no mention of missing home. No mention of feeling lonely. He's completely hunky-dory.

...

If I were him, I would definitely not be okay. Something has gone amiss there.

Afterthoughts

Despite having a few issues with The Martian, I did actually enjoy reading most of it. As I said, I finished reading it whilst on a plane to Tenerife so the last 100 pages felt very real to me. The day I finished it I could see Mars in the sky from my hotel balcony and it made a profound impact on me. I loved imagining Mark Watney stuck on that flickering spot of red in the sky. The story came alive.

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