Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

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September 29, 2015

Note to self: Stop reading flavor of the month books, no matter how much the general population seems to enjoy them.

I appreciate the premise of this book: A man stranded on Mars and presumed dead with no way of communication? That’s equal parts exciting and anxiety inducing! I picked up this book thinking I wouldn’t be able to put it down even though I’d probably have claustrophobia chills running down my spine (which is a good thing. I’m kind of a masochist when it comes to reading things that make me feel deeply unsettled), but what actually went down was I spent two weeks forcing myself to read a 350+ pages book because I don’t know how to quit, and also I was desperately hoping it would get better.

The Martian is very slow and technical and while that is not necessarily a bad thing, I was expecting a lot more action and psychology, and less explanations. I love science, okay, but I don’t really need a chemistry class on how to make water. It got to the point where I skimmed through these explanations, ready to get to the action bits and the scenes where Mark Watney wasn’t the main focus.

Which weren’t that many! Given that Watney was the main character and all.

The book is mostly written in the form of journal entries, which gives Watney plenty of room to go on and on and on about every problem he encounters and the solution to it in very specific, technical detail. Because he always had a solution! No matter what Mars threw his way, Mark Watney found a way to fix it with little to no repercussions to his physical or mental health. He was MacGyver on Mars, basically, and most of his days went something like this:

“Oh shit, I’m so fucked! I don’t think I’ll make it out of this one alive!”

-a few hours later-

“Nevermind, figured it out!”

And that’s basically my main problem with this book. This problem-solution pattern got boring and predictable as the book progressed, to the point where the ending was neither surprising nor satisfying. In a way, it feels like the author used the book to show off how smart he was. I applaud his knowledge and respect all the research he put into this book, especially considering he mainly wrote it for his own entertainment, but man, I don’t really care about that very detailed description of how a rover is assembled and, again, I do not need you to teach me how to make water!

Overall, this book gets an A for premise but a D for execution. I wish it had spent more time delving into the psychology of a man left alone in space (the one small instance where he realizes he can finally communicate with Earth, his relief of no longer being alone, was probably my favorite part of the book and sadly, that only lasted about 3 paragraphs) and less on technicalities. I also wish it had spent more time on the Ares 3 crew than on the NASA people, but that’s just me being picky.

I’m still looking forward to the movie coming out next month because I think this book is better suited to be a film; the cast is awesome and the trailer looks pretty good! Fingers crossed it doesn’t disappoint, too.

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