The Martian by

I'm pretty much fucked. That's my considered opinion. Fucked.
–Andy Weir - The Martian - c.2011,2014

Mark Watney is a botanist and engineer assigned to the Ares programme, one of the very few who gets to go to Mars. Unfortunately he is stranded there. All alone. With no way to communicate with Earth. Death is almost inevitable. Is there anything he can do to improve on that non-existent chance of life?

Well, Mark certainly doesn’t give up. And he is smart, resourceful, capable, and well trained. NASA don’t send just about anyone into space you know.

The Martian got a fair amount of coverage a few months ago in the bookish blogosphere. I picked it up because of all the good press, but it sat on the tbr shelf for quite a while. So, did it live up to the hype?

Mostly. Certainly the opening few pages were more than enough to get me hooked. It is a remarkably quick read that seems to be detailing a lot of Mark going here and fixing that, then something else breaks, so Mark goes there and fixes that. Often described in great detail. Usually I don’t really enjoy those hard sci-fi aspects of sff. But here it works, probably because Mark is a very affable character. His psychological evaluation confirms it, he is the guy that holds a group together. He stay positive and upbeat even when things are all manner of fucked up. You know, like being stranded all alone on Mars. It is important that you like Mark, because he is our first person narrator. If he irritates you, don’t buy/read this book. His voice is the voice of the book.

We do get a couple of chapters from other points of view though. The men and women back in NASA trying to figure out how to save him, if they can. The members of the crew that went to Mars with him and left him behind. Not their fault, just one of those things, but still, you got to imagine how that’d feel. Leaving someone behind on a different planet.

As I said, for the most part I really enjoyed the book, but towards the end I did start to get a little fatigued by the whole problem – fix problem – new problem circle that was going on. Although, in fairness, all those problems are probably what would happen. I don’t think it is too much of a stretch of the imagination to say that being stranded on Mars would lead to a huge amount of difficulties.

All in all, I enjoyed the book, and I think that it might make a good film1 think MacGyver meets Robinson Crusoe meets Gravity, but it isn’t the best book I’ve ever read. Not nearly.

Buy the book
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  1. its been optioned 

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2 Responses

  1. jean pierre says:

    this looks pretty cool. i like the tone of it, judging by that little quote. is the rest equally colloquial?

    also, does it evolve beyond the fix problem, fix another style? or if the answer is no – is it, you know, acceptably important that it maintains that style?

    by the way your new (to me) layout kicks all sorts of ass.

    • fence says:

      Hi JP,
      Yup, most of the book is written very colloquially, Mark doesn't really think anyone will ever be around to get his opinion, so he is very unofficial in his logs. And his logs are what make up the book. Almost like a series of blog posts, now I'm wondering is that how he first started publishing this, because I know he self-published before getting picked up.

      The whole find problem, fix problem, find another is necessary to keep the tension and suspense going, because really the reader doesn't know whether he is rescued and brought his logs with him or some later Mars mission just stumbled across them. Any one of those problems could be the end of him.