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The Martian by Andy Weir: Review
Personal Side Note
Maybe it's just because I haven't read in a science fiction book in a while, or maybe because this is the first book I've read set on Mars, but I devoured this book. Not that it didn't have its faults--I'll get to that in just a bit. But I have to say first that I enjoyed this book, so if you're a reader looking for a lot of bashing on this book, you won't find it here.
I will be fair, though. Now onto those faults I mentioned.
Plot? What's that?
One of the most noticeable faults of this book (especially when you read it in one sitting) is that this book is extremely predictable.
The main character, Mark, says something sarcastic, things seem to be going well. Then something catastrophic happens, and Mark has to sarcastic his way out of the situation. Repeat that for a few hundred pages and you have The Martian.
For people who read a lot, especially in the science fiction world, this can get pretty tiresome. And the fact that this book with a very predictable plot spawned a movie seemed to have rubbed people the wrong way.
Still, I stick by saying that it was an entertaining book, and will explain why in a bit.
The Humor is It
Really, enjoyment in this book all lies with one thing; sense of humor. If you don't enjoy Weir's sense of humor, you'll hate this book. Overall, while the premise is interesting, the book is filled with a lot of technical talk that only a few people would really enjoy. But the humor is what makes this book pass or fail.
If you find Mark funny, you'll keep reading. If you don't, you'll probably end up wanting to write angry, annoyed reviews on Goodreads asking how this book ever spawned a movie.
So it's a matter of personality.
The Driving Points
The driving points of this book--what keeps the reader reading, and why so many people have bought it or downloaded it--are these:
1. The premise
2. Mark Watney himself
The premise first. Obviously this is what made people pick up the book in the first place. An astronaut trapped on Mars is enough to get people interested. And though the plot is predictable (painfully so at some points), the idea of the book is what keeps the reader reading. I
t begs questions such as; how will Mark get out of this latest disaster? When will people find out about this? When will his crew know he's alive?
So even though it's predictable, even the hardest critic of the book has to grudgingly keep reading to get to the end, to find out what happens.
This brings up the next, or first, point; Mark. The reader, at some point, has to admire his enthusiasm.
No, not all of his jokes are funny. Sometimes his sense of humor gets a little worn thin.
But he's still an interesting character. He's trapped on Mars and trying his best to survive, while also trying to distract himself the best way he can from the fact that he's trapped on Mars, by himself, with little to no hope of rescue.
Every step of the way, from the first log, the reader is invested in his odd, seemingly hopeless struggle for survival, and this is why people read to the end; they must find out what happens to him, no matter whether they think he's funny or not.
If you're looking for a literary approach to the struggles of survival in humankind, or a thought-provoking contemplation on humanity and our place in the universe, this book is not what you're looking for.
Readers who go into this book searching for that type of thing will obviously be disappointed.
There is really no moments of existential crisis or mental break downs to note. The writing, instead, focusses mainly on the technical aspect of Mark's struggle in getting off Mars.
All of the tiny little details about fixing a rover and creating oxygen and carbon dioxide are gone over and over again, so it obviously isn't everyone's cup of tea.
Those who lean toward the more literary aspects of books and would like to read about existential crises may struggle through all of the technical talk in this novel, because there is a lot sandwiched between Watney's plentiful one-liners.
How Science Drove the Plot
Branching off of that, and coupling what I said earlier about enjoying this book, I'll now explain why.
This book served the purpose it was written to serve.
It was not written to give people deep thoughts or send them spiraling into a contemplative trance about the universe and humanity. It wasn't written to inspire people to go to Mars and grow a potato farm.
This book, through its humor, premise, and setup, was made to entertain. For me, it accomplished its goal. It kept me, and hundreds of other people, reading up until the very end.
So yes, it has faults, and this book is far from a literary masterpiece. But it was an entertaining read nonetheless.