Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Genre/Themes: Science Fiction, Mars Exploration, Isolation, Survival
Blurb from Goodreads
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.
Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.
Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.
But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
After a dust storm on Mars, astronaut Mark Watney finds himself stranded and completely alone as his crew evacuated the planet during the storm wrongly thinking him dead and leaving him behind. The book follows his quest to make contact with Earth and figure out a way to get back home again.
Well that was dull.
I can see how it would work as a film with great visuals and effects with a good cast to give it some heart… But as a reading experience I found it sadly lacking.
The prose was incredibly stilted and dry, especially anything to do with the Martian logs created by the lead character Mark. Simply because the science was terribly dry! I found the science to frequently be overly simplified and thusly uninteresting for me to read. (Yeah this is a very personal thing I guess as the day job before my illness took a firm grip was as a research scientist so I like my *science* to both challenge and interest me.)
Initially I liked the character of Mark.
He was super salty and had a funny quip about everything but over the course of a novel this got boring. There was no light and shade in his personality. It was much too one dimensional. I don’t care how well trained you are as an astronaut if you get left behind on another planet with seemingly no hope of survival there have got to be more emotionally dramatic moments. Some frustration, flagging spirits, sadness, anger… just something more than a barrage of snappy one liners.
My favourite chapters were all those that featured characters back on Earth as there was a more natural flow to the story but in saying that I wasn’t all that enamoured by those chapters either!!! Oops… And I’ve literally just put down my copy of the book before starting to write this review and I can’t even remember any other character names apart from the lead. That’s never a good sign!
I did manage to listen to just under two chapters of the audiobook version of this during my read (otherwise I just read the film-tie-in paperback) and based on that listening experience I would encourage anyone interested in this story to listen to it rather than read it. Simply because the spoken narrator gives a wonderfully memorable performance that adds that extra heart to the character of Mark that the book so desperately needed.
All in all this sadly wasn’t to my liking
Some time later…
So I just watched the film this afternoon to compare with the book, and the issues I had with the book were definitely improved upon by the film.
Please note this section contains spoilers about both the book and film
Some superfluous drama i.e. that additional storm / dust cloud stuff when Mark is traversing Mars to reach the other MAV site is thankfully ignored in the film. I really thought that draaaaged the book down.
Because it was like deja vu here comes yet storm and yet another knock out of communication… *yawn*
It felt repetitive in many respects because of the initial dust storm that caused Mark to be stranded with no communication etc and look okay, I get it. You’re on Mars, stuff will ALWAYS go wrong etc but first and foremost this is the type of book that needs to have a greater emphasis on originality and plot twists that you don’t see coming. When I read the book I wasn’t surprised once. I saw everything coming which really saddened me. I love to be surprised but I wasn’t once when I read this.
The ending of the film surrounding Mark’s rescue felt much more tense to me than in the book. In the book I thought it was too rushed because so much time had been given to that irritating dust cloud so in the film I was happier that there was a tonne more drama even if it was immensely eye roll worthy.
But disappointingly in the film they did an unoriginal Hollywood happy ever after i.e. here are Mark and all the other astronauts living the rest of their forever changed but super happy lives type ending on Earth…
I could certainly have lived without that.
I much preferred the idea of ending the book in space once he had been rescued by his crew mates (even though it was rather abruptly executed cos Andy Weir…not great at the delicacies of story telling)
The other thing in the book I didn’t like was how Mark was written. He was always so funny, always so snarky. I really felt like he didn’t show enough of the other emotions he was going through. Contrast that with the film and at least Matt Damon gave the character a soul, a heart. There was a human there to connect to. And he still had the funny quips and the snark.
So basically I think my main problem is I don’t like Weir’s writing style. It’s too clinical and frequently boring with not enough feeling, drama or heightened tension in the right places. And this is from someone who will happily science the shizz out of stuff so it ain’t cos science bores me.
The film took all his great plot ideas and outlines for characters and happily improved on them. So on this occasion I very much recommend watching the film before reading the book because I know I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if I hadn’t known the various situations that happened to Mark throughout the novel or indeed the ending.
Film > book