Review. Andy Weir, The Martian

See, Science-Fiction is not really my thing and when The Martian got all big and popular, I was a bit sceptical. I mean, the whole premise just didn’t appeal to me, really. And then a movie was announced and people were really praising it to Mars and back, so when it got nominated for the BookTubeSFF Awards, I decided to give it a go. To this day, I still don’t know if I like it and I sure don’t get why people are so over the moon about it..

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 & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& 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—& 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?

The blurb actually says it all. Cause in terms of plot, the novel is pretty straightforward. No surprising twists and turns, no subplots vying for dominance over the overarching story. Just a plain old goal and the road to get there. Nothing wrong with that, if it weren’t for said road to be very unsurprising. I mean, in the first half of the book, you are actually surprised when things started to go wrong and Mark Watney had to use his wit to stay alive in a dire situation. But really, after 150 pages, when everything that can go wrong actually goes wrong, it gets a bit tedious. Especially when the ending was in sight but there were too many pages left for things to go all smooth and well, I was literally rolling my eyes. I get that it can’t go all that smooth, but sometimes it felt like he just couldn’t catch a break.
Also, while I liked the switch between perspectives on Mars and on Earth, I felt like the latter were sometimes unnecessary. The story is about Watney and the Earth-perspective had too many characters running around with way too little time on page for me to get acquainted with them. So it was almost always jumbled in my head.
Talking about Watney. I found him to be quite and enjoyable main character, but I don’t get the love he’s getting. Sure, he’s wisecrackin’, but using youth slang and some strong language doesn’t make for a hilarious character. I mean, it teaks more than a #YoloFuckYeah for me to like you, you know. It’s just a little childish, but it’s better than a character who’s completely beaten down by the situation. The Earthlings were okay I guess? I just have no opinion on them let alone that I can tell them apart. They’re just there to fill in the blanks when we’re not on Mars..
survive on Mars when you’re not a brainiac
My main issue lies with the writing. I remember coming home from work after having read the first 50 pages or so on my commute, and I didn’t get why people love it – at all. I went on a little rant to the boyfriend about how all the popular books out there are just not what I seem to like etc. Luckily, the next day I got home and told him it got better. Still, my issues remained. The log-style is just fine, but I didn’t get why we had to switch to third person POV for a pragraph when something ominous was about to happen. Especially since this was only done two times or so throughout the whole novel. My biggest peeve, though, was the mathematics and mechanics. Seriously, all those maths and how-to’s, … I feel like I’ve read a guide to survive on Mars when you’re not a brainiac. It was just too much, really, and I didn’t understand half of it. That was my biggest issue on day one of reading it. I just didn’t understand half of what I was reading and I couldn’t be bothered by the other half. Luckily the balance shifted and a little understanding became part of the equation, but the damage was already done. The writing also steered clear of anything emotional. The idea of being alone on a planet, of leaving someone in mortal peril – whichever perspective you take, it’s a very emotional situation that touches upon the base of our humanity. However, are well-trained astronauts seem to have an emotional switch cause par from the last chapter or so, this book was an emotional void. This is not bad per se, but it prevents the book from touching upon anything below its surface.

It may seem a but harsh, but it really wasn’t a terrible book, mind, and in the end I even found myself rooting for Mark! But there were just too many things working against it for me to join the club of Martian-lovers. I’m still in doubt about whether or not I’m going to see the movie, but as far as the book goes, I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt by rounding my raiting up. I guess it has it merits, but I’m not the right person to do them justice.

★ ★ ★

Survive on Mars! Buy the guide!


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