- Audible Audiobook
- Listening Length: 10 hours and 53 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Podium Publishing
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 22 Mar. 2013
- Language: English, English
- ASIN: B00BYMWA2O
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
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The Martian Audiobook – Unabridged
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I think one of the reasons this book is so popular, and certainly why I liked is it that Mars feels so tantalizingly close. I hesitate to classify this as sci-fi, simply because technically speaking most of the stuff in the book is feasible now - it's more an engineering problem to be solved, and political will that stops us solving that problem. There are no warp drives, lasers, aliens (hope that's not a plot spoiler) or other staples of sci-fi - just a guy trying to get home after getting stranded far from home. Reading this made Mars feel even closer - I hope some day soon we get there.
The book and is carried on the witticisms and banter of main character Mark Watney, the titular Martian, and are jam-packed with pop culture references, science-y bits, and one-line zingers. And whilst I appreciated them, even found them amusing, this is also the story’s downfall. It sounds like the kind of dialogue I’d exchange with my equally nerdy friends on a Saturday night meet up – not Apollo 13 on Mars as it was billed to me by the hype. As a result it feels like it’s missing a sense of epic scale, and the stakes just don’t feel that high. At no point did I ever feel awed, or gripped, or really worried for Watney. Whenever something went wrong I simply wondered how he was going to fix it this time and what amusing commentary he’d provide. I never worried for a minute about his ultimate survival. Fun and entertaining? Yes. Compelling and thrilling? No.
The writing is competent, not outstanding. Apart from the complicated science-y bits, the language is kept simple, which is good for accessibility of the average reader, but for me I felt it lacked a little bit of creative flair – the language is very functional and to the point, there’s very little evocative imagery or creative description. The characters are largely functional too. Outside of Watney, everyone else basically boils down to their job at NASA or their role (e.g. Mark’s parents, Vogel’s wife, etc.). Watney himself is interchangeable – his vital stats could be swapped out for someone older/younger male/female American/non-American and there be no difference whatsoever to what happens in the plot.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. It’s amusing, it’s entertaining, it’s interesting – it’s just not the most amazing, earth-shattering book ever written, so don’t go into it expecting that. It reminds me a lot of an old classic actually – The Moon Is Hell by John Campbell – in its diary format and its functional problem-solving (minus the crime solving that also goes on in Campbell’s novel).
I know this gets a 5 from everyone. And I am not damning it with faint praise by giving it 4. It’s very good. And if you a science geek a true sci fi nerd or just into engineering and fixing stuff you will score it a 5.
At one point I struggled. And I know why. At the start it was too much sci and not enough fi ( for my taste).
But what Weir does brilliantly is create a protagonist we really care about and throw disaster at him at a constant pace. At some point it’s a page turner and I couldn’t put it down. But I confess that to achieve that I skimmed a lot of stuff hat science and engineering aficionados would have dropped over. Sorry.
But focusing on the human element was what worked for me - and the human element is very well done.
This book doesn’t need my recommendation but it has it anyway