Now The Martian is a read that everyone on Goodreads seems to be talking about and seems almost universally loved, so I had a bit of a shock three or four chapters when I found I wasn’t really liking it that much. The reason – the science - there is a lot of physics in this read and at first it seemed to go way over my head. But, I persevered and I am so glad I did, because pretty soon I was hooked and I ended up loving this read. It is a story of human endeavour against the odds, about never giving up even when the odds are totally stacked against you. I think though that the real reason I ended up loving this book was the main character, Mark Watney. What can I say about him? Well, he is funny, cheeky, irreverent, positive thinking, a doer. He is courageous and resourceful and it is his constant problem solving that really made me warm to him. Before I knew it I was rooting for him and desperately wanting him to survive. He is stuck in probably the harshest environment not yet known to man, where the slightest little accident could kill him, yet time and time again he puts his “problem solving” cap on and works out a solution. He is a very real character, one that I totally fell for and in the end it almost felt as if I was reading about a real person. Similarly, the physics, despite being way over my head at times, felt real and feasible.
It is a cracking read and now I cannot wait to see the film and from what I have seen of it from the trailer there are a few subtle differences so it should be well worth seeing.
on 5 February 2013
NASA has set up a chain of expeditions to Mars but very soon after landing the third one is aborted and the scientists have to leave. Unknown to them their dead companion, who is not actually dead, finds himself stranded on Mars with little hope of surviving until the next scheduled mission. Air and water are not the problem but he does not have enough food despite being left with the resources to accommodate six explorers.
Right from the start this is a gripping page-turner and no matter how hard Mark Watney strives to survive Mars works just as hard to kill him. All the time I was willing him to succeed only to have yet another believable crisis threatening his continued existence. In my opinion you will not find a better thriller set on Mars or elsewhere. I had not previously heard of the author and cannot remember how I ended up buying his book to read on my Ipad, but it was a good day. Highly recommended, excellent value for money, and I look forward to reading other work from Weir.
Mark Watney is one of the astronauts on the Ares 3 mission to Mars. Unfortunately, when the Ares 3 mission leaves, Mark is left behind, presumed dead. The fact that he isn’t dead comes as a bit of shock to him at first, and then he is left pondering how, or even whether, he can survive. He knows there is another mission planned but calculating his food supplies and other equipment he doesn’t believe he can survive until the Ares 4 mission lands, and even if he does the scheduled landing site is far away; how could he even get there if he is still alive? Keeping a detailed log of his days on Mars he struggles to set up some way firstly to keep himself alive, and only then does he consider communications. Can he contact anyone? What can they do to help him, even if he gets through?
In between, Mark attempts to keep his spirits up; each of the astronauts had personal music, movies, tv series on entertainment systems, so Mark can keep himself entertained wondering why Sherrif Rosco doesn’t just go to the Duke farm and arrest the boys when they’re not in the General Lee. It’s not until we’re about 50 pages into the book that we leave Mark’s log entries temporarily, to go to Earth, where at Mission Control they are commemorating his death. From there, the book alternates between both locations.
I really liked Mark as a character; he’s clearly intelligent; a botanist and an astronaut, he has the know-how and is enough of a geek to give things a go; after all, he has nothing to lose and everything to gain if he can find ways to survive. He has an irreverent sense of humour and this comes across in his log entries. Having never been stranded on Mars, I have no idea how it may impact on a person’s mindset; but I felt that the log entries Mark creates are indicative of a man who is a survivalist, but has a touch of pragmatism in him as well. I don’t really know why some reviewers have complained about the bad language in the book; there really wasn’t very much so that it became an issue, and I think I’d swear if I was stranded on a planet that was doing its darnedest to kill me too. It seems to me that some reviewers have not taken into account the mental, emotional and physical strain that we have to imagine the character undergoing in this situation, coupled with his sheer will to survive and prove the odds wrong.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book; following Mark’s log entries explaining his thinking through solutions to his problems. I think these log entries were partly a way for Mark to ‘think out loud’ as he worked through each issue and as such they give us a really good view into his mindset. I found myself cheering with each triumph, and feeling crushed with each blow. The incident with the airlock some way into the book nearly made me weep with frustration. A great book; I can’t wait for more books by this clearly talented author who has written what I found to be an intelligent and thought-provoking sci-fi novel.
on 18 April 2013
This novel has a great premise, which is in many ways it greatest strength. Weir is great at delivering technical information in his writing style, and a great part of the text is quite technical. But it's succinct, and is never bogged down with advanced vocabulary. However, if you are not looking for a story that talks a lot about the technicalities and issues of space travel and inter-planetary exploration, this book is not for you.
The story itself is good, switching between the main characters life on mars, and the events of those back on earth adds a refreshing change of pace at key points which keeps the reader engaged. Do not expect a deeply philosophical approach to difficulties faced by a lone human on a barren world, you wont be getting it. Life alone on Mars is described by Mark Watney, a likable and quick witted botanist, who likes to keep things simple, and humorous.
All in all, this book will interest the sci-fi fan, and will appeal to the casual reader, such as myself, looking for a new and refreshing story.
on 9 August 2015
Maybe it’s just as well that this book is being given the Hollywood treatment because it reads like the novelisation of a movie that’s already been released. Weir provides an abundance of numbers and technical know-how, but no real sense of place. It’s as if he’s assuming that his readers already have the movie fully-formed in their heads. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of well-researched detail to add authenticity, but Weir piles it on so relentlessly that the book starts to feel like a Haynes Manual without the pictures. And it’s not as if the concept of Mars as an actual place you can walk around and explore exists entirely in the imagination. NASA’s intrepid rovers have been faithfully exploring the red planet for the last decade, recording everything from dust devils to Martian sunsets (which are blue and starkly beautiful).
Another problem is the character of Mark Watney. No one likes a protagonist who wallows in self-pity, but a little more introspection and a little less wisecracking would have gone a long way towards making him easier to relate to. Instead, when he's not problem-solving he spends his downtime listening to music and watching old TV shows. Watney’s childish humour (encompassing “jokes” about boobs and gay space probes) and sheer lack of curiosity both in himself and his surroundings brings to mind an unfortunate comparison with the film "Beavis and Butthead do America" in which the titular duo studiously ignore America’s most breathtaking landmarks in favour of road-signs that contain accidental innuendos. If Beavis and Butthead ever “do” Mars … actually, scratch that; there’s only one planet they’d do and it begins with a U.
Meanwhile one crisis follows another and Watney deals with them all in his incessantly cheery way. He copes so well with adversity that you get the sense he’s thriving on it. Indeed, you’d be forgiven for wondering if the most terrifying crisis would be for nothing to happen to him, for his music to fall silent and his TV to go dead, forcing him to confront the psychological reality of being completely alone on a hostile planet. Here too there’s a precedent which Weir could have drawn on if he’d been so inclined. The Apollo Command Module pilots spent many hours alone and periodically isolated from civilisation while their crewmates explored the lunar surface. And yet, despite coming from backgrounds not known for literary eloquence, they were able to describe their experience in language rather more profound than “Yay Earthrise!” or “Boo! Solitude sucks!” The constant f-bombs don’t help either. There’s nothing wrong with expletives per se, but in Watney’s case they feel forced and awkward, like the class nerd trying to hang tough with the cool kids.
None of this would matter much if it weren’t for the hyperbolic levels of praise this book’s been generating on Amazon and elsewhere. It’s even being held up as the definitive example of how to write hard science-fiction, which seems to me to be setting the bar depressingly low. Why can’t a sci-fi novel be thrilling, scientifically accurate and literary in its ambitions?
The Martian is not without its strengths, chief of which is a plausible narrative that doesn’t fudge the laws of physics, but it could have been so much more. There was an opportunity here to write a great sci-fi survival novel that transcends its genre and tells us something about ourselves in the process. Instead we’re left waiting to see if Matt Damon can make the The Martian seem, well, a little more human.
What a find! Occasionally Richard and Judy surprise me with an unusual choice that turns out to be a piece of undiscovered gold.
Who would have though that a story billed as 'Castaway meets Apollo 13' would have nearly made me late for work?! But science won me over, science and space thrills.
It's simple enough to convey: a team working on Mars is surprised by a dust storm. One of the team is lost with a hole in his suit, the others told to evacuate. Leaving him behind, he wakes up later to discover his situation. His team think him dead, NASA think he's dead. He's on his own.
Absolutely HOOKED. And I'm not ashamed to say that I have a huge crush on botanist/engineer Mark Watney. Huge. He narrates the story as journal entries from Mars, as problem after problem must be overcome - his suit, water, heat, food just for starters. Each time his sense of humour only heightens the tension as you see just how terrifying it must be there for him to make light of it later.
It's a book with a LOT of science in it. I won't pretend to understand more than 1 in 10 of Mark's explanations and solutions, but it doesn't matter. The overall terror, the human story, the excitement mean you can follow Mark's progress without having to catch all the terminology.
It does feel well-researched though. You do feel you can picture Mars: the cold, the barren landscape, the loneliness.
Mark's story changes from Castaway's one-man-trial partway through to more Apollo 13 as the NASA side of the tale begins to filter in and awareness of his 'alive' status arises. Earth's reaction is well detailed. NASA's plans and frantic meetings feel real, the desperation to save this lone man and the millions poured into it touching.
And yet Mark keeps his irreverent sense of humour as he reaches ever closer to a lonely death.... Just how will it end?
I was on the edge of the bed desperately turning pages to get there. I loved the writing, the back-and-forth Mars-to-Earth narration. I loved Mark's cobbled-together and insane plans. I loved the tension and space talk (even if I didn't follow it all). You do not have to be a techie to enjoy this.
I've already got a few library customers to order this. They better stay away from Mark though :)
Looking out for the author's next book. Excellent way to get noticed, Mr Weir.
on 20 August 2014
I'm not a big fiction fan, particularly science fiction. Most of my reading is non-fiction, with a few novels here and there. However, I came across "The Martian" and was immediately intrigued, reading the first chapter or two there and then. It's an excellent story.
To set the scene: in the near future NASA has established the Ares Program to send astronauts to Mars. Mark Watney, the titular Martian, is the lowest-ranking member of the third mission. A few days after his Ares 3 crew lands on Mars, they are forced to abandon their mission. Unfortunately, Mark is seriously injured on the way to the escape vehicle and is left behind, the rest of his crew and NASA back home believing he's dead. He has no means of communicating with Earth. He has no means of getting off the planet. His supplies of food and water will last almost a year; the next Ares mission is due to reach Mars in 4 years time. And so his battle to survive begins.
Andy Weir has done a great job of making Watney someone the reader really cares about. Watney comes across as the kind of person you'd want to have around in a crisis. Not just for his technical abilities and inventive improvisational skills, but his upbeat nature and sense of humour. You find yourself really caring about him and willing him to succeed, despite knowing little of his back story. Despite his vast knowledge of chemistry, physics, engineering and botany he never seems like a know-it-all, possibly because of his many setbacks and near death experiences. I was crying with laughter at some points as he recounts his his day to day survival in log entries.
I really hope that "The Martian" gets picked up by a studio and filmed. And I really hope Andy Weir writes another book.
on 11 April 2014
This is very much Apollo 13 but on Mars. An astronaut tries to solve problems using limited materials while NASA people fret back on Earth. The science is well researched and the solutions to problems are inventive. It's a great idea and the ending is very exciting. However, there are big problems with the writing, mostly connected to it being written in first person narrative.
Loads of writers seem to opt for first person these days - because it means they can talk in everyday spoken English, use a limited range of vocabulary and have a very limited scope on events. Compared to third person writing it often seems easy. However if you use first person well, you still have to have skill, and too many of these writers don't. There are rules. If the character is talking directly to the reader then he's got to have a plausible reason for doing so and it has to be stylistically believable.
In The Martian Andy Weir has the astronaut talking to us via his mission log that has been typed into the computer. Yet from beginning to end the character talks with spoken English and no sign of professional language for a formal NASA document. This is a record, yet the astronaut is continuously having to explain basic details for non-experts (us readers) that any NASA guy would have known without thinking. It never reads like a mission log - just like a bloke talking to you. The whole storytelling style fails to be believable.
The characterisation is also very poor. The Astronaut is on Mars for about two years yet his writing is unchanged from start to finish - always the same bloke down the pub, jokey style, no development or deterioration. There is nothing to make us care about him really - no experience of the isolation, only science facts which often get boring and tedious. Also, many of the plot points you can see a mile off and they happen right on cue to make it difficult for him to make his journey across Mars.
It's a good idea for a story, but the execution doesn't work and as a novel it's poor.
on 18 October 2015
This book tells the story of Mark Watney who is left behind on Mars when his crewmates think he is dead and they believe they have to leave Mars for their own safety. It turns out they were wrong and Mark didn't die in the accident, and this is then the story of his attempt to survive alone on a planet with very limited resources.
Mark is a very intelligent, resourceful and determined man. He is also funny, irreverent, and very likeable.
Although this is essentially his story, the other people in this book are also well written and rounded characters; and we get an insight into the crew, the ground staff and the workings of NASA. This book also highlights the resilience, or perhaps stubborn persistence, of scientists, engineers, astronauts, and others working in the space programme.
I don't know if the science stuff is "real" - but it doesn't matter because it comes across as very realisitic and seems real. The story is not too science-y but nor does it shy away from this and the reader is treated as a reasonably intellligent human being, and it doesn't feel dumbed down.
It isn't the science though that makes this book so good, but the depiction of man overcoming diversity, in extreme situations. Not just the main character but several others, whose lives are changed by this situation. It was well paced and easy to read and really gripped me so I found it difficut to put down.
This is now one of my favourite books.
I am not into science fiction but after hearing so much positive feedback on this novel I decided to buy.
What a treat. I loved it and didn't want the book to end. Its a story about an astronaut left on Mars and his bid to live long enough to get off. There is loads of technical stuff in the book but so well explained and the prose is excellent. I followed through with the ideas and the equipment used and never got lost, as I do in other Sci-Fi books I have read.
Its funny in places and I love the initial contacts between Earth and Mars and found myself laughing out loud on the train several times.
For me its a great read and I have not stopped recommending it to friends and strangers. It is that good!