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VINE VOICEon 11 June 2016
I read The Martian about a year after it had hit mainstream awareness, but before the announcement it would be made into a Hollywood film. I’m glad that I’d managed to avoid the hype around this novel as it meant I could enjoy it without any preconceived notion of what to expect.

On the first manned mission to Mars, a devastating sandstorm threatens to destroy the habitat set up by the the first astronauts to land there. They decide to evacuate, but during the evac astronaut Mark Watney is hit by a broken communications antenna. Believing Mark to be dead, the crew continue their evac and start their journey back to Earth, their mission to Mars terminated.

Waking from unconsciousness, Watney realises that he’s been left behind. His suit was torn during the storm, but congealed blood from his wounds had sealed the tear. Now he must somehow survive using supplies left behind. And then he must contact Earth to try and get help and hopefully, eventually: rescue.

Watney is an engineer and a botanist. His scientific knowledge is the only thing that is going to help him survive. He knows he is screwed and that his chances are slim, but he doesn’t let that get in the way. First he must find a way to create water and food. Water is made from unused hydrazine rocket fuel, while food comes from planting potatoes in Martian soil mixed with his own stool. This is how most of the book follows: a problem must be solved and Watney uses his knowledge and skills to solve it and survive a little longer. Watney keeps a log of his endeavours, thinking that he will never be rescued, so that at least when NASA returns in four years they will know what happened.

When NASA observe the fruits of Watney’s work, they realise he’s alive and try to find a way to communicate with him. Watney believes his only chance for survival is to travel 2000 miles in a rover buggy to the location of the next manned mission landing in the hope he’ll be rescued in four years.

There’s a lot of science in this book, and it’s mostly believable and interesting. Indeed, the “doing science” aspect of the novel has been roundly praised for it’s accuracy. But the problem-solution cycle bogs down the human story with unnecessary nerdery and it makes the story drag. I believe that the science in sci-fi should be a skeleton on which to build a human story, not the story itself.

And what about the characters? Well, there wasn’t much to get involved with. Watney’s character is pragmatic and cocky. He doesn’t dwell on existential matters. There’s almost no self-reflection that I could relate to. The secondary characters — all those at NASA and the crew that left him behind — are very pale impressions of stereotypes I’ve encountered a hundred times before. I can’t remember much about them at all.

Despite the lack of good supporting characters, the heart of this story is strong and I rooted for Watney’s survival. But while it’s an entertaining read, The Martian spends too long on the science and not nearly enough time on the soul.
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on 15 April 2017
I don't usually enjoy reading sci-fi however i was engrossed by this book immediately.
I read it after watching the film, which can sometimes be jarring, but i found this as engaging as the movie if not more, especially the depth that a book can take you into the situation and story.

The most engaging part for me as a non sci-fi reader was the reality of the story-line, once you suspend belief and accept the premise and situation the story is believable and realistically written, it just edges on reality so that you can imagine it happening in a near future. The set up and the book as a whole stay well grounded to in a realistic way, and although i think there may be liberties with the science and a few flights of fantasy in character behaviour, but i actually came away very satisfied, and i'm keen to find similar stories in the future.
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on 13 November 2015
I saw a comment on reddit that summarised this book as being for "people who saw Apollo 13 and wished the whole movie had been more of the scene where the NASA team struggled to connect two pieces with a boxful of parts", and that is actually what caught my attention and made me consider reading this book.

I bought the book on kindle for android via Amazon, and then noticed the 'whispersync' offer whereby you can buy the audible audio version as a promotional rate too, which ended up being cheaper to purchase the ebook and the audiobook than the audiobook alone, so either the original audiobook was overpriced or this is a total steal. Whispersync is supposed to allow you to swap between reading and listening, with the software automatically starting you again at the correct location. I actually foundmyself captivated by the audiobook and listened to this almost exclusively.

The story was fantastic, delving into a level of detail that felt like a realistic and immersive work through of the mechanical, physical and chemical problems that could actually be encountered.

It was a very immersive story that strikes a good balance of scientific detail that 'sounds' accurate without requiring a Phd to understand.

Gripping and enjoyable.
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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!
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on 7 September 2015
Mark Watney is stuck on Mars with no hope of rescue. He has no comms and only enough food to last a month. The next mission to Mars is years away. When he gets over the gravity of the situation (excuse the pun) Mark gets to work planning how to survive long enough to get back in contact with NASA.

Mark is a sarcastic and humorous in his communications. His tenacity and resourcefulness is admirable. The other crew members were also well developed considering their relative contributions.

I loved this book and can't wait to see the film. The science of space travel isn't overwhelming at all, but obviously I can't vouch for its validity. I'm sure Andy Weir spent a great deal of time researching and immersing himself in the details. I was completely convinced by it.

Despite the technical details it is still a reasonably easy read and I finished it in two sittings. By the end of the book I was on the edge of my seat as the tension increased to a dramatic conclusion. Overall an easily accessible and thoroughly gripping sci-fi thriller, and another favourite to add to my list.

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VINE VOICEon 27 May 2014
I read most of this book while laid up in bed on day with a back spasm so I related to what happens to the main character about half way through! This is a book for "hard" sci-fi fans. If you get a geeky thrill from the thought that a human being could drive to the old Pathfinder Mars probe and retrieve it, then hack into its radio hardware to communicate with Earth, you'll enjoy this book. It's about as credible as it's possible to be in terms of its detail (although I speak as a humble science graduate, not a NASA engineer) but (perhaps because I was uncomfortable), the endless "this problem occurred so I did this" routine went a little stale 75% of the way through and I confess I skimmed just a little.

I actually found the sections set on Earth, as NASA attempts to first communicate with him and then work out a way to bring him home, the most interesting. I think it's fair to say the bureaucracy of that venerable, monolithic, organisation does not come out of this smelling of roses.

Overall, an engaging read. The prose is sparse and perhaps the most unrealistic part of the whole plot was that the main character seemed to suffer no psychological effects from being alone for so long and the prospect of facing dangerous situations just about every day. I know astronauts are a special breed but still..
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on 17 March 2017
What a gripping book! It was one of those reads which I just could not put down. I loved every page and was sad to reach the end. I then watched the movie and enjoyed that too, but it had to skip loads of the story to be a film rather than a miniseries.
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on 9 March 2013
A surprisingly good book, especially considering the price bracket. It probably won't interest the diehard space opera fans as it lacks super-villains and battle cruisers, but the diary of the stranded astronaut, everyman Mark Watney surprised me by being upbeat, profane and funny and drew me in so that I was really rooting for him. If you liked the film Apollo 13, you might like this.

If you object to detail, or prefer symbiotic aliens, or don't warm to Watney, then you will struggle with this book. As the majority of readers won't be astronauts, engineers, or botanists, there is a certain amount of explaining stuff to the layman. I could see how some might consider that tedious but I certainly didn't find it so.

Other reviewers have noted the frequent use of swear words. The swearing doesn't bother me but it might bother you. Contrary to what some people seem to think, profanity is common, even amongst highly trained professionals.

I too noticed the arguably unlikely lack of depression. The psychology is a moot point; most of us would struggle with such isolation but I am willing to accept the hand picked, highly motivated member of an extremely testing interplanetary mission might be different. If you want to read an actual example of one man's response to total isolation, you could do worse than "A world of my Own" by Robin Knox Johnston, a man who spent many months alone on his tiny boat during his record round the world voyage in the days of stiff upper lips.
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A proper page turner. I enjoyed the plot and characterisation of the book, to me the sense of humour was spot on as was the NASA directives which felt exactly like a bureaucratic nightmare telling you to do what you were already doing. The whole story is well paced and interesting, the information is techy in parts but never dull or dry. I read this in 2 days, it was such a joy to read.
Very recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 15 July 2017
Fantastic book which I read after seeing the great movie.It filled in lots of detail that the film did not have time to do. Very well written and a true classic.
The only thing I don't understand is the picture used in a lot of the advertising and on the cover of the book...the broken helmet. Not in the book or the film.
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