Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Date Read: 22/04/2015 – 28/04/2015
The Martian focuses primarily on Mark Watney, the seventeenth human to set foot on Mars, who accidentally gets left behind when an accident leaves his crew thinking he’s been killed. Most of the book takes the form of Mark’s log entries, though we also meet characters who work for NASA as they realise he is still alive and try to work out how on Earth (or Mars) to rescue him before he dies of thirst or starvation.
At first, the book was really interesting. Mark was figuring out how to grow food in Martian soil, as well as provide himself with water, and find a way to contact NASA. However, after a while, this starts feeling more like a Mars survival guide than the log of someone who has been completely deserted up there. There was so much science-talk, which is fine, but most of it went over my head. Not only that, but Mark was always chipper. Even when things went wrong, he just swore a bit and then spent a couple of days figuring out how to fix whatever it was. There were no moments of depression, no existential crises or anything else you’d expect from a character who has been left on another planet. And because he was always in such a good mood, it never felt like the stakes were particularly high.
The characters at NASA were a bit more interesting because they had each other to react to, and the techno-talk in these scenes was generally a bit more accessible. However, I did lose track of who some characters were, as we switched between NASA divisions and subsidiaries, and that did also make it hard to stay engaged.
The amount of research that went into this book is incredible, and I definitely applaud Andy Weir for that. People at NASA, as well as Dr Karl Kruszelnicki and others who are far more scientifically-minded than I, have said that the majority of the science provided in the book is sound. But a scientifically-sound book is not necessarily an engaging one, and that was where this book fell flat for me.