Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Sci-fi
Date Read:
22/04/2015 – 28/04/2015
Rating: ★★★

Review:

TheMartianUKCoverI had such high hopes for this book. Every single person I know who has read it has given it five stars. And while I can see where they were coming from, this book didn’t do it for me.

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.

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5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

  1. Celine Jeanjean says:

    That’s the kind of writer that I’d love to interview to get a peek into their research process, but I think you have to be quite a big sci-fi fan to enjoy all the hard science talk (I’m like you it goes over my head). Shame it didn’t live up to your expectations!

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  2. Elaine Jeremiah says:

    Great review Emily, even if you weren’t keen on the book! I read and enjoyed it, but I didn’t find it half as exciting/gripping as some people have said it was.

    I agree with you about the whole science bit and like you (and many others, I’m sure!) those parts went completely over my head! So maybe we might have enjoyed it more had we understood more of the science. Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us on this. It’s interesting to have your perspective. 🙂

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    • Emily Witt says:

      It’ll be interesting to see what the movie is like (it’s coming out this November). Sometimes it’s easier to just see someone doing something without necessarily knowing what they’re doing, rather than reading it and really having no clue.

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