The Martian Andy Weir

Jul 1, 2015 review (read between Jun 27, 2015 – Jun 27, 2015)

1st reading read review on Goodreads

The best part about reading The Martian is how it grabs your attention with an interesting premise, then runs with it at a blistering speed to the conclusion. It’s basically about astronaut Mark Watney, who gets marooned on Mars while on a manned mission to the planet, and his fight for survival. Straightforward premise, but Andy Weir does a great job keeping things interesting. In my head, I keep comparing it to All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka despite the only thing it really shares with The Martian is the speed at which the story moves and the tension it maintains throughout: that’s how much the fast pacing of the book dominates it. Did I mention that the story moves quickly?

The surprising thing is that despite being almost twice as long as All You Need is Kill, the breakneck pacing in The Martian doesn’t wear the reader out as one might expect. I think the fact that the latter deals with more grounded, perhaps somewhat accurate, and less theoretical science gives Weir the ability to expand on the painful details. Yes Mark, please explain your revised calculations for your theoretical potato yield in your makeshift farm for the umpteenth time. It’ll only take a page or five.

Thankfully Mark and the other characters in The Martian have an endearing sense of humor in the face of this crisis. Also with the story taking place in what could be described as ‘around now’ the humor and references are current and topical. This is in stark contrast to, say, Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, where the author attempts to translate todays sense of humor into some far-off future society and ultimately ends up missing the mark because all its references are fictional. I would also argue that The Martian is better paced than Old Man’s War despite being similarly paced, and feels more compact despite being longer.

Anyways. So far I’ve only really talked about how quickly paced yet engaging The Martian is, and compared it to two other similar feeling books written within six or so years of each other. And frankly there isn’t much else. As I’ve mentioned previously, the plot is simple and straightforward. The characters are entertaining but are ultimately all share the same archetype (I suspect that they’re all modeled off of Andy Weir himself, and the author just put himself in different positions to write their lines and reactions). On top of it all, the final ‘message’ of the book feels overly optimistic and somewhat forced. That said, for what it is, The Martian has an incredibly fun adventure in it, and it’s difficult to fault it for that.