Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review:: The Martian, by Andy Weir

Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Format: Trade Paperback
Rating: ★★★☆☆

There were things I really liked about The Martian and things that started to really annoy me. Over all, it was a decent book; I can see why it was turned into a movie, and I can see why people enjoyed it so much.
The plot is pretty simple: an astronaut on Mars is left behind and he has to do what he can to survive until a very unlikely rescue can come.

Perhaps two things bothered me the most about the book: the astronauts' attitude and the fact that the book spoiled the ending for us. Let's deal with the latter first.

He states at the beginning that these logs are the story of his time on Mars and his unlikely recovery. So when I say he survives, it's no spoiler. Sure, we can kind of expect him to survive. The tone of the book didn't lend itself to sudden death of protagonist, but because we knew, conclusively knew, all of the Murphy's Law shit didn't amount to any suspense.

Oh, and there was a lot of that. Anything that could go wrong, pretty much went wrong. Which didn't bother me so much. He's stranded on Mars. I'd expect hella to go wrong. I'd be shocked if it didn't. The shocking thing is that he always managed to survive.

Anyway, there's just no suspense when something goes wrong and suddenly he's sure he's going to starve to death. Because we know he won't.

(I was kind of holding out for a "and he almost makes it and his corpse returns home" ending, but no, that doesn't happen. This is a book about how people care about each other and that'd be ruined with a dead body.)

The other thing that greatly annoyed me was the astronauts. Mostly the protagonist, but all of them, really.

Now, I get that the protagonist is in a hard spot and he might not be thinking clearly, but astronauts are kind of like celebrities. They're trained in how to talk to the public, what to say, what not to say. And instead we have a protagonist who's saying stupid and immature things on "live" chats with Earth. It's just unrealistic. And eventually just made him a little unsympathetic. I get that you have to do what you can to survive and I enjoy my fair share of immature humor, but eventually it gets tiring.

The thing that bothered me about the other astronauts is a pretty major spoiler, but since we all know he's not going to die anyway, do we really care? Well, maybe. Here's some blank space:

So when NASA trashes the best plan for saving the protagonist, someone leaks it to the rest of the team on their way back to Earth. They unanimously decide to defy a direct order from NASA. While it's a heartwarming thought, it really didn't ring true to me. They all accepted they and others might die down there, and somehow, I just can't see a team of astronauts defying orders.

I can't tell if the protagonist's ability to fix or jury rig anything out of anything annoyed me or not because it taps into one of the things I really liked about the book: the science. The science is good-good in a way that warms my heart more than astronaut mutiny. The descriptions of the science were good too, in a way that didn't make my eyes want to glaze over (I'm thinking of some Kim Stanley Robinson passages here).

The pacing was alright as well; the writing was enjoyable. It was an easy read that left some good thoughts. As much as I can rant about it, I did like it.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, the unprofessional behaviour from the astronauts is just... Especially since I read this right after Chris Hadfield's book, in which he makes it very clear that it is serious damn business.