Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
This book really needs no introduction, having topped bestseller lists; promoted all over Goodreads; and primed to become the next Hollywood blockbuster with a star-studded cast. The story follows Mark Watney, who has been left stranded on EFFING MARS after a failed mission. While the rest of humankind pegs him as dead, Watney uses his ingenuity and sheer will to survive in his inhospitable environment. The plot was always well-paced and creative, but I wished I cared for these characters… more on that later in the review.
“All my brilliant plans foiled by thermodynamics. Damn you, Entropy!”
The Martian is very different to any other books I’ve read. It has solid technical accuracy and sound scientific research. Admittedly, it’s been a while since my prerequisite Chemistry and Physics course, so a lot of the nitty-gritty details flies over my head. But hey, if the science is sound enough for Chris Hadfield, Commander of The International Space Station, it’s definitely good enough for me.
“They say once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially ‘colonised’ it. So technically, I colonised Mars.
In your face, Neil Armstrong!”
In a contest of ‘who’s most likely to die’, Watney beats the heroes of Castway, Robin Crusoe etc.. by a mile. Mars has it out for him, offering no readily available source of water, food, or even air! The planet is filled with solar radiation, ‘his cancer would have cancer’ if he got exposed to it! Not to mention that his nearest aid is 4 years away. As a mechanical engineer/botanist, Watney was at least primed with the skillset to make the most of his situation, and wow does he innovate. He farms potatoes, creates rocket fuel, fixes up communication channel using just the meagre resources that’s been left behind for him. Though it sounds a bit farfetched, the methods he used to do this was backed up with great logic.
“They’re not much different from kitchen trash bags, though I’m sure they cost $50,000 because of NASA.”
Despite being a survival type novel, the narration was never dark or bleak. Watney soldiers through with very humorous notes about his situation. Just when I thought that I’ve had enough of reading about his audiolog, other human characters are also introduced into the mix to shake things up. I found all the digs at NASA and how their PR team scrambles to make the situation right quite hilarious.
“It’s amazing how much red tape gets cut when everyone’s rooting for one man to survive.”
This story is not only about Watney’s sheer crazy genius brain and how it helped him to survive, it also has a positive message about how human can pull together when they have a common cause. Nice to see a spot of positivity, as I’m used to big corporations being painted as pure evil in most media I consume.
I have to say, though, the glaring flaw in this book is lack of character development and believability. There were chapters where the author tried to establish some emotional connection between Watney and the rest of his crewmate, but it did not work. They were simply caricatures, the strong no-nonsense female captain, the young girl, the German dude, and some other people I don’t remember even though I finished the book only 2 days ago. Watney probably had a more meaningful relationship with his field of potatoes & Rover than with any of the human characters. Due to this lack of emotional centre, it made Watney while likable, not lovable. I thought that the book would be greatly improved and a lot more powerful if the characterisation and the relationship were portrayed in more realistic ways.
Forget about deciding what book you’ll take with you when you’re stranded on an island. I’m taking this book with me when I get stranded on Mars for survival tips.