Saturday, 11 October 2014

Book Review: 'The Martian' by Andy Weir

So I'm completely too late for the 'The Martian' bandwagon. It seems everyone has already read it with a smattering of really likes to the 'meh' verdicts. 

What decided it for me was that one 'meh' from one of my friends on Goodreads said "Too much chemistry".


Being the huge chemistry nerd that I am it was a calling sign that I was probably going to enjoy it.

And boy was it fun.

The Martian tells the story of Mark Watney, abandoned for dead by his martian crew mates after an emergency when all his life signs showed he was dead. While they rushed back to Earth, Mark wakes up in his very damaged suit to find himself alone on Mars with no hope of survival and no way to communicate with Earth. 

And so The Martian is a suspenseful tale of survival. Watney is a trained botanist and mechanical engineer and he certainly uses his skills to the most. While the character is sarcastic, snarky and a bit immature, on the other hand he is humorous and entertaining. I often thought "Is this what a NASA astronaut would say? Is this how they would act?" And the answer is probably no. NASA astronauts tend to be calm yet charming people. If this is true through selection processes or as a result of running through simulations of terror for years and years we can only guess. But Mark Watney is far removed from Chris Hadfield. And while I may have found the story of an astronaut like Chris Hadfield fascinating, it may not have been a commercial SF success. Mark Watney is the perfect fusion of entertaining protagonist with smart and resourceful astronaut. 

And while the story is full of suspense, it is by no means unpredictable. A quote on the cover does liken it to the recent film 'Gravity' which is a fair call. 'Gravity' was a fun, suspenseful and predictable romp just like this novel. But I'd argue that this book is much more scientifically accurate and has much more heart. 

So despite these concerns, 'The Martian' kept me turning those pages in complete fascination. I was perched on the edge of my chair. I was cheering at Mark's victories, and concerned at with the disasters. And the science was wonderful. Top marks to Andy Weir especially if he isn't a qualified engineer or scientist. It passed my chemistry scrutiny with flying colours.

So I'd recommend this SF to lovers of science and SF. Some may say there is too much science, but others like me will bask in it.

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