The Martian is smart, often tedious, tale of survival

by G. Robert Frazier

The Martian by Andy Weir isn’t lacking for quality reviews on the Internet, so it was a little surprising to find the book was available for a free read in exchange for an honest review on Blogging for Books. Already a New York Times Bestseller, the book really doesn’t need my two cents worth, but I’m happy to oblige.

The MartianThe book follows the plight of astronaut Mark Watney who is left for dead on Mars by the rest of his crew following an emergency liftoff in the midst of a dust storm. Watney makes clear throughout that his fellow astronauts had no choice but to abandon him or perish themselves. Still, that leaves Watney to fend for himself or die.

Why Matt Damon really wanted to do The Martian

Watney, who is The Martian in this case, is a botanist by occupation and he uses his skills to good measure. He quickly learns to become a potato farmer, converting parts of his lander into a garden to grow calorie-rich spuds that will last him until a rescue mission can be made. He also ingeniously devises methods in which to generate oxygen and water that will last him for the duration, although with a few mishaps along the way.

Our hero recounts each challenge and its scientific solutions in exceeding detail. While it is fascinating to see Watney’s mind at work, to see his ingenuity and resourcefulness overcome every obstacle, the straightforward how-to methodology of each problem and solution can be tedious reading. Page after page is devoted to mathematical reasoning. That obviously lends a real authenticity to the dilemma at hand, but it can make for boring reading after a few pages of such jargon.

Honestly, who knew all those word problems in math class would ever come in handy like this?

As Watney is alone, there is no one to argue with or bounce ideas off other than himself. He does so through a series of journal-like log entries. Thankfully, each entry is short and sweet, so the book reads at a fairly fast pace despite the scientific mumbo jumbo.

Many reviewers have pointed out that first-time novelist Weir fails to incorporate much in the way of a human element or characterization to Watney. He doesn’t dwell on family or friends, hopes, dreams or aspirations. Rather, the reader is supposed to be satisfied that his goal is survival and little else. That makes for a less engaging read for those looking for an escapist sort of story, but apparently it’s perfect fodder for a blockbuster movie.

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Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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Other articles of interest:

Nitpicking: How the movie and novel versions differ

The Martian brings a nerd thriller into the mainstream

How a self-published e-book became a Hollywood blockbuster

Trailer: The Martian

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3 thoughts on “The Martian is smart, often tedious, tale of survival

  1. Good review, Gary. I love the idea of a diary-style format but can see how it could be limiting as you’ve noticed. When my kids were little, there was a book in that format that was really sweet: “Good Morning Merry Sunshine” by journalist Bob Greene. But as the subject in that tome was a new father, his baby and the changes their lives underwent, the diary format worked beautifully. Thanks for the review, though. I think I’ll catch the Matt Damon version to satisfy my “eye candy” sweet tooth.

    Liked by 1 person

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