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Author Topic: The Martian by Andy Weir  (Read 748 times)
Ed
The Mastah, muahahaaaa....
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« on: January 01, 2015, 07:05:19 AM »

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Martian_%28Weir_novel%29

ISBN 978-0-8041-3902-1

One of the three book I read last week (the joys of having a week off somewhere away from life as I know it) this book is about an astronaut, Mark Watney, who is accidentally left stranded alone on Mars during one of the first few landings. To make matters worse he is injured, and the same storm that caused the injury and evacuation knocked out all the comms. Everybody thinks he's dead, he has no way of communicating with Earth and he has limited food rations. Even if NASA managed to make contact with him he doesn't have enough food to live long enough for any rescue or resupply mission to reach him. The nearest unmanned base with a radio is 3,200km away over rough terrain. Nightmare scenario.

Apparently the author originally self published the book, which was subsequently picked up by a publishing house. This is Weir's debut novel and, to be honest, it shows a little in places. It feels a bit naive to me, but maybe I'm too aware of the writing process to see it as an ordinary reader.

The protagonist's point of view is told solely in the form of log entries. I got through a couple of chapters before the realisation dawned on me that this was going to be a long slog in potentially pluperfect past tense. The style of the log entries is chatty and informal, which helps to alleviate the problem. Even so, I felt relief wash over me when another point of view came in from mission control. Personally, I think it was a mistake to use the log entries when a standard first or third person narrative would have been much more engaging. Long log entries gave the writer too much scope for extensive info dumps, and boy are there some massive info dumps here. Some were a sci-fi reader's dream, with detailed descriptions of how air, oxygen, nitrogen and water were made at various times, but I found some of it quite wearing and have to confess to skimming some of the longer sections of it. After a while it just reads blah, blah blah, blah to me.

It was an OK book, on the whole. I do think a good editor and a few re-written sections could work wonders with it, though. There isn't enough of what it is to be human in the story -- it all plays out a bit flat. Given the horrendous situation the protag was in there wasn't enough soul searching going on. He's just a bit too indefatigable and cheerful all the time, even when his situation is hopeless. It just doesn't ring true to me. If you're reading a book you want to get into the head of the main character, feel what he feels, ride the roller coaster, etc. That's not to say it's got to be a melodrama, or even that it's got to be voiced. This is one of those books that makes me want to get on and write a better one.

I'd give it a 6.5 out of 10
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