*HAPPY NEW YEAR; HERE’S TO A HOPEFULLY FANTASTIC 2017 (to be fair though, there hasn’t really been a bar set, it’s 97% impossible to look bad compared to 2016)*
Genre: YA sci-fi/adventure/space
Recommend-Worthy: a light-hearted and easy-going yet grounded debut; I would definitely recommend (especially before you watch/instead of watching the film).
The Martian is an engaging debut for Andy Weir, filled with humour, scientific knowledge, and a hell of a lot of space-talk. Although there might be an abundance of numbers and terminology to digest, Weir manages to never let the narrative stagnate, with something always on the horizon, or an explosion only a couple of pages from occuring. The book is fast-paced, larger than life and easy to enjoy.
After a larger-than-expected storm hits the landing site of the “Ares III” mission, the crew are forced to evacuate Mars. On their retreat from the Hab (a big balloon that keeps them alive), Mark Watney is struck by debris and flung off into the unsettled distance. Whilst the crew are obviously distraught, they have to leave Mars behind and make tracks for home-sweet-home-the-earth.
The book then follows Mark Watney’s episodical struggle to survive on Mars with dismal chances, a discouraging food supply, and stacks of disco music to keep him company.
The characterisation in this book was pretty fantastic; yes, the majority of the focus was on Watney (but that’s to be expected, when y’know, he’s 2 feet away from death at all times). I find it crazy how well Weir managed to portray his character through reported speech and logbooks – I never usually manage to relate or engage with a character unless they’re involved in some sort of first-person narrative, or dialogue.
The extreme focus on evolving Watney’s personality so the audience actually want him to survive doesn’t dampen the characterisation of other people within the plot. I feel as if all of the NASA characters back on earth were developed super well, as you’re able to pick up their personality traits and beliefs right from the word go.
The characterisation of the crew confused me a little in retrospect: most of their development was quite one dimensional (as they’re rarely present) and most of it is through Watney talking about them. That being said, they were all perfectly likeable, especially within the pages of the final scenes.
What I liked
- I felt as if this book was completely unassuming, yet managed to pull everything off. Like a complete underdog that I wasn’t expecting much from, but ended up rooting for every character.
- I thought the scientific details and explanations were pretty awesome; I think it’s cool how Weir managed to create a mainstream book that includes long words and his passion.
- The drama of the plotline was consistent throughout, and I don’t think I ever tired of turning the pages: Weir, via Watney, has such an engaging writing style in all the best places. But that brings me on to:
What I didn’t like so much
- The writing style fluctuated too much for my liking; one second Watney is cracking jokes, and the next he is explaining his 30 stage scientific research and it didn’t seem to integrate very well in my opinion. Although, the humour was definitely needed and greatly appreciated in the majority of cases – without it, the story would have been pretty bland.
- For the whole book I kept wondering how he actually made the logs. Maybe I missed it, but I couldn’t help keep thinking as to whether these are filmed (as in the film), written, or oral.
- Whilst this isn’t a fault of the book, I wasn’t madly keen on the transition to the big screen. Perversely enough, it didn’t seem to have the drama or engaging niche that the book did (unusual for a film, given they are able to attack all senses).
Weir aims to ground what would otherwise be dismissed as an incredulous story with scientific facts and details, and likeable characters in order to create an enjoyable, and easy-going read.