Reading Challenge Book Two: The Martian
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.
Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.
Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.
But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
Why I chose this book
On my reading list, I have three books which were originally self-published and then picked up by traditional publishers. Of course, they are the outliers of indie publishing, but I wanted to see what the actual books were like. Secondly, I use the to-do list website Habitica, and this is the February book club read.
Despite its flaws, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.
This book is hard science-fiction. It’s set mainly on the planet Mars, with some interspersed scenes back on earth and in the remaining crew’s spaceship. The plot centres around the survival and rescue of a lone astronaut stranded on Mars.
Given the technical/mathematical content and the adult language, this book is suitable for adults.
I watched the film as well, and would recommend that if younger readers are interested in the book, they watch the film instead, as the technical content is lower.
The best parts of this book were the journal/log style sections of the astronaut, Mark Watney, stuck on Mars. The character’s voice came over really well and it was easy to identify and sympathise with his predicament.
The amount of technical knowledge and research that must have gone into this book is quite mind-blowing. I watched a short video with Andy Weir, where he states that space travel has been a life-long interest for him, and it really shows. The detail he goes into with respect to survival: growing crops, creating water, extending the life support systems, felt realistic and authentic. And yet, it still remained interesting despite all the numbers.
Over the book, the emotional attachment to Mark and the tension created grew and grew. I was turning the pages quickly at the ending, and holding my breath to see if he would survive or not.
When I read the first chapter set back on Earth, I was disappointed. The characters and surroundings were sparsely described, and all merged into one. The writing style wasn’t terribly sophisticated or smooth. There was an awful lot of “he said this”, then “he said this” etc. It was disappointing. The overall feel of these interspersed sections on Earth and onboard the crew’s spaceship was that of a disaster movie, where the camera flicked from point to point, merely to give information.
In that respect, the information came over well. But there was very little characterisation of anyone other than Mark. I think it was partly a disappointment because Mark’s parts are done so well. It’s clear where Mr Weir’s strengths lie.
These parts did improve over the book as I got to know the characters a little better, but overall, they weren’t the best parts.
Despite the bad points, I still choose to give this book a top rating, because the overall lasting emotional effect was high. My star rating tends to be based on a gut feeling, rather than a sum of the parts, and this is definitely a book I could read again some time.
After reading the book, I realised the movie was available to watch on Sky. So last night I watched it. I had a feeling that the bits I wasn’t so keen on in the book woudl come over better in the movie, and this was certainly the case. The sections back on Earth were better because it was easier to see who everyone was and where they were.
They cut out a few bits in the movie, which I appreciate time-wise is something that has to be done sometimes. But then they added an extra bit right on the end (when Mark was being rescued) and that seemed a bit silly. Why chop out some perfectly good bits from the middle and add a new bit on the end? (I’m a book/movie purist, it has to be said). However, I didn’t mind the epilogue (also not in the book). It finished it off nicely.
As part of the Habitica challenge, I checked out some additional media as well, and so I’d like to finish with this cool picture of the surface of Mars.