Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir Review

On a manned mission to Mars that goes wrong, Mark Watney is left behind on the martian surface - he’s gotta survive the harsh environment until his NASA teammates can rescue him. 

Andy Weir may have created one of the most tedious literary protagonists of all time in Mark Watney. The premise is potentially interesting but Weir’s treatment is not. Most of the book is a first person monologue from Mark as he explains every little action he takes in appalling detail - and I mean DETAIL. 

Here’s the thing: I don’t care. I will never be on the surface of Mars. If I ever am (and my god will NASA’s standards be lowered if I’m being sent there), my plan is to die as quickly and painlessly as possible. I don’t need to know these endless, useless scientific factoids because I’m not taking it in anyway. But I’m also the kind of reader who just needs to know the basics. Tell me that you fertilized your crops and worked on your vehicle - don’t bore me with the processes for both as if I’m about to go out and do that! 

And that’s it for Mark. No plot, just listening to him drone on about drilling holes - hundreds of fucking holes - into a sheet of metal or telling you about shitting on his potatoes and drinking his piss like a cosmic Bear Grylls. 

He’s not just dull, he’s annoying. He makes these awful little jokes that aren’t funny - one of his crewmates has left behind disco music and that’s the only music he has to listen to. Ooo, how he hates disco! And he only has ‘70s sitcoms to watch. Ooo! He also comes up with pathetically cutesy remarks like a unit of measurement that’s a “pirate ninja” because isn’t that a larf? Mark’s “fun”! 

Obviously humour’s subjective so I’m sure some people thought he was a riot (Big Bang Theory fans especially - it’s that level of “comedy”) but I couldn’t stand him. He’s sarky like a tween, alternating between “yays” and saying “duh” to remarks from NASA, and then questioning their orders. Aren’t astronauts selected because they follow orders unquestioningly? God, I hated this twerp! 

It’s not all bad. There’s a third person story as Mark’s crewmates mount a rescue mission and NASA does what they can to help. This is the Apollo 13 part of the book and it’s the only part I could say I was a little bit interested in as stuff actually happened. Again though, far, far too much detail on the science stuff. 

The Martian will probably work well as a movie. I’m hoping Matt Damon won’t be lecturing the viewer the entire time - in fact I’m hoping he’ll be largely silent - as this kind of survival “story” translates pretty well on screen. Tom Hanks in Cast Away was great and this is basically that with a dash of Apollo 13 thrown in. 

For a lot of people science fiction simply means stories set in space. The Martian is science fiction in its purest sense in that it incorporates a lot of actual science into its fiction. And I learned from reading this novel that genuine science fiction is not for me.

I got nothing out of The Martian except the realisation that sometimes waiting for the movie instead of reading the book beforehand is a better option! It’s a fine setup but in Andy Weir’s hands it’s rendered boring beyond belief. In space nobody can hear you yawn!

The Martian

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