So, a quick glance through the many 5-star reviews and positive comments from my friends on Goodreads, suggests that my review is going to go down like a lead balloon. A disclaimer before we get started: I didn’t like much of the book at all, and I don’t understand the hype that surrounds it.
Let’s be honest: The Martian does have a terrifically cool premise. A super smart astronaut is left stranded on Mars after an accident and – despite being much better equipped to handle the situation than your average human, with his impressive skill-set – his chances of survival are minimal. In his own words, he’s pretty screwed. Still, he won’t take it lying down, and despite his hopeless circumstances he sets about building and cultivating what he can in order to give him a chance of staying alive. So far, so good.
The problem is, Andy Weir‘s book contains a central idea that promises so much – but then doesn’t deliver. I’ve heard various cries of this book being “unputdownable”, and indeed the Financial Times opines on the cover that it is “utterly nail-biting.” Hugh Howey announces that it is “white knuckle intense”, on the blurb. I can let you all know now that my nails are fully intact, and that my skin remains the same colour. I was, well… mostly bored.
I must clarify something: it isn’t the science. I’m all for complex texts that challenge your way of thinking. In fact, Weir should be congratulated for managing to make his book as accurate and factually correct as possible. However, The Martian loses its way a bit for it. Put across by Mark Watney – whose smugness and attitude is overbearing at times – I found myself essentially uninterested by his daily attempts to improve his situation. Then again, I don’t particularly like Robinson Crusoe so perhaps some of this was to be expected.
I think The Martian had it’s moments – some of the jokes were amusing – and it is kind of impossible to not have some kind of sympathetic thought about someone plunged into that situation. Yet the narrative style was one which I couldn’t get on with at all, and as a result I found myself not as invested in the story as I would’ve expected to be from a book of this nature. Plus: the novel always looked like it was going to limp to a disappointing conclusion from the outset.
It’s obvious this book wasn’t for me, so I’ll stop here and save you all some time. Overall, The Martian sets up a nice idea which it never quite delivers on. I often found the book monotonous and I couldn’t get myself invested in the story. On a lighter note: I am yet to see the film, but I think it could be something I would enjoy. It’s a story that – if done right – could come across wonderfully on the big screen.