My rating: 3 of 5 stars
On the third mission to Mars things go horribly wrong and Mark is left for dead. It seems like a pretty grim premise, but this book was a very fun read. I love Mark’s logs, which are – essentially – Mark’s inner monologue. This was not “watch one man go mad in isolation”; it was a test of one man’s ingenuity.
Even though the plot relies on a lucky hero (Game of Thrones this is not), I was able to suspend my disbelief nearly every time. I won’t spoil whether Mark makes it off Mars, but suffice to say he does not have everything go horribly wrong. I think the fun and the suspense of this book lies on which challenges Andy Weir has his protagonist anticipate or solve and which ones catch him by surprise and, in some cases, leave him worse off.
I will spoil that the narrative eventually go away from him and to others because it serves as the basis of praise and the reason I didn’t give The Martian 4 or 5 stars. On the plus side, I think Weir does a good job of depicting Earth’s reaction to the death of an astronaut as well as the news that he’s alive. Where I think Weir drops the ball is in the crew’s emotional rollercoaster. On the one hand, the book has the concise narrative of a TV show (Like Game of Thrones) or a movie and to spend more time than necessary with the crew or Earth would mire the book with unnecessary details. I think the story benefits from a brisk read.
Also, this isn’t that kind of book. It’s not exploring the emotional side, it’s exploring the engineering side. This book is like a space nerd’s fantasy of the Rational Man and how he deals with adversity. Likewise with the crew. And while there can often times be a perception of robotic emotions among the super smart (and I do know some people like that), the book does somewhat stretch credibility.
I read this for the Sword and Laser book club – you can see some more in depth (and spoilery) comments I made. As I mentioned there, I did appreciate the lack of hookup/sex content in this book. I’m certainly no prude as you may be able to tell from the books I read (not sure how visible that is given I’ve only been on Goodreads since 2011 or something like that), but it can get tedious how every sci fi book seems to have pointless sex scenes. Weir does seem to setup some dominoes given the crew’s composition, but he never knocks them over.
In the end, it’s a fun book (and a prett quick read) that I’d recommend to any sci fi fan. I also think it should be required reading for the Mars team at NASA for a compendium of things that might go wrong so they can try and build in the required redundancy.