Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Science Fiction
First Published: 2011
Page Count: 369
Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*
Rating: 2/5 Stars
A brilliant book that suffers from its extremely technical approach to storytelling.
*Thrilling, Haunting Plot
“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him.” Mark Watney finds himself abandoned on the lonely red planet of Mars after a dust storm causes his crew to evacuate the planet. NASA, his crew, and the world think he died in the dust storm, leaving him stranded to fend for himself on the distant planet. Will anyone ever realize he is alive and, if so, will he survive an extended stay on Mars long enough to be rescued?
Part of what makes this such a thrilling book is the idea of having to survive on Mars and that this could conceivably happen. We have already sent rovers to Mars, how long until people are next? Space is a mysterious, foreign, unforgiving environment; this makes for the ultimate survival story. The author keeps the story moving with thrilling twists but it is the theme of complete and utter isolation that make the story so haunting. Being thousands of miles, parsecs, light-years (whatever you want to use that means really really far away) from all forms of life on an unknown planet that is not hospitable to human life without certain equipment is chilling to think about. It fills me with a queasy, claustrophobic terror to imagine being in his circumstances. For that reason, the story is a clever take on the age-old theme of survival.
While the premise is brilliant, the final product might be a bit too dry for most readers. For space and science fiction lovers, Weir’s attention to detail in every aspect of the book would only enhance how great the story is. For everyone else, even avid readers like myself, the level of specifics the author intrenches us in can come across as extremely dreary. At the beginning, it is fascinating to understand to the smallest detail every move Watney makes, but that grows old quickly. It gets to a point where Weir could completely be making up his logic and knowledge on space and I would think everything is one hundred percent true. He is throwing so many facts at us that you can’t help but numbly nod your head and agree with everything he writes.
This is a fantastic story, but thank god it is only 369 pages long. Any longer and I would’ve drowned in factoids. And this is coming from someone who conquered Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame which have some of the driest chapters I’ve encountered in literature. It’s not a bad book which is why it kills me to give it a low rating, but the focus on accuracy really brought down the reading experience. This is one story that I feel will translate better to the screen (I have yet to see the film adaptation so my vote is out on that). There is a big difference visually watching someone attempt to survive on Mars in the most realistic way possible and reading endless pages on nearly every aspect of growing potatoes in Martian soil.
* Film Adaptation: (Starring Matt Damon 2015)