Some books just grab you and don’t let go. I wasn’t even expecting to read this book last weekend. On Friday I got an email saying my library’s ebook version of The Martian was now available and was automatically checked out for my account. All I had to do was open up my Kindle and let it download. I got hardly any sleep after that until I finished the book.
A Perfect Story?
Picking out favorite parts of this plot is nothing but spoiler country, so I won’t get into details. Thanks to the movie that came out, everyone knows the story is about astronaut
Matt Damon Mark Watney being marooned on mars. The book could have a much worse plot and still be entertaining for most because of the humor Watney uses to make light of his unconscionably hopeless scenario, but that’s not what makes the book great.
What makes the book so appealing is that Weir lets the plot do its own development. Everything that seems to work well carries with it the seed of another problem. The book could’ve gone any number of directions because it’s amazing anything Mark does works at all. Every little victory carries so much risk it’s easy to rejoice for today and have your heart torn out tomorrow. Your blood will pump hoping for Mark’s safety to the very last page.
There’s little need for suspension of disbelief, because the problem-solving sounds like an annoying process you’d face at work. Little details you’d never consider except in a weird edge case. Mark just faces them while alone on Mars with limited supplies. Even the technical language doesn’t come off as mumbo-jumbo like the stuff you’d read in a Star Trek novel, it’s basic ideas that need grappling. How efficient can a solar panel be? How do you make water from scratch? These aren’t scientific ideas that need faking, they just need to be explained in an entertaining context.
Not a Perfect Book
The book still falls short in a lot of little moments. Almost every bit of dialogue (this doesn’t include Watney’s narration that drives most of the book) felt flat. Even when Watney does the talking, half the time it bits of moaning like ‘well, shit’ or a string of expletives.
I get it, it’s an impossible situation and your mad and mad people swear a lot. But this is the fifth time I had to hear it. Stop trying to talk at me, make a joke, then get back to trying to build a radio out of coconuts. I like coconut radios way more than your soliloquy.
Thankfully Weir limits the amount of interaction we have with other characters, so we don’t listen to their crappy dialogue any more than necessary. It’s this reason the movie may actually be better than the book, because there’s no reason the movie can’t have the same amazing plot, but good actors and screenwriter’s view of dialogue could really whoop it into shape. I’ve not seen the film yet, so feel free to tell me I’m wrong.
Making Up For It
Don’t let the thought of poor dialogue get you down though – the majority of the book is just so much stinking fun you’ll not give it another thought until you need to write a book review. The first night I was reading, I kept telling Ber, “You really need to read this book.” Over and over.
Eventually I had quoted so many little lines to her she said, “turns out I just have to listen to you read it!” I tried to stop, but I couldn’t completely.
Weir originally wrote The Martian as a series of blog posts. Arguably, what makes a blogger a blogger is the desire to share information, and this book is a joy to share. I’m not surprised it spread as quickly as it did and eventually got picked up for full-on publishing. I think it spread well even early on because the story comes off as so likeable. And Watney’s humor and wit are almost assuredly just moments of Weir projected into the work. It’s a book that makes you want to grab coffee with its author.
And that’s why I’m here with you, too. As soon as I finished it I wanted to share the experience of it.
The Martian by Andy Weir