I’ll be honest: I saw “The Martian” in theaters. And it was awesome. Despite the sometimes intense language, it was a fulfilling space odyssey that indulged both the sci-fi and survival genres. It was geeky, fun, gripping, and an adventure worth its two hour plus run time.
The book was not many of these. The premise is simple: in a relatively near future, the world has embraced space travel to the point where NASA can sponsor a series of missions to Mars. While on Mars, the “Ares 3” mission (the third in the series) gets scrapped due to poor weather. A wind storm kicks up sand to the point where the MAV (the rocket that brought them to Mars) is in danger. So they report from the HAB (the planetary station that holds the astronauts while on Mars) back to the MAV for blast off. Only Mark Watney doesn’t get on the MAV. He gets thrown asunder and his other crewmen are unable to find him. So they leave him behind and have a funeral.
Only, he’s not dead.
The ensuing story is about survival; how does Mark Watney make lemonade out of lemons? The story is exhilarating. The genius of Watney is both interesting and though provoking. Even though I had seen the movie, the book was still enjoyable in this way. One of the more annoying habits of Andy Weir is the technical language. He tends to litter this book with unfamiliar terms, math, and science that aren’t always for the layperson and then tries to disarm your skepticism with trite analogies and metaphors. It doesn’t work all the time. Some of the more comic illustrations and language is a bit juvenile to me.
Which is one of the reasons I can’t really give this book five stars. I think Andy Weir is a fantastic story teller. The over arching story is brilliant. How he combines science and that story element to create a genre-bending sci-fi/survival/thriller novel is brilliant. The execution however, is a little less than desirable.