This book has actually changed ratings for me since I’ve gotten some distance from it. I have it sitting at five stars, but looking back I think it was just an extremely good four star read. The most amazing thing about it was how the author made science so accessible from engineering to astronomy, I never felt bogged down in technical detail and actually wanted to learn more on those topics. What this book lacks is, well, characters. Am I the only one that feels like this was an action driven novel with very little action? After all a lot of what Mark does is wait. Still, the goofy tone he took in be-bopping around Mars by himself kept me reading as well.
I loved the accessibility as well. I didn’t read this until recently because I thought the science would bore me to tears. Nope. There were a few teensy areas where I found myself drifting but for the most part I was right there with Mark with my fingers firmly crossed for his survival.
I know, Neil, I don’t get the hype either. Like April said, no real characters and no real action, but it pushed the book into unenjoyable territory for me. I just never felt nervous for Mark at all. It actually shocks me that so many people talk about staying up late and being on the edge of their seat the whole time they were reading, because I never felt he was in danger. How could Andy Weir introduce one ridiculously likable character (so cheery that I found him grating by the midpoint of the novel) and then kill him off? Or even seriously injure him? And Mark, if you’re really scared, can you show it? I mean, I know this hokey bit is your thing, but where’s the emotion? YOU ARE STUCK ON MARS.
So, I was bored and didn’t buy it. The book became a series of repetitive treks across Mars that followed the same rise and fall in action with really awful dialogue from NASA on Earth to boot. Phew, Mark’s safe! Science, potatoes.
Of course there was danger! He was stranded. On Mars! I knew he wasn’t going to be killed off from the beginning, but I think I wasn’t sure if he was going to get back home, or be stuck there forever, or what. Was “The Martian” referring to him as a temporary or a permanent Martian? Or maybe he’d meet a Martian! (It is sci-fi, after all). Those are the kind of things that kept me on the edge of my seat and up all night.
I didn’t know whether he was going to make it off Mars alive. I had no idea. I’m not kidding when I say that I could feel my heart POUNDING during the last pages. I don’t know if that has ever happened to me before? I put my hand on my chest and feel my heart galloping away.
Shannon, you are tough! Bored?! I did read almost all the way through. He’s stuck on a hostile environment and the smallest of things can decimate his chances of getting home. Like the airlock fabric ripping. Suddenly, no food, no shelter. He’s on the edge of starvation. When I think of bored in a futuristic sense I think of Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things. That guy had nothing to worry about. And Jennifer, I was the same way. I was gripping the book so tightly I almost shredded it.
I was okay with it not being an intense read. And I totally agree there was a silly, hokey side to it. It worked for me for the same reasons in the same way I loved watching Red Dwarf. It was entertaining, funny, and even campy, and still satisfied the geek in me. (The silliness of the NASA guys was the only part that annoyed me, because it was so outside how I think they’d ever behave in that situation).
I thought the goofy humor was fabulous. Especially from Mark. His humor kept him alive. Plus, I always like a smart ass character. Maybe I’ve seen Apollo 13 too many times but the scientists were annoying in a way that felt very real- I mean have you ever dealt with IT people?! Rude zoomers. And I agree, Monika, it may not have been intense (too much science talk for that) but it was exactly as it should be to make a great read.
Did you really feel like you got a sense of Mark as a character, though? I feel like we don’t really know anything about him beyond his quirky jokes and his skillset, which would be fine, but he also doesn’t show a very wide range of emotions (especially for being stranded on Mars). After a whole book alone in Mark’s head, we don’t know him much better than when we started. There was a chance for at least a few moments of real emotion, but Weir wrote him with almost no family or loved ones back home. It all just lacks depth.
I actually find the movie trailer much more appealing (and even thought I would prefer a movie when I wrote my review) because it seems to address these problems. In just the few minutes of the trailer we see more emotion from Mark than the whole of the book: we see him breaking down, reaching out to a screen, etc.
Maybe you were craving more literary sci-fi, along the lines of Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow?
I’m not sure. I don’t want to make this sound like I need every book to have countless themes or make me take twenty pages of notes, but I just found it predictable in pretty much every way. I’ll be over here eating Mark’s potatoes in my corner of the internet on this one: population 1! (EDIT: Hear…Read This! discussed the book and there are four other people who hated it. Population 5!)
Maybe Mark wasn’t a complicated guy but I totally bought him. I thought he was hilarious and dorky and smart and adorable and is it obvious that I have a total crush? Swoon.
What do you think about The Martian, readers? Did you love riding along with Mark? Was the science too much or just enough? Did this change your perspective on sci-fi novels? How are you feeling about the movie?