speculative visionscience fiction and fantasy

Book Review: "The Martian" by Andy Weir (podcast)

Review books and discuss your favorite authors.

Moderators: Bmat, Qray

    Bookmark and Share
 

Book Review: "The Martian" by Andy Weir (podcast)

Postby ryanseanoreilly » Thu Dec 03, 2015 10:43 pm

140 million leagues under the blackness of space, Jules Verne is reborn…this time with a sense of humor and irreverent references to pop culture.

Through a series of journal entries, the protagonist of this story relays a first person account that chronicles the trials and tribulations of being stuck on the biggest deserted island in the solar system. Mars. This work was well-researched and the science in the text feels just barely out of grasp of current technological innovations. Andy Weir is to be commended for his dedication to the craft of writing and his ability to embed a compelling story within a bevy of scientific equations. For fans of hard science fiction this should be an absolute delight.

I felt myself skimming over some of the more technical science bits as they do sort of come pummeling one after another. However, this is how I felt when I read through the lists of taxonomy in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and; like Verne’s book, I found the plot and story compelling on both an individual and a universal level (despite my personal aversion to numbers and math).

In one sense, you could say this story did not plumb very deep into a human emotional experience. We do get a sense of what the characters are going through, but we lack some of the nuances that might be happening inside their heads--despite the distraction of the dire circumstances. On the other hand, this is really refreshing in that we don’t get some sappy, romantic subplot artificially shoe-horned into the story to make us “feel” feelings. What may be missing is not really all that off. Highly trained professionals working under these circumstances would be very focused on the immediate and imperative task at hand: survival. And humans are very capable of this. People in desperate situations are able to get outside their heads, put aside daily annoyances or stresses and zero in on what really needs to be done. That too is part of the human condition.

Even though I felt overwhelmed by the “math” problems coming at me on a regular basis, the author managed (quite deftly) to bring everything back to relatable terms. He illustrated the problems well and made these an integral and believable part of the story. He also managed to make the character very human, because not everything comes together for the protagonist and many times fixing one problem led to other unforeseen problems later on (I believe the author did all this intentionally – and masterfully). This is a classic tale of, Man vs. Nature, yet the trials suffered by the protagonist do not feel contrived or random. Suspense is kept up throughout the book.

Another thing done quite well, was the protagonist’s sarcastic personality. The character is constantly making humorous, pop culture references or else giving sarcastic commentary to himself or others. All this levity is well-timed and serves as a great balance to some of the drier aspects of the book (i.e. math problems). A dual function is also served here, because it gave the protagonist more depth and personality, and provided a gateway for the reader to relate to his plight. Whether you’re a rocket scientist or professor of literature, you would probably have the same reaction to being trapped on Mars: “Oh crap, I’m screwed.” Andy Weir captures this with excellent tone. So, even if you’re not a science fiction fan, this is a well-balanced and suspenseful tale that informs as much as it delights.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: "No Deodorant In Outer Space". The podcast is available on iTunes, YouTube or our website: www.nodeodorant.com.
User avatar
ryanseanoreilly
New User
New User
 
Posts: 50
Joined: Thu May 10, 2012 10:47 pm
 

 

Re: Book Review: "The Martian" by Andy Weir (podcast)

Postby Bmat » Fri Dec 04, 2015 7:40 am

I also skimmed over most of the tech-talk.

Do you think that the reaction of the protagonist to analyze possibilities and how to achieve them was a typical reaction of someone who would be on the kind of mission- they would likely be chosen for multiple abilities and quick thinking? They wouldn't just curl up in a ball and accept what seemed to be the outcome of the ship leaving.
User avatar
Bmat
Super Moderator
Super Moderator
 
Posts: 5794
Joined: Tue Apr 05, 2005 5:31 pm
Location: East coast US
Blog: View Blog (10)
 

 

Re: Book Review: "The Martian" by Andy Weir (podcast)

Postby ryanseanoreilly » Fri Dec 04, 2015 9:31 pm

You know, I do. Astronauts are highly trained and unique individuals who are specifically chosen based on a multitude of criteria. So I think that a person typical to that specialized field, would have a lot of drive to keep going and stay the course-- too exhaust all possibilities of escape. I also believe that humans in general are adaptive to changing circumstances -- more so than an individual might believe. So, in that sense I felt the story did have a realistic tone that was both compelling and believable.

On my podcast our guest compared this work to the movie "Castaway", and felt that "The Martian" lacked a certain emotional or existential tonality. I understand this viewpoint, but I also felt the author brought a more original take to the surface by focusing on the story of survival and not sliding into some of the more obvious tropes of sentimentality that he could have chosen (i.e. the protagonist is not continually pining away for some long lost love back on earth). That was refreshing.
User avatar
ryanseanoreilly
New User
New User
 
Posts: 50
Joined: Thu May 10, 2012 10:47 pm
 

 

Re: Book Review: "The Martian" by Andy Weir (podcast)

Postby Bmat » Sat Dec 05, 2015 9:25 am

The focus on adapting the items he had on hand to survival needs really added to my enjoyment. Maybe some tropes or even a trope would have filled out the experience more. Or even if he did give in and missed something critical and realized that giving in to sentimentality would affect his ability to analyze and perform.. although this is maybe a subject for another story.

Is being driven to return to a loved one motivation or hindrance?
User avatar
Bmat
Super Moderator
Super Moderator
 
Posts: 5794
Joined: Tue Apr 05, 2005 5:31 pm
Location: East coast US
Blog: View Blog (10)
 

 

Re: Book Review: "The Martian" by Andy Weir (podcast)

Postby ryanseanoreilly » Wed Dec 09, 2015 10:34 pm

I think that motivation for a loved one could go both ways... But it can be particularly interesting when that seemingly positive emotion gets twisted up because it gets the character into all sorts of trouble. I feel that we see that in stories like Game of Thrones (Jamie Lanister).
User avatar
ryanseanoreilly
New User
New User
 
Posts: 50
Joined: Thu May 10, 2012 10:47 pm
 


Return to Books and Authors

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron