kat's Reviews > The Martian

The Martian by Andy Weir
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Jul 08, 2015

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bookshelves: read-in-2015, owned-kindle

I found this book profoundly underwhelming.

It starts out really well (in fact it's a good candidate for most compelling first few lines ever). The entire first third of the book is un-put-downable.

But like...

Can we talk about how the narrator is SUCH A BRO? He's uncomfortable having feelings. He makes fun of himself for crying. He describes his reaction to two broken ribs as "screaming like a little girl". He's always on about nerds not getting laid in high school. He even makes a juvenile "That's what she said" joke.

Being stranded on Mars is such a huge opportunity for a lot of psychology and ~FEELINGS~ but you can't really do that if your narrator is too invested in toxic masculinity to examine them.

Here are some quotes to give you an idea of what kind of guy Mark is!

The worst part of the Pathfinder trip was being trapped in the rover. I had to live in a cramped environment that was full of junk and reeked of body odor. Same as my college days. Rim shot! Seriously though, it sucked.

I need some encouragement. I need to ask myself, “What would an Apollo astronaut do?” He’d drink three whiskey sours, drive his Corvette to the launchpad, then fly to the moon in a command module smaller than my Rover. Man those guys were cool.

On the first night, I ran into a little problem with the temperature. It was fucking cold. The rover and trailer regulate their own temperatures just fine, but things weren’t hot enough in the bedroom. Story of my life.

If I could have anything, it would be a radio to ask NASA the safe path down the Ramp. Well, if I could have anything, it would be for the green-skinned yet beautiful Queen of Mars to rescue me so she can learn more about this Earth thing called “lovemaking.” It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a woman. Just sayin’. Anyway, to ensure I don’t crash again, I’ll— Seriously…no women in like, years. I don’t ask for much. Believe me, even back on Earth a botanist/mechanical engineer doesn’t exactly have ladies lined up at the door. But still, c’mon.


And it's not just that Mark is a bro. The entire narrative is so, well, unchallenging. It reminded me of Reader's Digest more than anything else. Nothing truly unexpected happens: it's just an endless cycle of "Something goes wrong, Mark MacGyvers his way out of it, and then everything is fine until--" lather, rinse, repeat. The ultrarealistic science nerdiness is pretty cool at first, but somewhere about halfway through the book it starts to read like someone talking you through their math homework.

Worse, the book never made me seriously doubt that he'd get out of it. Damningly, it doesn't even function that well on the level of a suspenseful space drama! Toward the end, I was holding out for a completely left-field plot twist. I almost wanted him to die (or turn out to be a ghost the whole time, or meet an alien, or SOMETHING) just so that this book could surprise me.

Don't get me wrong, there are some great lines in this book. Mark is genuinely really funny in a way that fully engages with modern internet and meme culture, and I would be a soulless monster if I couldn't appreciate him speculating about his own Wikipedia page, considering whether his theme song should be "Life on Mars?" or "Rocket Man", or quipping about leaving an online review after trying to use a laptop outside:

I thought a laptop would be fine outside. It’s just electronics, right? It’ll keep warm enough to operate in the short term, and it doesn’t need air for anything. It died instantly. The screen went black before I was out of the airlock. Turns out the “L” in “LCD” stands for “Liquid.” I guess it either froze or boiled off. Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.”


It's just that like... this is a very traditional science fiction story, albeit with modern-day science and memes. And that is disappointing.
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Reading Progress

July 8, 2015 – Shelved
July 8, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
September 23, 2015 – Started Reading
September 25, 2015 – Shelved as: read-in-2015
September 25, 2015 – Finished Reading
January 2, 2018 – Shelved as: owned-kindle

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Xavier Shay Missed this review when you first posted it - my feelings exactly! Glad to find someone else who agrees. I'm curious what the movie does with it.


message 2: by kat (new) - rated it 3 stars

kat Xavier wrote: "Missed this review when you first posted it - my feelings exactly! Glad to find someone else who agrees. I'm curious what the movie does with it."

IMO the movie was, surprisingly, a better version of the book. They made Watney a bit less of a bro and gave the supporting cast more screen-time. It was also just really super gorgeous.

also: http://letterboxd.com/wirehead/film/t... :P


Xavier Shay oh fantastic, I'll definitely watch it then!


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