Nicolas Ward's Reviews > The Martian

The Martian by Andy Weir
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's review
Jul 15, 2015

really liked it
bookshelves: space, sci-fi

I won't deny part of my motivation for reading this book is the impending release of the movie based on it. I have a strong preference for having read the book before seeing a film adaptation, and The Martian was both a book I'd been meaning to read and a movie I want to see. I think I managed to avoid picturing Matt Damon as the main character, despite having already seen the teaser trailers. The book also contains precisely the sort of descriptive action that maps well into visual storytelling on-screen. Part of me thinks it would also make a good adventure game (either text-based or point-and-click), in the way that its structure is largely a series of problem-solving exercises.

Stylistically the first person voice took some getting used to. There was almost too much internal dialogue for our beleagured astronaut Mark, and a lot of it made him come across as a bit... macho? He's certainly nerdy and resourceful, and has an engineer's mind, things I identify with, but also seems like someone I wouldn't necessarily enjoy hanging out with, personality-wise. The book is naturally primarily his story, but I found a number of the supporting characters potentially more interesting; they just don't get much page time. I wonder how much of that was a limitation of the book's original serial format? It definitely feels like there could have been a much larger story here, but on the other hand these short action vignettes are probably a more enjoyable read, and make for more nailbiting as Mark prepares to attempt various dangerous improvised survival techniques.

From a technical perspective the book was excellent, at least as far as my own space aficionado knowledge goes. Pretty much any time I had a quibble with the science or engineering, or thought I had spotted a potential solution or technology-based plot hole, it was resolved within a few pages. Some aspects of their fictional mission profile reminded me of the Mars Direct program proposed in Zubrin's The Case for Mars, particularly sending cargo and return vehicles to Mars before any crew arrived; however it definitely differs in that the large interplanetary cruise module seems to be the more popular choice in fiction than in reality, where mass and cost matter a bit more. I also liked the callbacks to various past Mars missions.

I don't think you need a technical background to enjoy the book, but it probably would help to be familiar with the history and technology of crewed spaceflight to enjoy some parts of it. Overall it's a fun quick read, and I'd recommend it.
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Reading Progress

July 15, 2015 – Started Reading
July 15, 2015 – Shelved
July 15, 2015 –
page 24
6.5% "I often found practical uses for Create Water."
July 15, 2015 –
page 72
19.51% "Stupid entropy. Also glad he quickly resolved my satellite imaging concern."
July 15, 2015 –
page 94
25.47% "Yay Pathfinder potential!"
July 22, 2015 –
page 158
42.82% "Not crazy about some of the stylistic choices. Internal narrative has too many exclamations!"
July 23, 2015 –
page 216
58.54% "The science seems really solid on all of this so far. I can also really see how the movie adaptation will go."
July 24, 2015 –
page 242
July 24, 2015 – Finished Reading
September 24, 2015 – Shelved as: space
September 24, 2015 – Shelved as: sci-fi

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