Davy-Gravy's Reviews > The Martian

The Martian by Andy Weir
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it was ok

Unpopular opinion time: I don't like how this book is written. Watney's journals read like a nerdy blog rather than a dramatic survivor's diary. It's hard to find something harrowing and traumatic when the protagonist is saying "yay!" a lot and making incessant corny puns. "3.6 pirate-ninjas!" "Yay oxygen!" "Lol gay probe lol!!!!!1!" "Bad rover, no Scooby snack!!!111!" "LOL craaaaaaap!!1!" For me, those aren't funny, they're almost embarrassing.

No matter what horrible thing is happening to Watney, he's sure to pull though, but not before laying a smug, cutesy zinger on us. It sucks all the tension out of any situation, which is the complete opposite of what I want in a book that's supposed to be a thriller.

Now, don't get me wrong, Andy Weir is a great technical writer. When Watney isn't being a wacky douche, he's going on and on about some technical or mechanical or biological process that, with me not being a scientist, usually goes over my head. And that's fine, I have no fault with a book that's factually complicated like that. In fact, it's really admirable and cool that Weir is able to pool all of his expertise into a book about survival on Mars.

That being said, other aspects of the book suffer. According to the author's bio on the back of the book, Andy Weir "was first hired as a programmer for a national laboratory at age fifteen and has been working as a software engineer ever since. He is also a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight." If I can stereotype here, it shows. My guess is that he doesn't really know how people behave or interact in the real world. The dialog is stilted and awkward. The characters are all one-dimensional and flat. They almost seem like an afterthought. The emotional and psychological trauma rendered by all these near-death experiences and complete and utter isolation? What trauma? There's no mention of that anywhere. Watney is apparently that cool and awesome of a guy, as evidenced by all his canned laugh track one-liners and grating sarcasm.

But hey, maybe that doesn't bother some people (obviously, considering that people actually watch The Big Bang Theory), and they're in for a technologically-driven, "funny" space-thriller. Because I have to admit, it's a terrifyingly cool premise. It just wasn't what I was expecting. I was hoping for an emotionally-taxing, horrifying, survival drama, but instead got a cutesily witty astrophysics manual. Just because something is nerdy doesn't automatically mean that it's good.
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Reading Progress

January 26, 2014 – Started Reading
January 26, 2014 – Shelved
January 26, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 393 (393 new)


message 1: by Patty (new) - added it

Patty I agree. The writing style gets in the way of my enjoyment of the story. The premise is good, though.


J.   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Perhaps it is better heard than read... You should give the audiobook a try. The narration was outstanding.


John FOr me, the nerdy blog actually seems to sell it all to me. This is a lot like the tone in some blogs I've read from ISS astronauts, and the fact the character Mark, isn't a novelist means it is told in the voice of a nerdy geek, just the sort of guy that might get picked for the second human mission to Mars. AS for trauma, those who survive such an experience probably don't get all knotted up and worried about their situation until afterwards. He was picked (in part) for a multi year mission probably based on how stable a personality he had.


Trentl I do agree that the writing style was a little grating. It wouldn't be so bad, except that almost every character has basically the same personality.

Despite this, I think the book still succeeds. The last 10% of the book (yeah, I read on Kindle) was really fantastic.


Eric Fan Good review. While I enjoyed the book for what it was, I agree with you that stylistically it was a little grating for all the reasons you mentioned. I'm not sure the journal format was the best way to tell this story and there were times when - especially during critical emergencies - I couldn't see how he was actually writing them. The technical elements are very well done and overall it was compelling (it must have been since I read it fairly quickly). I dealt with the character's seemingly shallow psychological response by imagining it was his survival mechanism, including his goofy humor. I still wish the author had gone a bit deeper though.


Andre So you would have preferred the more clichéd journal style. Got it.


message 7: by Davy-Gravy (last edited May 30, 2014 08:14PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Davy-Gravy Actually, I'm not a fan of the journal style in general. They're all pretty cliché.


Marla "wacky douche"...perfect!


Beth Chapman Yes, try the audiobook. I started out feeling exactly like you but the narrator won me over. I've been listening and hanging onto the edge of my seat.


message 10: by R.H. (new) - rated it 1 star

R.H. Baker I listened to the audiobook and was still annoyed by the constant corny jokes...overkill.


Russell I read them as more sarcastic than genuine. It's hard for certain personality types to be all doom-and-gloom serious, even in a fucked up situation. It's clear Watney isn't the stoic personality type. I thought it was great.


Robin Edman Thank you. You told me exactly what I wanted to know.


message 13: by Michael (new)

Michael I enjoyed it just for that reason - it's exactly how I would ecppect an ex dungeons and dragons geek to present himself. I found the un-pretentiousness refreshing.


message 14: by Steve (new)

Steve Van Slyke I agree. Read two chapters and returned it. Unless NASA had drastically lowered its standards by the time this was to haven taken place, I cannot imagine an astronaut documenting priceless information in the manner of this narrator.(less)


message 15: by Beth (new) - rated it 3 stars

Beth Chapman Steve, I had to chuckle at your comment. Do you honestly think more realistic NASA documentation of a Mars mission would make thrilling reading?
Pfffft!


Robert It IS a nerdy blog, that's rather the point. It would be very out of character of an astronaut to spill out his feelings in purple prose.


message 17: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Peterson I found the tone spot on, he's writing it for himself to help through his ordeal. He's a massive nerd, and in my experience he acts just like every one I know.


Kevin Moriarty It's disingenuous of you to put those lines in quotes. At no point does the 'tone' (you mean 'style', btw) revert to that level of teen-speak. The point is made early in the text that Watney has an irreverent attitude and they allude to the fact that it will possibly help him survive. He's a smart-arse and a lot of his one-liners made me laugh out-loud, particular the 'gay probe' line which you rip apart above.


message 19: by Pablo (last edited May 23, 2014 08:44AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pablo I agree, mostly, with this review. I hate (HATE) the journal style. I find it lazy and predictable. Secondly, the narrator doesn't come across as a particularly brilliant (though knowledgeable) person. When I imagine the kind of person who will eventually get to Mars, I expect someone more....mature. I haven't finished the book yet, but I'm sure there's an "LOL" or "OMG" in my reading future.


Pablo "I work in the aerospace industry and most of my co-workers are just like the main character."

Real life is no excuse for badly written fiction.


message 21: by Pablo (last edited May 23, 2014 10:06PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pablo As random as judging a person to be 1) utterly humorless, and 2)"broken" (whatever that means) because he chooses to live where he grew up? All based on the fact that he didn't like a book as much as you.


Chris Spot on review. But for the record, Big Bang Theory has exponentially more character development than this book, which is to say it does at least have some over the arc of its entire run.


message 23: by Ellis (last edited Jul 04, 2014 11:37AM) (new)

Ellis Right? I needed to confirm my annoyances and, after some google searching, I couldn't find anyone talking about the awful writing. I suffered through two chapters of this book before deleting it, precisely because of this main character (a professional astronaut on a mission to another planet) who appears to have been taken straight out of 4chan's message boards.

Ugh! Fear my botany! So yeah. Yay! NINJAS! So yeah. Ugh. So yeah.

I was hoping for a harrowing story about a man stranded on Mars, with limited supplies, damaged and decaying equipment, and no hope of rescue. Instead I got a snarky dickwad trying to mine reddit karma through his personal journal that no one will ever read.

I guess I'll just read Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy again.


message 24: by J. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (last edited Jul 04, 2014 12:06PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

J.   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ You may want to try Alastair Reynolds as well. His work has an underlying bleakness to it.


message 25: by Rob (new)

Rob "I was hoping for an emotionally-taxing, horrifying, survival drama..."

Try Pincher Martin: The Two Deaths of Christopher Martin. I guarantee you, no glib, smart-ass commentary. Only one despairing human mind confronting the abyss.


message 26: by Jerry (new)

Jerry Steele Most of the "journal entry" sections of the book are written at the end of a day's hard labour, and so have the benefit of hindsight. The character chooses to take a sideways look at the day and be happy that he's still alive, which is probably the best way of dealing with the life-or-death situation he finds himself in.

It's hard to bring or maintain suspense with a structure like this, but the thing that's riveting about it is his ingenuity and the way he always seems to be on top of the situation; maybe that's due to the character that comes out in his "nerdy blog" posts. The "wacky douche"ness that comes out (pretty funny most of the time, I thought), is part of what gets him out of the multiple life-threatening situations he finds himself in..


Philip D-G - really enjoyed your review, and while I ultimately gave it 3 vs. your 2 stars, I think you hit it pretty solid, and hope you don't mind my referencing your "wacky douche" statement - perfect description. Just can't tell where all these 5-star reviews are coming from...


message 28: by Matt (new) - rated it 1 star

Matt Completely agree with this review. It's not often I fail to finish a book....but this has gone to the top of that list.

How this is so highly rated is beyond me


message 29: by Bobby (new)

Bobby Jimmy I think you are a doofus. I'm very happy to not know you personally. I bet you are one of those ding-dongs who thinks he's computer-literate because he uses Apple products.


Samuel Beaudry If you didn't enjoy this book, it is because you likely lack the required imagination to extrapolate from the log entries, and you are also likely lacking in passion for space exploration, astronauts, and science fiction. The characters are not flat, in fact they are all realistic and well-designed. This book is a remarkable work of art, the jokes that Mark makes in his log entries (not a journal) are to show the optimistic attitude which kept him alive. All the science in this book is viable. It is unfortunate you lacked the empathy to identify with the characters


Davy-Gravy Lol 'k.


message 32: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie You nailed my thoughts on this book perfectly! I could have written this review.


Charlie Mccausland couldn't agree more. didn't even make it half way through.


message 34: by Matt (new) - rated it 1 star

Matt @Samuel, what a load of nonsense.

None of us lack imagination, we just like an engaging well written book with three dimensional, believable characters.


J.   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I don't know how I would react to the print version, but the audiobook version was gold. The narrator did a fantastic job of bringing the story to life.


Stven I've worked at NASA and found the tone of the narrator (and the other characters) completely appropriate. It's not "badly written fiction" -- it's just a well written character you didn't personally find sympathetic.


message 37: by Matt (new) - rated it 1 star

Matt Ahh so in your experience this is how people stranded on mars react psychologically?

;-)


Pablo Actually, it is badly written. I find the character sympathetic, I just don't find the writing particularly compelling. The secondary characters are even worse, sounding exactly the same as the narrator and each other. Also, the journal style is lazy writing. And the fact that you worked at NASA has absolutely no bearing on whether or not the writing is any good.


message 39: by Mark (new)

Mark O'connell You really got this right, Davy-Gravy. This book could have been brilliant, but instead it was tedious and annoying. Weir can write the science really well, and he has obviously cribbed from the Michael Crichton techno-thriller template to a fault, but that other part, the part with people and dialog and feelings... ugh. Weir has obviously never met a human being outside an IT team, and he has clearly never met a woman, ever. (The hot young female astronaut is named "Johansson"...? Really? Where have we heard that name before?) Does the McGuyveresque hero ever meet a complication he can't overcome i 5 seconds flat? NO! Does the hero know anyone on earth who he misses terribly? NO! When he has to be rescued in 14 seconds, does he start conversing inanely with his rescuer? YES! My God, the guy is a ridiculous cardboard cut out, and the supporting characters barely register, because they're all essentially the same strange IT guy conception of what humans talk like and act like. After all those gripes, I have one more: when an author makes a really lame joke and follows it up with "See what I just did there?" you know you're dealing with someone with an extremely limited understanding of humor, and an extremely limited range of expression.


message 40: by Andy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Andy spot-on for me too


Pablo And now it will be a mega-million dollar film with Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain and directed by Ridley Scott. Ugh.


message 42: by Barry (new) - added it

Barry Burton I agree. Found the first few chapters completely lacking in emotion, though with the journal style that probably couldn't be avoided. The main character does not appear particularly lonely or scared, at least in believable ways. The journal didn't really add texture (at least up to chapter five or six) to his experience, which for me is a huge loss.


message 43: by Matt (new) - rated it 1 star

Matt Thank god I'm not alone. But where are all these 5 star reviews coming from??? This looks like a masterpiece if you believe amazon


Pablo "But where are all these 5 star reviews coming from?"

America; whatcha gonna do?


message 45: by Matt (new) - rated it 1 star

Matt Haha :-)


message 46: by Mark (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mark have to agree with this reviewer


Cindy Stock Don't agree... maybe because I listened to the audio book, but the language of the book made it come alive for me, I loved it.


message 48: by Max (new) - rated it 1 star

Max Dunne I completely agree man, I'm 17 pages in and i'm embarrassed reading it. Off the back of reading Ballard and P. K. Dick, this is just junk. As soon as I read Yay! and Boo! I stopped and shuddered.


message 49: by Andy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Andy If yer cant handle it at pg 17 Max, id junk it now, gets far worse in that respect.


BullDetector I agree on all counts. Plus, story is drowned in annoying piles of tech considerations. Characters all seem fake and superficial. Got bored quickly, tried to keep going for the sake of it, and finally surrendered, with no regret. Book back on shelf, forever.


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