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The Martian
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2014 Reads > TM: Finished the book - SPOILERS

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message 1: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 820 comments I've been biting my tongue in a couple of threads, so decided to start this one.

Several things. First, I'd seen the Google Author Talk Google Author Talk before I read it, so I had a definite impression of the kind of book it would be. (Plus I always spoil myself on books.)

I totally expected it to be a classic 50s-ish Can Do hard SF novel about a Competent Man (Heinlein classic character) rescuing himself, with snark. Which it was. Plus 60s-ish space politics.

Plus it's clearly MacGyver on Mars.

Some years back, I'd read Mars Crossing which has a LOT in common with this book, except that it has lots of character drama and stuff. (view spoiler) This book is much closer to what I would have liked Mars Crossing to be.

Anywho, I think this book was a blast. Weir isn't going to be a literary great any time soon, but the story he tells is hella fun.


Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments I really liked how Weir wrote Mark's parts as a log. It wasn't a story told in retrospect, so it could have gone either way. There were quite a few places where I was certain Mark was going to die. I'm glad it turned out the way it did, but it could have just as easily turned out badly.


Kristina | 588 comments I loved this book. The science was interesting and the humor was perfect. Part of me knew he'd have to make it or the book would suddenly get very dark, but the scarred Game of Thrones reader in me kept saying-well you never know... :D


message 4: by Elizabeth (last edited May 03, 2014 12:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elizabeth | 34 comments Until about 60-70% , I could believe his logs were read after his death but the tone of the book certainly pointed toward a triumphant ending. Then there was a point that I was 99% sure that he would live and that was when things got impossibly difficult and yet he kept on overcoming. Over all I really enjoyed it but you do have to throw credulity to the wind. The science is pretty sound (mostly) and well written BUT he is crazy lucky/competent. Especially after he is starving and has been alone for so long. It was definitely a fun read.


John (Nevets) Nevets (nevets) | 1502 comments Just finished today. Very much enjoyed the story. Yes, you knew he was going make it no matter what got thrown at him, but it was still fun to see the journey. The only part that really took me out of the story was the very last problem, and the solution. I just can't see astronauts blowing a pressure door. But I still really enjoyed the book.

As I think about it, I think this is very comparable to "Ready Player One". Both books from first time writers. Both were written simply (don't know how else to say it except, you can tell they were more novice writers), but with great plots that kept you going. Both stories telegraphed a lot of things, but were still fun to see the journey. I know I'm missing some things.

What do you guys think?


Shaina (shainaeg) | 165 comments I got super nervous whenever the voice went away from first person and was just a narrator talking about what Mark was doing. I figured the reason he wasn't writing logs about it couldn't be good. I also really enjoyed the stuff at NASA.


KWinks   (icameheretoread) | 31 comments John wrote: "Just finished today. Very much enjoyed the story. Yes, you knew he was going make it no matter what got thrown at him, but it was still fun to see the journey. The only part that really took me o..."

I read them back to back this week! (The Martian and Ready Player One). I think they were very similar and both very, very entertaining.


message 8: by Tamahome (last edited May 04, 2014 12:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tamahome | 5994 comments Shaina wrote: "I got super nervous whenever the voice went away from first person and was just a narrator talking about what Mark was doing. I figured the reason he wasn't writing logs about it couldn't be good...."

Yep, as soon as you heard it shift to third person you knew that spelled trouble, lol.


Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1840 comments Love the book, but was ever so slightly (but only slightly) disappointed in the end. See, I was tense and waiting for things to go wrong for almost the entirety of the book, and getting in onto a ship with a crew wasn't enough of a relief for me. I mean, it was great. He wasn't alone any more. Yay! But the dark part of my mind is now convinced that something went wrong on the way back, and they all perished. I wanted Watney firmly back on earth, where he could gawp at all the attention that had been heaped on him.

But that is a minor nitpick. I was really gripped by the story, loved the comedy of it, and enjoyed all the sciency explanations and potato farming. :)


Tamahome | 5994 comments The Watney back on earth was actually a clone. Sequel!


Steve (plinth) | 177 comments I'm generally positive about the book and very much enjoyed the process of reading it (heck, I finished it in two sittings).

From a pitch point of view it's simple. Like Serendi said "McGuyver on Mars", but it could just as easily be "Mars Cast Away".

So let's talk about structure a little bit. I have a strong memory of a junior high school school writing class lesson where the teacher was doing a unit on O. Henry and we were asked to write our own "surprise twist" stories. He made a point of telling us to be very careful about writing sports stories. The outcome is very predictable: win or lose. To make that kind of story work, it's not the outcome that's important, it's the journey.

When I got into The Martian, that's what I saw in the first paragraph: Mark lives or Mark dies and the book heavily telegraphs that he lives. I accepted that this wasn't important and Andy Weir was instead going to focus on the journey. The structure was really simple: fuck Mark over, watch Mark recover, repeat until rescue or death.

The analytic part of my mind really enjoyed reading the solutions to his most recent disaster (trivia: disaster comes from the the roots for ill and star - essentially a bad fate from the stars).

I found three things problematic:
1. Mark was remarkably sane for an astronaut left alone for so long in survival situations (although, "Hey - Ironman!")
2. The personal relations that were built in the crew on the Hermes didn't seem to have much of a point and was done halfway as the did the ground crew.
3. The book needed more denouement. It ended rather abruptly. I felt that there was more story to be told. What happened after they returned to Earth? What happened to Venkat? What changed as a result of the journey? How did the log get in our hands? How did Aquaman control whales?


message 12: by Eric (new) - rated it 3 stars

Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 617 comments I'll throw in with the other two who felt the last challenge was a cop-out. I felt like Weir just needed one more thing to go wrong. And the way the crew come up with the solution under pressure was one step too far for me. I was with him on all the other solutions until then. Mark was stranded and had 24ish hours with nothing to do but think about how to survive. He's intelligent, as anyone on a NASA mission would be. SO I was OK with that.

I was OK with putting away all the other things that would likely have gone wrong - I thought they would brick Pathfinder or the rover with the update.

But the last one....no.

I already commented in the emotions thread about how Weir really over-promised there. Especially with the Johansen relationship. I also forgot to mention in there - distracted while writing my response - that I could have seen a slightly more plausible novel where Lewis ends up broken over what happened with Mark. (That she left him behind) She got over it rather quickly. Then again, she's military...)

Finally, the Earth chapters were a surprise, but a welcome surprise. Based on our current Earth, the response made a lot of sense.

Frankly, although the book has a lot of Mark being almost too clever, I think this book should be required reading for the NASA scientists planning a Mars mission. It provides them with a lot of examples of things that can go wrong that they can take into account with their planning.


Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 888 comments Eric wrote: "I'll throw in with the other two who felt the last challenge was a cop-out. I felt like Weir just needed one more thing to go wrong. And the way the crew come up with the solution under pressure was one step too far for me."

Now that you guys mention it--yeah. This was an almost pitch-perfect, well-executed novel of, like Steve implies: Smart guy encounters problem/Smart guy reasons out a solution/Smart guy executes solution. That final seat-of-our-pants bit was like an injection of Hollywood blockbuster into an otherwise relatively cerebral story.

It's like the resolution of a latter-era Star Trek episode: "Big Problem! Ship/Crewmember is in danger! Quick, Tech-Tech a Solution without analysis or testing!" It reminds me of Rendezvous with Rama, another book where smart people solve problems with analysis and creativity, only to end with a Hollywood-style climax.


message 14: by Eric (new) - rated it 3 stars

Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 617 comments Joe Informatico wrote: "Quick, Tech-Tech a Solution without analysis or testing!"

Which was my favorite trope that Redshirts made fun of


Tamahome | 5994 comments He sure did a lot of test driving.


Dylan Perry (dylan-perry) I finished it last night and I loved it. Five stars. My favorite part of the book was, of course, Mark, and his voice, his humor. This book had me laughing out loud several times (Look! A pair of boobs!).

The "Remember, commander. Like Iron Man." line was pretty great too.

I have no idea if the science is legit . . . for me math and science go in one ear and out the other. Legit or not, it didn't get in the way of the story, which was what I was afraid of when I first heard about this book, and again when it started showing up. However, Weir balanced it well, I thought.

Oh, and I finished it in two days. I never read that fast, but I could not put it down.

This was my first S&L book and, again, I loved it. Can't wait for the next.

(*fingers crossed for Hounded*)


message 17: by E (new) - rated it 4 stars

E | 16 comments I am glad to hear that I wasn't the only one that was disappointed that the book ended on Hermes. I still absolutely loved it! There was just so much potential in how the trip home and re-entry to Earth could have gone. Especially because he kept it together so well and I think in survival situations you have to do that as much as possible but once he was in relative safety he could have processed what happened to him a bit more. Obviously you don't want a book to drag by writing a long ending but I think just an epilogue would have been great.


message 18: by Ryan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ryan | 76 comments The ending felt very sudden to me as well, but it was still a great read overall.


Paolo (ppiazzesi) | 51 comments This book was a lot of fun! Although at the beginning I thought this would be a 5-star read, some problems came up - mainly that the characters are paper thin. This isn´t a huge issue for the astronauts and the NASA staff since the point of the story isn´t to have great characterizations but just more of an adventure story where the real protagonists are the problems and situations our lone astronaut faces, and how they are overcome. But I do wish Mark had been a little more developed. Would it really have hurt to have him mention, I don´t know, at least one human relationship besides his parents? A memory from childhood, a dream of something waiting for him back on Earth, some motivation to keep him going?

I thought it was a huge waste of an opportunity to explore how extended isolation on another planet would fuck with one´s psyche. Mark was always remarkably upbeat and it just felt very, very unrealistic and since the first couple of chapters the tone let me know that there was a 0% chance of Mark not making it out safely. I had major problems with the constant use of exclamation marks, and with the word "yay!" all the time - this doesn´t make me think of an astronaut stranded on Mars at all, this makes me think of Andy Weir laying back in his chair wearing flip flops, sipping on a coke, thinking of how clever he is. This drained the story of any dramatic tension and it just became a series of problems which would of course be solved and overcome. By the end I was just skimming over the details of his solutions (and I´m an engineer). I knew that Mark was going to be saved and just wanted to get done with it.

The final scene was also very over the top - while most of Mark´s problems and solutions seemed very realistic, the part where the astronauts almost blow up Hermes so they can reach Mark... just no.

It´s gonna be one hell of a movie, though.

I was going to give it 3 stars but I´m bumping it to 4 because the science is mostly solid, the book kept me smiling as I read and got a few laughs out of me, and it gives us something we could really use - an optimistic view of the near future where society can work together and is again invested in our space program. For me, the most moving part was the idea of everyone around the world gathering in bars, homes, workplaces, around TV´s to witness the historic moment of one man attempting to survive against all odds.


Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1840 comments Paolo wrote: "I had major problems with the constant use of exclamation marks, and with the word "yay!" all the time"

I don't know how it came across in the writing, but I listened to the audio version, and 'yay' was always said with heavy sarcasm. It always cracked me up.


Paolo (ppiazzesi) | 51 comments Hmm. I guess sarcastic "yays" would work much better than the way it sounded as I read it.


Julian Arce | 71 comments Why didn't he took one, JUST ONE of the Martian potatoes?? First crop out of Earth, I kept hoping he would have bring one or 2 to share with the crew or something.

Oh well... it was a great read


Richard Machida (rmachida) | 17 comments I was skeptical at first but was completely sucked in shortly. And just started going through it again to see what I missed. I ended up listening to the audiobook straight through and stayed up all night. That has never happened before.

I liked the science discussion as well as the NASA references especially the JPL ones (I used to work there during the Viking lander days).

I'd put it in the top 5 books I've ever read!


Tiffany (tiffanyfarrantgonzalez) | 18 comments Paolo wrote: "I thought it was a huge waste of an opportunity to explore how extended isolation on another planet would fuck with one´s psyche...."

I loved, loved, loved this book, but I do agree that I would have liked to have seen more discussion on what over a year's worth of isolation would do to a person. It makes sense for the book to jump forward 50 or so Sols at a time, but apart from Watney saying how fed up he was of disco, his boredom and loneliness was never really covered in depth.

I mean, 400+ days is a darn long time to be alone, even if you have farming, maintenance and other jobs to do.


Heather | 28 comments I loved this book as well.

At first, I was a little nervous that it would be too technical for me, but that changed completely for me a few chapters in.

Then I was a little critical of Mark's lightheartedness. I found it improbable in light of his situation. Then, once again, my mind was changed a few more chapters in, when I realized that was his personality and how he dealt with stress. It was a tool that kept the book light when it could have been heavy. I giggled out loud many times.

Once I was about 30% of the way through the book, I was absolutely hooked and couldn't put it down. I thought it was fun, smart, and a great example of what SF can be. I imagine that, for years to come, scientists and astronauts will be inspired by this book, which is essentially a thought experiment of a man trapped on Mars.


David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments I didn't think I'd like this as much as I did. The humour and audio narration made up for lack of sandworms or spice that turns your eyes blue - those NASA guys got nothing on Guild navigators.


message 27: by Skip (new) - rated it 4 stars

Skip | 517 comments The only thing that really seemed unbelievable to me was that CNN would have a popular TV show. :)

I enjoyed the book completely, it was a headlong rush to find out how the story would resolve itself.


message 28: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken (KGratten) | 34 comments I raced through the book (for me, at least) in only 3 days. This is the first book in a while that I really hated to put down. It was very well written for a 1st time novelist. Heck, it was well written for a 101st time novelist.

I was a little concerned about this book. From the description, I was afraid I'd get bored or desensitized to all the turmoil. The humor infused in the logs made sure that didn't happen.

I get what some are saying about the depth of some of the characters, though I think Watney's character was well done.

I also felt the ending was a bit abrupt. I was expecting an epilogue, at least, where we got some snarky comments from Mark as he adjusted to life back on Earth: too crowded and missed Mars, someone took him out for a steak and (god forbid) a baked potato, the cessation of his imposed celibacy, etc. But I guess I'll just have to fill in the blanks myself.

I could have done without the final obstacle with Hermes. It felt too contrived. Even after all the other things lumped on him, that one was just one too many. The speed and efficiency with which the crew overcame the issue just didn't sit well with me. Nevertheless, that didn't mar the book at all.

The only thing that strained my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point was what Skip mentioned: CNN? A popular TV network again? Really, Andy? ;)

This is the best book I've read all year. It's still early, but I think it has the legs to hold that (or near that) spot for the rest of the year.


Gordon (daftyman) | 27 comments Finished it, loved it.
Liked the ending, always leave them wanting more.
I imagine that they made it back to earth and Three's Company developed a cult following that spawned remakes and a major movie.

As for the book I'd like to see it as a miniseries. It has fantastic cliff hanger points like the airlock. Could you imagine people desperate to see what happens next? I know I could.

Loved the humour and the engineering/science. I'm an engineer myself so this really captivated me. I wasn't going to go over his working, but it really helped give a framework for his actions.
Definitely the best book of the year so far for me


Tamahome | 5994 comments Doesn't he say FU to the kid on earth at the end?


terpkristin | 4102 comments Finished, didn't care for it. It was too much/too over the top. I think survival/adventure things aren't for me. I feel like it could have removed 1 or 2 of the crises, been just as engaging, and not had the formula get old. Also, I was disappointed that the characters were kind of flat. Also, I have to wonder why Weir had some of the things "go wrong" on Hermes. They didn't end up making a difference to the outcome, except that now you have to wonder if any of the crew actually makes it back to Earth...


PointyEars42 | 44 comments I’m not a fan of camping-alone-in-the-wilderness adventure stories, but this was so much fun! It was certainly the fun-est, funniest text book I've ever read & the irreverent gallows humour successfully distracted me from the maths. Unfortunately it couldn’t stop me from feeling let down at the end. Frankly, somebody needed to die to add a bit of weight to the story and to balance out all of Mark’s outlandish heroics. Maybe all the crew during their last manoeuvre and Mark manages to McGuyver his way into Hermes anyway and has to spend the rest of the trip to Earth alone again? Maybe they can’t catch him and he has to use his suicide plan? I’d have killed off the remaining crew just so that the mission control guy who leaked the plans could face the consequences going against the less emotional votes. All that talk about the perils of space travel and we end with a broken rib and a pathological hatred of baked potatoes?! I guess, as a new author, it’s worth leaving a door open for a sequel in case your book does well enough to merit a second instalment. I still loved it though.


Tamahome | 5994 comments Oh weird. In the version of the audiobook I have, Watley makes it back to Earth, and makes a wise ass statement to a little kid.


message 34: by Julie (last edited May 10, 2014 02:46PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Julie Davis (juliedhc) Right. They make it back and everything is fine. I listened to the audiobook also. Did the print version not have Watley talking to that little kid? Because that was kind of lame but not nearly as bad as an unresolved ending would have been.


Tamahome | 5994 comments Nope. I just checked the book in the store, and the end is still on the ship.


message 36: by Rob, Roberator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rob (robzak) | 6668 comments Mod
I guess he/his publisher revised the ending?


Julie Davis (juliedhc) Wow, so why would he change the ending from one form of media to another?


Tamahome | 5994 comments I think the audiobook has been updated too?


terpkristin | 4102 comments Gah I can't tell if you guys are serious but now I want to re-download the audiobook (which I found hard to listen to) and find out.


message 40: by Buzz (new) - rated it 5 stars

Buzz Park (buzzpark) | 306 comments This is an amazing book, and immediately one of my all-time favorites. Finished it in a couple of days. Definitely one of the best science fiction books of the year, and one of my personal all-time favorites.

The audio book ends the same way as the Kindle version, so there must've been a revision.

Audible version was amazing. Probably one of the best narrations I've heard so far...


message 41: by Rob, Roberator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rob (robzak) | 6668 comments Mod
Tamahome wrote: "I think the audiobook has been updated too?"

I have the eBook and audio from audible. Both end him still in space.


terpkristin | 4102 comments I'm glad I'm not the only one who checked. Rob just beat me to replying with my findings :)


Paolo (ppiazzesi) | 51 comments I have the hardcover and it ends in space right after Mark boards Hermes.


message 44: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 820 comments I suspect the original self-published version had a few differences from the ending-in-space version. Does the audio version with ASC2 for ASCII end that way?


message 45: by Rob, Roberator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rob (robzak) | 6668 comments Mod
Serendi wrote: "I suspect the original self-published version had a few differences from the ending-in-space version. Does the audio version with ASC2 for ASCII end that way?"

He pronounced it Azkey in my copy, so maybe they cut the ending and fixed some pronunciations. Although he still says sysop wrong.


message 46: by Skip (new) - rated it 4 stars

Skip | 517 comments Yeah, the newer Audible recording was super enjoyable (sysop notwithstanding), in the earlier version there were more mispronunciations, and apparently a bit more to the ending.

That makes more sense, the location of the ending was a bit odd, and I kind of wished they cut the book off at the liftoff from Mars. I liked the book, it reminded me of the science fiction I grew up on, fun and enjoyable.


message 47: by J.J. (new) - rated it 4 stars

J.J. Litke (jenzgoodreads) PointyEars42 wrote: "Frankly, somebody needed to die to add a bit of weight to the story and to balance out all of Mark’s outlandish heroics."

I couldn't disagree more. It might have had that effect, if it were very well done, or it could have felt like yet another contrivance. And frankly, I don't have enough faith in Weir's writing ability to think it would have worked.

Killing characters is another cliché that takes skill to pull off. No one who's all meh about a book is going to suddenly do a 180 and love it because of random character slaughter.


message 48: by Sky (last edited May 11, 2014 10:26AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sky | 665 comments Skip wrote: "The only thing that really seemed unbelievable to me was that CNN would have a popular TV show. :)

What was unbelievable to me was that CNN only devoted 1 hr a day to it, considering it devotes about 16 hours a day to the disappearance of MH370 :)

I loved the book. Its a refreshing change from some of the darker stuff I've been reading (hello Prince of Thorns)

The only nitpick I had with the science was that (and maybe this was just not mentioned) his nutritional requirements of 1500 calories a day was based on his starting weight. As he lost weight and got thinner, he'd require less calories. E.g, if he lost 20 lbs, he'd need about 250 fewer calories a day.

Looking forward to his next book!


message 49: by E (new) - rated it 4 stars

E | 16 comments Yeah it looks like the ending was indeed changed. Weird.

http://scifi.stackexchange.com/questi...


Julie Davis (juliedhc) E wrote: "Yeah it looks like the ending was indeed changed. Weird.

http://scifi.stackexchange.com/questi..."


But both of the endings discussed seem to be on Earth while the ongoing discussion here was about being in space versus getting to EArth. Sounds as if they fixed it in the KIndle and newer audio.


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