Recommendation: If you’re in the mood for some light reading, it’s a good bet
Where to read: Boxing Day when hungover as hell
Read with: Bloody Mary
In brief: This is sci-fi with actual science.
Who’d have thought poo potatoes could be so entertaining…
The Martian is the best sci-fi/thriller I’ve read in years (not saying much, granted). I know “could not put it down” is a cliché but in this case it happens to be a fairly accurate description of the situation. I bought this at about 8:30pm on a Saturday evening and finished it at around 1:30am on the Sunday morning. It’s that good.
It’s also satisfyingly geeky (I think, not being a rocket scientist) and while the science arguably slows the novel down, it adds to the tension and veracity – the problems feel real so Mark feels real and we get emotionally invested. Personally, I found it engrossing.
The only niggles here are the characterisation, which is a little crude in places, and the prose when Weir switches into third person. Considering that most of the novel is written from Watney’s relentlessly chipper perspective, neither of these are particularly significant barriers to enjoyment.
I should acknowledge that the slightly stilted third-person does serve a valuable purpose, a kind of literary mimic of the satellite imagery NASA relies on. Most of our knowledge of Watney’s situation comes from his perspective so we miss the bigger picture and the frustrated helplessness of his colleagues back on Earth.
PS. I have now just rewatched the movie version and I must say it improved my enjoyment of it. Also, can we all just agree that Matt Damon is perfectly cast! Now excuse me while I work through his extended filmography.