Life on Mars
A solid sci-fi premise that the author explores in great depth… perhaps too much depth.
The Martian is set in the future when NASA has been launching a number of missions to study Mars. After an unfortunate accident in a dust storm, our hapless protagonist Mark Watney ends up stranded on the red planet all by himself. He has to find a way to survive until another space shuttle can come rescue him, and the book largely takes the form of the daily logs he records. “Today I used science to deal with this technical issue, and then something else broke down and I almost died.” That’s the book.
At times the protagonist’s dry wit and self-deprecating humor was amusing enough to hold my interest, but ultimately the repetitive nature of the plot made this one a bit of a slog to read through. I enjoy a good science article every now and then, but a whole novel of it is a bit much for me. And as for the characters, I unfortunately never felt I connected with any of them. About a third or half the book is from the perspective of various people at NASA trying to work out how to rescue Watney, but they’re pretty much always just exhausted and stressed. (And sarcastic.) Which is understandable, but it doesn’t really help break up the monotony of the story as much as it should.
All that said, the science in this one seemed very sound. If you’re curious in learning what it would take to live on Mars for an extended period of time in great detail, The Martian will definitely fill you in on that. Otherwise, just stick with the much snappier movie (which I will review next).