Book Review – The Martian by Andy Weir

So I hate the word “unputdownable”.

Just writing it causes me almost physical pain.

And it’s not a word.

So it bothered me to no end when I saw it in a cover blurb for “The Martian” by Andy Weir, touting it as “unputdownable”

*swallows vomit*

Plus, it’s a “mainstream” sc-fi novel, which all too often means it’s author seems to think their doing everyone a favor by descending from their “literary” throne and slum it by writing some genre fiction. You know, show them how a “real author” does it.

The other cover blurbs did nothing to assuage my fears, saying it hearkened back to “the masters of the form, like Asimov and Heinlein.”

OK, two points.

1. This is lazy writing I typically see in mainstream publications. Shorthand like “the next Tolkien” or “Hogwarts with drugs” or “Game of Thrones for kids.” Lazy.

2. By calling back to science fiction, even good science fiction, from 50 years ago, you are implicitly saying that no really good science fiction has been written in the ensuing years. But really what it means is that you probably don’t read science fiction unless it’s gotten some “literary” seal of approval. And that is probably because you think of “genre” fiction as literary fiction’s trashy, slutty cousin.

ANYWAY.

Needless to say, I was not expecting much from The Martian. Beyond it being completely insufferable.

Man, I love being wrong.

The Martian

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive–and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit–he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

For a book that is probably 85% mission logs, with nearly all of that space taken up with painstaking descriptions of the solving of technical problems, The Martian is incredibly propulsive, humane, and yes…unputdownable.

Or at least very, very hard to put down. From beginning to end I was caught up in Astronaut Mark Watney’s story, specifically because, despite the technical nature of much of the discussion, Astronaut Mark Watney kept it funny.

Like really funny. With real, live jokes.

And having a character stare down death the way he did, cracking jokes the whole way, made for a truly enjoyable read. I can’t recommend it highly enough

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