The MartianWhat’s it all about?

The Martian is Mark Watney, biologist, engineer and astronaut who finds himself stranded on the Red Planet after a huge sandstorm jeopardises the mission and his crewmates evacuate believing that he died in a freak accident. How is he going to survive until the next planned landing in four years time, especially as no-one knows he is alive?

Why did I want to read it?

I love all kinds of sci-fi but have a particular fondness for techie stories with lots of science and explanations and problem-solving. The only thing missing from this one was a Big Dumb Object but at least there was enough Survival Against the Odds to keep me gripped. Oh and the reviews had been very favourable and when people whose opinions you trust suggest you read something then it would be rude to refuse. And I love love love books about Mars.

What did I think of it?

A couple of chapters in I really thought I was going to be so irritated by Mark that I wasn’t going to be able to continue. He was just so annoying – and it really wasn’t about the technical detail which as I’ve said above is something I enjoy, it’s that it was all first-person and he was so relentlessly cheerful and positive and upbeat and, well, blokey, it began to get on my nerves. I know the conceit is that he is leaving a record for future expeditions in case he doesn’t make it and so the tone is deliberate but ooh, I wanted to hit him.

However, fear not. It got better. Much, much better.

Things started to improve for me when they started to go wrong for Mark and the cracks in his positive attitude began to show. Then Andy Weir made a very wise tactical decision in order to deal with the inherent problem in first person narratives and had the people on Earth find out he was still alive and start to work to bring him back. Apart from adding a second layer of tension to the story it also meant we weren’t constantly in Mark’s head and I began to like him a lot more. I also liked the way the dilemma on whether to tell the rest of his crew was handled and resolved; they’re stuck on a spaceship heading home, how will they feel when they find out they’ve abandoned their friend and colleague?

It’s basically a huge boy’s own adventure, Robinson Crusoe in Space. Without Man Friday, and being American and, you know, in space (obviously).

In the end I enjoyed it; an uplifting story of human ingenuity with quite a few “isn’t science cool” moments. And it will no doubt make a good film.

So great fun, but *whispers* for my money the best man stranded in space story I read this year was The Explorer.

You could do worse than read them both.