The Martian – Andy Weir

Hey look, almost a new book! Only a year or two old here, practically contemporary. I mean, the movie isn’t even out yet! Look, it isn’t like anybody’s sending me review copies here, and there’s a lot of old stuff to catch up on so… there it is. Anyway, the golden age of the novel is long gone, so it’s not like there are all sorts of thrilling new developments to be kept abreast of…

Off topic. Where was I? Oh, right! The Martian!

It’s good. It’s really really good. I mean, it’s not amazing or anything, hardly a masterpiece. But here’s the thing: it does exactly what it sets out to do, and it does it perfectly. This isn’t trying to be a deep literary examination of a man’s soul, and it’s not a rich meta-textual deconstruction or a sumptuous feast of breathtaking prose. It’s a tech-thriller about a man who gets stuck on the surface of Mars and has to MacGyver his way back to earth. That’s it, you get what’s on the package.

Weir makes it work, however, and he does it quite well. We’re constantly on the high-wire here, and he plays the audience with deft precision. We’re afraid when we should be, nervous when we’re supposed to be and excited when the book wants us excited.

There’s not a whole lot to say about it, to be honest. Our Astronaut main character (what was his name again? Does it matter?) stumbles from one disaster to the next, constantly on the verge of succumbing to the relentless inhospitably of space travel and never escaping by more than a hair or two. Weir keeps it coming at a relentless pace, but never so overwhelming that it loses its impact when things go south. The pacing is nearly perfect and the science is (as far as I can tell) excellently researched and conveyed. Sort of reminds me of some of Micheal Critchten’s better works.

Hm, any complaints? Well, the main character’s “quirky” sense of humor did nudge the line into annoying once or twice, and I did occasionally find myself hoping for just a smidgen more character development. Weir clearly knows what he’s good at, however, and he sticks with it.

The Martian kicks like a mule and it’s got a brain in its pretty little head. If you’ve any interest in space travel, survival stories, high tech thrillers or just adventure in general, you should give this one a look. See it before the movie comes out and everybody’s talking about it, all your friends will think you’re cool and stuff.

No, really.

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