I have something to confess. When it comes to science I’m not exactly the world’s smartest guy. In fact I’m pretty stupid. As an example, I had answered all the questions I could at my physics GCSE exam within 15 minutes and then had a nap. What else was I going to do? That’s why I approached the Martian somewhat cautiously. I’d enjoyed the film but apparently the Book went into a lot more detail regarding the specifics. However, this book had had some seriously strong recommendations from very trusted sources of mine. I decided to bite the Bullet and jump straight in.
For those of you who don’t know who Matt Damon is or haven’t read the book, The Martian is about Mark Watney, an astronaut/botanist/mechanic who is stranded on Mars after a manned mission goes wrong. He has to come up with a way to survive on the planet, grow his own food and contact the earth to try and sort out a rescue mission.
There’s a lot of science in this book. A lot of science. Every detail of his survival is documented fully. How he makes water to feed the Crops He’s growing, the code and alphabet system he uses for contact, the radioactive heating system, the rover alterations and so much more. If you are a science fan then I’d definitely read this book. What’s good is that the details are explained in a way that most people can understand. Don’t get me wrong, there were parts that left me scratching my head but the majority was simplified to a point that it didn’t interrupt with the overall flow of the story.
If this Book was all science though, I probably wouldn’t have made it to the 100 page point. For those of you haven’t read my blog before, 100 pages is my cut off point for a book that hasn’t engaged me. Only one book has actually accomplished that recently and that’s why Thomas Pynchon shall never be reviewed on here. The reason I finished this book in a matter of days as opposed to burying it in my library never to be seen or heard from again is Mark Watney himself.
Watney’s narration of the story is fantastic! Yes he goes on for a few pages at a time but it’s interspersed with real humour and genuine emotion. This doesn’t read like a survivor story. If you’re expecting a bearded lunatic crying “Wiiiilllssssoooonnnn” over a lost football then I’m afraid you’re out of luck. All the way through the novel Watney keeps a perfect balance between humour and technical details that I found to be wonderfully engrossing.
Back on earth NASA learns that Watney is alive and start working around the clock to bring him home. These scenes work well to break up the Marks thought process to the reader. They also allow for some brilliantly funny moments. As NASA are the only people Watney can talk to he does enjoy laughing at them and we find some highly juvenile and yet highly comic scenes between them. It’s a great balance of characters and moods. NASA are desperately trying to find a way to save mark and all of their communications to him match this. They’re desperate and pleading. Mark on the other hand deals with his fear and desperation with humour and the two styles play off each other in a wonderful way.
Who should read this book? Well science fans can go mad on this one. It’s a veritable cornucopia of nerd lingo and brainy knowledge. For mere simpletons like myself I’d recommend a read if you’ve enjoyed Hitchhikers Guide to the galaxy, Ready Player One, Ancillary Justice or Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. There’s a tone to the book that mixes the scientific truth with a comic fantasy and that’s predominantly why I enjoyed this book so much. A big thank you to my trusted source for this one.
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