The Martian, by Andy Weir
Andy Weir has managed to create an exciting book about numbers. The Martian is a fun book. It’s a quirky book with an engaging main character, but it is not a perfect book.
Its perfection lies in the fact that the main character is as much an alien to the reader as he is to the world he finds himself in. He is an earther stuck on an inhospitable planet where he faces starvation, death by cold, death by thirst if he is not rescued. But he is also an alien -- a martian if you will-- because unlike the rest of us Earthers, he is an astronaut. Astronauts are not made like you and me. They are constantly heroic, they don’t allow fear to oppress them, they know stuff.
Our hero is in danger, but there is absolutely no doubt in the reader’s mind that he will save himself and stay alive until he is rescued. In that respect, the bus has no tension. And yet tension is everywhere because the hero Mark Watney is constantly on his toes and constantly having to muddle through botanical, mathematical, engineering experiments. This is where the fun comes in. The Martian feels like a survival manual. It feels like nonfiction. The reader is constantly being taught about space, chemistry, physics, and botany. But it doesn’t feel as if one is being taught. One is simply being pulled along breathlessly in the wake of a kind of superman whom one cannot identify with but whom one likes because he has good humor and seems like a humble but smart guy.
But as I said, the book has problems.
The problems are mostly in the sections that are told in the third person. It is here where the author shows that he has much to learn about writing scenes, descriptions, and real characters. The third person narration didn’t add much to the book and only shows the shortcomings of the author. All that said, I recommend this book highly if you are a math geek and if math doesn’t give you a headache.
This is a short review. A larger review of this book will be up at THE FAN in August 2014http://www.fantasticstoriesoftheimagination.com/current-issue/fan/