Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Review - The Martian

This is one of the few times I watched a movie and then read the book. (It's usually the other way around, or I skip the movie version altogether.) I'm sooo happy to say I was pleasantly surprised.

The Martian by Andy Weir kept me entertained throughout, and I kept searching for spare moments to read a bit more. Wanting to return to a book is a great sign. More so in my case because I had already seen the movie and, well, the ending is predictable. There are several events and even lines of Watney's log entries which were mimicked exactly in the film. There are differences, of course, and that's where in my opinion the novel has the upper hand.

Watney is more prevalent in the novel, since most of the chapters are him writing in the system's log, explaining how his day went. Scenes with NASA are his crew mates are short and to the point.

This is excellent if you, like me, feel sympathy for Watney. I mean, sure, he's stranded on Mars, who wouldn't feel sympathy for him, right? Well, Watney can be annoying and immature at times. Other readers on Goodreads have criticized him for his corny jokes and his overall flowery positive attitude. I actually enjoyed his corniness and thought it made him cute.

As for the positive attitude, the way I read the novel, I got the feeling that he wasn't allowing himself to feel despair. He was purposefully shutting off that part of his psyche. There are several moments all the way up to the end where he talks about the possibility of death and he always has a back-up suicide plan in case things go wrong, so I didn't get the impression he was oblivious--just forcing himself to keep a positive mind. That's admirable, in my opinion.

Even though I already knew the details of the ending, there were some scenes that literally gave me goosebumps; scenes involving the solitude of Mars and the possibilities of failure. Those were carried out well, in my opinion.

Nevertheless, not everything was perfect. There were a few things that got on my nerves. The endless mathematical calculations were all right at first, but nearing the end of the novel I just skipped over them. I don't have a mathematical mind, so just skipping all the calculations to reach the outcome was good enough for me. This wasn't really a big problem. It granted the story scientific credibility, even though there were moments when the action was heavily bogged down. I would have preferred more action than calculations, really.

Another problem I had, and this one is more important, is that all the characters in the novel came off as corny and somewhat immature. Their one-liners and little joke wars reminded me of things high schoolers would say--not NASA scientists. I don't think there was a single character who wasn't affected by this novel's overall corniness. This took away some of their credibility and made everyone have the same personality. Watney is a bit more fleshed out, since we see him a lot more, but he's still very similar to everyone else.

Speaking of Watney, we don't know any of his backstory. Nothing. We also don't really get to experience Mars (the sights, etc.). In all the logs we read, he only mentions in passing that he has parents in Chicago. It would have been nice to know a bit more about him than his present predicament. It also would have been nice to visualize the planet more.

Complaints aside, I still enjoyed The Martian immensely and I'm glad I both saw the film and read the novel.

I give The Martian four out of five Pirates!

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