Before I decided to read (erm, listen to) this book, I read the reviews. Just like you’re reading this one. I read comments comparing The Martian to “MacGyver in space,” and complaints about the dry nature of the SCIENCE, and complaints that said science was not accurate or problematic or the like.
But listen. I did not care about any of that once I met Mark Watney.
Watney is likable. He’s funny. He’s wicked in a good way, and he’s clever as hell. He’s erudite yet a bit of a party boy, serious in the obvious situations when he needs to be. Which is often. And you feel for his situation. You hate those damn potatoes just as much as he does (no spoilers but yeah potatoes, folks!), and as he leaves his logs and babbles on about the science of the things he does to try and get himself out of his Martian predicament, I found myself understanding his thought processes. I understood the ideas and the simple genius behind some of it, in spite of the technobabble and the instant calculations. The thing that others have criticized, I thoroughly enjoyed.
In a way, Watney’s voice reminded me of Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon, but in a much more personable way. I know the very idea of Robert Langdon or Dan Brown is a turn off for many, but hear me out. Watney is highly intelligent, and his intelligence comes through in his explanations of things, like Langdon. But unlike Langdon, his mind shines even more through his choices, his decisions — which, again, unlike Robert Langdon, his speeches do not preach at the reader. They do not fill the reader’s head with useless facts. Watney does not simply lecture for lecturing’s sake. Everything Watney tells us about his thoughts and calculations and machinations moves the story along.
As for the action, while there are no real true edge of your seat hold onto your hats moments, there are a few hiccups along Watney’s way. But, I can’t help but wonder if that makes the story more realistic.
The characters aren’t as in depth as other stories, but again, this is Watney’s story. Yet, you learn a lot about the crew of his ship, about the folks down on Terra Firma who work tirelessly and endlessly to bring him home, and the effort to do so is gargantuan. It leaves you with a sense of satisfaction in humanity, that it is human nature to root for the underdog, to give the fellow man in trouble a helping hand. And oh boy, did the World give Watney a massive one.
Overall, this to me was very enjoyable. I looked forward to getting into my car every day and listening to the excellent narration by R.C. Bray — hearing what sort of challenges Watney would face when I met him again every morning on the way to work and every evening on my way home. Watney was excellent company, and I was delighted to hear his story. When I finished the audiobook, I told my husband that we HAVE to see the film when it comes out.