“The Martian” opens with magnetic force. Thrown into a catastrophic situation, the reader is immediately enveloped in this first-person account of an astronaut stranded on Mars. Admittedly, “The Martian” weaves a wildly entertaining premise. The main character, botanist and engineer Mark Watney, proves his indestructible optimism and intellect over the course of the novel — as do the supporting team of NASA staff — which makes “The Martian” an uplifting read.
So why am I not raving over this book?
I understand why hard sci-fi fans are drooling over “The Martian,” but frankly, I was less than enthralled by the meticulous detail Weir uses to frame each catastrophe and triumph. In my opinion, the problem-solution plot formula caused the book’s tension to fall slack.
With each new twist, I found myself rolling my eyes, “Oh boy, Watney is encountering yet another problem, and now I’m supposed to be giddy about how he gets out of it THIS time.”
I felt like I was in the middle of a paper and dice game where Watney was the only character. Sure, he was a likable guy, goofy even, but I found him largely unrealistic. Perhaps if Weir had given Watney more psychological depth, the story could have reclaimed its tension and delivered a heart-pounding sci-fi novel from cover to cover.
NOTE: I feel a little guilty in admitting that I didn’t LOVE this book, as though I’m betraying my people somehow. But truth be told, I was disappointed in this one, and even though I’m stoked at Weir’s treatment of space exploration, I thought he barely scratched the surface in exploring human character.