Full disclosure, I’m not a reader nor ever have been. High school consisted of skimming over CliffsNotes and other other reading guides (sorry, mom). Looking back on it, it’s something I regret as there are a ton of literary classics I missed out on. I’ve made a real conscious effort to diversify my hobbies as of late and have had pretty good success, and reading seemed like a no-brainer. I challenge you to find a hobby that has a better value in terms of monetary investment per hours spent. The problem is, I’m ridiculously picky about what genres I like. I like science fiction, but not science fiction that gets too caught up in being science fiction. I like fantasy, but not fantasy that makes cringe at the inevitable reaction I’d get if I had to explain it to someone. Some young adult books are pretty good, but I’m a grown man! As a result, I usually end up looking into books friends or family are reading, and if it has favorable reviews, pick it up. It usually doesn’t end well. I’ll push through as far as I can, but usually have a good idea by page 100 or so if the book is for me.
The Martian was a book I’d seen a little chatter about on social media, and thought I’d check it out. It had 4.5 stars on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble with glowing user reviews like, “I don’t like science fiction, but it’s this is the exception!” and “Best science fiction I’ve read in years!” The overview sold me on it, and a few days later, it arrived at my house and promptly jumped in. The book is about a NASA astronaut, Mark Watney who’s on a mission to Mars when a sandstorm threatens the safety of the crew forcing the mission to be scrubbed. On the hike back to their shuttle to get them back to their spacecraft, Watney is impaled and presumed dead. Since mission guidelines specifically say if someone dies, they’re left behind, the crew leaves their believed deceased comrade behind. Watney eventually regains consciousness and is determined to survive and get home.
Majority of the book reads as if it’s Mark Watneys journal, with the occasional check in on his rescue efforts back on Earth. Watney is an incredibly likable character, often trying to find humor in his dire situation. A lot of it is genuinely funny. The problem is, Watney is some kind of uber nerd and spends pages going into the chemistry behind why he’s doing what he’s doing. That’s fine, but I found myself wishing the plot would just progress. It Watney’s sense of humor that makes it tolerable. The throwbacks to Earth and the conversations NASA has about rescuing Watney was fantastic. I really got a sense of urgency and helped the pacing of the story. The final 60 pages or so are amazing. I hate the cliche, but I literally couldn’t put the book down. My gripe is the story wraps too suddenly and not on a satisfying manner. Tell me about the reaction back on Earth or that his old crew-mates have. Tell me about his family. Tell me about what happened with the folks at NASA. The story definitely has closure, so it doesn’t feel like it’s something that will be covered in a later book.
I think review scores are dumb, so I’m not going to give The Martian a score. The book felt like it was above average, but don’t think it’s anything that will stick with me or will have me pining to read more. If someone asked about it, I’d recommend it, but probably wouldn’t go out of my way to tell someone it’s a must read.