02 October 2015
The Martian by Andy Weir
Title: The Martian
I love Sci-fi. Both to read and to watch. I love the oldies: Yefremov, Azimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, Clarke…
I haven’t had much luck with contemporary Sci-fi, but what I can’t find in today’s books I find in today’s movies. I love anything science fiction, if it doesn’t insult my intelligence. And we know that Hollywood is prone to doing it often, especially when it tries to blend Sci-fi and YA. Oh Jeez.
Interstellar was long and I won’t probably ever watch it again, but I liked it, because it was a travel into the distance, into the space which we don’t know, but which is there, as real as our own planet. A travel that long is fascinating as well as blood-curdling. Now when I think of it, I’ve watched Sci-fi blockbusters, Sci-fi B movies, flops and critics’ favorites, and although some of those movies weren’t masterpieces, they all have given me the same thing: a feeling of being in space, away from home and facing the unknown.
The moment I learned about The Martian coming to the big screen I knew I was going to read that book. An astronaut stranded on Mars trying to survive. What could be more interesting? I love one-character and one-location movies. And it seemed that most of the readers loved this one. Considering that Sci-fi is neither YA nor Romance, I was a firm believer that it couldn’t pull out a “Kardashian:” creating something uber-popular but highly unworthy of its popularity. While I won’t go so far as to say that The Martian is unworthy of its popularity, I’ll say that for me it was a loss of three days.
I am not going to comment on the few scientific inaccuracies, because smarter people have done it already. Many say that reading requires suspending disbelief, and I say yes, it does, when you’re reading Fantasy. But when I pick up Sci-fi, even if it has aliens invading the world, or aliens invading a spaceship, I don’t want to neglect the laws of physics. But as I already said I will bypass the scientific goofs, because that’s not the reason I didn’t like this book.
I didn’t like The Martian, because it was badly written. I haven’t checked the author yet, so I don’t know how old he is, or what’s his writing background, but I can say with all responsibility that his editors failed him a big time. The book would greatly benefit from a rewrite, a copy editing, and a dialogue improvement. The dialogues were weak. So bad they pained me. Why the editors didn't get rid of all the "he said, she said" is beyond me. The characters were lacking personalities, including the hero of the book.
Judging from the blurb, I thought this was going to be a one-character survival story, but sadly it wasn’t. I lost interest the moment I went to NASA and met a group of boring characters. Another group of dull characters was waiting for me on the spaceship. After the 30% point I had to force myself to keep reading. After the 60% point I nearly stopped. The pace was really slow. It was crawling across the pages. The plot was the same thing over and over again, during the whole 400+ sols. So much that there came a time when I stopped caring. I knew he'd now find another solution to his seemingly insoluble problem, preceding it with yet another “Yay!”
But the weakest point was Mars. I never felt I was on Mars with Mark Watney. I was with Mark Watney, somewhere, doing things to stay alive. But was I on Mars? Was I on a spaceship? Was I in NASA headquarters? I was always in my room on the Earth. I didn’t travel to space the way I had traveled before, reading Heinlein and Yefremov. Moreover, I didn’t feel that Watney spent 1.5 Earth years on Mars. As Watney admits himself, “My terrifying struggle to stay alive became somehow routine. Get up in the morning, eat breakfast, tend my crops, fix broken stuff, eat lunch, answer e-mail, watch TV, eat dinner, go to bed.”
That’s true, this book was routine. Mark Watney has to be the dullest character I have encountered in literature. His situation is blood-chilling, but his emotions are as dead as the Red Planet itself. He is boring, he is tedious, his humor is stupid, his vocabulary is as lacking as his food supplies. There came a moment I began to think his comrades had deliberately left him on Mars, fed up by his smart-ass, cringeworthy jokes.
Sci-fi stands for Science Fiction. There was science in this book, but the fiction was dead. I can’t stop thinking about how this book would end up in the hands of an acclaimed author. It would be fantastic. The scientific details were interesting (omitting a few), especially for someone who loves physics and chemistry, but I wanted more personality. More psychological struggle. More devastation. How would a real person behave in this situation? They would nearly lose their minds. The only complaint from Watney was the disco music. Oh, and the potatoes.
The Martian lacked heart. Even that last paragraph didn’t save it.
Martian negative review sci-fi Andy Weir
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