“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.”
LOG ENTRY: SOL 61 How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”- The Martian, by Andy Weir
I got this on my Kindle, because I’d seen so many people raving about it on Goodreads and really wanted to get my hands on some gripping science fiction. It reminded me a little bit of a short story in Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated man called ‘the long rain’ about a lone surviving astronaut on the surface of Venus, which I really enjoyed and that’s what inspired me to pick up this one.
The book tells the tale of astronaut Mark Watney, who after a series of calamities is left for dead on the surface of Mars while his fellow space travelers return to Earth, riddled by the grief of his loss. After living through the disaster, Watney has to set about making a means for survival on the barren planet until the next space mission returns in four years and can rescue him.
What can I say? The idea was interesting, but for me the detail in the research that is so often praised by other reviewers created a bit of a barrier between me and the story’s protagonist. While I understand that the amount of scientific accuracy is a necessary part of the story and important for giving the reader a sense of reality, I found it to be a little tiresome after a while, especially considering Watney’s reactions to his ordeal were so consistently flippant and unrealistic. I did find that the book picked up again once we started hearing from the characters back on Earth and about how the other astronauts react when the find out that Watney isn’t dead after all. But the book didn’t appeal to the voyeur in me and I found it quite disappointing. I read because I like to empathize with characters, to wonder what it is I would do in their extraordinary circumstances or to at least be able to relate on some level to the character’s reaction, but Watney’s jokey, sweary response to crisis was more similar to how I’d feel if I broke down on the side of the road and had to sleep in my car for the night. And I think if you’re going to set up a story that has so much potential for deep emotional reactions, you have to provide them.