Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

9780553418026The Martian 

by Andy Weir
ISBN: 978-0-553-41802-6
Broadway Books, 2014

The first thing you should know: If you are not a math or science geek, you will skim many sections of this book.

The second thing you should know: If you are not familiar with 1970s TV, music or movies, you might miss out on some of the cultural references.

The third thing you should know: In November 2015, Matt Damon will star in the movie version of this story. This is a good thing.

I need to give you the back story behind why I came to read this book, because it is not the kind of book I would usually read. My son is a fussy reader. When he was about eight years old, I tried to encourage him to read all the kinds of books boys his age read: Geronimo Stilton, Hardy Boys. He said to me: “Why would I want to read about something that’s not real?”

Okay, so he’s into non-fiction, I get that. Still I try. So this past Christmas I challenged two guys at the local bookstore: “Recommend a book that my son will not be able to put down,” I said.

The Martian,” they both replied.

My son received his copy of the book for Christmas. When he sat down to read it in the lull of holiday break, his body language did not reassure me. He rolled his eyes some. He set it down regularly.

“So, what do you think?” I asked.

“He’s so . . . so . . . stupid,” he replied.

Huh. Given that story is about an astronaut, I wasn’t sure how that could be, and my husband was curious too, so he gave the book a try. As he was reading, I said, “So? What do you think?”

“I’m not sure how he could say this guy is stupid,” he replied. “The main character is a genius. I really like this book.”

So, I had to read it for myself. The deciding vote.

The first thing I noticed was that Andy Weir really, really wants his geek audience members to know the mathematical and scientific plausibility of this story. Gobs and gobs of math and science fill the pages. I started skimming. There’s a reason I’m not making my living laboratories.

I said to my husband (no math whiz, himself), “Didn’t you find it kind of math- and science-heavy?”

“Oh, I just skimmed those parts, he said.

Okay then. I carried on. At the ends of scenes or chapters, Weir throws in jokes about Three’s Company, and disco, and The Dukes of Hazzard, and such things. My son, born in the late 1990s, would not know the finer points of the Chrissy or Cindy Three’s Company debate, or that General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard was a car, so that humour would be lost on him. And I suspect that if my son were to participate in a mission to Mars, he is the type who would take the assignment very, very seriously, and he would not include boobies (•) (•) in his communications with NASA, so I guess that’s why he drew the “He’s so . . . so . . . stupid” conclusion.

In the end, I laughed out loud at the jokes, especially the boobies, and I skimmed the gobs of math and science, and I liked this story about a man’s experience on Mars. 

When Hollywood gets hold of this, they will synthesize the math and science into palatable bites, and they will light Matt Damon beautifully, and they will make one fun and interesting movie.

 

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About Arlene Somerton Smith

Writer, laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, sports fan, and community volunteer

Posted on February 11, 2015, in Book reviews, Books I bought, Books that become movies, Fiction, Random House, Science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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