Sunday, 29 March 2015

I'm going to science the shit out of this planet!

The Martian by Andy Weir

I had never heard of this one before and was a little dubious as the group had never reviewed a 'science fiction' book before. The premise was a guy gets stranded on Mars and is probably about to die. How on earth (sorry) do you fill 350 pages with just that? My immediate impression was it was going to be another 'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy which really didn't go down well with the group (go see the review I did for it). Still Ridley Scott has decided to make a film out of it and Matt Damon has decided to star in it so there had to be something worth reading in those pages right?

Indeed there was. The Road was the most depressing book I have ever read, The Martian, although it had the potential to be, quite simply wasn't. This was down to Weirs brilliant lead character Mark Watney who just point blank refused to give up and die. Terrible things kept happening, he was isolated and he had to live off frozen potatoes for weeks on end, yet he never wallowed. Everything was dealt with by Watney's brilliant wit 'Started the day with nothing coffee. You get some hot water, add nothing to it and drink' (paraphrasing there).

The book was brilliantly paced, it drew you in, had unexpected twists and turns and genuinely had me on the edge of my seat at the end as to what was going to happen and whether he would survive. How many of you noticed the wording at the start of the last paragraph on page 3 that kind of gives the game away? Only one of our group noticed which I thought was interesting.

I loved the fact that although it was obviously set in the future, Weir didn't give you a set date and didn't go in to details as to whether we were driving around in floating cars like some books of this genre do. Often the author is at pains to tell the reader about how in 2050 we all live in pods and have mobile phones implanted into our ears. In some ways if it wasn't for the fact that people were being sent on missions to Mars and had been for some time the setting could have been present day. There was still a president, people still flew on aeroplanes and the media still reigned strong. I liked the fact Weir didn't bog down the story by painting a futuristic world. It wasn't needed and you just went with it whatever year it was set in.

There is no escaping it a massive part of this book is the technology, the science that Watney uses to survive. As Scott puts it in his script notes 'I'm going to science the shit out of this planet' which is pretty much exactly what Watney does. I could tell from the beginning that this would be a divider amongst the group. I really made the effort to read those often long parts and whilst I didn't understand the science I was able to get the gist with what he was doing and totally believed every word. Some of the group simply skipped over those parts and some just couldn't get past them and for that reason hated the book.

I loved it, it was refreshingly different which is always a plus with me, believable (think some people will disagree with me on that) and gripping. I am Pilgrim was a brilliant start the the year but this comes a close second.

As I referred to above you either love the science to it or you don't and if you don't, you don't like the book. The group were divided on this point and scores ranged from 2-9. It averaged a 7.18 (to be precise, it is a science book after all)

Next book is the Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Question of the month - Science fiction a fan or not?