“I’m pretty much f**ked.”
From the first line of this novel, you know you’re in for a good ride. This survival thriller novel is gripping from the get go – no wonder it was adapted to the big screen.
The story is about Mark Watney, an astronaut stranded on Mars. Six days into his original mission, disaster strikes and his crew believe him to be dead. They decide to return to Earth without him, but through an unbelievable amount of luck, he survives. Watney returns to his base on Mars, takes note of his short supplies and he realises his mission has changed – live on Mars long enough to be rescued.
This 2011 science fiction novel, written by Andy Weir, is a great read. It’s easy to get in to and will appeal to avid sci-fi fans but will also interest newcomers to the genre, because of its ingenuity and realism. The plot is gripping and has the reader’s attention from the get go. The difficulty of Watney’s new mission is enough to keep people reading, but the wit and humour make it a cut above the rest. With the protagonist saying things like “I am the best botanist on this planet,” and hating the unlimited amount of disco music on an iPod left behind by one of his crew members.
Even with the main character stranded on a desolate planet, the dialogue is one of the best parts of this novel. Watney finds ways to communicate to NASA through long range transmissions. These conversations are excellent and help the reader engage more with the protagonist. Whether it’s his profanity and disregard to NASA’s rigorous safety checks and procedures, or his personal messages to his crewmates, telling them it’s not their faults and he forgives them, these demonstrate all of his best qualities, which a protagonist needs.
However, it is not without its criticisms. For one, the scientific terms and equipment used are repeated too frequently. Although they are well explained, the author repeats what they are, their purpose, and the possibilities of them failing numerous times throughout the first quarter of the novel. This does help create the tension and build suspense, but after a while, it is redundant. Another issue arises with the secondary characters. They are intriguing and they do show the story from different perspectives, but their chapters are just not as interesting as Mark Watney’s.
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