In Andy Weir’s first novel, The Martian, the characters are as flat as a deflated hab structure and the plot goes from interesting to repetitive. The premise for the novel is that an accident happens and an astronaut gets left behind on Mars while his crew mates escape. The next return mission isn’t for like four years and he only has one year’s worth of food. Intrigued?
So was I. But, then the plot took on the same shape for page after page. The astronaut, Watney, faces a problem and overcomes it. Problem and solution. Thankfully he’s a biologist and engineer and used to star in a TV show called MacGyver. When I described the book to my wife, she said, “it sounds like MacGyver on Mars.” And, that’s just what it is.
How does Watney cope? What does he think about his family and friends? How does he imagine death? Weir doesn’t really go into those questions. Watney laughs off everything and tries not to dwell on much. His sense of humor balances the seriousness of his situation, but after a while I found the character to be grating.
What about the other characters in the novel? I could not tell who was who in any of the Earth scenes. They all blended together into one character named NASA. There was some complexity with the other astronauts, but they aren’t present in much of the book.
I know a lot of people enjoyed this book and that the movie will be out this fall, but if you like good writing and complex characters, this novel is not for you. However, if you’re really into science and curious about how someone could overcome all of these disasters and circumstances, give it a read.