Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Martian

By Andy Weir

I’m no scientist. I also know nothing about relativistic physics or orbital mechanics. This is why the first fifty pages of Andy Weir’s The Martian were a bit worrisome. The story of an astronaut who must find a way to survive after his crewmates mistake him for dead and accidentally strand him on Mars sounds like an enjoyable romp, but for the first little while Weir’s debut novel reads like a NASA geek’s grand thought experiment.

Instead of daring adventure and tense drama we get a lot of scientific jargon and chemical compositions as astronaut Mark Watney goes about growing potatoes and making water in his Martian habitat. Not exactly riveting storytelling. It’s interesting, sure, but do you want to read 367 pages of it?

Thankfully, The Martian eventually adopts a more typical narrative structure, switching between Watney’s log entries and the goings on of the people back on Earth.

It also doesn’t hurt that Watney’s character, though meticulous in his scientific notes, is also a lot of fun when he’s not being so … well, smart. His profane, good-humoured self is often a hoot, and it is with this narrative voice that the novel becomes increasingly fascinating, gripping, and even laugh-out-loud funny.

Don’t let the first fifty pages scare you away. There’s a lot here for us simple folk, too.

While a glass cutter by day, by night Z.S. Roe spends his time writing fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.  His writings have appeared in various publications, including the Cambridge Times, The Silhouette, and The Toronto Sun, among others.  Most recently, his short story “Peeping Tara” appeared in issue 13 of Dark Moon Digest.  You can visit his blog at

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