Let’s say you have a dog named “Sally.” Sally, is your typical dog who barks, craps on the rug, rolls around on the grass, and has the quirk of darting around when someone mentions her name.
Then one day, you meet a girl. She introduces herself as, “Sally.”
No matter, how hard you try, your brain will instantly make a connection to “Sally” your dog. You shrug it off and bury the urge to say, “Hey, that’s the same name as my dog.”
“Hey, my dogs name is Sally, haha.”
If you were to utter that phrase, it would put you in a socially awkward position. She would think, “So does he think I’m some kind of dog?” That, or she will smile, and secretly despise you from that point forward.
Through no fault of your own, you might even start to notice how Sally the human, looks and resembles Sally your dog. Sally the human has brown hair, doesn’t pick up after herself, and darts around the office when anyone mentions her name.
Getting To The Point
When my eyes pass over the first few chapters of the book “The Martian” my mind says, “Hey this is the same kind of writing style I would see on Reddit. ”
Through no fault of my own, and well into a few chapters, I plod along, burying the urge to think, “Man who the hell is this guy? An astronaut? A Redditor?” I hold these thoughts back, because indulging in them too much, will ruin the rest of the story.
And just like that, somewhere around chapter 2, I give up, and all the illusion, plot, and world-building go down the drain.
I was willing to overlook the corny humor but this kept popping up:
I stumbled up the hill back toward the Hab. As I crested the rise, I saw something that made me very happy and something that made me very sad: The Hab in-tact (yay!) and the MAV was gone (boo!).
Who the fuck says (yay!) on fucking planet Mars? Especially when faced with death and gloom? Only our hero and Redditor in space, Mark Watney.
The author inserts many of these needless and corny comments that take away from the story.
This bipolar sense of humor makes other appearances throughout the book, as I’ll show later.
I’ve now associated the protagonist as a middle-class liberal, 18-29 years old, who spends time on a forum full of like minded competing for “upvotes.” Upvotes, generate “karma” which is like getting Facebook “likes.” In other words — a vanity metric.
With this is mind, Andy Weir’s novel puts my mind in the same space I have when reading forum posts. I glance over it, get a vibe from who the poster is and what they are trying to say before moving on to the next clickbait article. Low investment reading.
Chapters, aren’t “chapters.”
No. Instead they are posts about “sciencing the shit” out of something, then that “something” (most likely upvoted on Reddit) was sent to notepad, where it was injected with Reddit-styled humor, then copy and pasted into a book, and sold to the masses.
Just like my Sally the dog analogy, my mind still can’t break the strong Redditor vibes that emit from this novel. The further I read, the more cemented I become in thinking this. The novel successfully takes me out of space and onto an internet chat forum.
How This Novel Can be Improved
Two things come to mind:
1st) Eliminate the corny humor.
2nd) Retitling the novel: “Redditor lost on Mars.”
The first point is self-explanatory. This would make the novel 100x better.
The second point is appropriate because no matter if its page 1 or page 100, the dry one-liners keep coming. Audiences not familiar with Reddit, would at least have something to Google so they can weigh the pro’s and con’s of this book.
I wanted to like this book, and I will read just about anything sci-fi, no matter how bad. But the “Redditor lost in space” vibe was too much for me, and took me out of the story. Instead of the protagonist being an engineer and astronaut, my brain formed a picture of some forum-posting Redditor.
So who is Mark Watney?
If you were to take Jar-Jar binks, spaceship his ass to planet Earth, make him read Reddit.com for 1 year, give him speech lessons, leave his corny ass humor intact, then have him recite long winded engineering papers, you would get the protagonist, the engineer, the astronaut, the Redditor, Mark Watney in The Martian.
I was surprised the protagonist didn’t take a selfie of himself, log into Reddit, and post the mother of all vanity posts — I’m sure he would have titled it: “Hey Planet Earth! Redditor in Space Mark Watney I’m still alive! AMA ask me anything!”
Hypothetical me: “Uh yeah, why isn’t your ass communicating with NASA?”
I was disappointed this part was left out of the book, and looks like it will also be left out of the movie.
WWMWD? Aka What would Mark Watney do?
Ask youself, “What would a Redditor do and say in space?” The Martian gives us glimpse, with such passages as:
I am fucked and I’m gonna die! Ok, calm down. I’m sure I can get around this. I’m writing this log to you, dear future Mars archeologist, from Rover 2. You may wonder why i”m not in the Hab right now. Because I fled in terror, that’s why! And I’m no sure what the hell to do next. I guess I should explain what happened. If this is my last entry, you’ll at least know why. Over the past few days, I’ve been happily making water. It’s been going swimmingly. (See what I did there ? “swimmingly”)
With the passage above we go from “I’m fucked and going to die!” to “I’ve been happily making water. It’s been going swimmingly. (See what I did there ? “swimmingly”)
No, I don’t see what you did there. From fucked to swimmingly you lost me. This passage is jarring, because we go from doom, to happily making water — possibly for boiling up some tea with crumpets on the English countryside, all within a few seconds.
Again the author inserts humor to the point that it diminishes his own impending demise. We’re all just in for a good ol’ jolly ride to his rescue–except we’re doomed! No, I take that back– everything is swimmingly now!(haha you see what I did there?)
When you deconstruct the book this way, it almost becomes comical rather than sci-fi worthy.
Somehow this leaves me not caring about whether or not he gets off the planet Mars. Every time there’s impending doom, there’s cringeworthy comedy to take the edge off. When I read sci-fi, I want sci-fi. Bits of humor sprinkled in to break the tension are fine. Comedy is fine (Spaceballs). Long detailed explanations are fine.
When Reddit-styled humor take over, it becomes a joke. When it reads like a forum post, it loses me.
It comes as no surprise that the author is a Redditor himself. (yay!)
Save yourself the trouble and go see the movie instead. Better yet, watch the preview and don’t bother seeing the movie, because the preview shows what all of the movie is about.
I think movie will be great. Seems like they will be distancing themselves from the corny humor and the screenwriters will take out any of the dialogue that flopped in the book, making it a much tighter and more sci-fi worthy movie. In this case, the movie will be better than the book.
If you can get past the corny humor and jarring dialogue, this book will be a good read for you. However, if you’re like me and just happen to know what a “Redditor” is, then my review will paint a more accurate picture of what to expect when you come across this book on Amazon.
Check out The Martian
on Amazon. (My affiliate link)
Click on the Amazon 3-star reviews, I think they are the most accurate.