- Miles from Nowhere/Nami Mun
- The Autograph Man/Zadie Smith
- When Did You See Her Last?/Lemony Snicket
- Fifty Shades of Grey/EL James
The Martian is about an astronaut who gets left for dead in an emergency escape at the start of the world’s first manned Mars landing, and that’s an interesting idea, but the author focuses on the most boring and ephemeral aspects of the experience, the equipment the protagonist uses to survive, the rocket science that must be employed by the fellow astronauts to try to change course and rescue him.
A lot of science fiction dates itself eventually by the technology it describes, but there perhaps remains a little nugget of a story that is meaningful on its own. I was really surprised that The Martian didn’t seem to hint at all at the psychological effects of such extreme isolation as the protagonist experiences (he does not see or hear another person for over a year, I think, and has only sporadic written communication). But none of it seems to affect him.
I was personally offended by how banal he was as a character. Everything about him was a cliche the author seemed to be using just to make me like him more: his childish sense of humor (and the author just hammers it into your head that this guy has emotional accessibility problems and that’s why he’s always making jokes), his contempt for disco and Three’s Company, his aloof dismissal of Agatha Christie novels-now that I think of it, you never find out what music, books, and tv he actually likes, so he can become a shell for the reader who is socially expected to hate disco and Three’s Company, the fluff of the 70s, and dismiss Agatha Christie novels, the much beloved by grandmothers and beachgoers.
This is not even to mention the bizarrely optimistic terrestrial political climate in the wake of the crisis on Mars, all the nations of the world working it out and practicing government transparency and spending A LOT of money to save the life of a very annoying man, whom, even if I did not hate him, I would probably let die if I was the president.
All that makes it sound like I hated that book, but I did have a lot of fun reading it.