Before I tuck into the details of this review, I have a few day to day things to mention. First is that I completely forgot to appear for my first ever Jury summons, so that’s great. Here’s hoping there’s not a warrant out for my arrest. Jiminy.
Second, I finished a polished draft of a Booklist for the library. I’m really excited about it, and am really pleased with how it’s turned out so far. I’m still waiting for feedback from the person actually in charge of the booklist publishing, but I’m still feeling awesome about it.
Also, Book Club is officially back on, just as soon as I get some book lists turned in. Hopefully that gets rolling sooner than later. I’ve picked a handful of titles for my own list, and I’m interested to see what everyone else comes up with.
Now on with the review!
This one’s going to be a little different. I don’t want to give much away, because I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this book. Also, I listened to this book over about 2 1/2 weeks. And of course, we watched the movie the other night, and I have some thoughts about how it held up in comparison to the book.
First, let me just say that this book surprised me. I expected it to be great. When a Sci-Fi book gets that hyped, for that long, it has to be great. I expected it to be hard science. The whole premise is that an astronaut has been accidentally abandoned on the surface of Mars, and that by the grace of his own resourcefulness he must survive until he can be rescued. When you’re a scientist stranded on a planet that is actively trying to kill you, the only thing keeping you alive is science.
Have I mentioned that I am terrible at science and math? I anticipated the large amounts of equations and explanations, and I wasn’t wrong about them. Not entirely.
What I was wrong about was just how entertaining it would all be.
This book had me from the first lines. Watney’s unflinching sense of humor surprised me. I loved his commentary on the problems facing him, and I loved his insights into just how in the f*ck he was going to get through his harrowing time on Mars.
The narrator for the audiobook was fantastic, pulling off multiple voices and accents, all distinct yet easy to understand. There was a ton, a TON, of math and science in this book, but I think listening to it while driving kept me moving through it. If I’d had to read all those equations and linear thought processes, I’d probably have given up. But they made sense to me, even if only in a vague way. It was all very believable and enjoyable, even.
Some things that really stick out to me about this story are Watney’s sense of humor, the constant build of tension, and how subtly you become attached to Watney, that by the end I was weeping for him.
I’ve already mentioned the humor, but really, listening to a mechanical engineer/botanist/astronaut curse frequently, then decide to name a new unit of measure a “Pirate Ninja”, and declare himself a space pirate, is hilarious. It also serves a purpose, because it’s his coping mechanism. It’s believable and awesome.
The first chapter of a book sets the tone. You can only go up from chapter one, so whatever happens there must build on to what’s next. Well, having an astronaut tell you he’s been stranded on Mars with no hope for rescue is one hell of a way to start. And yet, Weir was able to keep the tension building, all the way through to the very end.
And of course, by the end of the book, Watney is your friend. You’ve listened to his log entries, and you’ve rooted for him for hundreds of pages. I cried when his plans blew up in his face, sometimes literally. I felt his frustration and his fear, every page of the way. It was intense and profound.
I didn’t expect the film to keep up. I really didn’t, despite Matt Damon’s obvious acting chops. There were just so many moving parts in the book that I expected the film to have a hard time juggling them. And of course some things were cut from the book, a couple of them were plot points that were pivotal to the novel, but I understood why they were removed. Some things just don’t translate as well into a visual medium, and they would have slowed the pace of the film WAY down. Initially upset, I now agree with the decision.
However, the ending is vastly different in the movie versus the novel. While the outcomes are the same, how they get there are quite different. I’m not really a fan of the liberties taken in this portion of the film, mainly because it ruined my suspension of disbelief. I just have a hard time believing that this ending could have actually happened.
A shame when everything else in the film is so realistic.
So, final verdict: The book gets an A+, and the next time I see it on the shelf at a bookshop, I’ll buy it. The movie gets an A-. Still a great film, and honestly, if I hadn’t read the book first I’m not sure I’d be so critical of it. Damon’s acting was fantastic, and he endeared me as much to Mark Watney as the character’s narration in the novel. They are the same person, as far as I’m concerned. all special effects and supporting cast were great. And the soundtrack! Oh, my god, so good!
But… the book is still better.
Anyway, there’s the review I promised. If you haven’t read the book, you HAVE TO! Even if you’re not a science fiction fan, I promise this book will cross the boundaries of genre to impress you.
If you haven’t seen the film, you really should. It’s funny, heartbreaking, and touching. If you appreciate Sci-Fi film at all, watch this movie.
I’m almost done listening to Coraline, and I made a lot of progress on The Obelisk Gate tonight, so keep an eye out for those reviews in the next week or so. I’m going to work on a story edit for The Audient Void tonight, so I can check that off the goals list.
Also on the list for this week is getting Since the Fire into draft #3, which I feel pretty confident about, and writing chapter 8 of Jordinn’s Story, which I feel decidedly less than confident about. But, I’ve got most of Saturday and all of Sunday off, so here’s hoping I can convince myself to get some work done.
I’ll talk to you all soon!