I loved this book, even the second time around!
‘When a dust storm forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, astronaut Mark Watney finds himself stranded on Mars’s surface, completely alone.
Armed with nothing but his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–Mark embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?’
This blurb is fantastic. Only three sentences long and it does its job brilliantly. The first sentence tells you the setting is Mars, and the main character is Mark Watney, an astronaut. The next sentence characterizes the protagonist. You learn that he is smart and skilled with a ‘gallows sense of humor’. The blurb is setting you up to like him before you even read the first page.
The words used in the blurb evoke images that bring the book to life: ‘stranded on Mars’, ‘armed with nothing but his ingenuity’ and ‘dogged quest’. The hyperbole of ‘impossible odds’ in the last sentence makes the reader want to discover if he succeeded. Also, the last sentence is a question, which engages the reader.
Knowing that I’m going to have to come up with a book blurb of my own, I really appreciate one done so well.
I’m pretty much fucked. That’s my considered opinion.
The first lines of the book are perfect in showing us who Watney is. The first line makes him relatable. He isn’t a NASA hack telling us ‘obviously a major malfunction has occurred’ when an entire shuttle blows up, like one did in 1986 as the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded to pieces. The second sentence shows us that he is still rational and hasn’t completely lost it.
If Watney’s part had been written in limited third POV, Weir might have struggled to make the science-y parts interesting to his non-scientifically inclined readers. By writing in first person POV, you really get to know Watney through his reactions to his triumphs and failures, and you feel it along with him. Watney reveals himself to be a likeable, funny, capable guy. The reader cannot help but root for him and feel his anxiety along with him. I loved Watney’s voice. Weir nailed it!
The book is written from other points of view (POV) as well. Normally, when books are written in first person POV, you only hear the story from the main character. But for the book to be as good as it is, other points of view had to be told. How Weir got around this was to have Watney’s version of events be told through his log, which only makes sense to be in first person POV. That allows Weir to show the other points of view.
The POV of the secondary characters at NASA or on the ship that left Watney behind are in limited third. Another POV, a distant omniscient POV, is used infrequently but very effectively.
If Weir had used Watney to describe any danger, then you would know Watney had already survived it. Weir uses the omniscient third POV to build tension and suspense by showing the reader what is coming. The omniscient POV is generally written as if an impassive god were observing the events, but Weir gives it a foreboding tone. You soon realize the danger to Watney, but you know he knows nothing about it. He’s going about his extreme escapades unaware, and you just want to yell at him to ‘Pay attention!’
Most writers have heard the advice where you should run your protagonist up a tree then throw rocks at him. Weir does this, but when Watney finds a way down, Weir runs him up another tree then decides to lob Molotov cocktails at him…several times.
This book is by far the best book I’ve read in a very long time. I actually feel sorry for Andy Weir. Yes, I know he’s sold millions of books and had an Oscar winner play his protagonist in a hit Hollywood movie. But think about it, how is he going to follow this up? I don’t think anyone can create anything better than this book, even Weir. Prove me wrong Weir! I’ll be buying your next one.