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Books & Chocolate

I love to read just about anything, as long as it's fiction. I read for me - that means I read what I want, when I want. My reviews tend to mostly be based on how I'm able to personally connect with the story/characters. They are not intended to influence someone to read, or not read, a particular book. I always encourage people to take a chance and make up your own mind.


Oh, and I love chocolate.

The Martian

The Martian - Andy Weir

There is so much hype around The Martian right now, and I wasn't sure what I would think of it. Many of my friends have been going on and on about how much they LOVED it. I was a bit worried to start it in the off chance it wouldn't be my kind of book. Then how would I face the, "Oh, you didn't like it?" when I know in their heads they'd actually be thinking, "What the heck is wrong with you??"


Well, as luck would have it, I did enjoy it. Although, I didn't love it as much as some of my friends. I'll get to why in a moment, but first I want to talk about all the things I did love.


First, I really loved the concept of this novel. The idea of being stranded on an uninhabited planet? Talk about the ultimate survival story. I also loved how the main character, Mark Watney, was kind of like a Martian MacGyver. The way he was able to come up with solutions to his problems was brilliant. For me it was a perfect mix of hardcore engineering and street smarts -- something that a lot of engineers I know are not able to mix together (I'm an engineer by degree, so I know a lot of them). 


It was amazing how everyone in the book came together to save Mark. While it's encouraging to think that countries and people will not only work together to help when some sort of disaster occurs but also spend millions of dollars in the process, it's also kind of depressing that we can't do that on an everyday type of situation. At the end of the book Mark talks about how this happens often - when a hiker gets lost, when there's an earthquake, etc. And it's true. People want to help in those devastating situations. But why do we so often just walk past the homeless on the street, justifying that there are too many or that they will probably just go buy booze with the money? I do it too - I'm not perfect. I guess this book just made me think about why I (we) can't be more supportive of strangers in all circumstances. 


I've seen some negative reviews from readers who felt that the book was too technical. I can see why they would say that. I don't think this is a book my mom would enjoy, but she'll probably love the movie when it comes out. As a mechanical engineer by degree (no longer working in that field), I was actually also a bit annoyed by the heavy technical terms, equations, processes, etc. However, this didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. I think that had the technical aspect been missing, the story wouldn't have seemed like it could happen in real life. So kudos to Weir for being able to successfully integrate technical and fiction writing.


The main issue I had with this book is that the characters all seemed so similar. It was like taking all the engineering stereotypes to the nth degree (see what I did there??). Yes, you will find several of these nerdy-type personalities in a heavily technical field. But not all will be that way. Many will have different personalities. I can see instances where Weir tried to make them different, but for me it felt as though it only reached the surface of the characters. Even shy Mindy Park was talking sass back to her several-levels-up manager by the end of the book. While I haven't worked at NASA, I have worked 20+ years in a highly technical fortune 500 company. I've worked on the technical side and the marketing side (and a few of the other sides in between) and there is just so much more depth to the people than what I saw in this novel. Unfortunately, I couldn't get past it and that's what kept me from loving this book. I'm interested to see the movie when it comes out.