I recently joined the Chapters Indigo online book club and the selection for September was The New York Times #1 Best Seller The Martian by Andy Weir.
Weir, a former software programmer struck fortuitous gold, as The Martian was originally self published on his personal website, then added to Kindle after multiple reader requests, and eventually Weir was contacted by a literary agent who sold the rights to Crown Publishing— an inspiring unfolding of events to say the least!
Released in 2014, the book quickly rose atop the New York Times best seller list and the rights were immediately commissioned for the film adaptation, starring Matt Damon which premieres in Canada today. Again not exactlly a typical trajectory for a neophyte published author—so on that basis alone I say WELL DONE!
While I have an undeniable interest in space travel—specifically life on other planets, or alternately aliens who walk among us on earth (oh yes, they are heeerrrrrrrrrrrrrre!) Sci-Fi in general isn’t my bag. Suffice to say, hyperbole aside—I probably would not have picked up the book had it not been the chosen tome for Septembers official Chapters Indigo book club.
I feel as though the hype machine for the book—fueled by the film no doubt, is in the space (*pun intended) where most hype machinary
Kardashians exists… on the receiving end of a popular vote, not necessarily a critical one. The twain don’t necessarily intersect my friendsicles.
The Martian was a quick and easy read, while I admit to radically skimming over the sections that went into super geekery diatribe mode—which happened often in various passages that reminded me exactlly of this:
What was readily apparent from the get go, was the fact that this book ‘READ like a film’ from beginning to end, kind of like a Campbell’s Chunky Soup ‘eats like a meal.’ (*How’s that for a rando metaphor!)
And while I did not see the film premiere at the Toronto Film Festival last month, I have a feeling that todays Canadian premiere may trump the book—a rariety for books that turn into films. What I did think was painfully lacking was any effort to turn lead protagonist Mark Watney into a three dimensional character? If anything the stories antagonist, the planet MARS had more details and descriptive color?!
There was a dearth of personal intel on Watney, with zero back story to think of. All we knew of about Mark Watney was that he had a set of living parents back home and that was it? His personality, while believable for an astronaught with strict mental strength and resolve, was kind of one note? Two at best, fluctuating from sarcasm to technical geekery. Not once did he reflect on life or loved ones while he was stuck on Mars? I can’t even recall if tears were shed even once? He was almost robotic in his determination at fixing problems as they arose—which is probably what saved him…but his general humane (depth) factor was something that was lacking.
I get that author Andy Weir is a Science Fiction nerd purist, and within that, may genuinely lack a touchy-feely profile that comes with many a scientific mind. But I normally scribble reactionary thoughts, or underline words & passages from every book I read, and I did not have any inclination to do so while reading The Martian.
A Cormac McCarthy, Weir is not. But alas, he does not profess to be, now does he?
I had a chance to briefly pick Weir’s brain this past week during a Twitter author chat, curated by Chapters Indigo, and here is how it all went down.
…he was asked by another Tweeter if he planned on making a sequel to The Martian. These were my thoughts exactlly as I thought the book had major sequel potential, if only to finally to develop the characters better on the mission back to earth. His answer had all the depth of a personal pan pizza, and that’s me being generous.
Again perhaps the 140 character format was ‘alien’ (*see what I just did there?) to Mr. Weir, and I’m not anti-capitalist, but I think he could have worded his answer better? A bit of artistry would’ve have sufficed? You know, like… “if I thought of an idea that could serve the story and organically push it forward…” I mean even the Twilight + The Hunger Games authors feign an interest in story?!?! Ew.
Finally, I was trying to pluck some substance from Weir, in asking this final this question which I had hoped would result in a multi-layered response…
Umm…Media Training aisle WEIR? Again, maybe his scientific mind doesn’t lend itself to normal social cues (its evident you made money, I was looking for an answer with a bit more… marrow?) I’ll assume such language is not in your StarTrek-speak wheel house? But I know better to judge someones interview skills based on a brief online twitter chat. I’m not a hater Mr. Weir…after all you are now a millionaire and I’m still eating Ramen noodles, so I’m giving credit where it is due.
It’s just that…I’m just not that into you…or your book. It was good, nothing more or less—despite the popular New York Times #1 vote. It was far from memorable in terms of what ranks in my rule book as the architecture of good writing.
A cool story, yes. I’ll give you that.
If anything your out-of-the-box sucess gives me hope that all writers with something compelling to share will eventually get their shot at a juggernaut publishing deal, AND a seperate HBO/Netflix/Showtime series titled RARE BIRDS about 4 women from cosmopolitan Montreal. It’s GIRLS meets Sex in the City meets Prozac Nation meets something that Spike Jonze and Cameron Crowe would co direct AND help produce the soundtrack…but hey…enough about me…lets talk about ME!