Andy Weir

I don't read much SF these days; I do better with technical literature and my imagination. Still, Andy Weir is popular and "crossover", so I spent some time on his novels. At least he doesn't invent implausible alien intelligences.

The Martian


The stranded astronaut Robinson Crusoe story is interesting. The stranding is implausible; a more likely McGuffin than a windstorm is needed; for example, a roving astronaut disappears, and a fuel leak or imminent launch stage failure terminates the mission. The Mars surface landing mission is a widespread meme, but the wrong way to do it; a staging base on Deimos is much easier to get to and return from. Send robots down permanently. Send people down briefly if necessary for PR/funding.

That said, the pacing was good and the story engaging.



A Moon base with no plausible economic reason to exist, and far too small to survive independently. Robots are cheaper. The story is more contrived; the McGuffin is a communication component that needs 1/6 gee for manufacturing(??). Why not a rotating wheel in LEO?

The "chloroform accident" ( hardback p264 ) is really contrived; something that puts everyone to sleep but kills nobody is silly. A real chemical reaction will make not only CHCl₃ (chloroform) but also:



LD50 1800 mg/kg

BP -23.8 °C

−84 kJ/mol



LD50 1250 mg/kg

BP 39.6 °C

-124 kJ/mol



LD50 1250 mg/kg

BP 61.2 °C

−134 kJ/mol


carbon tetrachloride

LD50 2350 mg/kg

BP 76.7 °C

-139 kJ/mol

Almost all of the chloromethane will volatilize, the vapor pressure for the chloroform will be relatively low.

Some complain that the female main character is implausible and inconsistently feminine; perhaps so, but I've met many implausible people. Perhaps an experiment that should have been reworked before publication. Weir will lose readers because of that, but if he can write twice as many books for 60% the audience, the numbers say "go for it".

I still found the story amusing enough to finish, though I speed-read much of it.

I probably won't spend time on a third novel, unless it earns stellar reviews from technologist friends. I'll find time for Les Miserables before that, and a few hundred technical nonfiction books before either.

AndyWeir (last edited 2018-07-26 07:31:30 by KeithLofstrom)