Overall this is a great read – recommended. The idea is clever, the book is well researched – or at least for someone like me, a general reader with some scientific background but not quite a rocket scientist, I am sufficiently sold by the quality of the plot.
What I am most impressed is how thorough Weir’s research was. When he described the several Chinese characters in the book, he made sure that their names were written in the correct order – i.e. family name followed by given name. Many writers of European heritage, in my experience, seem to struggle to grasp that simple logic that deviates from the European norm. He even aptly named the Chinese probe to the sun Taiyang Shen (which means Sun God). I was however, perplexed when he seemed to have made a mistake in chapter 19 – the character Su Bin Bao was correctly addressed as Mr Su, yet he was also subsequently written as Su Bin. That is not common practise for a Chinese name to decidedly omit the last character of a 2-character given name.
Weir clearly tried hard to create a diverse environment for his plot. The Chinese, portrayed in a balanced of good and bad (more good) were not enemies of the state for a change. A woman commands the space mission and a Hindu man holds a high position in both NASA and the plot line of this novel. In saying that, he did suffer an occasional lapse, for example, he described Mark Watney ‘screaming like a little girl’. I’m sure when under server duress and pain, little boys scream pretty pathetically too. So why couldn’t Mark Watney who is of the male sex, scream like a little boy when he was terrified?
The rational, logical dissection of Watney’s various problems and how he overcame them was very interesting for the better part of the book. However, reading the detailed technical breakdown of each situation became a little dry towards the end, when all I want to know is how the plot moves on.