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Thread: "The Martian" by Andy Weir [Spoilers]

  1. #31
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    He didn't make the insane levels of mistakes that Kim Stanley Robinson made in the Red Mars series, though. (Why anyone thinks Robinson got the science right in that series is beyond me. Terraforming Mars by pulling the CO2 out of the air makes no sense. Nor does having colonists with spacesuit gloves that transmit cold when you touch the soil, or pre-positioned equipment which lacks the telemetry equipment to inform Earth it broke upon landing, or that the colonists can toss out the original mission plans with no consequences, or that someone can be smuggled on a spaceship from Earth to Mars without it being insanely obvious, or any of a thousand other things. Blech!)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tuckerfan View Post
    He didn't make the insane levels of mistakes that Kim Stanley Robinson made in the Red Mars series, though. (Why anyone thinks Robinson got the science right in that series is beyond me. Terraforming Mars by pulling the CO2 out of the air makes no sense. Nor does having colonists with spacesuit gloves that transmit cold when you touch the soil, or pre-positioned equipment which lacks the telemetry equipment to inform Earth it broke upon landing, or that the colonists can toss out the original mission plans with no consequences, or that someone can be smuggled on a spaceship from Earth to Mars without it being insanely obvious, or any of a thousand other things. Blech!)
    I'm not sure there's a valid competition to be had between Robinson and Weir. Robinson was writing literary SF celebrating being "... on Mars, on Mars, on Mars, on Mars, on Mars." It's all about the beauty of dervishes dancing on the rim of Vallis Marineris - people who claim the Mars Trilogy as hard SF (and I know there are lots of them) have simply missed the point of Kim Stanley Robinson.
    But Weir is claiming to be hard SF, and I lost faith in his science with the very first log entry.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    I agree. I didn't make my point well at all.

    I assumed grapes was trying to draw some sort of analogy between Moby-Dick and The Martian. But all that detail in Moby-Dick earned Melville a critical lambasting and the start of a career decline, whereas Weir seems to have done the opposite. However, Melville subsequently got layered up with allegory and became a major literary figure after his death. I'm doubting that's going to happen to Weir, and I'm doubting Weir cares, and I agree with Weir if he doesn't care.

    So if grapes was making an analogy, I don't understand his post. And if grapes wasn't making an analogy, I don't understand his post. But since I made a post that no-one is likely to understand, I ain't criticizing.
    I haven't traced the etiology, but I assume Moby Dick's current stature has something to do with the tendency to wedge detailed research into a massive novel (Michner, Clancy, sure, but others to various degrees, you run across data dumps even in short stories some times). Even with that research, you still have to suspend disbelief sometimes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    I'm not sure there's a valid competition to be had between Robinson and Weir. Robinson was writing literary SF celebrating being "... on Mars, on Mars, on Mars, on Mars, on Mars." It's all about the beauty of dervishes dancing on the rim of Vallis Marineris - people who claim the Mars Trilogy as hard SF (and I know there are lots of them) have simply missed the point of Kim Stanley Robinson.
    But Weir is claiming to be hard SF, and I lost faith in his science with the very first log entry.

    Grant Hutchison
    Being a fan of James Joyce, I've got to say I found nothing "literary" about Robinson's books. They were filled with nothing but a collection of set-pieces that hinged on utter impossibilities (Mining Mars for resources to ship back to Earth? There's no way this is cost effective unless you strip out all the asteroids, and the Earth's Moon from the solar system.), that appeared to be poised to go somewhere, but never did.

    Where's the logic in sending the Bedouin to Mars? None. Other than it allows a character to make some kind of claim to a mystical bond between them and their ancestors wandering around the desert before the Romans left Italy. Perhaps it might have worked as a single throwaway line, but Robinson devotes pages to the idea. Ick.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grapes View Post
    I haven't traced the etiology, but I assume Moby Dick's current stature has something to do with the tendency to wedge detailed research into a massive novel
    Sorta kinda, I think. The critical revival of Moby-Dick is to a degree to do with allegorical interpretations, and to a degree because it is seen as telling a particularly American story and was retrospectively designated a "great American novel". But there's also something hallucinatory about the way Melville writes, and the endless detail he provides certainly contributes to the strange, blissed-out sensation of reading Moby-Dick.
    But I don't think Michener, Clancy or Weir are likely to find themselves designated classics simply because they share an interest in detail with Melville. There's a lot more going on in Moby-Dick than a parade of research notes.

    Quote Originally Posted by grapes View Post
    Even with that research, you still have to suspend disbelief sometimes.
    Sure. The reason I found Weir so tedious is not because of his research, though. It's because of the endless plot detail he stuffs into every page. I'm just not that interested in exactly how many holes he needed to drill and exactly how long that took him, or how many ways he tried to stack the solar panels on his trailer. He also has his character provide this endless detail in some completely implausible settings - dictating a detailed audio log while trying to figure out how to escape from some time-pressured situation, for instance. (It's as jarring as George Clooney's extended self-sacrifice speech in Gravity - his interminable chat undermined any sense of tension arising from what was a completely implausible problem in the first place.)
    At a secondary level, the reader has got to want to suspend disbelief - get them engaged with the story, and you can sell them almost any old twaddle. Since Kim Stanley Robinson has been mentioned, I would use him as an example: for me, KSR tells an engaging story, full of characters, situations and descriptive passages that make me want to keep reading. Disbelief simply isn't a problem. Whereas Weir failed to draw me in because he cluttered his narrative with too much stuff, and that left me with idle brain-cells that couldn't help but notice the shortcomings of his research and calculations.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tuckerfan View Post
    Being a fan of James Joyce, I've got to say I found nothing "literary" about Robinson's books.
    Ah well. People do seem to either love or hate the way KSR writes.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    . . ., and I more or less gave up on the issue when Larry Niven claimed that there is an atmospheric carbon dioxide sensor in your armpit which is the main stimulus that keeps you breathing.
    . . .
    Just curious, but what is really the input regulating it? A sensor for acidity of the blood somewhere central?
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    Quote Originally Posted by HenrikOlsen View Post
    Just curious, but what is really the input regulating it? A sensor for acidity of the blood somewhere central?
    It sounded odd enough that I had to go look it up...in Flight of the Horse, Niven claimed it was nerves in a lymph node in the left armpit sensed CO2. It's actually a variety of structures in the brainstem and in the carotid and aortic bodies, variously sensitive to oxygen, CO2, and blood pH.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Control...ntilatory_rate

    I really wonder where the "this specific lymph node" idea came from...

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    Quote Originally Posted by cjameshuff View Post
    It sounded odd enough that I had to go look it up...in Flight of the Horse, Niven claimed it was nerves in a lymph node in the left armpit sensed CO2. It's actually a variety of structures in the brainstem and in the carotid and aortic bodies, variously sensitive to oxygen, CO2, and blood pH.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Control...ntilatory_rate

    I really wonder where the "this specific lymph node" idea came from...
    Well, at one time, the lymph nodes were thought to be glands, so it might date from that. When I finished reading "The Bowl of Heaven" by Niven and Gregory Benford, I sent Jerry Pournelle an email asking if Niven hadn't perhaps gone senile, because while the premise of the book was excellent, there were some glaring problems which I thought would have been obvious to someone like Niven. Jerry was kind enough to write back and said that on the books the two of them had written together that Niven often left the "scutwork" to him, and wasn't very detail oriented. So, perhaps Niven had heard something about how the body sensed CO2, and used lymph nodes, because that's what he thought it was, and didn't bother to check the details.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HenrikOlsen View Post
    Just curious, but what is really the input regulating it? A sensor for acidity of the blood somewhere central?
    As cjameshuff says, a scatter of sensors in arteries and the brain stem.
    But for Niven's plot to work, he needed breathing to be maintained by a sensor for atmospheric carbon dioxide, which we don't have at all. Nor would it make sense to have breathing maintained by an external carbon dioxide sensor, since external carbon dioxide stays the same, no matter how fast or slow you breathe. Instead, we have this web of internal sensors which finely adjust breathing rate and depth against the amount of carbon dioxide we're putting into our circulation from our tissues.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tuckerfan View Post
    When I finished reading "The Bowl of Heaven" by Niven and Gregory Benford, I sent Jerry Pournelle an email asking if Niven hadn't perhaps gone senile, because while the premise of the book was excellent, there were some glaring problems which I thought would have been obvious to someone like Niven.
    It look rushed, to me - the size of the Big Smart Object kept changing, characters were in two places at once, or did the same thing twice in successive paragraphs. It felt like Niven and Benford had been writing against a deadline, and then the text was rushed into print. A lot of what was wrong with the book could have been sorted by a decent subeditor, but that species seems to have become extinct in the last two decades. It looked like no-one had read the thing properly, ever.
    Things didn't get much better in Shipstar, either. There was a bit of retconning for a spectral class error in the first book, but then a couple of things are introduced in volume two which simply didn't happen (or couldn't have happened) in volume one.

    Niven certainly has a long history of not sweating the details - the Earth rotating in the wrong direction in the first edition of Ringworld is a classic, but in the same book he not only misspells the name of W.B. Klemperer, but attaches his name to the wrong kind of gravitational "rosette".

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2014-May-28 at 01:13 PM.

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    I can't even read to Chapter 5 on this book. The writer should write technical books (it is very easy to believe he is a computer programmer). Maybe if there was more story telling and less technical jargon I would enjoy this book. In fact, I know I would enjoy it. Right now I am trying to find the spoilers so I don't have to read through a bunch of useless junk. For a first effort this is really good but I know why publishing companies did not want his book.

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    Ridley Scott's confirmed he's directing the film version, which leads to questions as to what's up with Prometheus 2.
    However, with The Martian set for a 2015 release and the Prometheus sequel set for 2016, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that Scott could possibly do both, and if he’s already chosen The Martian…

    Fan made video for The Martian. Contains huge spoilers.



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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Ah well. People do seem to either love or hate the way KSR writes.

    Grant Hutchison
    I loved Red Mrs. Liked Green Mars. Couldn't finish Blue Mars. The main character spent half the book flying around visiting places he'd already been just to hang with his friends.

    OTOH, MAN, I loved 2312.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tuckerfan View Post
    He didn't make the insane levels of mistakes that Kim Stanley Robinson made in the Red Mars series, though. (Why anyone thinks Robinson got the science right in that series is beyond me. Terraforming Mars by pulling the CO2 out of the air makes no sense. Nor does having colonists with spacesuit gloves that transmit cold when you touch the soil, or pre-positioned equipment which lacks the telemetry equipment to inform Earth it broke upon landing, or that the colonists can toss out the original mission plans with no consequences, or that someone can be smuggled on a spaceship from Earth to Mars without it being insanely obvious, or any of a thousand other things. Blech!)
    I had a problem with the selective gas breathing masks. The masks they wore only allowed oxygen through, and blocked CO2. It seems to me that, because of the partial pressure of oxygen, they would have had to be sucking really hard with every breath. Never quite sorted out the physics, but it didn't jive with me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    I loved Red Mrs. Liked Green Mars. Couldn't finish Blue Mars. The main character spent half the book flying around visiting places he'd already been just to hang with his friends.
    Yeah, that's the "... on Mars, on Mars, on Mars, on Mars, on Mars" bit. It's not about anything much more than BEING ON MARS.

    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    OTOH, MAN, I loved 2312.
    Me, too. But a lot of people hated it.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tuckerfan View Post
    Fan made video for The Martian. Contains huge spoilers.
    9 Terabytes of Disco


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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    OTOH, MAN, I loved 2312.
    Me, too. But a lot of people hated it.
    Spoilers (is there a forum-sanctioned way to do this?):
    [ [ The mileiu (setting) of cylinder colonies was awesome.
    The death weapon was brilliant.

    My only complaint as that the main mystery was wrapped up in about 3 paragraphs.
    ] ]
    Last edited by DaveC426913; 2014-Aug-16 at 08:46 PM.

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    A couple of items that I haven't seen in this thread.

    1. While looking for something else I found this interactive map of Watney's travel across Mars. (Note: spoilers on the site.)
    2. The film's release date is set for November 25, 2015.

    ETA: Oh boy. The forum upgrade apparently turns linked text to white. So the link I have above is: http://www.cannonade.net/mars.php

    ETA2: Changing the text color is a workaround.
    Last edited by schlaugh; 2015-Jan-03 at 08:42 PM.

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    I purchased this book last summer based on good reviews. I originally intended to read it while on a cruise. Well, that didn't happen, as me and the wife had so much going on during the cruise. So it sat on my ipad until two weeks ago and now I finally finished it.

    I enjoyed it for the most part. My biggest problems involved the way the author tells the story. I love science, but the logs are simply too technical and tedious. Too much explanation of step by step procedures and calculations. I also thought from the very beginning, that the premise of a Martian dust storm powerful enough to do all that damage, was pretty unrealistic. The Mars air is simply not dense enough for the effects of the dust storms as depicted in this book.

    I suspect that a movie version will probably tell the survival story a bit better and not as a technical paper. Overall, I think Weir did a good job, considering that this was his first book.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post

    But Weir is claiming to be hard SF, and I lost faith in his science with the very first log entry.

    Grant Hutchison
    That doesn't surprise me. In an Air & Space article a few months back, he took a shot at Orion/SLS, so that told me all I needed to know about him right there.

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    First trailer for the film is up.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzIe1aMAzzU
    Last edited by Jim; 2015-Jun-08 at 11:14 AM. Reason: changed embedded video to a link

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tuckerfan View Post
    First trailer for the film is up.
    Why are there so many people in it?? Seems a bit misleading.

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    I think I fell asleep halfway through the trailer.

    ETA: As an introduction to the characters it isn't bad, but it doesn't get me excited about the movie.
    Maybe that is for later trailers.


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    Last edited by Extravoice; 2015-Jun-08 at 12:45 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    But Weir is claiming to be hard SF, and I lost faith in his science with the very first log entry.

    Grant Hutchison
    Oh, I think Andy is writing hard sf. It's just that most hard sf is quite willing to play with the science when it's convenient. Usually, they do so by playing with jump drives or super-high delta-v drive systems, which (almost) always get a pass, but, "hard" sf is almost never ticketed for bad biology, sociology, psychology, anthropology, or computer science.

    Literary? While I think KSR may be one of the better sf writers active at present (there are quite a few who I think are much better), KSR is not one of the sf/f writers who I would categorize as particularly "literary."
    Last edited by swampyankee; 2015-Jun-08 at 09:05 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Oh, I think Andy is writing hard sf. It's just that most hard sf is quite willing to play with the science when it's convenient. Usually, they do so by playing with jump drives or super-high delta-v drive systems, which (almost) always get a pass, but, "hard" sf is almost never ticketed for bad biology, sociology, psychology, anthropology, or computer science.
    He fails at the level of bad arithmetic, however, as I pointed out.
    Anyway, to paraphrase Larry Niven: "You get one impossible thing". The tradition in hard SF is that the "impossible thing" must either be a trope (like FTL) or flagged early and explored with rigour. But Weir simply has no idea of what he's talking about with the central pillars of his early story, gas physiology and gas physics. It's not that he's "playing" with these ideas: he's actually, overtly clueless. It's as if he wrote a Western with flying horses.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    He fails at the level of bad arithmetic, however, as I pointed out.
    Anyway, to paraphrase Larry Niven: "You get one impossible thing". The tradition in hard SF is that the "impossible thing" must either be a trope (like FTL) or flagged early and explored with rigour. But Weir simply has no idea of what he's talking about with the central pillars of his early story, gas physiology and gas physics. It's not that he's "playing" with these ideas: he's actually, overtly clueless. It's as if he wrote a Western with flying horses.

    Grant Hutchison
    I just thought The Martian had too much of the feeling of The Perils of Pauline: a bunch of cliffhangers, each with a deus ex machina solution. Just an updated version of Robinson Crusoe on Mars, but without the monkey
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Oh, I think Andy is writing hard sf. It's just that most hard sf is quite willing to play with the science when it's convenient.
    Maybe it's me being pedantic (and the "hardness" or "softness" of science fiction are more degrees along a continuum, rather than rigid categories), but I'd say that "hard" science fiction is distinguished precisely by its unwillingness to play with the science when convenient for the story. The less scientifically rigorous a story is, the less "hard" it is. Which doesn't necessarily mean that a story that introduces scientific impossibilities is bad science fiction. I'd say that the good-bad axis is orthogonal to the hard-soft axis as far as fiction goes. But I think there's a tendency to equate hard science fiction to good science fiction, which leads to a tendency to label stories hard science fiction when they really aren't.

    That said, I think grant is right, that Weir was intending to write a hard sf story, but flubbed some of the details. I think he got away with it because relatively few people know enough about gas physiology and physics to notice. And actually, I enjoyed the story well enough in spite of those mistakes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    I just thought The Martian had too much of the feeling of The Perils of Pauline: a bunch of cliffhangers, each with a deus ex machina solution. Just an updated version of Robinson Crusoe on Mars, but without the monkey
    I would agree that it seems like a remarkable number of things go wrong, but always not quite so wrong that the protagonist dies.
    Conserve energy. Commute with the Hamiltonian.

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