{Book Review} The Martian by Andy Weir

 

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?*

I never realized how much of a nerd I really am until this book. You see, I’m not a very good student. I do better at standardized tests than my grades would suggest, but when you put me in a classroom for prolonged periods of time, the grades I churn out give a convincing argument that I’m a pretty average student (I was better in high school, but everyone knows that college is a different ball game altogether), so it came as a bit of a surprise that I really liked this book. It’s like a novel-length solution with pretty solid mathematical proof (I wouldn’t know, I just took Watney’s word for it that his calculations were right, haha) for the problem of how anyone can survive on Mars. Okay, Mark Watney’s obviously not anyone, as he’s a botanist and mechanical engineer on top of being a trained astronaut. He’s way ahead of majority of Earth’s population in terms of chances of survival, but you know what I mean. There is a lot of technical stuff thrown around, from the way the NASA machines work to how they get messed up (which happens several times in the book – who knew life on Mars was hard?!?). It sounds boring and cerebral, but somehow I, the person who never waxed poetic about technical subjects in college, enjoyed it. I think it really says something about a character’s likability if you’re willing to read through how oxygenators and water reclaimers work just to see if he survives at the end. It really helped that Watney is a very good-natured, funny, optimistic kind of guy, because I really wasn’t under the impression that I’d laugh at all while reading this. I totally get how his journal style sometimes can make people feel like he isn’t taking anything seriously, but I liked how it wasn’t all bleak and serious like most sci-fi books are. Maybe it’s because Watney’s log entries exhibit my type of humor, but it definitely made reading the technical parts easier.

TL;DR lots of technobabble but hero’s pretty cool so I really liked it.

I have no idea how this will be translated to the big screen, but I’m ready to see it!

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
Hardcover, 369 pages
Author: Andy Weir
Publisher: Crown
Published: September 23, 2012
Language: English
Genre: Science Fiction

{Book Review} The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes.

Until now.

As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. ‘I nearly missed you, Doctor August,’ she says. ‘I need to send a message.’

This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.*

It wasn’t easy for me to read this. Harry, the protagonist, would often tell tales of his travels in his various lives, and insert historical happenings here and there that I found tedious to read. Just when something exciting was happening, the next chapter would be a flashback to something he experienced while in Argentina or wherever, and this happened often enough that I had to pretty much force myself to just continue reading. To put matters in perspective, I took almost three and a half weeks to read the first half, and just a little under three days to finish the rest. I figured that perhaps it was hard for me to read about the 20th century because I wasn’t used to it, seeing as the historical fiction I usually read was around 18th-19th, and the 20th felt too recent and depressing with all its wars. Nevertheless, I think I would have appreciated that historical aspect more if the pacing wasn’t too slow for my liking. I’m really glad I stuck with the story though, because in retrospect, the idea of the kalachakra/ouroboran, people that ‘resurrect’ after death in the same time and place they were born, and the various implications of what their actions can do in the ripples of time and how they get killed turned out to be very interesting. Without revealing things too much, both hero and villain were kalachakra, so you can just imagine them battling with all their wits throughout whole lifetimes, only to resume it when they are born again and start over from wherever and whenever they came from. A kalachakra’s date and place of birth, along with his/her parents, are vital information because this is the only way they can be completely killed, so you can just imagine the lengths each side will go through to find out each other’s origins first. I wasn’t a big fan of all the flashbacks, but as you can see, I found the main story line exciting, and by the time it was clear who the villain was (you’ll only find out around the second half of the book – told ya it took too long to get things going here), I couldn’t get myself to stop reading anymore. In the end, I decided that the entertainment I got from the main story outweighed my dissatisfaction with how my relationship with this book began, hence the stars.

This book is part historical, part sci-fi, part travelogue/biography, so if you have an interest in these things, read this by all means! It’ll be worth it in the end.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 3.5/5
Hardcover, 432 pages
Author: Claire North
Publisher: Redhook
Published: January 1, 2014
Language: English
Genre: Science Fiction, Historical

{Book Review} Hunted by Cheryl Rainfield

 Hunted

“Caitlyn is a telepath in a world where having any Paranormal power is illegal. Caitlyn is on the run from government troopers, who can enslave, torture, or even kill her, or make her hunt other Paranormals. When Caitlyn settles down in a city, she falls for Alex, a Normal (someone without Paranormal powers), which is dangerous because he can turn her in. And she discovers renegade Paranormals who want to destroy all Normals. Caitlyn must decide whether she’s going to stay in hiding to protect herself, or take a stand to save the world.”*

I really loved this book. It begins normally – as normal as a Paranormal can be, anyway – but towards the middle I just got sucked into the story, which I really love. The conflict feels so real, and I can imagine all the events playing out in my mind, bringing out unique images as I try to visualize Caitlyn’s powers. I really feel bad that I can’t articulate everything I feel for this book. I didn’t expect much, to be honest – I hardly knew what to expect. I gathered that it’s sci-fi and young adult, but those genres are so broad and cover a lot of premises that I couldn’t let myself imagine what it’s going to really be like, despite the blurbs from Goodreads and NetGalley. Reading Hunted reminded me so much of the X-Men, who were shunned for having powers, despite being the logical next stage in the evolutionary process and could have done a lot to, you know, make the world a better place if you are actually nice to them. This association made me appreciate this work more, and led me to think about a lot of things. It’s another of the reasons why I really liked this book.

I guess the thing that really made me like Hunted was how this could be reflected in society today, in so many ways. (Okay, let me warn you. This is the part where I get all analytical and try to connect everything with life. You have been warned.) Paras (short for Paranormals) are treated like pariahs because they have powers, but most of all, because they are different. Because they are not normal. Cycles all throughout history have shown humanity doing this over and over again. Look at the Holocaust. The burning of people just because they were black. The suicides committed by teenagers who are queer because of how intense the bullyings are. I am not a Jew, nor am I black, nor am I gay, but reading how most of the Normals treated the Paras just because of how different they are really made an impact on me. For all we know, there are people being tortured somewhere in the world just for being different from the rest. It’s entirely plausible. The author writes about these issues in the subliminal level, but towards the book there are hotlines that offer help for victims of bullying that are really helpful. It enhances the message she hopes to send to people through the novel, which is a brilliant idea.

Hunted was amazing. Whew. And for a book to make me think that much, I salute you, Cheryl Rainfield!

PS This post is part of the Hunted virtual book tour by JKS Communications. For a list of other blogs participating, click here.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 5/5
Hardcover, 370 pages
Author: Cheryl Rainfield
Publisher: WestSide Books
Published: December 15, 2011
Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Young Adult