Review: The Martian

The Martian

The Martian
By Andy Weir
(Crown, Hardcover, 9780804139021, February 2014, 384pp.)

The Short of It:

After being left for dead, an astronaut battles failed equipment and a dwindling food supply in what appears to be a hopeless situation.

The Rest of It:

This is a novel with a super simple premise and yet, there is so much to ponder. Mark Watney is like the MacGyver of space. His area of specialty is botany and mechanical engineering, which helps with the food situation as he’s able to cultivate potatoes out of basically, very little. Getting the soil just right and taking into account the limited water and oxygen supply, it’s a challenge to say the least. As a reader, you can’t help but marvel at his resourcefulness.

His crew left him behind because of a fatal tear to his suit during a rather severe windstorm, but when he patches himself up and somehow figures out a way to communicate with NASA, his crew, residing offsite over 400 days away, learn of his existence. As you can imagine, this has all sorts of consequences to their original mission. One, leaving a crew mate behind was never what they had planned to do and the regret over the decision weighs heavily with them. Two, they quickly decide, with the help of NASA that they must go back for Watney. This forces NASA  to come up with a way to extend his lifespan and therefore increase his chances for survival.

While all of this is going on, Watney has to figure out ways to keep himself busy. Days and nights are spent watching TV shows from the past (yes, he has access to shows) or listening to the Disco music collection left behind by another crew member. He also spends hours figuring out how to turn vapor into drinkable water and well, blowing himself up. A chemist, he is not.

There is a lot of humor contained between these pages but there is also a serious amount of math. Not a problem if you can read over it and not feel the need to work stuff out in your head. But for much of the book, especially the first 60 pages or so, I found myself double-checking the numbers to see if the numbers matched up. At one point, I got on Facebook and asked other readers if the entire book was that way. Thankfully, no but you should be aware of it in case you are a math hater and cannot deal with numbers.

I love science and there is just something magical about space exploration and Watney is an interesting character. He’s vulnerable, yet tough. Positive, yet realistic. As a reader, you will find yourself totally absorbed by the rescue mission itself. Can he endure a year of waiting? Will the equipment hold up? Will there be enough food? Water? Will he freeze to death? These are the questions that you will ask yourself over and over again because with each step forward, there is one step back and it’s heartbreaking to see that forward/back thing when it happens.

It’s a good book to get lost in. I mean, you really feel as if you are out there stranded with Watney and that’s saying a lot. Last I read, Ridley Scott was in negotiations to direct Matt Damon in the movie version. I love Scott and Damon. That is a winning combination to me but how will it differ from Gravity? The isolation and the fight to survive and return home won’t be new. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Have you read The Martian? Will you see the movie?

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project
The Rosie Project
By Graeme Simsion
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781476729084, October 2013, 304pp.)

The Short of It:

I don’t read love stories too often but this one is a gem! Sheldon Cooper fans will be able to relate to this one.

The Rest of It:

Don Tillman, a professor of genetics, is trying to find a wife. Except, how does one do that when your entire life is surrounded by science and scientific evidence? You create a survey of course! Don’s survey is to rule out incompatible mates. His friends Gene and Claudia are about the only two people who understand him, and they assist him in finding the perfect mate. Not an easy task when your expectations are so high.

If you happen to be a fan of The Big Bang Theory, you’ll immediately fall in love with this book. Why? Because Don is just like Sheldon Cooper. His mannerisms and his lack of social skills make Don endearing and a major pain in the butt, but sort of charming at the same time.

While trying to find the perfect wife, he meets Rosie. She is a far cry from what he is looking for, but helping her find her real father is something he can do with his eyes closed. So, the two pair up to find her real dad.

What a sweet story! Don is one of those guys that is adorable and a pain in the ass at the same time. So much of what he does is totally reasonable if you pick it apart, but to the average person, he’s uptight, too rigid and bordering on OCD. But did I mention that he’s charming? I wanted to shrink him down and carry him around in my pocket. No lie.

Plus, Rosie is pretty cool too. She’s more complex than you think and the interactions between the two of them are GOLDEN. I mean, there really is some good stuff here. This is an honest, witty, funny and sometimes hysterical take on finding that perfect someone.

I read it on one sitting and was so sad to turn that last page. I heard that a sequel is in the works and it’s already been optioned for film. Many have been hearing about the book but not many have been picking it up. Please do! It’s such a gem that I may have to break down and buy my own copy.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Curiosity

The Curiosity

The Curiosity
By Stephen Kiernan
(William Morrow & Company, Hardcover, 9780062221063, July 2013, 448pp.)

The Short of It:

Aptly titled, yet not compelling enough to hold my interest all the way through.

The Rest of It:

This one started off strong. Strong enough for me to gush about it on Facebook but after a very strong beginning, it quickly lost its lost steam.

Dr. Kate Philo and her team of scientists head to the Arctic in search of hard ice. Their research involves the reanimation of single-cell organisms housed within the ice and although they have been successful reanimating small organisms, such as shrimp, her team’s goal is to find something larger. Perhaps a seal, but what they find is much larger. Inside the ice, they find a man from 1906. Philo’s team, along with their funding partner Erastus Carthage begin the delicate process of bringing the man back to life in what is quickly called the Lazarus Project.

The idea has been done before.  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein comes to mind, and unfortunately so does the horrible 90’s movie, Encino Man. The Curiosity appears to be a mix of the two in feel. The first half asks some tough questions and forces you consider the moral and ethical dilemmas of reanimation in general. The second half, turns sappy when Dr. Philo becomes emotionally attached to her subject. Plus, Jeremiah Rice, the subject of their research is never fully fleshed out as a character. It was hard to feel anything for him although I do admit to feeling sadness over him not being able to return to his family.

The story is told in alternating chapters and for the most part, this worked for me. The chapters that I found to be the most authentic, were that of Daniel Dixon, the reporter hired to cover the event. His sarcasm and skepticism were way over the top. Given the media’s role in something like this, his take seemed to be the most plausible and I found him to be quite funny even though his chauvinistic remarks rubbed me the wrong way more than once.

Although the story raises a lot of question and would probably make for a good book discussion, the execution left something to be desired. The romantic story line seemed thrown in, without consideration to the story itself. And although I appreciated that the story wasn’t ALL science, a little more, given the nature of the story would have made sense. The lack of detail in that area leads me to believe that very little research, if any, took place.

From its strong beginning, I had hoped to like this one more but it just didn’t work for me. I lost interest half way through when I realized where the story was going and that’s never a good a sign.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Flight Behavior

Flight Behavior

Flight Behavior
By Barbara Kingsolver
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780062124265, November 2012, 448pp.

The Short of It:

Beautifully rendered but tragic in many ways.

The Rest of It:

Dellarobia Turnbow is the mother of two, poor as can be and married to a husband who still answers to his parents. Living on a farm with a roof over your head and food on the table sounded a lot more “settled” when they were young, pregnant and without other prospects.

Now, a decade later, Dellarobia finds herself running up a mountain to have a tryst with a younger man. On her climb up, she is reminded of her place when her secondhand boots (the nicest she has ever owned) begin to pinch. Distracted momentarily by the boots, she doesn’t realize what lies before her until she looks up and sees it. Before her is a forest filled with fire. Red and orange everywhere, but no smoke. Terrified, she flees down the mountain taking it as a sign from the heavens and returns to the life she’s been given not realizing at first the implications of what remains on that mountain.

I went into this one with absolutely no idea what it was about. Have you ever done that? I’ve read many of Kingsolver’s books and although I can’t say I’ve loved all of them, I think about them often. That is the case with Flight Behavior. From the very beginning, I wasn’t sure about Dellarobia. She’s quick-witted, sharp with her tongue but essentially a good mother. As a family of four, living in a house that technically belongs to her in-laws, she struggles to make do on the farm. However, she’s really hard to like. She’s resentful of the life she has and tired of struggling financially so when she hears that the farm is in worse shape than she originally thought, all she can do is be bitter about it.

As the story unfolds and the reader is clued in on what is actually up there on the mountain, Dellarobia is given a new sense of purpose and becomes this “other” self who for me, was more likable. I found this version of her easier to relate to and I began to see her life from her point of view. Suddenly, I understood her resentment. This made the middle of the book very compelling.

But then, it all went to hell.

Not really, but sort of.

I really, really do not like it when an author shoves something down your throat and with this one, I felt as if the issue of global warming was being pounded into my head. Repeatedly. It became clear to me that the novel was really a vehicle for delivering a message she feels very passionate about.

Then, to add the icing to the cake, Dellarobia did something that totally pissed me off. Was it in character for her to have done it? Absolutely, but I was hoping she’d go a different route and how she chooses to share her decision upset me so much, that I had to mention it on Facebook. I felt as if someone punched me in the gut and I immediately disliked her again.

What I can say is this, this was a very unique read for me. My feelings were all over the place while reading this book and I was pulled in by the writing, which is often beautiful and sometimes haunting. I just wish the message had been a bit more subtle so that I could come to my own conclusion on the issue.

This would make a great book club pick because I bet readers would be equally divided over it. Some will love it, and others will find fault with much of it, but in the end appreciate the writing which is the camp I landed in. It’s passionately written, and for that I give the author credit but it’s tragic too. Tragic in that lives are changed forever and global warming is no longer something we read about.

Would I recommend it? Yes, for the discussion aspect, but know going in that there is an intentional message being sent here.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 515 other followers