Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: The Martian

As I write this review, I'm trying to temper my enthusiasm. I need to surrender and just start with a command:

Read The Martian. Go buy it now and start reading it. When you have to take a break from time to time, and you may, pop back here and read this review.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, here's my review: I loved this book. I would rank it as one of the best books I've read this year.

The buzz was pretty high from readers and reviewers, and I heard there was a movie in the works starring Matt Damon. When Amazon advertised the book for a ridiculously low price, I downloaded it to encourage myself to read it. There it lingered.

My friend Melanie and her son listened to it on a recent road trip, and her description intrigued me:
Remember that scene in Apollo 13 when the engineers needed to build a filter out of items than astronauts could find on the space ship? That's what this book is like, only even better.
My dad was one of those engineers who helped the Apollo 13 crew, and I always admired his ability to problem-solve and learn how to do and build anything. I knew I had to read the book.

I am so glad I did. I learned how to use my Kindle highlights just so I could re-read the good parts and highlight them for future enjoyment. There were plenty: not only was Mark Watney's personal records entertaining and honest, but his sense of humor was relatable and geeky. As much as I liked Mark, I admired him for his response to JPL on Sol 98 (2), when he was instructed to "watch his language."

The story was enjoyable but intense: Mark lived in a hostile environment where anything could happen to him. He could be injured or die, and I wasn't sure if I could trust Andy Weir to write a story with a "happy ending," whatever that might be (and as the story progressed, that was harder to define). Also, the book was very technical and detailed, which was exhausting to read. Every once in a while, I had to set the book down for the day. (Those of you who are reading this review during such a break: Am I right?) Have faith in the author: he loves his characters as much as you do, and he remains true to them throughout the book.

Weir created many different characters who acted and sounded very different from each other. He also changed narration style from time to time, which was very jarring the first time it happened. However, the changes made perfect sense and strengthened the story.

Often, if I enjoy a book enough, I am loathe to see the movie — but for Matt Damon and The Martian, I'm willing to overcome that reservation. Personally, I recommend readers finish the book before watching the movie, in case any of the magic of Mark's intelligence is glossed over for a Hollywood tale. (Anyone who does the reverse, let us know how you liked that order.)

One last thought: I hope this book made you think about Mother Earth, about how we need to protect her because we can't live without her. 

Is anyone else in the Mark Watney Fan Club with me, besides Weir? Let me know!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

American Independence: Too Late to Apologize

In honor of the brave men and women who helped the United States of America become a reality, I offer a fresh look at the acts of sedition required for success — expressed in song.

Thanks to Soomo for such a revolutionary take on music and history. (Check out the video on women's suffrage: it will make you gaga.)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Summer Reading List: How's It Going?

Fellow readers, are you spending enough time with your books this summer? I suspect I am falling behind, but I tend to do that when I have a lot of books going at once.

Below is my "completed" list  from Memorial Day weekend and my nightstand list.

 As you'll notice, a few books on each list were not on my original summer read  list, but I'm flexible in that way. There are a couple of shorter pieces, but as I noted before, it all balances out.
  1. Start Late, Finish Rich
  2. Picturing Grace
  3. Divergent
  4. The Three Monarchs
  5. Moriarty
  6. Station Eleven
  7. Good Omens
Here are the books currently on my nightstand:

  1. The Light Between Oceans
  2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
  3. Stepmonster
  4. Steve Jobs
  5. The Descent
  6. A God in Ruins
  7. Second Life 
  8. The Martian
  9. Man Seeks God: My Flirtation with the Divine 
  10. Alexander Hamilton
I have bookmarks in five of those books, so I may not finish them all tomorrow, but I'll have a cascade as I reach the end of some really, really good books.

Simultaneous reading doesn't always indicate boredom or slow books. Sometimes, like with The Martian, I can't take the relentless pace of excitement and revelation. 

(For the record, read The Martian this summer. You will be glad you did.)

How has your reading progressed? Are you keeping to your list, or are you veering off when something else good comes along?