The Martian by Andy Weir

the-martian-by-Andy-WeirThe Martian by Andy Weir
Narrated by R.C. Bray
Series: None
Genre: Science Fiction
Setting: Mars, Space between Earth and Mars & Earth
Published by Crown, 2014
Audible book, purchased
314 pages
10 hours, 53 minutessci-fi-month-2015
Grade: A
Narrator grade: A
Synopsis: 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?

Initial impressions

  • Very exciting! Well written and engaging. It’s one of my favorite books of the year.

Cheers

  • Such a good story. There’s excitement, suspense and heroism.
  • So many people have weighed in about this book and have written reviews I don’t think I have anything new to say. However, I want to talk about how much I liked the book.
  • Mark Watney keeps a journal which is what an astronaut and scientist would do. He wants to leave a record behind to let others know what he did in case he doesn’t survive. He’s often profane and irreverent and his personality comes through. At one point when he thinks he might survive after-all he thinks he should be more careful about what he writes!
  • The narrator is excellent. Mr. Bray is very matter-of-fact which I think is the Mark would act.
  • I haven’t seen the movie, but the entire book I could picture Matt Damon in this role as I listened to the narration!
  • I’m impressed by Mark’s ingenuity. I know astronauts are chosen and trained as problem-solvers and that’s illustrated in this book. It would be easy to give up and he never did.
  • He figures out how long his food will last, how many calories he needs plus oxygen and water needs and looks at those stats without flinching. He looks at risks and decides what he can manage to do. Even though he is clear-sighted he still makes mistakes.
  • The book reads like a nonfiction book. I’ve heard that the solutions to problems that Mark Watney comes up with are things that would work. That’s amazing!
  • I like the science in this book though I’m not a scientist and don’t understand all the science, but I think Mr. Weir does a good job mixing the science with the personalities of characters and humanity of the book.
  • I like all the problem-solving in the book–plus the obsession by news organizations and the public when they find out Mark is alive. That seems very realistic. I found myself thinking about the millions of dollars spent plus risking the lives of other people to save one person, but that also seems like something we would do, if possible.
  • I thought it was also realistic that not everyone at NASA is on-board with decisions made. And many of the things Mark does are very risky and sometimes don’t go as planned.
  • I think listening to this story made it more realistic and enjoyable. For me this is the perfect audiobook.

Jeers

  • None

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I’m looking forward to more books in the future by Andy Weir.
  • I think I especially loved this book, because one of my daughters wanted to be an astronaut and wanted to go to Mars. She was even on a team of kids in third grade who won a competition to make a space suit to go to Mars. They made the spacesuit and created a video to show and explain it They won all the local and regional contests as well as the national contest. The prize was a trip to Space Camp in Alabama. (She isn’t an astronaut today, but she is a plant pathologist–so if she went to Mars she’d be able to diagnose plant diseases there!)

Awards

  • Seiun Award for Best Novel (2015)
  • John W. Campbell Memorial Award Nominee for Best Novel (2015)
  • ALA Alex Award (2015)
  • Japanese Booksellers Award Nominee for Translated Fiction (2015)
  • Green Mountain Book Award Nominee (2016)

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Andy Weir was first hired as a programmer for a national laboratory at age fifteen and has been working as a software engineer ever since. He is also a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. The Martian is his first novel.

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Audiobook Challenge–hosted by Hot Listens and The Book Nympho blogs
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog
  • TBR Pile Challenge–hosted by the Bookish blog
  • Sci-Fi Month–hosted by Rinn @ Rinn Reads and Lisa @ Over the Effing Rainbow

Review: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

 

leviathan-wakesLeviathan Wakes
by James S. A. Corey
Series: Expanse #1
Genre: Science Fiction Space Opera
Published by Orbit, 2011
E-book, Purchased
561 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, “The Scopuli,” they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to “The Scopuli” and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

Seven years in Earth’s navy, five years working in space with civilians, and he’d never gotten used to the long, thin, improbable bones of Belters. A childhood spent in gravity shaped the way he saw things forever.

and

Havelock shook his head again, this time in mild disbelief. If he’d been a Belter, he’d have made the gesture with his hands, so you could see it when he had an environment suit on. Another of the hundred small ways someone who hadn’t grown up on the Belt betrayed himself.

Cheers

  • The story is told in alternating chapters by Miller and Holden. This gives interesting points of view. At the beginning of the book they don’t know each other and are in different locations. Later on they meet. Miller is a Belter and Holden is from Earth. Their viewpoints are fundamentally different. It’s helpful to understanding this world and what’s happening to see the different points of view.
  • Humans have traveled throughout the solar system, but not discovered how to leave it.
  • An exciting space opera–just the kind of science fiction I like. Even though the book is almost 600 pages (and I was on vacation with a large family group while I read the end of the book), I read it quickly.
  • I like the way the author imagines and describes the way the solar system develops–both the habitats humans develop and the way humans change based on where they live in the solar system.
  • Ceres–where Miller lives–with the multitude of people, businesses, living quarters, foods, the need for shipped-in water is vividly described. I feel like I can see it.
  • Great world building.
  • I like the political dynamics in the book–the inner planets v. the Belters; Earth v. Mars, corporations v. everyone else and so on.
  • The differences which have developed between all the people has created misunderstandings and prejudices on both sides. I think that’s realistic.
  • Holden is young, idealistic and thinks people are basically good; Miller is the cynical policeman who’s seen it all. I relate better to Miller than Holden. Does that say something about me?!!

Jeers

  • Toward the end of the book I got irritated with Holden when he never seems to learn. In some ways that’s nice–he’s idealistic–in other ways, I thought he was stupid and willfully blind!

And a few thoughts . . .

  • This is the first book I’ve read by James S. A. Corey and I really enjoyed it.
  • James S. A. Corey is the pseudonym of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.
  • My kindle edition also has a full copy of The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham. This is the first book of the Dragon and the Coin series. The fourth book in that series–The Widow’s House–just came out in August 2014.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

 

Review: Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

Earth Girl
Earth Girl

 

Earth Girl
by Janet Edwards
Series: Earth Girl, Book 1
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Published by Harper Voyager, 2012
E-book, Purchased
358 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: A sensational YA science fiction debut from an exciting new British author. Jarra is stuck on Earth while the rest of humanity portals around the universe. But can she prove to the norms that she’s more than just an Earth Girl?

2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an ‘ape’, a ‘throwback’, but this is one ape girl who won’t give in.

Jarra invents a fake background for herself – as a normal child of Military parents – and joins a class of norms that is on Earth to excavate the ruins of the old cities. When an ancient skyscraper collapses, burying another research team, Jarra’s role in their rescue puts her in the spotlight. No hiding at back of class now. To make life more complicated, she finds herself falling in love with one of her classmates – a norm from another planet. Somehow, she has to keep the deception going.

The twentieth century is the one they summarize as war, war and bore.

and

This wasn’t just about what the norms thought of apes, it was also about how I thought about myself, and . . .

Cheers

  • The book takes place on the Earth over 700 years in the future. I can’t think of any science fiction books I’ve read with a setting that far in the future.
  • Janet Edwards creates such an interesting world. This is a great debut book!
  • The book deals with discrimination. Humans who’ve left Earth call those left on Earth “Handicapped” if they’re polite; if not, they’re called “Apes.” They’re often considered sub-human by off-worlders. Earthlings use “Norms” (polite) or “Exos” (impolite) for the people who leave Earth.
  • Jarra grows and changes throughout the book. She begins with a lot of anger toward her real parents and off-world people. What happens to her in the course of the book changes her world view.
  • The concept of an underpopulated Earth is interesting. Most everyone who could leave Earth leaves during “Exodus” and the cities fall into disrepair. Jarra loves pre-history–the history before most everyone left Earth. Much of the book takes place on an archaeology dig in New York City.
  • The archaeology in this book is fascinating. The author does a good job describing the dangers as well as Jarra’s obsession with the history of the cities and mankind.
  • Jarra is funny and irreverent. She’s serious about pre-history and the dig sites. She’s outwardly very self-confident, but inwardly often unsure of herself. She manages to pass herself off as a normal child of military parents so well even fools her professor.
  • Lots of action! I read the book quickly since so much is going on.
  • The class of norms Jarra joins is full of interesting students. I enjoy learning about them and the sectors of Space inhabited by humans. Each sector–Alpha, Beta, Delta, Epsilon, Gamma, Kappa–has developed with different customs.

Jeers

  • I don’t understand the one in a thousand with an immune system that can’t survive anywhere except Earth. However, I’m willing to take this on faith and not worry too much since I like the book so much.

Thoughts

  • I first heard about Earth Girl from a review of the second book (Earth Star) at Anya’s blog On Starships & Dragon Wings. It’s one of the best I’ve read all year! I’ve already read the second book–Earth Star–and want the third book now. The concluding book in the trilogy Earth Flight  comes out in August 2014.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

I’m participating in the following reading challenges for this book:

  • The 2014 New Author Reading Challenge hosted at the Literary Escapism blog.
  • The Book Bingo Challenge.

Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi

redshirtsRed Shirts
by John Scalzi
Series: None
Genre: Science Fiction, space opera
Published by Tor, 2012
E-book, Purchased
318 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

“But define ‘completely ridiculous shit,'” Duvall said. “Does space travel count? Contact with alien races? Does quantum physics count? Because I don’t understand that crap at all. As far as I’m concerned, quantum physics could have been written by a hack.”

and

“Tell me, Maia: Have you ever met someone who you know so completely, so exactly and so perfectly that it’s like the two of you share the same body, thoughts and desires? And had that feeling compounded by the knowledge that how you feel about them is exactly how they feel about you, right down to the very last atom of your being? Have you?”

“Not really,” Duvall said.

“I pity you,” he said…

What works for me:

  • This was a fun book to read.
  • Very entertaining.
  • Such a funny premise (not for the characters, of course, who keep getting killed off).
  • Redshirts takes the standard science fiction story about soldiers aboard a spaceship and turns it into a farce. Very entertaining.
  • Questions about reality and time travel. What’s real and what isn’t. Made my head hurt how that could work!

What doesn’t work:

  • It all works for me.

My thoughts:

Redshirts won the 2013 Hugo Award for best novel. I really enjoyed reading this and it was a very fast read. It’s the second book by John Scalzi I’ve read (Old Man’s War was first) and he is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.