Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Martian

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When a freak dust storm scrubs the Ares 3 mission and Mark Watney is left for dead, he finds himself alone on Mars. Can he survive alone on an alien world until NASA is able to save him as his equipment breaks down and his supplies dwindle?

I have an aversion to any book that is over-hyped. Most of them wind up being crap and, besides, I already have more than enough things to read. Sometimes, you just have to stop being a stubborn asshole and let yourself get swept up in the hype of a critical darling.

The Martian is a hard science fiction novel about one man being stranded on Mars and trying not to die. It features such riveting activities as growing potatoes using your own feces as part of the soil and repair work on multiple pieces of equipment.

What keeps The Martian from becoming a yawn-fest is the way it is told by Mark Watney in a series of journal entries. Mark is a funny guy, serving up such gems as "My asshole is doing as much to keep me alive as my brain." He's also a Martian McGyver, fixing and re-purposing a lot of his equipment, including the Pathfinder probe, which he drove across the Martian surface in a rover to find.

The humor keeps the story going even during the dull times. Thankfully, Mark is funny without being obnoxious about it and Weir has the chops to know when the tone needs to be more serious. He also has the timing to get the most of his one-liners.

Once NASA finds out Watney is alive, they scramble to figure out a way to get him back as he battles problems like running out of air, too much water, and his growing dislike of potatoes and 1970's television. There were some pretty tense moments, especially near the end. This book has "blockbuster" written all over it when it inevitably becomes a movie.

I blazed thought this in three sittings and would have been perfectly willing to read about more of Mark's trials and tribulations, as well as his comrades on the Hermes on their long journey back to Earth. Andy Weir has hit a home run with The Martian. I'll be anxious to see what else he can do. 4 out of 5 stars.

View all my reviews

Cat's Cradle

Cat's CradleCat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When he embarks on a project to write a book about the creators of the atomic bomb, Jonah has no idea what he's going to unearth: Dr Felix Hoenikker and Ice-Nine, a substance that will instantly freeze any water it comes into contact with into more Ice-Nine, a substance capable of destroying all life on earth. Can Jonah find the missing Hoenikker children and secure their chips of Ice-Nine to safeguard the world?

Here we are, my second experience with Kurt Vonnegut and one of his Big Important Books. This time, he takes on science, religion, politics, and man's ability to destroy himself.

I didn't enjoy Cat's Cradle as much as Slaughterhouse-Five but they probably shouldn't be compared since they aren't the same kind of book. Slaughterhouse is experimental and timey-wimey and Cat's Cradle is much more straight-forward and easy to digest.

Jonah's project leads him to Felix Hoenikker and his three odd children, and eventually, to San Lorenzo and Bokononism, a new religion. Having been through 12 years of parochial school and a couple decades of weekly doses of church, fiction with a religious bend doesn't need much effort to hook me so I was engaged right away. Bokononism is Vonnegut's way of showing how full of shit most religions are, since Bokonon is pretty open about his religion being a pack of lies.

I don't have much else to say about Cat's Cradle. It was a piece of funny yet thought-provoking satire about science, religion, and mankind destroying itself. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews