My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Mark Watney has a problem. Not a small problem like running out of clean socks or a medium problem like your subordinate trying to maneuver for your position at work. An actual problem. A colossal problem. A marooned on Mars because your crew mates thought you died during the emergency sandstorm evacuation problem. Mark Watney is now The Martian.
How do you survive on thirty day’s worth of supplies until the next mission arrives in four years? How do you grow food in dead Martian soil? How do you separate hydrogen from rocket fuel in an oxygen-rich environment so you can make water without blowing yourself up? How can you let someone, anyone, know you are even alive and need help getting to that next mission’s landing site when all of your communications equipment is destroyed? Just a few problems of the variety that can kill you at any given moment.
First-time author Andy Weir thinks like a scientist (he’s an engineer and son of a particle physicist, both of which absolutely show) but writes Mark like he’s your favorite, snarkily enthusiastic friend (Mark’s first words on being reminded to keep his communications clean because they are now being read around the entire globe? “Boobs”).
The entire book is problem-solving one catastrophe after another, and the science is both fascinating and apparently accurate based on the amount of vetting done by massive numbers of online fans who are not me but who seem to have lots of available time. If you have one of those brains that constantly formulates the logical scenario within any given parameters, you will adore this book.
In addition to the general cheeriness that Andy gives his protagonist and the intensity of the writing in general, Andy Weir manages to pull off one of the hardest parts of writing fiction in an utterly satisfying way: the ending. Thank you, Mr. Weir, for writing one of the best closing passages I’ve ever read in fiction.
The Martian began life as a free serial posted on Andy Weir’s blog, grew into a $.99 ebook due to reader demand, debuted at #12 on the NYT Best Seller list after Crown Publishing picked it up, and is now set for theatrical release in October 2015 with Ridley Scott directing and Matt Damon starring. If you are remotely interested in science, sci-fi, space, Mars, or survival stories, you will love this book.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Picking up some fairy tales, huh?” said my friend Eli, the proprietor of my favorite bookstore, as I sidled up to the cash register.
“Yeah, I’m taking the kids camping, and they aren’t quite old enough to read Poe to at the campfire. Proper fairy tales seem about right though, but I’m looking for the real ones — translations, you know. None of that sanitized Disney stuff. You think either of these books will work?” At that point my six kids were ages twelve and under.
Eli grinned at me and checked the two books in my hands. “You don’t want those. Come here; I’ll show you the book you want.”
That was how I came to own this version of the Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. Eli was right; it is the version I wanted. These tales are so much more entertaining and rich than the happily ever after renditions that seem ubiquitous in children’s picture books and popular films. The first night camping I read several to the kids and to my in-laws who had come with us. The kids, Uncles, aunties – all loved it (not so sure Grandma appreciated it), and now the kids insist that I drag it out again every time we camp and even the adults ask me if I’m bringing it along.
The kids’ favorites are A Tale About the Boy Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was, Rumpelstiltskin, and How Some Children Played at Slaughtering. That last one slightly horrifies me, actually, but the kids think it’s hilarious. I append my own dictum, “NEVER DO THAT because I’ll cry forever,” to the end, which seems to amuse them even more as they roll their eyes and immediately request another story.
These stories will not appeal to everyone. If you worry a lot about kidnappers, trampolines with no nets on them, people who ask too many questions, or your children getting the idea that cutting off their toes to fit into a fancy shoe to impress a prince is a great plan, you will probably hate these. Why do I like them? They are seedlings of imagination that plant in your brain and grow into all sorts of wonderful, bizarre things. They inhale the wild, weird beauty of this world and exhale wonder. They tell of a world that never was yet feels just as familiar as our own.