The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir

I have my (amazing) boyfriend to thank for the introduction to The Martian by Andy Weir. The manner in which he sucked me into the book was somewhat cruel, however, as he played the first minute of the audio book format he had downloaded but then left me hanging. Who does that? He knew that there was no way I could not be sucked into a book where “I’m pretty much f**cked” is the opening sentence.

Candid profanity and boyfriend cruelty aside, this story was immensely enjoyable start to finish. The author, Andy Weir, introduces scientific jargon and methodology that was believable* and understandable to laymen (pirate-ninja may be my new unit of measurement for anything outlandish and immeasurable!) while also portraying the main character Mark Watney as behaving and speaking in manner that I would expect from someone in this day and age. The dialogues between Mark and NASA personnel later on in the book are a perfect example of this. The excerpt below occurs when NASA comments on Mark’s planned cut he has to make to the top of one of the rover vehicles by drilling many, many small holes:

[11:49] JPL (aka NASA): What we can see of your planned cut looks good. We’re assuming the other side is identical. You’re cleared to start drilling.

    [12:07] Watney: That’s what she said.

[12:25] JPL: Seriously, Mark? Seriously?

There is also a “giggle out loud” moment where Mark laments the effects avoiding a windstorm has caused to his attempt to travel to a potential rescue site 3,200 km away. To outrun the storm and keep his solar panels recharging as efficiently as possible,  he ends up having to travel due south (vs the desired direct south-west route) and since  “Pythagoras is a dick”   makes 90km progress in one sol (Martian day) but only 37 km closer to his final destination. Thanks, mathematics.

This novel is wonderful example of human ingenuity in life and death situations but also highlights the sacrifices one human being would make for another. The crew that had been part of the mission with Mark in the beginning, and who safely get off the planet, decide to sacrifice years of their lives by changing course en route for Earth to return to Mars on a rescue mission (no warp speed travel in this book!) that could possibly cost them everything.

I would have liked for the ending (spoiler alert!) to be Mark and the rest of the crew’s triumphant return to Earth amid much fanfare, balloons, and confetti. The man survived on Mars for goodness sake! Doesn’t that deserve an epilogue at the least?

My only other disappointment was that the “green-skinned yet beautiful Queen of Mars” was not a significant plot twist but a glib joke mention in only one place. I say disappointment because same said- amazing boyfriend that introduced me to the book, led me to think this was going to be a character of interest. I was let-down a bit to think this novel might head down the  all to stereotypical Mars sci-fi path when it held such promise but then I was disappointment in myself for being gullible after I read the one mention of the Queen in the book. Probably a good thing my boyfriend and I don’t keep a gullibility score card…

All I can say at this point is if you are sci-fi geek, science geek or just everyday nerdy, read this book. Get the pure, untainted plot before the movie is released in October of this year and we see if once again Hollywood take a perfectly good story and “makes it better” to the point of being barely recognizable and full of unnecessary crap…pointing to you Peter Jackson and your Hobbit movie trilogy!

Happy Reading!

* Post Note- I say this book has scientific jargon and methodology that is believable, not that it is scientifically proven or accounts for every other know nuance of information we have on Mars, the sciences and engineering. The author wrote an enjoyable story with a nod to the sciences, not a scientific manual. Fair warning if you want all the facts validated and published in some scientific article before you can enjoy the story.

“Defeated” books and The 100 page rule

As my excitement to re-enter the blogging world increases, my mind has been whirling with books I want to review-some that I have recently finished and others that are on my (long) “to-read” list/stack. But one topic that keeps popping up is an idea to track all the books that have “defeated” me. What do I mean by defeated? Well, I apply this term to those special books that I enter into with a determined mindset to make it through to the very last page but, for one reason or another, just cannot continue to force myself to finish. Do we all have this category of books or am I just special? Even now, a few such books, which should have a “I defeated the reader” bookmark inserted at the last endpoint, stare at me with mocking spines from various locations on my bookshelf. I console myself that if I were to list every book I have read vs. those that I failed to finish, that the numbers would be heavily slanted towards the former category. Ha! Take that Wuthering Heights!!

So, for prosperity (sounds much more important then saying “for no reason at all”), I have created a page where I will list my personal “Defeated” books and the reasons why. I would love your comments on the books I list or to see what your own personal “defeated” books might be.

Least any of you think that a “defeated” books makes this rarefied list without effort on my part, I would like to hit upon the other half of this blog post title: The 100 page rule. I’m not sure how I developed this rule or if it was something I was taught to do back in my early, voracious reading days but with every book that I pick up, I try to get past the first 100 pages. This seems like a fair number of pages to allow for the magic of the plot and characters to capture my interest and hell, with books of 700+ pages, I’ll even generously increase this rule to 200 pages. After I hit the page mark, If I still feel like I would rather be waxing my own body hair (don’t ever attempt this unless you have a penchant for self-inflicted pain) or listening to hipsters talk about their beards over continuing to read said book, then I usually call it quits with clear conscious that I gave it my best.

With the “defeated” books, this can be some of the most painful 100-200 pages of reading a person ever does. It’s a singular kind of pain to attempt to get through a book that you really, really want to read for some random reason (don’t discount the power of personal glory and edification through conquering literature or the even more potent power of “you have to read this book!” peer-pressure) only to fail miserably and then be stuck with a half-read book along with now having to question the merit of you bibliophile status and place in the universe. 😦 Or again, is this just my reaction?

To end for today, I hope you visit the “Defeated” books page. It’s short at the moment but I’ll keep adding I as remember other attempted titles. There has to be a least a dozen right?

Giving this another go….

For some reason, I didn’t think that I had started this over 2.5 years ago. Crazy how fast time flies.

However, wandering thoughts down old paths aside, I find myself once again with a desire to share out to the vast, expansive network of the internet my commentary (both sarcastic and sincere) on the various books that I read/devour/attempt. Hell, I’m finally in a book club so there is the possibility for alcohol-induced and linguistically entertaining post in the near future if that keeps you coming back for more.

The book chosen for this month is “Fingersmith” which is portrayed as a dark, Victorian tale of Dicken-ish themes (orphans, thieves, smelly London, plot twist)…and I just found out the damn book was also made into a BBC mini-series which could have saved me slogging through 582 pages of, well, best to leave the “official” review for after the book club meeting in 2 weeks.

On a different subject altogether, it’s going to be over 100 degrees by Saturday in my neck of the woods. 😦 While this is way outside my temperature comfort range, it will provide a lovely excuse to stay holed up in the house next to an AC vent.

Stay tuned….