Book Review: Off to be the Wizard by Scott Meyer (2014)

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Review #83

Martin Banks is just a normal, everyday guy who enjoys digging into the depths of the internet in his spare time. On one of these nighttime expeditions, he stumbles across a discovery that will change his life forever. The world as we know it is nothing more than a computer program; a computer program that Martin is able to change at will. He vows that he will use this newfound power sparingly and with great care. This vow lasts for approximately forty-eight hours before Martin finds himself fleeing back in time to medieval England. He decides to pose as a wizard and make a life for himself in the tiny village of Leadchurch.

Author Scott Meyer makes the smart decision early in this novel not to waste time on how any of the plot elements work. The computer program controls everything about the world because it does, and Martin is able to use this to alter his appearance, his bank account, and his location by teleporting. There is very little time given over to trying to apply logic to an inherently illogical premise, and Meyer avoids getting bogged down in the details.

Instead, he offers up a wildly silly story of a man who tries to fool a village of 11th century English villagers that he is a wizard. Martin downloads the computer code into his phone, and uses it to make himself hover, emit sparks, and speak in a booming voice. Don’t bother asking how his phone continues to work in the past, it just does. This process is laid out in a highly enjoyable montage that reminded me of The Matrix, if Neo were learning break-dancing instead of kungfu.

Overall, Off to Be the Wizard was smart, irreverent, and short enough that it ended before the situational comedy began to wear thin. It never made me laugh out loud, but instead caused a kind of perpetual smirk from beginning to end.

My rating: 3.5/5

You can find Off to Be the Wizard here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Book Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman (2017)

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Review #74

A teenage girl is being brutally beaten during a home invasion when she feels a tingling feeling in her hand and finds herself giving her attacker an electric jolt that brings him to his knees and saves her life. Across an ocean, other young girl uses a similar force to kill her would-be rapist. Soon all around the world teenage women are finding themselves developing a previously unknown ability to conduct electric energy with their palms. This change in the power dynamics between genders begins with women releasing themselves from dangerous and unwanted situations, but it doesn’t stop there. All around the world women begin to claim positions of political and religious power, and their intentions are not always good.

Author Naomi Alderman has envisioned a world where different women from different walks of life suddenly find themselves able to physically dominate the male sex. Spanning a ten year period, Alderman takes these women (and men) through all the upheavals and confusion that would accompany such a sudden and potentially dangerous change in traditional gender roles.

As the women begin to realize their new powers, they explore their new opportunities in different ways. Some, such as Margot Clearly, set their sights on politics by empowering the young women in her community to form a militia. Allie sees the chance to form a new religious movement and becomes a powerful cult leader known as Mother Eve. Roxy Monke seizes the occasion to become the head of an international crime syndicate. The only male character with a prominent voice is the Nigerian journalist Tunde, who travels the world and films the increasingly precarious place of men as global society undergoes a radical shift away from patriarchy.

This book would be a wonderful addition to a university course on sex and gender sociology. Alderman brings up some truly interesting questions with her novel. Are women truly the “gentler” sex, or have they taken on more nurturing roles due mainly to their physically weaker bodies? If women were in charge, would the world truly be a more peaceful place, or would females begin to exact revenge on males for all the real and imagined discrimination they have experienced in their lives? Can one sex have the monopoly on violence without becoming corrupted by their own power?

The Power took some time to get its plot rolling, and there were definitely characters that I wished had been given more focus and others that I found a little bland. However, this is one of those novels that I can already tell is going to stay with me. I would be very interested in finding other people who have read this book so that I could explore and discuss the ideas depicted here.

My rating: 4/5

You can find The Power here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Happy reading everyone!

 

Book Review: Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky (2015)

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Review #70

The Earth is dying, wrecked and ravaged by humanity. A last group of surviving humans set out on the cargo ship Gilgamesh, beginning a desperate mission to find a new home. Frozen in stasis, they travel for centuries towards a distant solar system and find a wonderful treasure from the past, a planet terraformed and prepared for human life by the humans of the Old Empire. The crew of the Gilgamesh approach the planet with a new sense of hope, only to find that the planet is already occupied by their worst nightmares.

This novel spans thousands of years, beginning as the Old Empire approaches its destruction. Doctor Avrana Kern is putting the final touches on Kern’s World, a planet she has designed to harbor a unique form of intelligent life. Disaster strikes when a crew member decides that Kern does not deserve to play god, and sabotages the ship, killing himself and the experiments that were destined for the planet. Avrana Kern finds herself alone in a small satellite, watching her life’s work burn as it enters the planet’s atmosphere. She enters a cryogenic sleep chamber in the hopes that a passing ship will find her at some point in the future. Unknown to her, something has survived the burning of the ship, and will eventually evolve into a new and monstrous form of life.

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s science fiction novel can be summed up in three words. Giant. Sentient. Spiders. As a lifelong arachnophobe, the early chapters of Children of Time, with their numerous descriptions of spider legs, spider palps, and spider fangs, gave me the serious creeps. But after the initial ick factor wore off, I found myself oddly intrigued by the descriptions of spider society presented in this novel. The spiders begin to evolve from the simpleminded predators that we have today into a true society. They develop language, culture, and technology that will allow them to contact the Messenger, the satellite orbiting their planet. They also engage in warfare, discover religion (and religious persecution) and begin to unravel the mystery of their own existence. Tchaikovsky should be applauded for his descriptions of the spider civilization. It is no easy task to convincingly write non-humanoid characters that feel “real”, especially if those characters are something that our minds naturally see as disgusting. I haven’t rooted so much for a spider’s well-being since Charlotte’s Web.

Another amazing thing about this novel is the way that Tchaikovsky manages to interweave a narrative that spans millennia in a very straightforward and linear fashion. As we watch the spiders evolve and grow their society, we also follow the crew of the Gilgamesh as they develop their own unique culture aboard the ship. Our primary protagonist among the humans is Holsten Mason, the resident “classicist” whose function is to interpret the language of the ancient Old Empire. He emerges from stasis at various intervals throughout time, and watches as the crew of the Gilgamesh fall prey to so many of the same follies that have plagued humanity since the beginning. Arrogance, selfishness, and megalomania are still entrenched in the human psyche, and Mason is there to testify that even though humans have managed to destroy their own planet, they may not have learned from the experience. Many science fiction writers take a rather pessimistic view of mankind, and Tchaikovsky is no exception. He does instill a pervading sense of hope throughout the novel; as flawed as humanity is he definitely sees the possibility of redemption.

This was a beautifully written novel that challenges our preconceived notions about what it means to be human. I truly enjoyed this book.

My rating: 4/5

You can find Children of Time here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Happy reading everyone!

 

Book Review: More Than This by Patrick Ness (2014)

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In the freezing waters off the coast of Washington, a boy succumbs to the crashing waves. He dies, cold and alone. Then, he wakes up. He is naked, weak, and thirsty; but he is alive. He is entirely alone in a deserted and desolate place. As he struggles to understand what happens, he begins to question whether or not this is truly the end, and whether or not there is more to life after death.

This was the June pick for my monthly book club, and the theme was “dealing with the afterlife”. Considering that author Patrick Ness wrote the heart-breakingly beautiful A Monster Calls, I went into this novel fully expecting another tearjerker. Instead, More Than This defied all my expectations by journeying into the world of science fiction.

Seth wakes up to a world that has been abandoned. The neighborhood he finds himself in is covered in weeds, dirt, and silence. Since Seth clearly remembers drowning in the freezing waters of the Pacific Ocean, he comes to the conclusion that he is in a strange, lonely version of Hell. If this is Hell, it’s an oddly mundane version that seems to focus more on discomfort and isolation than fire and brimstone. Seth’s attempts to solve the mystery of his surroundings are what carries that bulk of Ness’ narrative.

Patrick Ness has always been a favorite author of mine because he tackles delicate issues with tact and sensitivity. Instead of beating his readers round the head with a “lesson” that needs to be learned, he tends to come at the situation sideways. By doing so, he avoids the proselytizing that can occasionally saturate novels that deal with death and dying. His characters manage to be vulnerable without being weak, and they are resourceful while still being immature enough to make mistakes.

I really enjoyed this novel. It continually managed to surprise me, and avoided coming across as preachy. I have always enjoyed a new novel by Patrick Ness, and More Than This continued the trend.

My rating: 4/5

You can find More Than this here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Happy reading everyone!

 

 

Ready Player One: Book vs Film

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Last week I sat down in my living room to watch Ready Player One. Twenty minutes in I was ready to throw in the towel, but decided to stick out the entire two hour running time in the hopes that things might improve. Things did not improve.

 

As soon as the credits rolled, I picked up my copy of Ernest Cline’s novel and began to read it for the third time in the hopes of scrubbing the events of the evening out of my mind. I began taking notes as I read, trying to pinpoint the exact reasons why I found myself so enraged by Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the book. In no specific order, here are my thoughts on Ready Player One the film vs the novel. Spoilers abound.

  1. Prior to watching, I had been told by several people that the movie was relatively enjoyable as long as you didn’t expect it to follow the book too closely. I took that to mean that there would be minor plot points that varied from the books in order to make the film flow a bit smoother. For example, in the Harry Potter films, I understood why they chose to omit the character of Peeves and most of the Quidditch games; if they didn’t every movie would be a long rambling mess. However, Spielberg seems to have taken the original source material for Cline’s novel, ripped out approximately thirty pages of it and used that to build his narrative. The heart of Ready Player One was completely lost in translation.
  2. Instead of a series of puzzles that require the characters to rely on their intelligence and problem-solving skills, we are instead treated to a MarioKart style opening wherein the “gunters” have to dodge giant dinosaurs and King Kong in order to make it through the first gate. The search for the Copper Key is where things began to go horribly wrong. It leaves out the equal playing field that James Halliday set up for all the users of OASIS. He placed the Copper Key on a planet where a) everyone had free and unlimited access to travel and b) there was no violence allowed. This essentially meant that no matter how strong and high-ranking your avatar was, the only thing that would allow you to reach the first key was your wit and your obsessive knowledge of obscure pop culture. In the film, it’s just another mindless car chase.
  3. Speaking of obscure pop culture, let’s talk about that. Ernest Cline’s novel delved so deeply into the realm of 1980’s music, television, film, and video games that one would need a submersible to follow after him. While reading the book, I found myself having to Google Japanese anime from the 1970’s. I had to familiarize myself with the fundamentals of text-based video games. When Wade or one of his fellow gunters finally solved one of the riddles, it was  genuinely impressive, because who the has the energy to devote their time and energy so completely to learning about this stuff? How many people can read a limerick and understand that it is referencing the limited edition cover of a thirty year old video game? In the novel, the difficulties that Parzival, Art3mis, and Aech face are actually difficult. When watching the film, all I saw was the growing trend of referencing things in a nostalgic way so that viewers will feel smart when they understand the references. Literally everyone watching this films knows the Tyrannosaurus from Jurassic Park. Or the Iron Giant. Or a DeLorean. There’s no challenge there. Spielberg dumbed down the pop culture references to the point where my six year old nephew could have found Halliday’s egg. It seems like he was so afraid of alienating any part of his audience, perhaps specifically the overseas audience, that he was unwilling to take even the smallest risk. Instead he chose to pander to the lowest common denominator.
  4. Let’s keep talking about pop culture. As I mentioned earlier, it takes a certain kind of individual to commit themselves so entirely towards one goal. In the novel, Parzival notes that he has seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail something like 178 times. He’s beaten every classic video game. He’s watched every episode of every season of every series that was even remotely popular in the 1980’s. Multiple times. Who does that? Answer – a person who has become mentally unhinged. What Ready Player One fails to truly depict is that the people searching for Halliday’s Egg are deeply unhealthy individuals. Outside of the OASIS, where your avatar can be as handsome, fit, and powerful as the you wish, the actual people are described as overweight, sallow, and anti-social. Ernest Cline’s novel can be seen as a cautionary tale against people living their entire lives in a virtual reality. The film does attempt to address this by having the main characters interact in the real world far sooner than in the book, but at the end of the day this is still Hollywood. Wade isn’t exactly a fashion model, but he’s reasonably healthy and good-looking, and does not seem to be crippled by the type of shyness that exists when you never interact with a person in a real environment. Same goes for the other characters. For a group of people who live their entire lives in isolation, they’re remarkably well-rounded.
  5. My biggest problem with Spielberg’s interpretation of Ready Player One is that the stakes just don’t seem that high. Parzival and his fellow gunters are searching for the egg so they can get rich. There’s also the situation with the “Sixers” who are trying to find the egg so that they can use the OASIS to make a lot of money by selling advertising space and charging fees for users. This is all very sad and capitalistic and greedy. But also, so what? It would be like if everyone who was currently online went to digital war over net neutrality. If we won, awesome. But if we lost, it’s shitty but it’s not the end of the world. The film fails to convey the novel’s premise that the global society we now know and enjoy has fallen apart. Global warming is causing widespread famine. The rural parts of America are lawless Mad Max style wastelands. People are being sold into indentured servitude for failing to pay their bills. And in the midst of all this poverty, hunger, and destitution is an escape from reality in the land of the OASIS. Not only that, but it offers free school for the entire nation. Let me repeat that. It offers free school for the entire nation. So in Cline’s novel when Parzival and the others explain that if the Sixers get the egg it will have a drastic and negative impact on society as a whole, we as readers understand the stakes. In the film it comes across more like a millennial wet dream of sticking it to the man. To be fair, Spielberg includes the scene where Sorrento and his cronies blow up Wade’s housing unit and kill hundreds of people. But the scene has absolutely zero emotional weight because not five minutes later we are introduced to Samantha and the resistance and no one stops for even a moment to grieve for the lives lost. The romantic subplot of the novel becomes the driving force of the film. Other significant deaths from the book are omitted entirely, which only underlines the fact that Spielberg was willing to take absolutely no risks with his nice, safe, family-friendly motion picture. The final battle has all the urgency and intensity of a boss-fight in a video game. It’s frustrating if you lose, but it’s not the end of the world.
  6. I’ve ragged a lot on the film, so I need to take just a second to talk about the few aspects that didn’t piss me off. The scene that took place in The Shining was visually amazing. Implausible, since Aech would most definitely have been aware of the the film’s plot-line, but it looked really cool. Crap, turns out I can’t even give a compliment without unintentionally back-handing it. The movie looked very…pretty? Okay I give up.

 

A friend recommended Ready Player One to me a few years ago, and I became an overnight fan. The book is fun, inventive, smart, and exciting. When I heard that the film was going to be directed by Steven Spielberg, I immediately felt uneasy. To be honest, I haven’t trusted Spielberg or his artistic vision since he Crystal Skull-fucked the Indiana Jones series. So there was definitely an element of bias when I sat down to watch Ready Player One last week. At the same time, I did try to give it a fair shot. In the end, I was remarkably disappointed. I do not think I will be re-watching that film any time soon. And to anyone who hasn’t read it yet, I cannot recommend the novel highly enough.

Book Review: Going Postal by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #33) 2005.

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Review #51

Moist Von Lipwig is dead. Sort of. At least, his alias is dead, hanged for committing crimes against the city of Ankh-Morpork. Yet somehow he finds himself alive and working in the government as Postmaster General. He finds the post office covered with pigeon droppings and undelivered mail. To make matter worse, he must compete against the Grand Trunks, which have a monopoly on communication in the city. And he thinks there may be someone trying to kill him. And there’s a possibility that he is hearing whispers coming from the abandoned letters piled up in the post office.

This month’s pick in my book club, Going Postal was my first foray into Terry Pratchett’s insanely popular Discworld series. Normally jumping into a series in the thirty-third installment would make me insufferably cringy, but I consoled myself that this novel is the first one centered around Moist Von Lipwig. Thankfully, this book takes place in a self-contained world, and I had no trouble adjusting to the world of Pratchett’s creation.

I enjoyed the descriptions of the city of Ankh-Morpork a a kind of Wild West outpost on the brink of becoming a civilized city. One rather amusing scene involves the protagonist in a rough and tumble bar, allotting points to the various patrons as they escalate their violent acts throughout the night. Central to the plot is the Grand Trunk company, which control a communication system known as the “clacks”. It took me quite awhile to visualize how these clacks work, but eventually I began to see it as a kind of telegraph system that uses light instead of cables to transmit messages across long distances. Pratchett uses the clacks and the greedy people who own it to illustrate the dangers of unchecked technological advancement. Published in 2005, this novel could easily be seen as a parallel to the rampant growth of the internet and the burgeoning “dot-com” bubble that would inevitably crash and leave many in dire straits.

It is obvious that Pratchett is a great lover of the written word. The idea that words have a certain power of their own, and that they can only fulfill their destiny by being read, is a running current that underlines Going Postal. As a great lover of the written word myself, I loved the scene when von Lipwig delivers a letter after fifty years to a surprising and heartwarming conclusion.

Many readers have compared Terry Pratchett’s works to those of Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut. I must say that I definitely agree with this opinion. Pratchett writes with a wild irreverence and wit that reminded me of Hitchhiker’s Guide. He also has a similar tendency to using absolutely ridiculous names for his characters. The protagonist, Moist Von Lipwig, is just the tip of that particular iceberg. Also present are Adora Bella Dearheart, Devious Collabone, Greenyham, and countless others.

Pratchett’s particular breed of satire isn’t for everyone. I truly enjoyed parts of this novel, but overall I found myself struggling to care about the fates of these characters. It was all just a bit too silly for my taste.

My rating: 3/5

You can find Going Postal here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Happy reading everyone!

 

Book Review: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (2014)

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Review #46

 

For nearly three decades, the mysterious region known as Area X has been cut off from the rest of the world. Abandoned by civilization, it has been reclaimed by isolated forms of nature that many scientists are eager to study. Several expeditions have been led into this region, with some reporting back a lush and verdant paradise and others being driven to suicide and murder for unknown reasons. The twelfth expedition, a team comprised of four women from different specialized fields, has just arrived.

This first installment in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy starts off with an ominous tone and creeping suspense. The four women in the twelfth expedition are identified only by their job descriptions. The surveyor is ex-military and edgy about what they may find in Area X. The anthropologist is fearful and wary of making big decisions. The psychologist is manipulative and well trained in hypnotic suggestions. And the biologist, who narrates the story, is eager to find out what happened to her husband, a member of the eleventh expedition who returned home a completely different man before shortly succumbing to cancer along with every other member of his team.

The four women are working towards conflicting ends, and these different agendas begin to clash when they discover a deep pit descending into the Earth. The other women refer to the pit as a “tunnel”, but the biologist feels compelled to call it a “tower”. While the Tower is nearby the designated campsite used by previous expeditions, it does not appear in any of the maps or field journals recorded by the other scientists. As the members of the twelfth expedition descend into this pit, they uncover a dangerous secret which threatens their sanity and their lives.

The first half of this relatively short novel does a great job of building and maintaining a discomforting sense of dread. Since none of the women are given personal names, the reader feels a kind of detached fascination as they venture into unknown and possibly threatening territory. The biologists interjects the primary narrative with details from her past which show her struggling relationship with her husband and her passion for observing living things. As they descend into the black depths of the Tower, the tension continues to mount as they begin to encounter things that defy the laws of nature.

Unfortunately, this level of suspense proves impossible to maintain. The second half of Annihilation veers into confusion and chaos as the team members begin to distrust and doubt one another. The unease of the initial Tower exploration falls apart and is replaced by twists and turns that serve no purpose and to little to further the plot.

There’s nothing wrong with science fiction novels that take a wild detour into weird. However, a book that is weird solely for the sake of being weird comes off as both pretentious and annoying. It’s as if VanderMeer deliberately made his conclusion as difficult to decipher as possible in order to find out who would “get it”. I, at least, didn’t get it, and trying to puzzle out the last thirty or so pages just left me with a headache.

My rating: 2.5/5

You can find Annihilation here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Happy reading everyone!

Book Review: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (2017)

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Review #18

 

Thalassophobia: an intense fear of the sea and what lurks beneath.

After her older sister is lost at sea while filming a monster-hunting style show on mermaids, Tory Stewart agrees to ship out with the crew of the Melusine as they travel to the oceans around the Mariana trench. The goal is to dive to the depths of the Challenger Deep to seek out the mermaids that legends say still dwell in the waters. Hopefully they’ll be able to solve the mystery of what happened to the first vessel. Once there, the group of scientists finds out that looking for monsters and finding them are two very different things.

Mira Grant is one of my favorite authors. Her Newsflesh trilogy, about the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse, is utterly brilliant. The Parasitology trilogy, about sentient tapeworms taking control of their human hosts, is equally well written. So when I found out that Grant was releasing a stand-alone novel, I was thrilled. My excitement grew when I found out that the plot was going to be centered around the deep ocean.

Being in the deep sea makes me intensely uncomfortable. This might be due to the fact that I grew up in a landlocked state and never saw the sea until I was seventeen. I’m great on boats, and I’m perfectly happy in shallow water. I’ve even tried scuba-diving twice. But the moment that I can no longer see the seabed my heart rate instantly goes through the roof. It’s the same with lakes as well, and it’s a pretty straightforward fear. I don’t know what’s down there. Even worse, I understand enough of marine biology to know what’s down there, and I want no part of it. I went into Mira Grant’s Into The Drowning Deep knowing (and hoping) that it might scare me. Boy was I right.

In the year 2022, humans have polluted the Earth to the point of a mass die-off of both land and marine life. Grant does not try to hide her strong environmental message. Leave the orcas alone, stop dumping things into the oceans and the air. Or don’t be surprised when drought, famine, and fires sweep the planet. The hubris of mankind has brought us low in Grant’s novel, and the main characters are scientists who are just trying to mitigate the damage.

This is a science fiction novel with a strong horror theme. There is one amazing scene where Heather, a young scientist, is taking a personal submersible into the chasm of the Challenger Deep. As the blackness and the pressure mounts, the tension rises to a screaming pitch. It is claustrophobic to the point of being physically uncomfortable. What Heather finds at the bottom of her journey sets in motion the rest of the novel’s action.

The basic plot centers around one simple question. What if the mermaids of our mythology looked, not like this:

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beautiful, nubile, pageant queens of the sea. And more like this:

 

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deep sea nightmare fodder?

Grant’s “mermaids” are carnivorous, intelligent, and, utterly in their element both in and out of the water. The scientists on board the Melusine are so egotistically wrapped up in their new discovery that they never stop to think that the “mermaids” chose to be discovered at the proper moment. Of course, not until it is too late.

One of my favorite things about all of Mira Grant’s books is that she has a very pure idea of science fiction. There is actual science present, but it is accessible to the layman. I always come away from one of her novels feeling as though I’ve learned something; in this case about the Mariana Trench, the Challenger Deep, why the ship is named the Melusine, and more. Her main characters tend to be female, and even better, females in STEM. I love the idea of young women reading this novel and having their imaginations sparked by the pursuit and discovery and danger inherent in the exploration of our world.

I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who loves suspense, the sea, and the thrill of scientific discovery. I would not, however; recommend it for a trip to the beach. Or on a cruise. Don’t even take it in the bath.

My rating: 4.5/5

You can find Into the Drowning Deep here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

P.S. there is a short prequel novel entitled Rolling in the Deep, which centers around the crew of the first crew. I haven’t been able to find it at my library yet, but if I ever find it I’ll let you know what I think!

 

Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir (2017)

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Review #1

Jazz Bashara is the premier smuggler working on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon. When she is offered bigger money for a more dangerous job, Jazz finds herself in way over her head.

I read Andy Weir’s first novel, The Martian, during a camping trip last year, and I remember wishing for an internet connection while I was reading. It would have helped me to understand the complex descriptions of mathematics and physics that were completely outside my field of knowledge. As it was, I enjoyed the book but it was a rare instance where I thought that the movie was superior, partially just for its fantastic disco soundtrack.

I approached Weir’s second novel, Artemis, with a certain amount of trepidation. And, as expected, it helps if you have a basic working knowledge of physics and engineering while reading this book. However, Weir did seem to rein himself a bit. I never got the feeling that I was reading a textbook, as I sometimes felt with The Martian. Some of the action sequences can be a bit hard to follow if you don’t understand the finer points of welding or robotics, but this is first and foremost a “caper” novel, and it unravels with gleeful abandon once it gets off its feet.

The first two-thirds of the novel are fast-paced and fun. We are introduced to Jazz Bashara, a girl who has grown up on the world’s first lunar colony. The descriptions of the city of Artemis allow us to draw a concrete visual of an area that exists in the vertical as much as it does the horizontal. Each “bubble” consists of at least as many stories below ground as it does above ground. The passages that outline how the residents of Artemis deal with the constant influx of extraordinarily rich tourists are a treat. Even on the moon, the almighty dollar reigns supreme.

Jazz knows this better than most. Confined to a “coffin” apartment underground (picture the capsule hotels of Tokyo) Jazz dreams of earning enough money for her own bathroom. When she is approached by one of the extraordinarily rich billionaires with the potential for a million dollar job, how can she refuse?

Jazz is a very fun character. She is sarcastic and self-reliant. She is, however; a  bit of an asshole. I couldn’t figure out why there were so many people willing to stick their necks out to help her. The sarcastic assholes of the world do not generally inspire such loyalty. I also became annoyed by her “witty” interjections towards the end of the novel. For instance, take this quote:

“Dale handed me my jumpsuit. I put it on faster than I’d ever put on clothes before. Well…second fastest (my high school boyfriend’s parent’s came home earlier than expected one day).”

In a life-and-death situation, this kind of sarcastic quip comes off as inappropriate. It’s almost as if Weir was trying to emulate the kind of irreverence popularized by the Avenger films. The world’s in danger! Time for jokes! It works for awhile, but wears thin towards the end.

Overall, I found Artemis far easier to follow than The Martian. The idea of Jason Bourne running around on a lunar colony is a fun one, and Weir manages to sell us on all the enjoyable possibilities of a heist on the moon.

My Rating: 3.5/5

You can find Artemis here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Happy Reading Everyone!

 

 

Book Reviews: Wayward (Wayward Pines #2) by Blake Crouch (2013)

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After an auto accident that occurs while conducting a search for his missing ex-partner, Secret Service agent Ethan Burke wakes up in the small town of Wayward Pines, Idaho. His ID, wallet, and phone are all missing. No calls can be made out of the town. The roads are seem to lead back to the same location. And a thirty foot high electric fence surrounds the area. When people begin turning up dead, Ethan must work to discover the secret behind the sleepy town of Wayward Pines.

That’s a quick synopsis from the first book in this series, Pines. It seemed unfair to potentially spoil anything from the previous novel, as it is so much fun and I encourage anyone who loves a good thriller to go pick it up immediately.

First off, let me just commend this novel for making me almost-kinda-sorta-want to visit Idaho. Crouch describes it as a strikingly beautiful area filled with aspen trees, starry skies, and forbidding mountains. You can almost taste the fresh mountain air. Reading this novel was one of the first time I had ever stopped to really consider the geography of the state of Idaho. No offense, Idahoans. I also grew up in a highly overlooked state. I feel you.

“For every perfect little town, there’s something ugly underneath. No dream without the nightmare”

Wayward is an entertaining, uncomplicated read that still manages to raise important questions, as all good science fiction must do. What begins as a relatively straightforward murder-mystery quickly evolves into a debate on societal security versus personal freedom. At what point do we need to stop sacrificing for the greater good? What price is too high to pay for safety?

Blake Crouch is quickly becoming one of my new favorite authors. His writing style is  fast-paced and compelling, yet accessible. It’s science fiction in a Star Trek sense, a irresistible mix of thrills and sentiment, with a dash of science thrown on for flavor.

My Rating: 4.5/5

Wayward Pines has been adapted into a TV show that is currently in its second season on Fox. The third novel in the trilogy, The Last Town, was released in 2014.

Find the books here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Happy reading everyone!