The Martian by Andy Weir

I read this book and a few weeks later I watched the movie, so I will be commenting on both because I found that the movie influenced how I felt about the book.  I also listened to part of the audiobook and will comment briefly on that.  

The Book

Reviews on this book consistently talk about how it is very technical and most didn’t like that aspect of it.  Being a scientist I thought I wouldn’t mind this as much as non-scientists would.  However, I did find it very technical which slowed down reading.  I found the technical parts interesting as it made it vary clear the types of problems Mark had to face and how smart he was and how he had to think things through if he was going to survive, but there was one part where NASA spent an age describing what they wouldn’t do because it wouldn’t work before going into what they would do.  This does not seem like a thing NASA would do because they have a limited time to talk to Mark and they need to get to the point quickly.  Also my science brain wanted to look over all the calculations to see if they were right as I was reading them.  

Talking about how things would go talking to NASA, I found a lot of the questions asked (on both sides) were not very intelligent and would not have been asked as they did not add to the what you need to know right now to fix the situation.  That being said, I do like that there was a ‘daily Mark update’ news show in the book and that NASA was a part of it.  It is easy to imagine that this sort of thing would happen if it was real life.

I loved the characters, but did find Mark a bit too ‘happens to know the exact right thing every time he gets into a bind’.  He always seemed to know the exact right stats and information to figure out any problem.  Astronauts do need to be smart and train for this sort of thing, but it seemed a stretch with the sheer amount of knowledge he just knew without looking it up.  I did appreciate that Mark was allowed to be emotional about his situation.  He was allowed to cry when he got into contact with earth again.  At the time of reading the book I felt he was a little to unprofessional to be an astronaut, but reading ‘Failure is not an Option’ after I read this book, I am relenting on this a little.  The rest of the cast was surprisingly large and diverse, which I liked.  You also got to see some of the side characters develop over time.  Additionally, the way the characters react to the situation is very realistic.  

Just thinking about the amount of money that was spent to get him back is staggering, yet at the same time, it’s not too hard to image that money being spent.  Perhaps not being forked out by the government, but being raised by private citizens?  I can imagine that. 

This book was super funny and had great ‘comedic timing’.  The book would switch between PoV when a polar opposite then what was expected thing was happening.   The writing was not the most sophisticated, but I got over that quickly and learned to love it. The book did drag in the middle and follow a trend of ‘something went wrong, Mark fixed it, something went wrong, Mark fixed it’ a bit too much for my taste, but again, realistic. I do think there were a few inconsistencies in the book, but nothing that really dragged the text down.  Finally, for the first third of the book everyone pinched their chin constantly, which was a great irritation to me.   

The Audiobook

I didn’t listen to much of the audiobook, but the main two things I have to comment on, was that the audiobook I listened to (I’m not sure if there is a different English version) did not match the text of the book.  That is the main reason I didn’t stick with the audiobook.  Finally, I did like the narrator of the audiobook, even if I didn’t listen to much of the book. 

The Movie

Weirdly, while I found the book too technical, the movie was not technical at all and that irritated me.  I felt the lack of the constant calculations and considerations in the movie didn’t show how dire the situation was and how much needed to be considered and how smart Mark was.  Also, while for the most part the movie followed the book, towards the end when they needed to cut things out for time they cut some of my favourite parts!  I wanted to see Mark deal with the sand storm among other things.  However, the final scene they added to the movie was lovely.  

Overall

I loved the book and I liked the movie.  The only thing I would have changed is to see how Mark’s parents dealt with certain critical situations.  

How do you review? (8)

Here are some more of these thoughts I have while reading, I haven’t been good at keeping up and posted so there is a back log of comments.  Enjoy!

-Let’s go walk into a cave with the people literally trying to abduct and murder you because that is smart

-Such a waste of bullets

-MC never wears heels but when she does, she walks for over an hour in them.  Because of course she does.  Sadly this part was written by a woman….

-Everyone is poor yet everyone can buy virtual shit in the game?

-*Eats cookies in the middle of a battle scene that talks about pus constantly*

-Now we get to the whiny cis white het male teenager, but he’s poor and somewhat overweight so we are supposed to relate to him.  Author also added a dash of being bullied so it’s all good. *eye roll*

-That’s smart, light the entire building on fire with everyone of your group inside it

-Tidy romantic ending that solves nothing about the terrible world

-Talk about not being the investigators yet there is a section on her questioning witnesses to figure out if a death is a homicide instead of the detectives. Ugh I hate inconsistencies like this. 

-Talk of living in parent’s basements ignore the fact that in this world people don’t have basements anymore

-Buddy never thought to control+f his diary for key words that would have solved this entire puzzle in like 5 minutes??  Why are whiny white male leads the main characters again, when they are consistently this stupid?

-Indentured servitude is creepy

[Annoyance that an entire court case rests on the fact that when you fall backward your hands automatically move to behind you, not fly up as if to grab onto something, which I have totally done when I have slipped in the shower and as a result did not break my arm] 

-I love how the bully of this story is a large part of why the main character became so good at weapons.  It’s a little sad that only the main character really knows this as well.  I would have loved to have a scene were the MC straight up tells the a-hole that her superior strength is because if forced her to use weighted weapons. 

How do you review? (7)

I hope you want more of my random thoughts while reading because here you are: 

-Scheduling her to do the tutoring in the middle of her classes instead of during evenings when both of them are free is just plan wrong

-Electrodes don’t work that way

-It’s a maze but they seem to find the right way and the easiest exit

-Nice use of designated survivor trope, I want more

-MC can’t drink because ~reasons~ yet drinks anyway and has no consequences?

-Annoyed because I like this book but I don’t

-That’s not how physics works

-Incompetent adult trope, check!

-“I’m guessing none of us have ever infiltrated an Alien lair before” uh, you guys did that like 5 chapters ago?  I mean, I know the book is dragging at this point but that was a major plotpoint/scene so….

-Insert fear of females before introducing manic pixie dream girl

-“Nobody shakes hands in the autopsy suite” I would hope not

-No one else thought the ‘much to learn’ would ever be the planet with schools on it?

-A girl that is good at math!  And is valued by her male peers for it!

-Not enough bullets for this fight, especially since not one talks about reloading

Audiobook review: Protector of the Small

Protector of the Small is my favourite series.  Fullstop.  I love this series and I talk about it and the author all the time.  I recently did an audiobook re-read and while I could talk about this series for days, today I want to focus and review the audiobooks.  Not enough people talk about and review audiobooks and I have been making a concerted effort this year to do so whenever I read by audiobook.

So here we go!

These books were read by Bernadette Dunne and I really liked her narration.  She does different voices and I liked most of them.  Dunne also speaks clearly and at a pace that I can easily speed up the audio and still understand the book.  Not all productions you can do this, though I think most audiobook productions nowadays keep this in mind when recording, or so I’d like to think.

While she does a great job, this is my favourite series and I’m rather picky.  One thing I noticed is some of the emotional cues in the book were not done to what I had hoped for.  For example, in the prologue of the first book there is a scene where Lady Alanna is very angry but the narration doesn’t go as far as I would have wanted and you can barely tell she was angry.  However, everyone imagines books differently and I need to learn to be open to other people’s interpretations.

For part of Squire I read and listened to the audio and noticed there were some (minor) differences between the text and the spoken words.  This at first bugged me but the differences were minor and mostly helped the listener better understand what was happening.  I’m not sure if it was intentional on the production part or due to a difference in what was given to Dunne to read (like a different version of the story), but over all it didn’t matter to the story.  However, those that read and listen might notice and get frustrated at this.

Overall I do highly recommend not only this series but the audiobooks as well!  

If there is something you would like me to cover about these audiobooks or others, please let me know!  I would like to be better at reviewing audiobooks.  

How do you review? (6)

Here are more of some of the more, often weird or random thoughts I have while reading:

-I’ve never had intense in depth conversations like that in the middle of class….

-The cop duo in the 4th chapter reminds be of Clary and Tunstall.  And now I need to re-read the Beka Cooper series and be betrayed, again by The Thing.

-It’s a little extreme to think no one else has gained powers at an earlier age then the MC has when the way you gain your powers is not rare (though not common).

-This is the second time mahogany has been mentioned in a pre-hunger games book

-No one knocks in this book and it’s weird

-Why are all high level military men pale, blonde and blue eyed?  It’s boring and in light of recent book discussions makes me think imperialism

-Super overprotective BFs annoy the fuck out of me, especially when the relationship has gone on for only  a few weeks

-I hate when books set in the future have slang that is a little to ‘now’

-Spontaneous trips to halfway across where ever is actually a trope I love, even though it’s almost always predictable

-Getting bored of endless battles? Here, have a car chase!

 

-I saw that plot twist from a mile away

-Oh no, I lost the thing I was carrying and it’s out of my reach, too bad i don’t have the ability to magic it to me! Oh wait! I do, but I’m not going to use it.

-Only in america would you have vending machines with body armour and guns

-Uses torches in a future high tech world because #aesthetic

 

Review: Working Stiff

I was in the mood for a a non fiction book and this one happened to be one I was interested in reading for a while and available at the library (both ebook and audiobook).  Though I will admit, I was tagged by the lovely Zezee in a tag post a while back and  one of the questions was the last non fiction book you read, which was ages ago so I needed something more recent.  But!  Now I have read one and can do that tag!

Published: August 2014

Publisher: Scribner/Tantor Audio

Pages: 258 (hardcover)

Star Rating: 4

Genera: Non-fiction (science)

Series: no 

Source: Read was via audiobook through library Overdrive account 

TIGGER WARNING: EVERYTHING.  I’m not lying here, if you have triggers for almost anything, I would recommend not reading this book.  I was keeping a list but it was hard to include everything.  Here is an incomplete list of things that my trigger people: death, dead bodies, graphic violence, suicide, drug use, alcohol abuse, rape, assault, child abuse, terrorism, self harm, bugs/insects, airplane crashes, police incompetence.  The only thing I think it doesn’t have is animal abuse, but it’s been a while since I read the book so I might have forgotten if it did. 

My typical breakdown of the plot, writing, characters, and world-building does not really work for a non-fiction book, and I want to be more conscious of the fact that I was reading an audiobook and to review that as well (since narrators can make or break a book) so I’m experimenting in this review.

This book chronicles the a short period of time in the life of a forensic pathologist working as a medical examiner in New York City.  Basically, the person that does autopsies on dead people to determine cause of death.  It covers the span of time that includes the aftermath of 9/11, of which there is a whole two sections of the book devoted to that.  

Overall, I really liked this book.  It was interesting and informative.  I learned some things and heard some new and interesting stories.  The parts on 9/11 were particularly informative since I had never thought about the aftermath at all (Canadian, was young at the time and sheltered from it).  I do find it weird to rate a book about someone’s life, but I gave the book 4 stars for overall enjoyment, but there were a few things that I didn’t quite like.  

For starters, if you like to know the outcomes of all the cases talked about, this book is not for you.  There were a few cases I was particularly invested in, one was a child abuse case, but due to the nature of her job, Dr. Melinek does not get to know how the outcome for the cases she works on and this at times bothered me because I really wanted to know.  

The writing style isn’t anything special and it took a bit to get into, but at the same time the informalness of it works great for this book.  It was written in a way that listening to an audiobook was the perfect way to read the book, so I was glad I picked audio.  The narration was a little dramatic at times, sometimes it was repetitive, and it’s harder to skim over the basic science explanations  of concepts I know well as an audiobook as opposed to reading on a page, but overall I was glad I listened to the audiobook.  I will say, I wish there was a different narrator for this book.  Eby did a great job and I would love to listen to her again, but her tone was too cheery for this book.  While the author (Dr. Melinek) does seem to be a cheery person, when taking about the subject matter at hand the tone of voice used in this book didn’t seem right to me.  Also, I will be petty but the narrator COULD NOT pronounce the name Andres properly and it drove me up the wall since it was a big case the the name was spoken a hundred times. 

The structure of this books seemed a little weird at the start, since it’s not chronological.  However, once I got to the part about 9/11 I realized why that was.  It’s set-up where each chapter is more based around a theme, which works well and once you hit the 9/11 part you realize that everything she talked about previously was happening at the same time as the aftermath and it was just as important as 9/11 but would have been over shadowed if written more chronologically. 

I enjoyed learning about the path she took to become a medical examiner.  It’s something I love to hear about in people in general, but particularly in the science field (which I am a part of) because there are so many ways to get to the interesting jobs found int he field.  Also being in the field, it was neat to learn new information I didn’t know before.  Sure, I’m  not a doctor but I have learned about sickle cell anemia, but didn’t know that fact she told in the book.  At times the book did talk down to you if you have a background in science, but I know not everyone that reads it will be, so I didn’t mind too much.  Also, learning tox reports takes months is eye opening. I knew it took a while, not the 24 hour turn around seen on TV, but I was thinking weeks to a month, not 3 or 4 months and sometimes more talked about in this book.  It meant that final death certificates could take a year or more.  It was interesting to learn this.

This book is not for squeamish people.  I have a strong stomach for that sort of thing, often reading this book right before bed and not worrying about nightmares but there were times I was nauseous.  Mostly because maggots gross me out.  

Overall I would recommend this book if you are interested in it, but do realize it’s not for everyone and there are some gross and sad parts to the book.

 

Review: Ready Player One by Ernst Cline

Published: August 2011

Publisher: Crown Publishers

Pages: 374

Star Rating: 2.5

Genera: SciFi

Series: First book in a companion series 

Source: Own paperback, this read was via audiobook through library Overdrive account   

This book is the first re-read for me for 2017.  Ready Player One is a book that many, many people love, but I didn’t really like.  However, it started my SciFi kick that has been ongoing for over a year now.  Because of my mixed feelings on this book and because I love Wil Wheaton, I wanted to re-read this via audiobook to reassess my feelings on it.

In a quick summary: the book started out really great, I love the introduction into the world.  For me it was unique, interesting and creative.  However, over time things start building up that resulted in the same mixed to negative feelings about the book.  To start with, the book quickly becomes infodumpy and feels more like a long string of 80s references and gaming culture explanations held together by a weak plot.  Overall, I love the plot and it’s unique and interesting, but the execution of the plot leaves me wanting more and better.  Then there are a bunch of characters I don’t really have any attachments to: the whiny cis white male teenager, but he’s poor and overweight so we are supposed to relate to him; his manic pixie dream girl, the ‘best friend’ who is better at the game then the main character but is relegated to a side-kick role and is also the Secret Diverse Character TM where the author wants credit for diversity that he didn’t actually write and for the diversity to be this big plot twist.  

Going into a bit more detail, the writing was too long-winded and needed an editor to pare it back.  For example, in the starting chapters there is this giant monologue spewing all the author’s life views (which I actually agree with) but was not needed to develop characterization which is how it’s framed.  The second part of this novel really starts bringing in the pop culture references to the point were I felt like I was wading through a pool of them trying to find the story.  It’s also at this point the story tries to out-cleaver itself which annoyed me.  The book has a large number of inconsistencies that build up I could write an entire post just about them (and I’m seriously considering doing so).  If more attention had been paid to staying in-world, to being consistent with the world he developed I would have been less annoyed.  Finally, at least three different times there were very heavy-handed use of the deus ex machina trope to solve all the problems currently effecting the main characters.  

Many of the inconsistencies also impact the worldbuilding.   On the surface the world is unique and believable.  I could really see us heading in that direction and the impact of an energy crisis and the solutions that were used to deal with the situations are creative and believable.  It felt like how the world went could have really happened, with a touch of suspension of belief for having technology so good to be able to made it seem and feel real.  The game as a distraction from the real world has parallels with the now (tv, video gaming), and it makes this book depressing when thought about in that sense.  The book has deep themes to be looked at if you like that sort of thing in your books 

However, going deeper into the world and OASIS things start to breakdown and I think it’s the contrast between the poor outside and the rich inside that do not seem to mesh.  Everyone is poor and can’t afford things in the real world yet everyone seems to be rich online.  

As for the characters, I think my above summary pretty much tells you what I think.  Wade was not a relatable character and fits in the whiny white male lead that too many characters fall into.  Similar to the use of the deus ex machina trope, there is a lot of ‘convenient explanation as to how the protagonist knows how to get out of every bind’ being used.  The white male lead fumbled around until the answer fell into his lap.  He also grossly invaded his friend’s privacy and took the high road about it.  Then insert fear of females into the MC before introducing the manic pixie dream girl.  The best friend is treated like a cute side-kick.  I liked Og the best out of every character, and he was only treated as a convenient side=character built to help the useless MC.  

Also, while it is nice to see more autistic characters in books being awesome and capable, the author did not do it in a respectful way in this book, describing Halliday as ‘high functioning’, which is very harmful to the community.  Then there is the part where the main character gets super fat but conveniently losses all the weight in a very short amount of time because of a girl.  Finally, there could have been some interesting diversity in this book but instead it was treated as a plot twist to the point it reminded me of JK Rowling wanting credit for diversity that was never really in the books.  

Finally, the plot, much like the worldbuilding, was interesting on the surface but breaks down in execution and delivery.  I was really interested in the scavenger hunt aspect of the story and it was well done for the most part.  I didn’t like the 80s aspect of it, with half or more of the references going over my head and there were times when it seemed like an encyclopedia of 80s jargon held together by a thin plot.  There were certain aspects of the plot  I liked: the sixers and the corporation were great, if one-dimensional, antagonists.  The blackmail scene was something I could imagine happening.  The sponsorship deals and the awards for winning I can picture happening, but the sponsorship deals never bit him in the butt (unrealistic) and Wade manage to make enough money to buy everything he ever wanted, ever.  That seems very unrealistic to me.  Or how about when the answer to one of the clues was in his grail diary, but he never thought/bothered to ctrol+f the thing? Yet still is the one that wins.  There were no checks and balances in filling out requisition forms, which much of the plot hinged on and is unrealistic.  The corporation would do some illegal things but not others that would destroy the plot just because there is a mesley law about it. Finally the book ended in a cheap romantic plot that did nothing to solve the issues of the world that non of the characters really cared about since they spend all their time online. 

In the end: the fact I wanted to re-read this book shows that there was something about it that I did like.  I loved the first third or so of this book but things got worse and worse after that.  It was long-winded and needed more editing, but the quest and the world intrigued me.  However, the thing that made me not like this book was the wasted potential.  It had the potential to be epic, but the manic pixie dream girl, the whiny white male saviour, the deus ex machina, and several other things the come into play at the end combine to make this book more of an annoyance then a favourite for me.  Many people love this book for the 80s nostalgia but I never grew up in the 80s so most of the references were lost on me.  Others say it’s geek culture in this book that they love, but this book just scratches the surface of the gross aspects of nerd and gaming culture and brushes over how harming it can be.  Things like gate keeping and sexism.