The Martian

The Martian

By Andy Weir

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

At it’s very core, The Martian is about an astronaut that gets accidentally left behind on the surface of Mars.  He’s injured in an accident as he and the rest of the astronauts are evacuating the planet due to an extreme wind storm.  The injury causes the rest of his team to believe he is dead, and they are unable to find his body due to the wind and dust, and continue with the evacuation before they are unable to.

He wakes up, with a dead biomonitor, part of a communications antenna sticking through a hole in his suit, and no way to get off of the planet.  The rest of the book is about how he battles his new situation, and finds ways to extend his life expectancy.

When I started the book, I was expecting that to be the story.  And it was.  However, there was much more to it than that.  Almost the entire book is written in a form of narrative first person through Mark Watney’s (he’s the astronaut) log files.  He’s creating the log files as a way to log the things he’s done so that if anyone from NASA ever recovers his body and the equipment, they’ll know that he was alive, and the things that he did.

Through Watney’s personal log, and the personality that he shows through his words, the story becomes so much more than just an account of an astronaut trapped on Mars.  The character of Watney is written so well, that the reader finds themselves sucked into the very human story, and the situation that he finds himself in.  Watney shares, in his logs, the struggles that he has, the victories, and even the frustrations he has with his fellow astronauts selection of music and television shows.

It’s a bit difficult to critique the actual writing of the book, as it’s meant to be read as log entries, so the flow can be somewhat erratic.  However, Weir delivers in a big way with the style of the book.  I was immediately sucked into the story, and ended up finishing the book in a marathon reading session that left me with way too little sleep the next day.  The last half of the book is quickly paced, and very hard to put down.

The Martian is an excellent book, and I’d highly recommend it if you’re any kind of sci-fi reader at all.

Tears in Rain

Tears in Rain[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”1612184383″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”107″]

By: Rosa Montero

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

When I read the blurb on the back of the cover, and it said “Inspired by the movie Blade Runner”, I knew it was a book that I needed to read.  I’ve always been a fan of Blade Runner, although I haven’t read the book (don’t hate me), and so something inspired by the movie, that was about bionic clones called replicants, sounded like it was off to a good start.

Set in a future world where political and social lines have been broken, redrawn, and then broken and redrawn again, we are led into the story by detective Bruna Husky.  Montero does an excellent job of keeping the pace of the book moving, while filling the world she’s created.  It’s a world, significantly advanced from ours to be unrecognizable, and yet has many parallels.  Corruption, greed, and crime still fill the streets and back offices.  When a replicant shows up at Husky’s door and tries to kill her, it sets Husky off on a case that could affect the course of several nations.

Tears in Rain was originally published in Montero’s native Spain, and her native language, Spanish.  It’s been brought to us by Amazon’s amazoncrossing imprint, and translated.  While I found a few places where the translation didn’t come across as well as it probably should have, the majority of it was very good.  It’s hard to tell how much of the writing, and style is Monteros and how much is in the translation, but it came out very well.

If you’re a fan of Blade Runner, and would like a quick foray into a similar world, give Tears in Rain a try.  It’s a good detective novel on it’s own, and the addition of the Science Fiction elements only makes it better, in my opinion.

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[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”1612182135″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”107″]Bloodman

By : Robert Pobi

As my disclaimer, I did receive an ARC of this book from the publisher for review.  As with any book I receive for review from an author or publisher, if I don’t have anything good to say about it, I just don’t review it.  If I buy the book, all bets are off. 😉

As you will probably guess from the title, Bloodman is a book deeply settled into the crime/horror genre of books.  Not exactly my usual reading fodder, but, as I told the publicist that sent me the book, I cut my adult reading teeth on very near the entire Stephen King library, so it’s not out of my realm of reading.  Just not in the Sci/Fi and Fantasy realms that I’ve been reading more of lately.

The book takes us along with Jake Cole, Special FBI investigator, on a trip home.  To a home he hasn’t been to in 33 years, to take care of a father who has somehow set himself on fire and jumped through a plate glass window.  And, honestly, that’s about as normal as the book gets.  Shortly after arriving at his fathers home, he Cole receives a call from a local sheriff who needs his help with a fresh homicide.  I can’t tell you much more than that without getting spoilerish, but I can say that the story doesn’t leave you hanging.  The pace is quick.  All told, the entire book is over in the matter of a couple of days, but I found myself stopping several times when I realized just how much had happened in just a few short hours of story time.

There are a couple of bits that I found to be “off”.  Things that I thought an investigator of Cole’s obvious talent wouldn’t overlook.  Or at least, I didn’t think so.  Later, most of those things turn out to be plot devices, though.  Perhaps Pobi could have found a way to make them less obvious?  On the other side of the coin, there are several plot devices that he make so obvious that you find yourself waiting to see what part it is that they play in the story.

I won’t comment much on the writing itself, since the book was an ARC and probably had a bit of editing done between the version I had and the version Amazon has.  Pobi’s writing style is quick and concise.  He manages to dump a fair bit of necessary information on the reader without meandering into the long winded expository passages that some authors seem to favor.

Finally, I have to make a small comment on the ending of the book.  I’m going to attempt to be as spoiler free as I can, but just a warning.

If you’re like me, you’ll read the majority of this book and fall right into the plot twist that Pobi has set up for you.  My advice? If you’re even half way interested in the book, do yourself the favor of reading it all the way to the end.  Especially the last 10 pages!  In my mind, it took the book from a ho-hum readable to a good readable.  Looking back at it, I probably saw it coming a bit, but Pobi did a good job of directing the reader away from the same conclusion and then springs it at the very last.

Well done, and worth a read.

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Life As We Knew It

[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”0152061541″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”114″]Life As We Knew It

By: Susan Beth Pfeffer

I don’t recall where I first saw this book mentioned, but the overall idea appeals to me.  The story follows a teenage girl’s diary in the days that lead up to, and all the days that follow a meteor hitting the moon and knocking it closer into Earth’s orbit.  All the massive changes that follow create chaos, and drastically change life on Earth.

At first, I was a bit thrown off by the diary format of the book.  It seemed very non-traditional, and hard to follow.  After some reading, I got into it, though, and found it to be a great way to portray the story.  It allowed for an interesting mix of 1st person thoughts and information while still giving a pretty good overall view of the changes, and interactions of the characters.  I was attracted by the almost apocalyptic topic, but was convinced to read further by the great characters that Pfeffer has written.  She’s nailed the family dynamic nicely, as well as the teenage girl perspective.

The writing, and plot move along nicely.   It’s a YA novel, so it’s intended for an audience that is a fair bit younger than I am.  Which means it was a pretty easy read for me as well.  I did find the diary format a bit difficult at times.  There were several entries, where Miranda (the diary’s author), is recounting long conversations with a member of her family, or an encounter with another of the townsfolk that just felt like they were too exact.  Maybe it’s just me, but I rarely remember every word of every conversation.  At least, not enough to write it down later in the day.  But, if you over look that, I think it’s a very good novel.

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[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”1612182291″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”107″]Nightfall
By: Stephen Leather

I was provided an ARC of Nightfall by a publicist for the book.  As with all reviews where I’ve been provided a copy, I only review the book if I’ve been able to at least find a few good things about the book.  If I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

Nightfall is a story about a ex-cop negotiator who’s turned private detective.  As such, he finds it hard to believe in much more than the law.  Until he finds himself deep into a situation that requires a lot of belief in a lot of things.  Leather does a very good job of bringing the character along without doing the ever popular bit where the character suddenly believes something he didn’t a page ago simply because someone said he should.  He doesn’t take any short-cuts, in other words.  The character is developed, and comes along at a pace that is well done.  The plot plods along at times, but when it’s moving, it was a page turner.

Bits and pieces of the story were a bit transparent, and predictable.  Throughout, we’re kept in the dark as Nightingale (the protagonist) tries to figure out what’s going on and struggles with his beliefs that are being challenged.  The combination of the two seemed to strike a pretty good balance although the ending was a bit light, I thought.  Not unbelievable, but it seemed obvious.  Part of that may be simply because of the POV and how we readers are shown certain things. Another part of that might be that I think this is likely the first of a series of some sort, so parts might be left for future books.

One of the things that I dislike about receiving ARCs is that they are often under-edited.  There are usually misspellings, grammatical errors, and incongruities in the plot and scenes.  I was pleasantly surprised with Nightfall, in that it had very few of those problems.  Hats off to Leather, and whomever his editor is, for turning out a very good ARC copy.

Overall, the book fits the bill of a thriller, with a bit of the old detective novels thrown in.  It’s well written, and Leather’s experience shines through as he presents us with a highly readable novel that is a joy to read.

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The Black Prism

The Black Prism (Lightbringer book 1)

By Brent Weeks

As with other reviews where I’ve been supplied a review copy, let me begin this one with the disclaimer.  I received a copy of this book to read and review.  I didn’t pay a dime for it, although it was on my to buy list and I would have if they hadn’t sent it to me.  In any case, they sent me a copy.  I’ve tried my very best to keep that fact from tainting my review in any way.

You can read my reviews of Weeks’ other books here.

I had truly high hopes for this book, and it didn’t disappoint.  The magic system that has been built into this story is incredible.  Truly unlike anything I’ve read before.  The descriptions of it and the mechanics of it lend it credibility and make the story believable.  There is minimal world building, but not that doesn’t detract from the book, as it is easily replaced by the deep characters that have been seeded throughout.

The plot follows a man named Gavin who is the “Prism”.  Think of him as the Pope of the magic religion here.  He’s just found out that he has a bastard son, when he ends up rescuing him from a power hungry, self proclaimed King of what was once part of the greater kingdom.  We wind deeper into the world as we meet more and more characters from Gavins present and past.

Throughout, the writing is easy and flowing.  I never found a spot where I had to make my mind slow and digest the words.  Further, it isn’t pretentious.  Weeks writes the characters as if they were real people.  Giving us an insight into their minds using language that we can both relate to and that comes through as real.

The book is very clearly meant to be  the first in a series as there is plenty of story that is felt, but that is left untold.  However, it could stand alone.  As a stand alone, the ending would leave me wanting as there are a few loose ends that are obviously going to be picked back up in the next book.  But, the major sub-plots are all finished by the last page which gives it a good ending while still leaving a bit of a cliffhanger (What’s going to happen!!!) to whet our appetites for the next book.

There are a couple of things that were extraordinarily good devices.  I’m going to attempt to give you a feel for them without being spoilery, so if you come away thinking “what was he just saying”, that’s why.  There is a plot device that is employed in the beginning of the book.  As far as plot devices go, this is probably the most important one of the book.  And somewhere around page 200, Weeks drops it on its head and punts it.  In a good way.  An incredible way, actually.  Another device that stood out to me, is the reality of the characters.  Few of them truly fit into any established “mold” for characters.  Each has his or her own quirks that make them unique to the story.  Also, unlike many books of this size (600 pages plus), it is very difficult to foresee the outcome of things.

A couple of things that kept me from giving the book as high of marks as it maybe deserves.  It was quite obviously put on the fast track to publishing.  There are several places where the editor or proofreader overlooked obvious grammatical errors.  And several places where there were extra words that just didn’t belong.  I also became slightly confused once or twice when that main plot device that gets twisted around is referred to in both the way it was and the way it is in the same paragraph or section.  I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s meant to be that way, but without the rest of the series to prove that, it merely just confused me.

Overall, the book is very much a must read.  There’s a reason that it’s a NY Times bestseller.  If you’ve read any of the night angel trilogy, by Weeks, you’ll want to read Black Prism.  It’s much better.  Which is saying something because the Night Angel books are pretty good too.