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The Martian

I recently finished the book, The Martian, a novel by Andy Weir. As an epic Fantasy and Sci-Fi lover, I figured this would be a good book to read.  The praise for this book moved my book club to choose it, and I expected it to really shine. I like to study the tools and craft of an accomplished author to see what I may be able to add to my own style. Truthfully, I’ve never written a Sci-Fi novel before, but I’ve been jotting down some ideas for awhile now.

I really enjoyed The Martian. Mr. Weir’s vision is believable and not far from becoming reality. I think situations like those presented in The Martian can be expected as we begin to branch out into our solar system, and the rest of the universe. I liked the insider’s view of NASA, and the manner in which they operate.

There was  a great deal  of terminology I had to learn which slowed down the flow of the story; still, I have a much better understanding of all the things they have to work out and why things are built the way they are, and  why they operate the way they do. For me, a little drag on the momentum for knowledge is a worthy sacrifice.

In truth, this was more a science science-fiction than a science-fiction fiction. I bring this up because if you are the kind of person that enjoys the fast driven adventurous science fiction of Star Trek, Transformers, Avatar, and Star Wars for example, you’re probably going to feel the protagonist’s pain early. The book itself was quite dry.

The protagonist, Watney, is a botanist and engineer. He is interesting in his own way, but I didn’t feel any significant character curvature in terms of personality growth. He did, however, grow greatly where his professions were concerned while learning how to overcome the many problems he faced. There are many other characters as well, and I found their character growth more evenly spread between personality and profession.

One thing I noticed fairly early on that did not work well for me was the number of times that Watney repeated himself while recording messages on his computer. At first, I thought, “Quit nitpicking, there’s going to be a point to this, and it will present itself later.”  That didn’t happen. Here’s my thinking. If someone was receiving Watney’s messages, and he knew that, there would be no reason to repeat anything from the previous message. It would make more sense to simply provide new information, saving time and energy for a variety of other more important tasks. Unless there was something causing him to not remember things well, such as thin atmosphere, lack of air, water, food, or something else that is above my head, there would be no reason to repeat messages for himself as he could just go back and listen to what  was previously recorded.  For myself, rereading things repeated from the previous chapter detracted from the flow of the story’s momentum. The other thing that began to grind on me around chapter ten was the sheer predictability of the main plot line.

On the other hand, I enjoyed the many amazingly brilliant and creative solutions that Watney and others came up with to solve his many problems.  There are plenty of personalities, and they were all quite believable. The secondary plots bounce back and forth so as to regulate a balance between dry and damp. Mr Weir did a great job with this in my opinion. He also did a very good job at making me feel the joy of the characters as they overcame boundaries that they thought impossible and the frustrations when things weren’t going well.  He also added a good amount of humor throughout the book which helped in some of the slower spots.

Overall, The Martian was well-written and held my interest to the end.  I openly suggest The Martian to anyone that likes space-odyssey SciFi.  I’m guessing that this story will resonate best with teen and adult readers. The opening pulled me right in, and the ending was very satisfying.

As an addendum, I have also seen the movie, and they left some really good parts out.  If you liked the movie, I recommend you read the book.If you didn’t like the movie, I also recommend you read the book. Finally, in the defense of all author’s works, I hasten to remind you, the readers, that books are like shoes and opinions are like raindrops.

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to comment.

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Disenchanted

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I just finished this story yesterday afternoon. When I picked this book up, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. The title was vague to me, and it left me wondering what the book was actually about. Obviously, the title did the job it was meant to do; make the peruser curious enough to investigate further.

In the beginning, Disenchanted begins with a small group of travelers climbing out a cave. They appear to be escaping a life of violence, only to begin their first day of freedom with just such an act as they had hoped to escape. It leaves many questions in the reader’s mind and was well thought out. Ms. Ursel did a great job of connecting every dot, and answering any dangling questions left to tantalize her readers by the end of the story.

Disenchanted is dialogue driven, and the author did a superb job with this. It also possesses a wide variety of colorful characters, each very believable, and many of their lives intertwine. I found it very easy to connect with a number of them.

I discovered plenty of not so commonly used words throughout her work. I’ve heard plenty of complaints by other readers about other such writers doing this. I personally like finding words I have to look up. As a writer myself, widening my own vocabulary is part of the job, and a facet I really do enjoy.  If you are a reader put off by big words, you might have to look up, this may not be the book for you.

Although Disenchanted is driven mostly by dialogue, Ms. Ursel did a great job balancing dialogue with action. In this quote, we see one of many such examples:

““As they left the tanners, the leather in a roll under Blayn’s arm, he heard a noise behind him and wheeled around to find Morwen in the grip of Richard, the tanners son. He had shot up tall and broad shouldered since his days of schoolyard bullying.

“Well, my pretty hussy. You came around to see me but you didn’t stay for a roll in the hay.”

“Don’t talk to her like that.”

Richard looked down at Blayn. He sneered.

“And who’s going to stop me, a scarecrow like you?”

“Just so. You can’t keep a civil tongue in your head, you’ll have to do without one altogether.” Blaine raised his arms and chanted a rapid incantation while Morwen, taking advantage of Richard’s distraction, drove her knee into his crotch with all her strength.

Richard doubled forward and fell, writhing in agony, his mouth working. No sound emerged. Morwen and Blayn took to their heels.

Back among the terebinths, Morwen gulped for air. “You didn’t really take out his tongue, did you?””
Disenchanted offers a prologue, forty-six chapters, and an epilogue. The switching between one set of characters to another keeps the pace reasonable and allows the reader a number of places to stop if the need arises. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction and fantasy. YA and Adult are likely to be the largest groups of Disenchanted’s readers.

Lastly, just one note of caution: if you are a reader who shies away from Christian oriented works, which this isn’t entirely, or you are a follower of western religious doctrines, which this also isn’t entirely, this may not be the book for you unless you can look upon this as a window into philosophic evolution. Whatever the case, don’t take my word for it. Read it yourself—chances are you will be glad you did.