The Martian by Andy Weir

The_Martian_2014

This was probably the most surprising book I’ve read this year. I had countless friends and co-workers tell me about how wonderful this book is and I should have listened sooner. I’m not even sure why I waited so long. It has a lot to do with the amount of books in my To Be Read piles (Hint: It’s quite a few), this book just kept being pushed down the list.

The story follows astronaut Mark Watney on his trip to Mars. He is one of the first people to ever walk on the surface of Mars and it goes without a hitch…at first. A few days into his stay on Mars a dust starts up and it soon gains in strength and the crew is forced to abandon the rest of their mission and return to Earth. As they prepare to head back to the ship, the wind blows equipment over and Mark ends up unconscious face-down in the Martian dirt with a hole in his suit. Thinking him dead the rest of the crew leaves for safety. When Mark awakens he learns he is alone and stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive.

The story is tightly paced and super tense from there. The science is interesting and seems plausible and it is pretty easy to understand all Mark’s various plans for survival. I don’t think it is a spoiler to say that not everything goes as planned and there are a lot of setbacks and conflicts that arise as Mark tries to come up with a way to last, alone, on Mars for another four years. I felt that the book maintained a very good plot tension all the way through the book. there were many happy portions where everything was working out and some tense part where things didn’t go as planned for Mark and the people trying to help him. I was very excited by the , i guess, side stories going on around Mark. From the rest of his original crew to the many people back on Earth that were trying their hardest to get him back alive, i felt it added to the plot in a great way. Various side characters got their own little time to shine and none of them seemed like cardboard cutouts of people. They all had their own motivations and fears and hopes for this mission and I felt that all came through wonderfully.

I loved the main character Mark Watney. He was smart and obviously competent but he was also funny and full of hope. He never really lost his hope that he would survive and get back to Earth somehow no matter what issues arose. He handled them all with good humor and only the occasional freak out. He was a great Point-of-view character.

I will also quickly say that I LOVE the cover on this book. It is eye-catching and sets up what is inside really well. I think this book was wonderful and deserved all the awards it has already received, and any it may get in the future. I’m excited to be the person who gets to implore people to read this great book, and I look forward to what this author writes in the future

Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn

heir to the empire

Look at that book cover! It is amazing.

I really liked this book. I recently got finished with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo from here on out) so I wanted something light to read. I decided to go back into my stash of Star Wars books that I had never read before. I had heard from friends that this book, and the whole trilogy, was one of the best. I found out that my friendswere right!

This was published in a time when the entire concept of an “Expanded Universe” wasn’t even a thing. Back when this was being published, a new book or comic was something exciting and new. New stories about Han, and Leia, And Luke! The Empire being evil! Chewbacca and other wookies! At the time this was published it was basically a sequel to Return of the Jedi and it was super exciting. I think Timothy Zahn treats the characters well and they all have the voices you remember from the movies. It is also the book that (i think) introduces Mara Jade who is , i’m told, pretty polarizing in the Star Wars Fandom.

This book takes place five years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The Rebel Alliance has destroyed the Death Star, defeated Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, and driven out the remnants of the old Imperial Starfleet to a distant corner of the galaxy. Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting twins. Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited new line of Jedi Knights.

Thousands of light years away, Grand Admiral Thrawn, the last of the Emperor’s Warlords, has taken command of the shattered Imperial Fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the New Republic. Thrawn is searching for a Dark Jedi and is succeeding in restoring the Empire.

Thrawn is a very cool addition to the Star Wars galaxy. Like almost literally. He is calm, cool, and unruffled throughout this entire book. Even when things go wrong he basically just shrugs and says “all according to plan”. General Pellaeon is his second in command and is written pretty well. He is always making asides about how different Thrawn is than his last boss (Less random killings of underlings, *coughPalpatineandVadercough*), and how amazing his plan is, which could have very quickly gotten annoying. Mara Jade is OK. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to think she is this ultimate bad ass right now, mostly i find her moody and whiny. This is actually the first book I have read with her in it, she either gets more sympathetic or less sympathetic. I have heard both. I guess I’ll have to continue reading to find out for sure.

The trio is handled pretty well. Han is still sarcastic and cynical and Leia still strives for peace and understanding. Their relationship is handled well. They seem like a couple who are equals and fight but ultimately love and respect each other. Luke is written like he always is, at least in the books I’ve read. Calm, composed, and in control of himself and the force on the outside but unsure and worrying on the inside. I think that this characterization might have started here but who knows. It can get old. I like the characters i read to have some emotions other then “stoic”, but the chapters and section where you get a glimpse of the thoughts and feelings inside his head help alleviate that somewhat.

Zahn’s invention of the ysalamiri—creepy little slugs who negate the Force is a cool invention. I like the idea of a life-form that can repel the force and negate its effects. Maybe the new continuity will bring them back?

The battles are well written and each is pretty interesting and the Noghri who chase after our heroes are cool and a bit scary. I almost forgot Joruus C’Baoth, an insane Dark Jedi clone of a Jedi named Jorus (one “u”) C’Baoth. He is crazy, and he wants Luke, Leia, and Leia’s unborn twins. He wants to lead them and mold them in his image. CRAZY. Luke gets a Force Message from him and wants to head out and find this random new Jedi. (Luke is not the most cautious person. and he is way too trusting of strangers calling to him through the force). I’m pretty interested in where this story is headed.

This was a great book and I am looking forward to reading the next books in this series!

NaNoWriMo Blog #5 – THE END

celebrating women

This is going to be a very short blog post. That said:

I FINISHED!

I finished the month with 51,113 words. I’m not going to lie, that last 1,000+ words are not good. They are in fact absolutely terrible and I will probably edit them out. BUT….I had a blast. It felt good to be creative again after a long hiatus of not producing anything. Plus, I find myself thinking of other plots that I want to write down. I learned a lot about what works for me as a writer and what i excel at. I also learned what I suck at. Which was good! I like to know where i am weak so I can try and improve.

That’s the most fulfilling thing I have taken away from the last month….I have a lot to learn. And I have a lot of growing to do as a writer. Will I ever be published? Probably not. The odds of that are very against me. However, I had a fun time and plan on continuing my work as a writer. Who knows? Maybe you’ll look at the shelf and see my name there someday!