Book Review : The Martian – amazing sci-fi

The Martian by Andy Weir

5 star read

Why I read:   I’ve heard so much about this sci-fi that I wanted to read it before seeing the film.

Book blurb: “Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him? “

 “Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped.” ― Andy WeirThe Martian

My review

Mark Watson  is stranded on Mars and needs to use all his knowledge, skills and courage to survive. Presumed dead by his crew he was stranded in a habitat designed to last 31 days.   He needs to let the people back on earth know he is alive, he needs to figure out a way to exist on an alien planet and he needs to figure out how to get back to earth.  The book starts brilliantly with: “I’m pretty much Fucked. That’s my considered opinion. Fucked”… yup a good summary of the situation.   It’s a true survival story, packed full of science and sci-fi.   From the first lines I was hooked into this book, its brilliantly written, and totally captivated me whilst reading.   It takes you on a real space adventure, complete with thrills, set-backs and wonderful ingenious ideas to overcome the impossible.

 “Problem is (follow me closely here, the science is pretty complicated), if I cut a hole in the Hab, the air won’t stay inside anymore.”  ― Andy WeirThe Martian

I loved the way Mark’s  humour gave him strength and carried him through.   Smart and funny I engaged with him, admired him and totally wanted him to succeed and survive.  I felt like I was with him there on Mars, listening to his scientific explanations and laughing at his jokes.  He quickly became one of my favourite space pirates.

“Here’s the cool part: I will eventually go to Schiaparelli and commandeer the Ares 4 lander. Nobody explicitly gave me permission to do this, and they can’t until I’m aboard Ares 4 and operating the comm system. After I board Ares 4, before talking to NASA, I will take control of a craft in international waters without permission.   That makes me a pirate!  A space pirate!” 
― Andy WeirThe Martian

The parts set on Earth I found less engaging.  These sections were still interesting and included a good range of characters and added more background to the story.  But they reminded me of big budget American Movies with  how everyone in the world pulls together to save one person.   It did show a wonderful side of humanity though and added a feel good element to the book.

I loved that there was so much science, I didn’t understand all of it but it made the book so much more believable.  Talk to a science geek about their favourite subject and you will be bombarded with scientific detail and that’s just what happened in the book.  Its a true “hard-science” science-fiction about space exploration and equally a fast, exhilarating, thrilling read.

I gave it a solid 5 stars because I enjoyed  reading it so much. I’m recommending it to everyone I know:  “It’s brilliant, you have to read it.  It’s got space pirates.” Its a book I will put away and read again in the future.

There’s a free short story which is a prequel to the Martian and gives a tiny taste of what to expect: Prequel to the Martian.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes:  sci-fi, adventure, physics, survival, thrillers, space exploration and pirates, especially space pirates.

“You know what? “Kilowatt-hour per sol” is a pain in the ass to say. I’m gonna invent a new scientific unit name. One kilowatt-hour per sol is… it can be anything… um… I suck at this… I’ll call it a “pirate-ninja”.” ― Andy WeirThe Martian

*****  5 star read

369 pages

Published  September 27th 2012

 ISBN 0804139024
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Book Review: Scary Mary

Scary Mary

Why I read:  Book club book for November.  Ghosts.

Book blurb: “Mary just wants to be left alone, but the cheerleaders, jocks, guidance counselors, and ghosts won’t stop harassing her. When a new boy starts school, he surprises Mary by befriending her. That’s a rare thing for the school freak, but her unusual abilities put a rift in their budding friendship when Mary has to tell Cy that his home is haunted and not by Casper, the friendly ghost. Mary has to get rid of the ghost, thwart the school bully, do her homework, and not get detention. Mary’s sure she can do all of that except for the last part. 

 

My review

The kindle edition of this book is currently available for free on Amazon (Dec 17).  So if you love young adult stories with ghostly spookiness give this one a go.

I’m not a big reader of young adult novels so I found everything a bit too simplistic, the plot was predictable and was focused more on Mary’s thoughts than much happening.    Although I did enjoy the end sections where things kick of and get more ghostly.

Scary Mary is an independent teenage girl who thinks for herself and looks after herself. She’s a bit different from everyone else in that she can hear ghosts.   I really enjoyed this aspect of the story.  Even when I didn’t agree with or understand her actions or thoughts it was interesting to see how she interacted with other people and the supernatural.

“It was funny how saving a boy from danger didn’t guarantee him liking the girl.  It always worked for the guy in fairy tales.  The damsel always married the hero and they lived happily ever after.  Why weren’t there any stories about the damsel saving the hero?” Scary Mary

I only gave the book 2 stars as it was too simplistic and high school cliche for my tastes. But overall its a very quick fun read with a bit of spookiness thrown in.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: ghosts,  young-adult, school drama

**

 Kindle Edition, 144 pages

Published August 18th 2010 (first published August 16th 2006)

Book Review: Cthulu and Other Monsters – gory horror shorts

Cthulu and Other Monsters  by Sam Stone

Why I read:  I love Cthulu tales and have enjoyed other books by the author.

Book blurb: “Sixteen tales of terror from the blood-soaked pen of Sam Stone. Enter if you dare and discover nine stories inspired by the nightmare visions of H P Lovecraft: Elder Gods returning to the Earth to wreak havoc, tales of death and destruction and betrayal and the last flickering embers of humanity … Alongside these are seven further stories featuring the monstrous creations of Stone’s own imagination: a hungry and jealous sea; wolf-creatures prowling the fashion industry; a terrifying creature held captive in a cellar … Open the cover and let Sam Stone’s nightmares guide your way into horror … ‘Entertaining and original’ Brian M Sammons ‘Mistress of the grisly and the glutinous’ Graham Masterton.”

 

Select quote ” Lucy could make out a bulbous shape, and long thick appendages that moved in a a sinuous flow as the creature shifted,  like a giant octopus or some creature from the deep.  This could not be a land dweller….”

My review

This collection of short stories featuring Cthulu’s Old Gods and a variety of other monsters is a fun read.   Its a very adult themed book with lots of gore, gruesome horror scenes and some sex sprinkled throughout the pages.  There’s a diverse mixture of themes contained as the author brings in elements of sci-fi, romance, steam-punk and tales set in the past, present and future.  There is a brilliant range of new takes on Lovecraftian ideas and wonderful twists in the stories that you don’t see coming.  My highlight was Of Gods and Blood – with plenty of references to Lovecraft and the Old Gods its an exciting read with so much packed into this short tale.

I really enjoyed the writers fun style and the originality  but overall found it a mixed bag.  Some stories I really enjoyed and got into, others I just skimmed through.   A wonderfully entertaining book perfect for fans of horror shorts.

You  can read a short extract of the book over on Amazon.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes:  horror, gore, cthulu,and  monster stories.

***

Book Review : Blind Side: gripping thriller crossed with love story

Blind Side by Jennie Ensor

Why I read:  intriguing thriller set in London.

Book blurb: “Can you ever truly know someone? And what if you suspect the unthinkable?

London, five months before 7/7. Georgie, a young woman wary of relationships after previous heartbreak, gives in and agrees to sleep with close friend Julian. She’s shocked when Julian reveals he’s loved her for a long time.

But Georgie can’t resist her attraction to Nikolai, a Russian former soldier she meets in a pub. While Julian struggles to deal with her rejection, Georgie realises how deeply war-time incidents in Chechnya have affected Nikolai. She begins to suspect that the Russian is hiding something terrible from her.

Then London is attacked…

Blind Side explores love and friendship, guilt and betrayal, secrets and obsession. An explosive, debate-provoking thriller that confronts urgent issues of our times and contemplates some of our deepest fears.

 

My review

An exciting read Blind Side combines a thriller and a love story.  One night Georgie makes a mistake and sleeps with her friend Julian who reveals he is in love with her.  Shortly after in a London bar she meets Nikolai, a Russian ex-soldier, and as she starts dating him she begins to suspect he has dark secrets.  What follows is a unique, gripping psychological thriller of  friendship, guilt, betrayal, obsession and love.

I really enjoyed following Georgie as she discovers more about Nikolai, unravels new truths and secrets and their relationship develops. It had me hooked from the start.  Most of the story is told through Georgie’s eyes but we are also given insights into the mind of Georgie’s stalker as his obsession escalates.  All 3 of the main characters Georgie, Nikolai and Julian  were really well written and realistic.  Their actions and motives were believable.  The story is full of twists and turmoil making it a great psychological thriller.    What impressed me most was the way numerous issues surrounding their relationship and the 7/7 attacks in London were explored and added a real depth to the story.  Issues such as racism, terrorism, fear, different classes and immigration are woven throughout the story making it a thought-provoking read.

Overall I’d give it a solid 4 stars for an exciting psychological thriller with real depth.  A brilliant debut I look forward to seeing what the author writes next.

I’d recommend to fans of: psychological thrillers, complicated love stories, suspense, mystery.

****

I received a free copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.  

Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 28th 2017 by Unbound
ISBN 1911586009

Book Review : Sleep Over – an oral history of the Apocalypse

Sleep Over: An Oral History of the Apocalypse by H.G. Bells

Why I read:

5 Star Read

Book blurb: “For fans of the oral history genre phenomenon World War Z, a worldwide plague of insomnia creates a devastating new apocalypse.

Remember what it’s like to last an entire night without sleep? That dull but constant headache. The feeling of your brain on edge. How easily irritated you were. How difficult it was to concentrate, even on seemingly menial tasks. It was just a single restless night, but everything felt just a little bit harder to do, and the only real comfort was knowing your head would finally hit the pillow at the end of the day, and when you awoke the next morning everything would return to normal.

But what if sleep didn’t come the next night? Or the night after? What might happen if you, your friends and family, your coworkers, the strangers you pass on the street, all slowly began to realize that rest might not ever come again?

How slowly might the world fall apart? How long would it take for a society without sleep to descend into chaos?

Sleep Over is collection of waking nightmares, a scrapbook of the haunting and poignant stories from those trapped in a world where the pillars of society are crumbling, and madness is slowly descending on a planet without rest.

Online vigilantism turns social media into a deadly gamble.

A freelance journalist grapples with the ethics of turning in footage of mass suicide.

A kidnapped hypnotist is held hostage by those at wit’s end for a cure.

In Sleep Over, these stories are just the beginning. Before the Longest Day, the world record was eleven days without sleep. It turns out most of us can go much longer.”

 

My review

A wonderfully chilling apocalyptic book that questions what would become of the world if no-one was able to sleep?  We follow the story as the world breaks apart, bit by bit.  The horror created by the insomnia of the entire human race is easily comparable to that of zombies or killer viruses.  Its a highly original and thrilling read.

The book consists of a number of personal testimonials from different characters.  There are tales from an amazingly diverse range of  people with different backgrounds, all scattered around the world.  You get to see the effect of insomnia through the eyes of scientists, policy makers, a taxi driver, gamers, nurses, to name but a few.  The stories are grouped into time frames and each one reveals more about what is happening to the world.   Some of the people’s stories show humanity descending into its worse traits, others show survival and there are some touching tales demonstrating real caring and the best of humanity.  The writing is beautifully haunting, vividly capturing the horror each person experiences but with brief moments of hope and joy scattered throughout.   There are loads of brilliant thoughts and ideas packed into the 300 pages as we see the apocalypse through many different viewpoints.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers so will just add this is a book I really enjoyed and will read again in the future.

Overall this is a brilliant and original apocalyptic thriller.  It’s a thought provoking book that I’d suggest all sci-fi fans read.

I’d highly recommend to fans of: horror, apocalyptic thrillers, dystopia and  sci-fi

*****

I received a free copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.  

Paperback, 300 pages
Expected publication: January 16th 2018 by Talos
ISBN  194045669X

Book Review : The Good Samaritan – Prime November Pick

The Good Samaritan by John Marrs

Why I read:  Thriller.  Amazon Prime pick for November

Book blurb: “She’s a friendly voice on the phone. But can you trust her?

The people who call End of the Line need hope. They need reassurance that life is worth living. But some are unlucky enough to get through to Laura. Laura doesn’t want them to hope. She wants them to die.

Laura hasn’t had it easy: she’s survived sickness and a difficult marriage only to find herself heading for forty, unsettled and angry. She doesn’t love talking to people worse off than she is. She craves it.

But now someone’s on to her—Ryan, whose world falls apart when his pregnant wife ends her life, hand in hand with a stranger. Who was this man, and why did they choose to die together?

The sinister truth is within Ryan’s grasp, but he has no idea of the desperate lengths Laura will go to…

Because the best thing about being a Good Samaritan is that you can get away with murder.”

 

 

““For the more vulnerable out there, once the darkness falls, so do their barriers. Night-time is their enemy, because with fewer visible distractions there’s more opportunity to dwell on how hopeless their lives have become.”
― John MarrsThe Good Samaritan

My review

A fast paced thriller  The Good Samaritan is a tale about Laura,  a help-line volunteer who encourages her callers to commit suicide.  Most of the book is duel narrative between Laura and Ryan the husband of a woman who commits suicide who suspects Laura’s involvement in her death.    Its a true roller coaster as they take each other on, pushing the limits to unravel each other.  The main characters are complex, multi-layered and well written.  Laura is a deeply unlikable character and unreliable narrator.  Sections narrated as her is a glimpse into a truly disturbed mind.  But it was also hard reading Ryan’s grief and the stages he goes through after loosing someone he cared about to suicide.   Although some of his actions I just could not agree with I sympathised with why he was driven to them.   I don’t want to give away any of the plot as its filled with many twists and turns. Its original, clever and griping,  a really exciting read.

I felt the author captured the feelings of despair, the vulnerability of a depressed mind and the isolation of depression really authentically.  I’ve battled with depression and suicidal thoughts for many years and although each persons battle is individual this book portrayed the downward spiral of this illness really well.    I could easily relate to the people who called Laura at the End of the Line and that she got such pleasure from their pain was sickening.  Being inside her head was a horrifying place to be.  As many of the topics in this book are potentially triggering I’d recommend reading it only when in the right head space.

The dark nature of this book, with a killer targeting victims of depression pushed me to my limits whilst reading.  But I enjoy unsettling reads and this book brought it by the bucketfuls. Its horrific and disquieting but I couldn’t stop reading.  I wanted to know how it all ended.    However the author didn’t tie it all up at the end but like life left speculation and possibility of what else could happen.

Overall I found the book a fast read, brutally dark and full of exciting and clever twists.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: fast paced reads,  psychological thrillers, serial killers and dark unsettling topics.

***1/2

Kindle Edition, 390 pages
Expected publication: December 1st 2017 by Thomas & Mercer
ASIN B0728K48N8

Book Review : White Bodies – psychological thriller about twin sisters

White Bodies by Jane Robins

3 star read

Why I read:   Dark, psychological thriller with unreliable  narrator

Book blurb: “Felix and Tilda seem like the perfect couple: young and in love, a financier and a beautiful up-and-coming starlet. But behind their flawless façade, not everything is as it seems.

Callie, Tilda’s unassuming twin, has watched her sister visibly shrink under Felix’s domineering love. She has looked on silently as Tilda stopped working, nearly stopped eating, and turned into a neat freak, with mugs wrapped in Saran Wrap and suspicious syringes hidden in the bathroom trash. She knows about Felix’s uncontrollable rages, and has seen the bruises on the white skin of her sister’s arms.

Worried about the psychological hold that Felix seems to have over Tilda, Callie joins an internet support group for victims of abuse and their friends. However, things spiral out of control and she starts to doubt her own judgment when one of her new acquaintances is killed by an abusive man. And then suddenly Felix dies—or was he murdered?”

 

 

My review

A dark, twisted psychological thriller about two twin sisters obsession with each other. When Tilda meets Felix, charming but with controlling tendencies, Callie becomes fearful for her safety.    Callie narrates so we see the story unfold through her eyes and observations,  occasionally delving into the past to shed more light on their entwined lives. I found the relationship between the twins fascinating  and it kept me hooked throughout the book. With its themes of love, manipulation and violence.  Jane Robins writes the sisters characters brilliantly, neither are particularly likeable, they are flawed, weird and interesting to read about.  Tilda’s narcissism and Callie’s compulsion to consume things that belonged to Tilda demonstrate how their mental states distort their reality.  Which creates a dark book full of clues, red herrings, twists and suspense that keep you reading and guessing.

Overall White Bodies is an enjoyably unsettling page turner.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: psychological thrillers, unreliable narration, twisting storylines and sibling relationship drama.

***

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

297 pages
Published September 19th 2017 by Touchstone
ISBN  1501165089