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 : 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 Killing Is My Business – Robot Crime Noir

Killing Is My Business A Novel by Adam Christopher (Ray Electromatic Mysteries #2)

Why I read: Robots!!!! Crime noir.

Book blurb: “A blend of science fiction and stylish mystery noir featuring a robot detective: the stand alone sequel to Made to Kill

Another golden morning in a seedy town, and a new memory tape for intrepid PI-turned-hitman–and last robot left in working order– Raymond Electromatic. When his comrade-in-electronic-arms, Ada, assigns a new morning roster of clientele, Ray heads out into the LA sun, only to find that his skills might be a bit rustier than he expected….Killing is My Business is the latest in Christopher’s noir oeuvre, hot on the heels of the acclaimed Made to Kill.

“Robot noir in 60s Los Angeles? You had me at ‘Hello.'” —John Scalzi, New York Times bestselling novelist on Made to Kill”?”

My review

Ray Electromatic, is the last robot. He works as as a Private Investigator but as the pay is better he sidelines as a hitman under the guidance of a supercomputer, Ada.  Every 24 hours his memory tape run out and he has to be reset by Ada with data for his current assignment.   Here the action packed novel begins as we follow Ray as he begins his current task  to infiltrate a gang and kill the boss.

This book is great robotic fun.   A quick and easy read with plenty of laughs. Filled with robots, explosions, car chases, gangsters, murder and a huge dollop of noir.  A  crime mystery with little twists alongside the main plot line that keeps everything entertaining.  There’s even a touch of “what does it mean to be human” philosophy thrown in.  It doesn’t take itself seriously and there is a lot of tongue in cheek humour.  Ray is a brilliantly lovable character, fun, witty and  endearing as he overcomes everything the world throws at him.

I haven’t read the first novel in the series but this did not seem to matter at all I enjoyed it as a standalone book.

I’d recommend it to:  fans of robots, crime noir, and anyone who wants a  fun read to brighten their day.

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

****

Hardcover, 288 pages   (I read ARC on PDF)
Published July 25th 2017 by Tor Books
ISBN  0765379201 (ISBN13: 9780765379207)

 

Book Review – They all Fall Down – Mental Health Psychological Thriller

They All Fall Down  by Tammy Cohen

Why I read: Psychological thriller set in a psychiatric clinic.

Book blurb: “She knows there’s a killer on the loose.
But no-one believes her.
Will she be next?

Hannah had a normal life – a loving husband, a good job. Until she did something shocking. Now she’s in a psychiatric clinic. It should be a safe place. But patients keep dying.

The doctors say it’s suicide. Hannah knows they’re lying. Can she make anyone believe her before the killer strikes again? .”

My review

A psychological  thriller set inside a psychiatric clinic.  Hannah is admitted into a clinic and is convinced that someone is killing off the other patients.  She believes her life is in danger and is trying to convince others that everything is not right.  Throughout the novel she discovers why she is here and about the clinic she resides in.   The book has 2 other main narrators, Hannah’s mother and a woman who works in the clinic, who add their own views and twists to the story.

This book has all the ticks for a good thriller, a few different suspects, an unreliable narrator and plenty of plot twists to keep things interesting.   The main story is told through a number of different narrators who all have their own voices and put a different spin on what is happening throughout the story.   It was  gripping with some brilliant twists and very cleverly written.  I loved hearing about Hannah’s story, how she ended up where she is and seeing that despite this she still had the strength within her to go on challenging what was around her and walking her path to recovery.

Tammy Cohan handles mental health really well.  She portrays various mental health disorders in a largely realistic but also sympathetic manner.  Its a difficult subject handled well in the context of a thriller.   I suffer from depression myself and could relate to some elements.  The grey areas between being unwell and in recovery.  How the illness impacts on your life and can cloud the way you see things.

Overall its a very good book, well written with interesting characters and plenty of clever plot twists to keep you reading.

I’d recommend to people who enjoy: psychological thrillers, mental health, well-written female characters.

****

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

Paperback, 384 pages (I read an ARC pdf)
Published July 13th 2017 by Doubleday
ISBN 0857524623

 

Book Review: Stillhouse Lake = Psychological Thriller

Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1) by Rachel Caine

Why I read: Wife of a Serial Killer, Psychological Thriller.  Kindle First Choice.

Book blurb: “Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.”

My review

A fast-paced psychological thriller that had many twists and turns.  It has a gory plot as Gina is the wife of a serial killer, on the run from her past and the people that would hurt her family.

Gina is a brilliantly written character, a true warrior.   I enjoyed the self-analysis that Gina does as to how she did not spot her husband Melvin’s crimes.  What she realised looking back afterwards was not “normal” which would ring a bell with anyone who has been in a controlling relationship before.  But from her past she grows strength, she fights to protect her family and to outsmart those who wish them harm.  Although the book lacked some realism I totally enjoyed seeing how she tackled every obstacle.

One downside was the cliffhanger ending.  It felt far too much like an attempt to get me to read the next book which really wasn’t needed.   The main story however was nicely tied up, with many twists to keep you guessing along the way.

I’d recommend to: fans of serial killer thrillers, psychological thrillers,  strong female characters

****

Kindle Edition, 302 pages
Published July 1st 2017 by Thomas & Mercer
Original Title
Stillhouse Lake
ASIN
B01MFGX5GI