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The Martian by Andy Weir- book review

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I enjoyed this book. It was an easy book to read. I don’t read sci-fi, they can get a bit too ‘technicy’ and I get lost among the photons and thermal anodes instead of getting lost in the story. With this book I was on Mars.

The Martian is not just a sci-fi novel, its also an adventure. Mark Watney, a NASA astronaut, is presumed dead by his crew mates and abandoned on Mars. With limited food, water, and life support systems he has to survive until the next Mars mission which is 3 years away. It sounds implausible. NASA doesn’t declare a astronaut dead without good cause only to for him to be resurrected, even I know that, but the author creates a plausible explanation and keeps the science simple. How accurate it was I don’t know, I’m a writer not a scientist.

The whole story is told through log entry’s, interviews, snippets of conversations and messages. I like this style of writing. Some people don’t. There’s not much room for lengthy descriptions or in depth character back stories but I still like it. I can read it in short bursts without losing my place or having to read to the end of a chapter. Great if you have a busy week and only 10 minutes to spare.

The author keeps the pace up throughout the novel as one problem after another crops up for our hero Mark Watney. I didn’t know if he was going to survive. I really wanted him to live, he’s a funny guy. His humour and optimism in the face of dire situations made him likable and brought him to life. I wish I could say the same for the other characters in the book, I think the author divested everything he had into his main character. The characters at mission control all sounded the same and were interchangeable. Without name tags I had no idea who was who. Mark Watneys crew mates were marginally better but I couldn’t connect to them, maybe because they didn’t get much ‘page time’ till the end.

I did enjoy this book but I don’t think it would be one I would read again and again. Some books have hidden depths which emerge with each reading, I don’t think this is one of them. But that doesn’t stop it from being a good read. I’d give it 3.5 out of 5.

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The Night Horseman by Max Brand – audio book review

I’m a big fan of Western films. I like the black and white corny classics of the 30s, the big screen Technicolors of the 50s, the spaghetti westerns of the 70s; I even liked the recent and very strange movie ‘Cowboys and Aliens’. So it’s surprising that I haven’t read any western novels. Having a pile of unread novels waiting by my bedside I decided to try some free audio books.

This is the first book I’ve listened to by Max Brand, the other two were by Zane Grey but I think Max Brand is the better storyteller. The Night Horseman is the second book in a series but it works well as a stand alone book. Its a complex story with many layers and subplots all centred around the main character Dan Berry. It begins with Dr Byrne attending the sick bed of old Joe Cumberland, the man who raised Dan Berry, and his subsequent advice that Dan Berry should be brought home to see the dying man. An event which would be both a blessing and a curse.

The novel is very Gothic mixed with a traditional western style story, but it is the range of secondary characters and the subtle wit which I really enjoyed. My favourite character must be Dr Byrne and his gradual character progression from ‘bookworm’ to ‘participant of life’. I also liked Buck Daniels as a person and the difficult decisions he has to make. The author did a good job with the female lead character, Kate Cumberland by not making her pathetic or weak, even though she had all the sense and reason of a woman hopelessly in love with the wrong man. The main character of Dan Berry isn’t a complex one but he is surrounded by mystery and his motives are sometimes hard to understand. This is probably the authors intention as he is portrayed more like a wild animal then a human being. I’m not sure if I like the main character Dan Berry, but maybe Ive known too many wild men with glowing yellow eyes!

Overall I really enjoyed this novel, for me it had the right mix of adventure, drama, love and human spirit topped of with a gothic atmosphere and witty dialogue and I’m looking forward to reading more of Max Brands novels.

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Loyalty Crisis

How do you review a novel or piece of work written by someone you know?  On one hand you want to be honest for the sake of the reading public, on the other hand you don’t want to offend the writer and possibly harm their review ratings. If you enjoy the novel then all’s well. But what if you didn’t.

I’ve been put in this position a few times and have so far managed to avoid giving a definite review. The problem is I think I’m a born evil critic. If something doesn’t hit the right chord with me I will pull it to pieces looking for all its tiniest faults. My solution to my major personality flaw is to avoid things I don’t like or keep my mouth shut.

I’ve broken both those rules today and reviewed a book I didn’t like written by someone I know. I gave it a more generous rating then I would have as I know how much hard work went into it but I couldn’t in all honesty give it a 5 star review. I’m now suffering from post review guilt. Reviewing a book written by a stranger is easy, you will never see their distressed face.

If anything the experience has taught me to be more thoughtful when I review a book, slap the evil critic in me and remind her that people have feelings. Better yet, only review books written by dead writers.

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