Oh man, I'm so sad this is over! (Yeah, yeah, there's the new trilogy too, but it's not the same.) Not quite as many memorable Easter Eggs as the prevOh man, I'm so sad this is over! (Yeah, yeah, there's the new trilogy too, but it's not the same.) Not quite as many memorable Easter Eggs as the previous two plays, BUT, the "extra scene" in which Shakespeare time travels to visit Ian Doescher and chat about his plays is basically the best thing ever. I almost feel like the bonus content in these volumes is better than the actual story.
But, yes. Just as aptly performed as all the previous audio editions. The rap in Jabba the Hutt's palace was great. However, Han Solo singing and dancing just does not work for me, even during the very celebratory final scene. Ah well.
Just as George Lucas' second film was better than his first, so is The Empire Striketh Back better than Verily, A New Hope. Doescher improved on quiteJust as George Lucas' second film was better than his first, so is The Empire Striketh Back better than Verily, A New Hope. Doescher improved on quite a few things from the first play while maintaining the truly awesome spirit and energy. I just about lost it when Darth Vader riffed off of Shylock with "Hath not a Sith eyes? / Hath not a Sith such feelings, heart and soul / As any Jedi Knight de e'er possess? / If you prick us, do we not bleed?" etc. BEST EVER.
In sooth, if thou art looking for farce, parody or comedy, be advised that in truth, this is not the text thou art looking for! This is indeed an honeIn sooth, if thou art looking for farce, parody or comedy, be advised that in truth, this is not the text thou art looking for! This is indeed an honest and serious adaption.
Be also advised that listening to the audiobook is a HIGHLY wise decision. It's not just people reading the parts; there are sound effects and the original score from the films also.
And, just, seriously. This may not be played for comedy, but it's often hilarious. And the Shakespeare references and George Lucas references go so well together. It's just very good stuff.
The first fifty pages or so of The Martian made me think that I had made a terrible mistake. Not only was I completely uninterested in all of this strThe first fifty pages or so of The Martian made me think that I had made a terrible mistake. Not only was I completely uninterested in all of this stranded astronaut’s science jargon, but I actually sort of loathed his schoolboyish, nerdy sense of humor. (It was very Big Bang Theory, which, ew.) I thought to myself that if I was going to have to deal with 300 pages of being stuck in Mark Watney’s brain, then I might just have to spare myself the trouble and DNF before it got ugly.
And then something miraculous happened: Andy Weir introduced a pivotal secondary perspective: that of the NASA scientists still on Earth. And, suddenly, The Martian got very, very good.
See, nobody wants to read about an astronaut who’s been left on Mars to die and get only his perspective, day after day of farming and trying to put the radio up and dealing with minute-yet-life-threatening problems. Aside from daily survival, there’s no real goal there. Books need goals. And, by having the NASA people involved in the story, we have a goal: somehow get Mark Watney back to Earth alive. This is also pivotal because it gave me a break from Mark’s perspective.
Because, as much as I enjoyed the book, I don’t think I actually enjoyed Mark’s character. He was a grown man and clearly smart and talented enough to go to Mars, but he lacked the ability to be serious or speak maturely for more than a few seconds. Literally everything was a joke for him, everything was an opportunity to be a smart aleck, and so on and so forth. It’s not that Weir was a bad writer or anything, it’s just that people like Mark irritate me a lot.
What’s interesting, though, is how successful I found The Martian to be, in spite of its main character and in spite of its repetitive plot structure. Because that’s the other thing: this book just goes in circles. Mark’s all “I fixed this thing, so I’m going to be fine!” and then one day later: “OMG I’M GOING TO DIE! Now this other thing is broken!” and then the next day: “Okay, so I think that other thing is fixed now…” ad nauseum. Literally the entire book takes this structure. The entire book. It’s probably my biggest complaint, really.
But. Now we’re getting to the part where I actually really liked the book: it’s completely addictively readable! Even though it’s repetitive, the reader really does want to see how Mark is going to ingeniously overcome this new obstacle that he’s come across. We want to see how he’ll finally get off Mars (because obviously he will). We want to see what NASA’s doing back on earth, how Mark’s news coverage is going. This is the genius of The Martian: problems aside, Andy Weir has completely hooked the reader for the duration. It’s actually unputdownable.
It also doesn’t hurt that the book is very sciency and actually seems to be legit. I feel like Weir knows what he’s talking about, and regardless of whether he does or not, the fact that he’s convinced me, the reader, goes a long way. Sure, I skimmed some of the more technical sections of the book because I, rightly, assumed they weren’t necessary to my overall enjoyment, but they’re there. I love that the book doesn’t just do some magic wand-waving and call it science. The fact that Mark explains his actions helps me buy into the story just that little bit more.
So, in short: The Martian is totally a book that I was surprised to find myself enjoying. It has its definite faults, some that seem to be pretty insurmountable. But never underestimate the quality of compulsive readability, because it’s harder to come across than one might expect.
It’s interesting (and lucky) to note that a “bad” book by Courtney Milan is really rather good by other standards. I must confess that Unraveled was bIt’s interesting (and lucky) to note that a “bad” book by Courtney Milan is really rather good by other standards. I must confess that Unraveled was by far the weakest installment of the Turner series for me, as well as being one of my least favorite novels by Milan, but it was nevertheless an enjoyable experience overall.
By and large, Unraveled is just vastly different than any other romance novel I’ve ever read—and I’ve read a fair few. Milan has always thwarted convention, but this time she goes a little further outside its bounds. The main couple never has an argument or a break up, they don’t reconcile in the end because they don’t need to, and there are no misunderstandings between them that aren’t immediately cleared up. (One nice thing about Milan characters is that they always communicate with each other.) Instead, the driving plot, especially in the second half, comes from the main character, Miranda’s, struggle against a crime boss who’s blackmailing her and threatening her adopted brother. Which is fine—I liked that Smite and Miranda were more or less united for the duration, but…I don’t think the author writes actiony sequences nearly as well as she writes other things, so Unraveled suffered as a consequence.
I also feel like, for the fans, Smite Turner was always the “favorite” brother. He’s the dark, mysterious one with the extremely tortured soul and the drive to mend society. But…he didn’t do much for me. I don’t deny that he was well-written and such, but either something in his presentation or in Smite himself failed to strike a note with me. Miranda, for her part, was similarly uninspiring as a character. Which, I mean, “uninspiring” in Courtney Milan terms doesn’t mean anything bad, really.
I think what this comes down to is that I’ve read several of this author’s novels before and I know what she’s capable of and I have my favorites. So the bar’s been set high, and this book, while good, did not meet up to expectations. Not that I would have thought better of Unraveled had it been my first Milan novel, but it’s hard not to compare now that I have a point of reference. In short: a solid romance novel, but absolutely not the best example of either the author’s talent or what the genre has to offer.
Time and time again, Courtney Milan absolutely kills it with her novels. I think at this point it’s safe to say she’s my favorite romance author of alTime and time again, Courtney Milan absolutely kills it with her novels. I think at this point it’s safe to say she’s my favorite romance author of all time. Every book of hers that I’ve read is gold. Unclaimed, this second book in the Turner series, far surpasses the first book or the half-step novella that came in between. And surprisingly, this is a book that deals with tropes I actually kind of hate (i.e. lying and disguises). But, in typical Courtney Milan fashion, this novel takes my least favorite clichés and twists them in unexpected ways to just do things to my heart.
So, the story sounds kind of bad just on paper. Mark is a Victorian celebrity after writing a book on chastity; Jessica is a courtesan desperate for money. She’s offered a grand sum to deflower Mark, so she sets off to seduce him. Then they fall in love. Then complications. Then Happily Ever After.
I realize this sounds unbearably cliché and bad, but you just have to trust Courtney Milan to stay far, far away from anything corny or tropey. You think you know where Unclaimed is going, but then Mark and/or Jessica does something completely unexpected but also completely in character and you just fall in love with the two of them and Milan’s creativity all over again. I mean, I’m sure it’s hard to write a new twist whilst dealing with centuries’s old conventions (and it’s also why I’m convinced that romance is the hardest genre to write effectively), but Milan does it. And I love that she honors traditional genre conventions even as she finds ways to subvert them. Her style of romance is completely different than anything else I’ve encountered.
Um, just, also: in this book, Mark, the male lead, is one of the most vocal and hardcore feminists I’ve ever encountered. He respects women, he likes women, and, more than that, he uses his privilege to champion them. As he says, “there are no fallen women—just look for the man who pushed her”. Though he’s not quite there, Unclaimed’s Mark made serious inroads in claiming my top spot on my Favorite Milan Character ranking. What a guy, that Mark.
And, of course, this is not to take the spotlight away from our female protagonist, Jessica! She is a shining example of what society does to a “fallen woman”. She’s been abandoned by her family, abused, nearly killed, and impoverished. It might be easy to villainize her, since she lies to and deceives Mark, but honestly, what other choice did she have? It was a choice between seducing him for money or something worse. Like any Milan book, Unclaimed is about more than just the romance—it’s also about the female lead’s journey (and, sometimes, the male lead’s). Jessica in this book is mired in self-loathing and shame, but she’s incredibly strong for all of that. Also, she shoots a gun like a boss.
All this to say: Unclaimed is fan-freaking-tastic. Unique plotline, wonderful characters, sizzly chemistry. Courtney Milan has, unsurprisingly, done it again.