This is, without a doubt, one of the most fun books I've read this year. Maybe it's not quite as good as Caliban's War, but seriously I read this bookThis is, without a doubt, one of the most fun books I've read this year. Maybe it's not quite as good as Caliban's War, but seriously I read this book in two days, and that was only because I literally fell asleep reading it the first day.
It's got a couple of things going for it. First, the main character, Mark Watney, has an awesomely snarky voice. It avoids being try-hard annoying, and instead comes across as authentic. Given that over half of the book is from his first-person perspective, it works out really well.
Second, the hits just keep coming. Watney starts with being stuck on Mars, and then things get worse. Weir invents more and more surprising problems for Watney to have, and then more and more surprising resolutions. Some classic (real life) Mars missions play a key role, for instance. I kept reading just to see how things would go poorly for Watney next.
Third, Weir obviously has a lot of love for NASA and space exploration in general. Even though it starts with a mission failing, and there are a lot of screwups along the way, in the end it feels hopeful, even encouraging. It's a feel-good book, especially for fans of space.
I can see why this book is shooting up the NY Times bestseller list. It's approachable and fun for anyone, but serious enough for hard-SF folks like myself. Everyone should read it....more
Damn, son. Despite it being one of my favorite books ever, it took me almost two years to completely read Leviathan Wakes. Caliban's War took me all oDamn, son. Despite it being one of my favorite books ever, it took me almost two years to completely read Leviathan Wakes. Caliban's War took me all of five days, and I read the last half of the book in pretty much one sitting. I don't remember the last time I did that.
Initially, the books suffers a bit in comparison to its predecessor. There are four viewpoints instead of two, and they're geographically distributed. But it doesn't take long for them to come together in interesting, non-contrived ways. In fact, Caliban's War is a masterwork of plotting: the tempo of the book, the way that viewpoint cuts are used to max out the tension, the stakes being raised and raised and raised again...I seriously could not put the book down.
Plus, all the characters are interesting, none of the viewpoints felt like a drag, there was no mid-book slow-down like Leviathan Wakes suffered from, and the ending felt like a true ending despite the book being the second in a series.
I'll grant you that this book is pretty much exactly at the center of my interests, but even so, I can barely think of anything bad to say about it. If you didn't like the first book, you won't like this one, but if you're anything of a speculative fiction fan, this series is one you need to read. ...more
I picked this one up in a "5 for $20" bin of paperbacks at Chicon 7. Partially, I was amused because the super-70s cover credits two authors who happeI picked this one up in a "5 for $20" bin of paperbacks at Chicon 7. Partially, I was amused because the super-70s cover credits two authors who happen to be the same person. Partially, I read a sample on Amazon years ago and was interested.
So, it was okay. For being written in the 50s, the way Mars was handled was easy enough to swallow (no little green men). The problem was that it wasn't necessary in the slightest.
The story is one of bureaucratic corruption. Everyone from the mayor on down through the police and civil service is utterly self-interested. Graft is official policy. Gangs are employed as mercenaries, and their own extortion is quietly condoned. It's pretty depressing stuff, and compelling enough (I really wanted the antagonists to get killed) but it's not really science fiction. Set the story in Dodge City, 1880 and it barely changes, except for the push-button-save-world ending. It was basically Walking Tall with space suits.
Also, there's an antagonistic but vague (and thoroughly sexist) conflict between the primary character and his love interest. For some reason she hates him and keeps trying to kill him, but she can't, because he's so manly and impulsive? I didn't really follow. Her transformation into loving and thoroughly traditional wife at the end was really jarring and Stepford Wives-ish.
All in all, it was a fun story for 200 pages. I don't regret the $4 I spent on it or the few hours I put into reading it. On the other hand, I can't really recommend it to anyone other than a total nerd for classic science fiction. There's just much better stuff out there....more