The Martian by Andy Weir
I’ve read several “hard science” novels about exploring/colonizing Mars. A friend of mine, who has not steered me wrong yet, recommended this one, and in fact bought it for my son.
His description, though, while accurate, did not grab me: “It’s about an astronaut who gets left behind on Mars and has to survive on his own.” I pictured heart-wrenching insanity, despair, wistful flashbacks to life on Earth, educational facts about Mars’ environment, etc. Things I ought to be interested in, but never am.
But I couldn’t be more wrong.
I didn’t pick it up for months. I was casting about for something to read while I was going to be waiting for an oil change, and grabbed this, grabbing a backup book in case it was too much of a slog.
I’m here to say I’m sorry for ever doubting you, The Martian. This is a witty, entertaining, and well-written story. I loved the attitude of the main character, and rooted for him the whole way through. Life became annoying interruptions preventing me from reading it all in one sitting.
And yes, even picked up some interesting Mars facts in spite of myself.
Mogworld by Yahtzee Croshaw
I downloaded this from Amazon thinking it was a self-published type of book, but on further research, the book is published by Dark Horse, so it’s legit. The author is a game designer and a game reviewer. So he’s got some writing cred.
The story is comfortably whimsical without being wacky, and feels like a fresh perspective. Our protagonist is an undead minion, pulled from a place of light back into the world to be a grotesque henchman for an evil wizard.
The prose flows well, and the world-building is entertaining. I recommend this one for a somewhat Terry Pratchett-like read.
Soul to Soul (Small Universe Book 2) by Christopher M. Daniels
I’m on a streak of reading self-published stuff, and sometimes being pleasantly surprised.
The first book in the Small Universe series was okay. I saw some potential there in the writing, and some good ideas. I was hoping the second book would build on that through practice of the craft, but I was disappointed.
I’m not a writer, I’ve never written a book, I don’t have the skills developed to meet my own standards of “good” writing. But there’s a certain something that makes the difference between a well-woven tale and a “bunch of stuff that happened” as Homer would say.
I can’t put my finger on why I feel like I knew Arthur Dent or Ford Prefect, but don’t know Gilbert or Jon from these novels. The actions they did were similar, the plots not markedly of different quality, but something is missing.
I suppose if I knew what it was, I’d be writing these myself.
[At intermission of Pippin]
Scout: What was that weird section about?
Me: The one with all the kissing?
Me: That was to show Pippin going through his partying phase.
Scout: Why did he stop? What’s wrong with partying?
Me: It’s just that it’s great for a while, then you need something more.
Scout: Yeah, I had, like, 5 birthday parties one weekend, and by the end I didn’t even want cake.
Me: Exactly! You want something more substantial!
Scout: Like Mac n’ Cheese.
Me: I guess.
Scout: So, because he got tired of partying, he killed his dad?
Scout: Because he wanted Mac n Cheese.
Me: I… guess.
Scout: So that’s saying I need to kill my dad to get mac n’ cheese.
Me: That is *not* what I want you to take away from this story.