“Karen Memory” by Elizabeth Bear

KarenMemoryI was excited to get a copy of Karen Memory because I enjoyed Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky trilogy – it had an epic scope, a great unconventional setting and subverted a whole bunch of stereotypes of women in fantasy. Karen Memory is pretty different in both setting and tone (steampunk adventure featuring a lesbian prostitute protagonist), but it was still superb.

Karen Memery is a “seamstress” at Madam Damnable’s upscale brothel Hôtel Mon Cherie in the burgeoning Rapid City. When Madam Damnable offers sanctuary to a girl escaping from the harsh conditions of Peter Bantle’s rather lower-scale establishment, he swears retribution and Karen gets swept up into the adventure of her life, involving a legendary lawman, a serial killer, a plot against the United States and more.

Karen’s first-person narration really sells this book – she’s down to earth, but has a sharp wit, plain-spoken but charismatic, and most importantly, is full of heart.  She’s had a tough life, and she doesn’t run away from that, but neither does she doesn’t let that stop her from being optimistic. It’s apparent that she’s no lady, but she’s definitely someone you’d want as a friend.

All the supporting characters feel like people you’d want to know too. Of course there’s Priya, the indentured girl rescued from Bantle and Karen’s love interest – she’s whip-smart and has a core of steel, despite being abused. She’s a full, three-dimensional person that is treated as such and isn’t really exoticized at all despite being from India, which is pretty amazing (I’ve met people in real life who have the best intentions but feel like they have to treat me differently because I’m from India, so I really mean that it’s amazing). There’s the kind but determined U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves, who was a real person, and Tomoatooah, his badass Numu posseman, and Merry Lee the also-badass woman that rescued indentured slaves. And all the other girls at the Hôtel Mon Cherie have their own distinct personalities without any reference to what they do for a living (something that is carried over from the Eternal Sky trilogy and sorely missing from fantasy – a cast of mainly women that all defy stereotypes) – in fact, there’s very little sex in this book, and none actually described. Here’s Elizabeth Bear talking about how she sees that:

And the thing is, for Karen and her colleagues, prostitution is a job. It’s how they make a living, not how they identify themselves. The protagonists of most urban fantasy novels seem to work waiting tables or as private investigators, if they’re not starving artists. Either their job is the adventure, or it’s something that provides a gateway to the adventure, but we’re never supposed to care too much about the job qua job itself!

So Karen’s job gives her an entry into her adventure—but it certainly doesn’t define her. And to me, the adventure is the interesting thing. She’s not having adventures or being a good person in spite of being a prostitute. She’s a prostitute, and she also gets to have adventures.

The protagonist and the characters are the most charming things about Karen Memory, but it’s also a damn good adventure story. The pacing is excellent, and the stakes keep getting higher – what starts off as a simple mission to rescue Priya’s sister turns into helping Marshal Reeves find his killer, which turns into an attempt to stop Peter Bantle’s political ambition, and that leads into even more trouble. Karen grows as a character, learning to move on from her father’s death, discovering talents she didn’t know she had, and falling in love.

I’m not super well-read in the steampunk genre, but I’ve learned to be wary of stories that are all about the gadgets. The steampunk elements in this book, though prevalent and integral to the plot, are just everyday items in the world Karen lives in. Gadget fans won’t be disappointed either – there’s the mandatory airship trip and a cool submersible, as well as some very useful household and medical devices – but they are just supplements to the plot and characters.

I really need to go back and read Elizabeth Bear’s earlier work – between this and Eternal Sky, she’s shown she has incredible range.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
Tor Books, 2015 | Buy the book
I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

“City of Stairs” by Robert Jackson Bennett

cityofstairsCity of Stairs was the other fantasy from 2014 that I’ve been hearing universal praise for (the first was The Goblin Emperor, which I loved), so I was pretty excited to read it too. Some reviews described it as “epic fantasy” (it’s not what I think of as epic), so I was expecting a wholly different style of book, but once I was able to get into it, I ended up liking it.

The book is set in Bulikov, the titular City of Stairs, which was once the seat of a great empire with the active help of its gods. Now the gods are dead, and Bulikov has been colonized by its former Saypuri slaves, who remember every detail of their slavery all too well. When one of Saypur’s foremost scholars is murdered in Bulikov, Shara, a highly skilled spy steps in to investigate, and finds that the gods may not be as dead as everyone thinks they are.

In some aspects, this book reminded me of The City & The City by China Miéville – but that’s probably just the surface level similarities of the plot being propelled by a murder investigation in a weird/unique city. Bulikov is certainly weird; there are miracles in evidence everywhere, such as the sunrise showing through the impossibly high city walls; the city is covered with ruins and half-structures (and stairs!) from when the laws of physics reasserted themselves over the reality the gods shaped; the people that live there aren’t allowed to know anything about their past or their erstwhile Divinities, but their colonial overlords can study them all they want.

The worldbuilding in this book is excellent, it’s just as atmospheric as the book’s title suggests. I liked that the cultures of the Continent and Saypur seemed to be inspired by Russia and India, since we don’t see a lot of that with fantasy. Colonialism and oppression are strong themes, and they’re not treated simplistically; we get realistic foreign policy and consequences thereof. The Divinities are masterfully crafted – they’re just unfathomable enough to be awe-inspiring, but are still relatable. I particularly liked the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter, which were usually only obliquely related to the plot, but really developed the world.

The main thing that knocked City of Stairs down a couple of notches was that some of the characters weren’t that great. Shara wasn’t a very compelling protagonist (although, she is the first protagonist I’ve encountered that actually looks like me – she’s described as a small brown woman with enormously thick eyeglasses) because she doesn’t have enough to lose. She cares about some things – history, for example, but I never got a sense of who she was and why she does what what does. There are terrific stories about people that are stuck in a rut regaining purpose (Paladin of Souls, for one), but I didn’t really care about Shara enough to root for her and her course of action at the very end seemed to come out of the blue. Her flashbacks were a lot more interesting because it shows her at a time when she’s more vibrant and someone I’d actually invest in.

Also, Sigrud, Shara’s sidekick, seemed to have no personality, and his arc over the book just fell totally flat for me. I know the author can write better characters (unlike China Miéville, for example, whose characters are always cold, and his books are all about the worlds/ideas), because there are some in this book – Shara’s irrepressible and conflicted college boyfriend and current Bulikov businessman/politician, Vohannes, and the tough-as-nails ex-military city governor, Mulaghesh.

Plot-wise, I was a bit skeptical of the whole “murder investigation” thing (I’m not a big fan of police procedurals), but luckily, the other mysteries of Bulikov soon overshadow it. There’s plenty of action, and everything comes to a satisfying conclusion. City of Stairs is a good book overall, and it’s certainly a fresh perspective on fantasy.

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
Broadway Books, 2014 | Buy the book
I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

“The Goblin Emperor” by Katherine Addison

thegoblinemperorI’ve been hearing nothing but praise for The Goblin Emperor since it came out last year – most reviews used the words “optimistic” and “endearing”. I like well-done grimdark (like the First Law series) but I love both court-intrigue and hero-driven fantasy, so I really had to read this.

We follow Maia, the youngest son of the recently deceased emperor, from the moment that he receives the news that his father and brothers are dead and he is now the emperor of the Elflands. Maia is the half-goblin son of the emperor’s least favoured wife, and has grown up in isolation, with no resources and no knowledge of the court and its politics. He’s surrounded by people that either want to take advantage of his naivete or don’t want him around at all, and he has to figure things out very quickly, or he’s going to either end up dead or a puppet.

Maia is one of the best protagonists that I’ve encountered in a while – he’s smart (even if he isn’t knowledgeable), kind, and determined to do the best job he can – I know that sounds like a lot of generic fantasy protagonists, but Maia seems more like a real person, you can actually observe his mind at work. For example, in The Wheel of Time, Rand is ostensibly smart because he ends up making a bunch of decisions about how people should run their kingdoms and they’re good ones – don’t tax the people too much, encourage science, etc. – but you never see the process by which he makes them, and so you just have to take for granted that he’s smart. But in The Goblin Emperor, you observe the process by which Maia figures out when he needs to make a decision and when he needs more information (and when he’s just completely overwhelmed and asks for help) and you come to the conclusion that he’s pretty smart. His kindness is simlar – Maia is kind in a lot of subtle ways and he’s always empathetic towards people, even those that try to kill him. His determination to do a good job is endearing – he doesn’t do it for some noble ideals of serving his country, he just doesn’t think of himself and his wishes as important, so of course he does a good job. There’s a particularly funny scene where someone suggests that he abdicate and join a monastery, and he actually wants to do it because it would be so much easier.

I was worried that Maia would be plunged into a implausible world where he couldn’t trust anyone and everyone would be out to get what they could from him, but most of the characters just wanted to do their job and do it well. There are plenty of people that liked the old emperor and don’t really appreciate the fact that he’s in power now, but very few of them want to do something about it. That’s not to say that there aren’t plots to be foiled,  but they’re less prevalent that I had feared. The Goblin Emperor is a much subtler book than than that.

I don’t want to give off the impression that this book is all rainbows and sunshine with no complexity, though – there are a whole variety of people and situations. One of the more notable ones is Maia’s relationship with his cousin and abusive guardian Setheris – it is fraught with terror, even after their power dynamic changes drastically. The experience of growing up abused and ignored informs his decisions heavily, though, he is able to recognize the people that just seem to want power and attention and deal with them appropriately. There are a bunch of other situations where there’s a lot more than meets the eye (the whole arc with Min Vechin, the friendship between Maia and his personal guards, his grandfather’s visit) and it all comes together beautifully because of the author’s superb characterization.

The only (very minor) complaint I have with this book is that the names / places / people have a lot of similar sounding names and it was really hard to get them straight – I’m usually really good at that, so it was doubly frustrating. It helped me empathize with Maia’s predicament since I was also somewhat overwhelmed, so maybe that’s why? There’s a guide at the end of the book that explains the naming scheme (no spoilers), and that was very helpful – I only wish I had found it earlier.

I’m sure this will be one of the best books I read this year, and I read it in February! I’m looking forward to reading some of the author’s other works (Katherine Addison is a psueodonym for Sarah Monette).

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Tor Books, 2014 | Buy the book
I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

“Valour and Vanity” by Mary Robinette Kowal

Valour-and-VanityJane and Vincent are back in the fourth Glamourist Histories book, Valour and Vanity.  Lord Byron has invited them to visit him in Venice, and they’re looking forward to the opportunity to work with the famed glassmakers of Murano to develop their method of storing glamour inside glass. However, things go horribly wrong as they’re attacked by Barbary pirates on the way and lose all their possessions.

This series keeps getting better! The blurb for this book advertises a heist, so I don’t think it’s a spoiler, even though it happened later in the book than I thought it would. I was somewhat skeptical about the circumstances that would lead to the Vincents needing to perform a heist, but Kowal makes it pretty believable that they have no other choice (especially given Vincent’s well-established stubborn streak). I’m a sucker for heists, though, so I probably didn’t need that much convincing.

I’m not really in a paragraph mood today, so I’m going to finish off this review with bullet points.

  • The heist itself was very well executed (Kowal thanks Scott Lynch in the credits, and he’s basically the fantasy heist god, so there’s that). The hidden plan-within-a-plan was pulled off very smoothly, especially given that we see the whole thing from Jane’s point of view and know that there’s a hidden plan.
  • I’ve always loved Venice as a setting – I loved it when I visited, and watching my husband play through the Assassin’s Creed games also makes me feel like have a certain familiarity with it. Murano isn’t Venice, but it’s close, and Kowal captures the feel of it really well, even though we see it at a low point in its history.
  • I loved the supporting characters! The nuns, Signor Zancani, and especially Lord Byron! It’s so cool that Lord Byron is a character, and he’s every bit as rascally as I would expect, but also every bit as brilliant. And it makes so much sense that he would be friends with the Vincents.
  • I learn so much about history from these books. I didn’t know anything about the kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, and the troubles faced by the glassmakers of Murano.
  • Jane and Vincent go through some pretty hard times in this book. While I don’t exactly enjoy it when they go through yet another harrowing experience, they grow a lot from it. In Glamour in Glass, Jane was shocked by French sensibilities, in Without A Summer, she recognized her own prejudice about Catholics. In this book, she learns what it’s like to be poor, and to fall from nobility – there’s a particularly poignant moment where she makes a single impulse purchase.

The next book, Of Noble Family is going to be the last Glamourist Histories book, and it comes out in April. I have an ARC, though, so expect a review soon. I’m sure it will be just as good as the rest!

Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal (Glamourist Histories, #4)
Tor Books, 2014 | Buy the book
I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

“Without A Summer” by Mary Robinette Kowal

WithoutSummerWithout a Summer is the third book in the Glamourist Histories series, after Glamour in Glass. Jane and Vincent, recovered from their adventures in Belgium, have taken on a new commission in London. They bring Melody with them, hoping that being in London during the Season will help her find an eligible husband. London is exciting for all the wrong reasons, though – it is unseasonably cold, and the glamourist guild of coldmongers is being blamed. And to top it all off, Vincent’s abusive family seems to want to meddle in his business again.

This book goes back to the series’ Austen-esque roots, with all the fuss about finding Melody a husband, but it also keeps the political aspects from Glamour in Glass. The things that Jane experiences in this book is also very inspired by Emma (which is fairly apparent, but Kowal also acknowledges it in her afterword). Melody acquires much more depth in this book, partly because Jane starts seeing her beyond the role of “petulant younger sister”. I wouldn’t say that I was glad to meet Vincent’s family, because they’re such horrible people, but it was interesting to see them get fleshed out.

I was hoping that the Vincents would continue working on developing their work with capturing glamour, but they have quite enough to do in this book, so I can’t actually say that I’m disappointed. The next book, Valour and Vanity, involves Jane and Vincent in Murano (as well as a heist!) so I’m pretty excited about that.

Without A Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal (Glamourist Histories, #3)
Tor Books, 2013 | Buy the book
I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

The Watergivers series by Glenda Larke

The_Last_Stormlord Stormlord-Rising Stormlord's Exile

I was inspired by my recent read of The Forsaken Lands series (The Lascar’s Dagger and The Dagger’s Path) to read the Watergivers series by the same author (The Last Stormlord, Stormlord Rising, and Stormlord’s Exile). I read them too close together to give them individual reviews, so I’m going to review the series as a whole.

The Quatern is a desert where the only reason that people can survive is that some individuals have the ability to sense and control water. Unfortunately, the last Stormlord is dying, and there is no one strong enough to replace him, and the rainlords are at a loss. Shale, a poor village boy that happens to be water-sensitive, and Terelle, a courtesan in training with her own mysterious gifts, get caught up in the politics and mayhem that ensues.

The worldbuilding in this series was great – the four quarters were all pretty unique, with their own cultures and customs, and the water based magic system had a lot of promise. Unfortunately, the characters and the plot weren’t as successful.

First – the characters. I could see the outlines of the people that Larke was trying to portaray, but they never really become more than archetypes. The dialogue and the character’s thoughts were cliched at best, I didn’t get a sense of who they were and why they were doing what they were doing, and so I didn’t really care about what happened to any of them The relationships between the characters (especially romances) were pretty much narrated, we never see them actually develop. Also, there were a ridiculous number of bad guys, all with the nebulous motivation of “power”. Larke seems to have been going for a gritty feel, but it doesn’t quite work.

I should mention that some of these problems with characterization are present in the Forsaken Lands books as well, but they’re not as pronounced, and the plot isn’t as terrible, so they’re excusable. Back to the Watergivers series.

The plot – okay, so, other than the fact that the conflict is mainly motivated by villains wanting to control everything NOW, the plot also revolves around the fact that everyone’s lives in the Quartern depend on a couple of people controlling the weather. Some of the bad guys want to return to a time of “random rain”. I pretty much agreed with the bad guys – no one should be living anywhere where a couple of people that happen to born with certain talents to have to work constantly to ensure the survival of a whole country.  One, that isn’t fair to the water-sensitives, who don’t choose what they’re born with, and basically have their whole life planned out because they have magic. Two, that’s a horribly low bus factor for the whole country’s survival, and that’s just foolish. It’s not even like the whole world is a desert – in fact, all the borders seem to not be deserts.

I’d only recommend this series if you’re looking for some popcorn fantasy that you don’t really want to think about too much, but has a cool world.

The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke (Watergivers, #1)
Orbit Books, 2010 | Buy the book
I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Stormlord Rising by Glenda Larke (Watergivers, #2)
Orbit Books, 2010 | Buy the book
I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Stormlord’s Exile by Glenda Larke (Watergivers, #3)
Orbit Books, 2011 | Buy the book
I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

“Glamour in Glass” by Mary Robinette Kowal

Glamour-in-GlassGlamour in Glass is the second book of the Glamourist Histories series, which begins with Shades of Milk and Honey. I had my first ever migraine when I read Shades of Milk and Honey, (it was before I realized that I just needed to go lie down in a dark room and reading made it worse)  so for a long time, I associated this series with pain. I’m glad I got over that and decided to continue reading it, because the books are great.

A little bit about the series: Shades of Milk and Honey was a romance straight out of Austen, except where one of a woman’s arts is “glamour” (magic). I love Austen, and Kowal does a great job of evoking her without copying her too much. The other books in the series feature the married Jane and Vincent, but each of them is a different genre.

In Glamour in Glass, the long war with Napoleon has ended, and the newly married Vincents go to Belgium for their honeymoon and to study glamour with one of Vincent’s old classmates. However, Napoleon escapes his exile in Elba, and seems to be heading straight for them. Their relaxed trip quickly gets swallowed up in political turmoil, and to make things worse, Vincent seems to be keeping secrets from Jane.

This book was more enjoyable than the first – since they are now married, Jane and Vincent are not confined by the bounds of propriety as much and talk a lot more. Jane has more interesting thoughts too, now that she is spending her days being creative and doing what she actually wants to do, rather than idling as was proper for a young lady of her time. It’s nice to see her have some culture shock too, as she realizes the ladies of France smoke, drink, and talk politics just like the gentlemen. She’s not used to thinking that she can do whatever she wants to, but she’s a quick learner as always, and she uses that in spades in the climax of the book.

I keep thinking that I really want Jane and Lady Isabella Trent from A Natural History of Dragons to team up and do something cool. Jane is a little more proper than Lady Isabella, but I’m sure they would get along great.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the next book, Without a Summer, which seems to involve the Vincents investigating weather changes and crop failures back in England.

Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal (Glamourist Histories, #2)
Tor Books, 2012 | Buy the book
I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

“Poison Fruit” by Jacqueline Carey

poisonfruitPoison Fruit is the last book in the Agent of Hel trilogy (my reviews of books 1 and 2 are here: Dark Currents and Autumn Bones). It’s been a couple more weeks since the traumatic events of Halloween, and Pemkowet is slowly recovering. However, as winter approaches, there’s a fresh set of troubles brewing – people are having deadly nightmares all over town, and the city is getting sued by disgruntled tourists who just happen to be represented by a hellspawn lawyer that seems to have done the unthinkable and claimed his demonic birthright.

I really like this series because it’s set in a Michigan small town, which doesn’t seem that different from an Ohio small town (where I live), and I recognize some of the archetypes of the people and the place. This book especially resonated with me because it’s set in winter, and it’s been snowy here pretty much since the beginning of January.

The last two books were mostly standalone adventures, but they were seeding a lot of plot threads that come into fruition (pun unintended) in this book. Daisy is pretty tough now, and has learned to deal with threats to Hel’s dominion, but she’s still terrified of the fact that she could release Armageddon if she gives into even a moment’s temptation (for good reason!) In Poison Fruit, the combination of a creature that feeds on nightmares and the prospect of a hellspawn that has done what she never can means that she is forced to confront it head-on, and she becomes even more badass because of it.

The characters that we love still remain incredible, we meet some new fun characters (Skrrzzzt!), and even some characters that we don’t love become somewhat awesome. I got a lot of what I wanted from the book – Daisy growing, more information about Lurine, seeing Sinclair fully assimilating into Pemkowet, more Oak King, and even the love triangle resolved in the way I wanted it to (although that was a no-brainer, there’s only one right answer there). It was heartwarming to see all of Pemkowet’s eldritch community band together in the face of an unprecedented threat, and the book’s ending was pretty much perfect.

This book itself wasn’t perfect though, there are a few parts I found mildly irritating. I know Stefan is supposed to be the epitome of a wish-fulfillment character, but come on! His courtship of Daisy was pretty ridiculous, and I felt like I never really got a sense of who he was as a person. I did like how it all came together at the end, though, and that complaint was acknowledged a little bit. Also the whole “supernatural creatures use technology” trope was both brilliant (the reason for the Night Hag’s visit) but also got a bit grating sometimes.

The most annoying thing, however, was that this was the end of the series. I really want to read more about Daisy and Pemkowet!

Poison Fruit by Jacqueline Carey (Agent of Hel, #3)
Roc, 2014 | Buy the book
I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

“The Autumn Republic” by Brian McClellan

The Autumn Republic is the third book in the Powder Mage trilogy, following Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign. Since I didn’t review the first two books (although I did interview Brian McClellan), I’ll talk a little bit about the series before going on to the actual review.

Promise of Blood starts off with a coup – the corrupt and decadent king of Adro has been overthrown, and the man who engineered it, the brilliant field marshal Tamas, now finds himself with the much harder task of trying to rebuild his country. And to add to his problems, it seems that the monarchy held secrets that kept the country together, but everyone who knows them is dead.

Most fantasy books are about overturning the status quo in some way, so it’s a pleasure to read a series set in the messy aftermath, and it shines in other ways too. The intricate politics – factions vying for power to fill the newly vacant hole, neighbouring countries looking to invade during a time of weakness. The magic systems – this series has often been described “flintlock fantasy” (as opposed to “sword and sorcery”, I suppose?) but it doesn’t just have guns, it has a whole magic system built on gunpowder. The characters, of course – Tamas, who does the right thing no matter how much it costs him, his son Taniel, who has a lot of issues from Tamas’ perfection, the detective Adamat who hasn’t met a mystery he didn’t immediately investigate, and a lot more. And then there’s the overarching plot about how unwise it is to attract the attention of the gods.

autumnrepublicAnyway, onto The Autumn Republic, I’m never sure what to write about when I review sequels to books I already like a lot, because I expect that it’s going to be good, and then it is, and all that needs to be said is “Yes, it’s as good as you think it will be, and I can’t talk about anything specific that happens because spoilers.”

I was satisfied with how the series ended – all the plot threads are wrapped up nicely. Not everyone makes it out unscathed, but I didn’t expect them to – in fact, it went about how I predicted it would go. There are a lot of awesome scenes, and a few incredibly sad moments. The characters were pretty much how you’d expect them to be – I groaned/was delighted at Tamas’ nobility, was exasperated at Bo’s …Bo-ness, I guess, and sympathized with everything that continues to befall poor Adamat.

I’m pretty excited for the next trilogy – I’m not sure what it’s going to be about, but I definitely want to explore lands that haven’t been under the influence of the Nine Gods (that’s not a spoiler, it’s conjecture) and I’m looking forward to Vlora’s viewpoint – she’s placed in a pretty cool position at the end of this book.

The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan (Powder Mage, #3)
Orbit Books, 2015 | Buy the book
I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

“The Martian” by Andy Weir

The_Martian_2014Everyone has been raving about The Martian by Andy Weir, and as a total sucker for any space exploration related story, I had to read it.

The Martian is about Mark Watney, a member of one of the first human Mars exploration teams. When the mission is aborted due to a dust storm, he has an accident and is presumed dead while the rest of the team evacuates. But Mark is not dead, and as the mission’s mechanical engineer, he’s uniquely qualified to survive in a place where his continued life depends on machines working.

When I started this book, I was a bit skeptical about all the praise it had been getting – how could one guy all alone on a planet be that interesting? Weir does an admirable job, though – Mark is determined, optimistic, has a great (and sometimes very immature) sense of humour, and he’s everything you dreamed you’d be when you dreamed of being an astronaut when you were younger (if you didn’t want to be an astronaut, what the hell?) He’s also the quintessential engineer, he doesn’t mope when there are problems unsolved. It’s brilliant to hear all the scientific issues he faces from his voice; his enthusiasm is infectious, and what could have been easily tedious instead becomes thrilling.

Mark isn’t the only character though, we also follow the action back on Earth, and Mark’s mission crew that are back on their way from Mars trying to live with the guilt of leaving a man behind. The point of view jumps around a lot, but I think that’s only fitting in a story about humanity banding together and trying to save one man. There are a couple of scenes on Mars that are told in an omniscient narrative style, and those do stick out a bit, but they’re rare.

So yes, I loved this book as much as everyone else. It seems like everything these days talks about humanity’s flaws, but this book makes me really proud to be a human.

Also… the pacing of the book was very much like that of a movie, and I really wanted it to see a movie version (Gravity and Apollo 13 are both really great movies of this type, although those take place over a few days at most). Apparently Ridley Scott feels the same way, because The Martian is coming out this November! And what a great cast, too – Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Peña – all people I like. I’m a bit puzzled by Chiwetel Ejiofor playing an Indian person, but he’s a great actor, so I’m not actually complaining.

The Martian by Andy Weir
Broadway Books, 2014 | Buy the book
I received a complimentary review copy of this book.