The Martian (Book wot I have read!)

As with most of my reading material, ‘The Martian’ was recommended to me by a good friend of mine. He also recommended ‘Wool’ which I loved. Both books though, wouldn’t normally be on my radar, as they don’t fall into the fantasy/urban fantasy genre I normally stick with. However, I was aware that a movie is being made of the book, and as with pretty much every movie conversion, I like to read the book first. So I got the book.

With some books, it takes a chapter or two to get in. Some books take longer, or you have to slog through the first book to get to the better books in the series. With ‘The Martian’ I was instantly hooked, and struggled to stop reading. At 1.30am, I decided I really should sleep, and put my tablet down. I had to stop myself picking it back up 30 seconds later for “just one more log entry”.

The book covers the story of the third manned mission to Mars. Men have walked on the face of Mars twice already, but on the third trip a dangerous dust storm cuts the mission short. In the rush to board the landing module, and get back to space, one of the crew members is struck by debris, and blown away. It destroys his suit computer, and the crew believe him dead. They leave, and start the long journey home. But he’s not dead. He wakes up to find them gone, returns to the habitat, and takes stock. The mission was designed for one month, and supplies for a crew of 6 were provided. The next mission to Mars is due in 4 years. He has to work out how to survive until this happens.

I don’t like to give spoilers for books, but if you want to avoid them, stop reading at this point. Seriously. Stop now.

As I progressed further through the book, I became convinced that he wasn’t going to make it. He suffered equal amounts of good and bad luck through-out, but I was convinced that the final rescue would fail, and that the mission log being kept would be recovered by the next crew. I think I’d persuaded myself that this would happen, and tried to steel myself for it, but I was emotionally invested in this story. After spending several hundred days with Mark Watney, surviving the harsh landscape of Mars, I cheered when he launched from mars, Panicked when the ship started to shake apart, and cheered again when he was pulled from his lander by his rescue crew. The story from start to finish was a rollercoaster, and the only thing I could have asked for, was a little more story once he made it back to earth. God damnit I waas invested in his story, I wanted to hear how well he was doing afterwards!

Go read this book, seriously, I mean, look how good the film looks!

Books are my zombie virus.

Zombies eh, they’re pretty weird. There’ve been a great many books written about them, and the different ways they’re portrayed. I’ve read a fair few, because, well, its expected of me I think.

One of my favorite types of fiction is now labelled as “Urban Fantasy”. It used to just fall into science fiction and fantasy, but I guess having a different label helps me get straight to what I want to read. Zombies fit neatly inside that too. They could be classed as horror I guess, but honestly? I don’t find zombies by themselves too scary.

I think clever authors cottoned on to that, and in tweaking the situations slightly, they make us care/scare easier.

Recently, I finished reading ‘The Girl with all the gifts’ by M R Carey (also know as Mike Carey if you’re familiar with the Felix Castor series). We picked it up as soon as we found out it was available. Our local bookshop (The Big Green Bookshop) recommended it, and were having a promotional event with Mike at a local pub.

So, with no knowledge of what the book was about, I opened it up, and started reading. Two days later, after short breaks to feed & bath the kids, I finished it.

The cover blurb reads;

NOT EVERY GIFT IS A BLESSING

 Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

 When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.

Now, its been a few months since I read it, but this book still holds some powerful memories for me. Melanie is a ten year old girl (if my memory holds right) and almost instantly hit every fatherly vibe in my body.

I really don’t want to give away any spoilers at all, but I think I can safely say that the world the book takes place in has pretty much gone to hell. A plague/disease has pretty much wiped out mankind, except for a few pockets of survivors, who’d fortified a city and are carrying on as best as they can. The plague/disease has caused its victims to become a type of zombie.

The book opens up inside of an army base, and is told from Melanies point of view.

Its beautifully written, and there were several moments that caused an upwelling emotion of sadness and happiness, mixed together.

I’m not going to ruin it for you though, this is really a book that everyone should read.  I’d link to it on Amazon, but instead go visit your local independent bookshop. They’ll be really happy to see you!

The second set of Zombie-ish books I’m reading at the moment are by Charlie Higson. This one you can blame ‘The Big Green Bookshop’ for.

My son used to attend a book group at the shop, and each week they’d vote on which book to read next time. They’d devour the book, then they’d mark it out of ten. Sometimes they’d have competitions to win prizes like signed books. One of these books was by Charlie Higson. ‘The Enemy’which my son won.

This book was listed as a young adult book, set in London during what amounts to a zombie plague. Though, this plague only affects people aged 15 and older. The book jumps between the viewpoint of several of the kids as they adapt to survive, and fight off “the sickos”

For a young adult book, I was surprised at some of the carnage and deaths involved. Though in hindsight… As a 11-15 year old, I was pretty gruesome myself.

There’ve now been a million (5 or 6) of books in this series, and some of them occur a the same time as each other, focusing on different groups of Children. Charlie Higson writes kids that are easy to love/hate, and seems to have the morals of Joss Whedon or George RR Martin when it comes to killing off main characters.

I’m still devouring each of these ‘young adult’ books (despite not being so young any more, (nor an adult if you ask my OH))

Books though, Books are my zombie virus, and hopefully if you’ve made it this far, I’ve bitten you, and now you’ll be wandering the aisles of your local bookshop, arms outstretched, moaning “PPaaaaaggggesssss”.