Book review: “The Martian” by Andy Weir (2012/2014)


The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a vivacious reader, but very rarely am I truly surprised by a book. I spend most of my time reading books to edit for others, ARCs and galleys to review, or graphic novels and comic books for pleasure and review. Like all writers and readers, I have my tastes. Science fiction, fantasy, and action-adventure are some of my favorite genres, but because I critically analyze these genres, and I read an immense of content, I don’t often stumble upon a novel that captivates my attention by providing a high-quality read with the excitement of a new creativity. “The Martian” by Andy Weird delivers. It is riveting and fresh. It is reminiscent of highbrow science fiction films, but layered with nuance that only a novel can achieve.

I received “The Martian” as a galley via Crown Publishing Group—which is an imprint of Random House—and I chose “The Martian” based solely on its synopsis:

“Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?”

It plucked at my sensibilities in an abstract and I immediately requested it. It arrived a scant week later. I was graced with an ornate hardcover, a beautiful smell, and a gorgeous slipcover with an astronaut caught in Martian sandstorm. The colors are vibrant— Orange and red with a hint of a white spacesuit caught in the throws of survival.

In a word: Exquisite

“The Martian” follows NASA astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist and a mechanical engineer, on the third manned mission to Mars, Ares 3. The novel begins with a bang. Readers are not privy to the mission setup, crew members, landing, and the circumstances to Watney’s predicament. Without ruining the suspense and discovery, Watney is presumed dead and left on Mars (when in fact he is not) and is forced to survive on Mars without any means of communication till interplanetary comms can be reestablished or the next Ares mission arrives…four-years in the future.

The rest of the novel focuses primarily on Watney and his survival. Through the use of his mechanical and botany background, Watney comes up with some pretty ingenious ways to prolong his rations, Oxygen, water, and transportation. The narrative is primarily composed of Watney leaving logs for himself (or as a testament to his journey and untimely death), so the technical side to his endeavors are filtered through his warm and charming personality, which lightens what could be an overly scientific text— Changing a potential negative into a strong positive. Weir deftly avoids a common issue among science fiction writers with clever character development and use of perception.

The rest of the novel proceeds like Alfonso Curacao’s Gravity. It is deeply individualistic, but symbolic. The writing isn’t stretched by only focusing on a single character, because as the novel goes on it begins to layer in Watney’s support team on Earth. It provides a wonderful message of hope due to the global cooperation that is required to bring home an astronaut stranded on another world. “The Martian” doesn’t pull any punches or use its arsenal before the tale is done, either. It continuously builds upon the tension set by Watney’s survival till its climax. Its ending is extremely satisfying— One of the best that I’ve read in years.

After reading Andy Weir’s “The Martian” I was awed by the level of detail, character development, and sheer quality of the narrative. It is one of the best science fiction written and should be considered along the likes of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. If you get a chance try and read “The Martian” before the Ridley Scott-Matt Damon film adaptation, which is set to release in November of 2015— It is sure to be hit.

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Book review: “Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution” by Keith R.A. DeCandido


Sleepy Hollow: Children of the RevolutionSleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution by Keith R.A. DeCandido

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Adaptations hardly ever do the source material justice. In fact, they often do just the opposite. They bomb. They are truly awful. Video game adaptations of film and televisions suck. Film adaptations of video usually bomb as well— Truly bad.

Books are not exempt from this unwritten rule, either. More often than not, novelizations of films and televisions are usually half-assed…they’re easy ways for publishers and TV shows to make a quick buck. Hardcore fans love ‘em, because they fill in on the lore of their favorite media properties but they lack in the quality department. Ultimately, they usually end up in a bargain bin somewhere dusting away.

“Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution” by Keith R.A. DeCandido is one of the few exceptions and counter-examples to the aforementioned rule. It reads well. From a technical standpoint it reads akin to that of a script from the television show. Most of the scenes are expressed in third-person via Ichabod Crane, and the plot line closely follows Crane and his partner Abbie’s exploits in modern day Sleepy Hollow.

One of the largest complaints that I usually have with book adaptations is their bare bones quality. They’re oft difficult to read. The writing is either done poorly because of time constraints (or a less-than experienced author), and the meat-and-potatoes of the novel suffers making it almost unreadable. DeCandidio has knowledge of the craft. Whether he was in a time crunch (or not) he pulls it off, and if you’ve ever read any decent third-person, supernatural themed novel then you’ll enjoy “Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution.” Its construction is solid.

Plot-wise it places in the midst of the first season— Right between the episodes, The Golem and The Vessel. The catalyst of the novel stems from a vision that Crane receives from his wife, Katrina, concerning medals bestowed by George Washington during the Revolutionary days. Moloch and his minions want the powerful relics for evil, thus the witnesses (Crane and Abbie) need to thwart them to further their objective of saving humanity. It follows the rough formula of each episode of the series, but it cuts nicely between two episodes to bring readers a little more information and insight into the characters and overall arc of the series.

All-in-all, “Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution” is a good read. It is solid in its own right as a supernatural thriller, and it pays fan service nicely to the acclaimed television series. It is definitely worth the gander.

For more information regarding the Sleepy Hollow television show and related media check out ARSchultz’s website (ARSchultz.com) and Facebook page. And, don’t forget to check out the sure-to-be amazing premiere of Sleepy Hollow season 2 tonight on FOX.

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