SciFi for the Rest of Us: "The Martian”, by Andy Weir - Book Review

The Martian is my first audio book review. I used to think this was cheating, but then I started a long daily commute that drove me to the edge of insanity. A friend recommended audio books as a way to not only cope, but expand my literary repertoire. Another friend recommended The Martian. As it turns out, I’m hooked.

My hesitation in starting audio books is that it isn’t reading. Am I using my brain the same way? Am I using the same number of cells and keeping my cognitive functions as engaged as when sitting down with an actual book in my hand? Ah, who cares. I was completely engaged. I started walking around my house with my headphones in while folding laundry. I had to hear more. And my commute? Much more tolerable. In fact…well, don’t tell my boss.

Andy Weir is a self-proclaimed “space nerd” and worked as a programmer and software engineer since age 15. His debut novel embraces his nerdy tendencies.  This guy loves space. And the book (audio) was really good. I do have a confession though. There is a lot of time with our hero spent alone on Mars. He recites calculations and measurements about chemistry, physics, and agriculture ad nauseam. I fast forwarded. Yep, I did. And I’m not sorry. Still got the gist and don’t feel I missed a thing.

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The End of Civilization As We Know It in "Station Eleven", by Emily St. John Mandel - Book Review

Station Eleven’s storyline seamlessly moves between present day and the post-apocalyptic world that remains after most of the human population is decimated by a catastrophic world-wide pandemic. In a strangely non- "end of the world" book fashion, it starts off in the midst of a Shakespeare play and the Bard, through his works, seems to almost become a character in the story. 

Station Eleven
By Emily St. John Mandel

Through a masterful use of flashbacks and foreshadowing, author Emily St. John Mandel weaves a complicated tale, involving numerous characters and relationships that she wraps up so neatly at the end you feel as though you’ve been given a beautiful present. And her representations of what the end of life as we know it would be are so realistic; they are as believable as they are frightening.

Operating in the new world under a theory that “survival is insufficient,” those still alive have to face an existence that most of us have never contemplated much less lived. The desperate circumstances the characters face turn them into killers at times, but we understand that it is necessary for the greater good and are shockingly unbothered by it. Despite the bleak landscape of the "years after", Mandel’s story is one of hopefulness of the human spirit. One that has us believing that good will prevail against the evil that lurks close by, and that life will find a way no matter what. 

A finalist and/or winner for multiple prestigious awards, this post apocalyptic tale reads like classic literature, and is absolutely worthy of your time.

Published: 2014
Publisher: Knopf/Vintage Books

Elizabeth's rating: 5 stars