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review 2018-11-17 10:03
Sexual Mores: "Podkayne of Mars" by Robert A. Heinlein
Podkayne of Mars - Robert A. Heinlein



(Original Review, 1980-08-06)



I was not a Heinlein fan before. I've probably read most of his work, but there are only 3 of his books I've kept to enjoy reading again. I've kept more than 3 of a LOT of other authors, such as Leinster, McCaffrey, Dickson, James White, and even Philip E. High. Nor did I "cut my teeth" on RAH, so I've no sentimental associations or long-standing loyalties. To me, he's just another SF-writer, though more competent than most.

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2018-10-24 02:04
Review: Life on Mars
Life on Mars - Jennifer Brown

I was looking for a story to read my youngest when I stumbled upon Life on Mars. I'm not much for juvenile lit; I am selective. I have the same overall expectations for juvenile stories as I do for adult literature. Too often, I'm disappointed, as most children's stories are plot heavy, and I tire from stories that depend on plot. Life on Mars sounded promising, and to its credit, it served up a tale that focused as much on character development as it did moving the story forward. But there were some surprises, good and bad.

The good is that this story does not shy away from being real. In the beginning, it's easy to imagine how things will work out for young Arcturus (Arty), a child who has clearly never experienced much adversity. Up against a move that will forever “ruin his life,” Arty is in a position and a genre where you know that even if events don't go as he hopes, they'll work out for the best. And it feels like this is going to be the story for quite some time, but then Jennifer Brown throws the story into an unexpected direction. She piles the burden on. These are the kind of variations that can help a children's story rise above the rest.

Also wonderful are the characters themselves. Yes, they're a bit dimensionally thin, but they're well crafted. Aside from Cash, not much is really revealed about any of the characters. Vega obsesses over her boyfriend, who eats and speaks in monosyllables. Cassi has let her new love of cheerleading overshadow her appreciation for astronomy. Priya is the cute Indian girl next door. And Tripp trips. But they’re wonderful characters for a middle-grade novel with dialogue that matches each.

What didn't work so well throughout Life on Mars, something else I hadn’t expected, was the saccharine laden details of the story. In an attempt to make every pun possible about space, the novel dips too often into little witticisms that are lost on small children, and not all that funny to those who understand. The fact that this family names all their offspring after stars is cloying. Are we really to believe that every sibling and every cousin for at least three generations is on board with this space obsession? Highly unlikely. Also grating was all the childish talk of zombies and all that. If they’re kidding around, sure, it works. But I got the impression that Arty was genuinely scared, especially when he was without his friends, so for all his thoughts about brain-eaters, I was annoyed. Children’s books do not have to be so juvenile.

Okay, I admit it. I’m an old fart. So what? I still liked the novel. I just wish it hadn't been quite so... childish, at times. For being childish, however, this is a children's book with some maturity.

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url 2018-09-21 08:52
The Man Booker Prize announces 2018 shortlist
The Mars Room - Rachel Kushner
The Overstory - Richard Powers
Milkman - Anna Burns
Washington Black: Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018: Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018 - Esi Edugyan
Everything Under - Daisy Johnson
The Long Take - Robin Robertson

The List is out. Booked added. 

Author (country/territory)    Title (imprint)

Anna Burns (UK)                Milkman (Faber & Faber)

Esi Edugyan (Canada)       Washington Black (Serpent’s Tail)

Daisy Johnson (UK)           Everything Under (Jonathan Cape)

Rachel Kushner (USA)      The Mars Room (Jonathan Cape)

Richard Powers (USA)      The Overstory (William Heinemann)

Robin Robertson (UK)       The Long Take (Picador)

 

 

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review 2018-09-10 04:12
Before Mars by Emma Newman
Before Mars - Emma Newman

Series: Planetfall #3

 

This is the third book in the loosely connected series that started off with Planetfall. Here Anna Kubrin, an artist and geologist sent to Mars, discovers a series of unsettling incongruities that makes her think that either there's some sort of conspiracy going on or she's losing her mind. Things like a foot print found where supposedly no one's ever been, things packed strangely, and a fake wedding ring. It also starts to seem like the base AI is doctoring data.

 

This book was pretty intense, and I quite enjoyed it, although I guess I'm a little disappointed that all the clues were so well laid out that I could more or less guess what had happened (my original theory was mostly right).

 

I'm definitely looking forward to the fourth book, which looks to ratchet things up yet another notch. Oh, and another cool aspect of the book is how Newman explored post partum depression and a non-stereotypical mother who struggles with motherhood.

 

I'm counting this for the "New Release" square for Halloween Bingo because it was release in April 2018.

 

 

Previous updates:

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review 2018-09-09 00:55
Review: The Mars Room
The Mars Room - Rachel Kushner

At the time Rachel Kushner's second novel, The Flamethrowers, was released, I was very much interested in the story. Before it had even hit shelves, I was enticed by the cover and the promise of a thrilling tale within. Well, curse the infinite to-read list. While I've held the best intentions of reading Kushner's work all this time, it took a Man Booker Prize nomination to finally make the commitment, a commitment to read her following novel, The Mars Room.

The Mars Room is the story of Romy Hall and her fellow prisoners at Stanville Women's Correctional Facility. Though I have nothing more than a reader's perspective of what prison might be like, Kushner's story carries significant believability. This is a prison novel that seems wrapped in precision and one might assume, with the flood of details from both inside and outside of the prison walls, that the author has done her research. An article published in The New Yorker points to this attention to detail (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20...). According to the article, this precision is indicative of her work. In each of her three novels, Kushner has immersed herself in the details of the story. For The Mars Room, Kushner began visiting prisons in 2014 and has utilized the help of consultants who've given her information that only an insider could possess, stories that are rendered in the novel with little alteration.

Some may argue that The Mars Room isn't strictly a prison novel as much of the action happens outside of the prison gates, but I get the impression that Kushner is painting the outside as a sort of prison, as well. Outside, there are a set of rules that restrict one from pursuing true freedom. Many of these characters were set on a path, some at birth, some because of something completely outside of their control, that had only one outcome. It's possible to get a sense that Kushner was hoping to establish a connection between the American prison system and the “Great American Dream.”

Outside of the vivid detail, what's most impressive are the characters. It's clear that Kushner spent some time with them. She knows them well, giving each a very developed voice and perspective. These characters go beyond Romy and the other prisoners of Stanville. Kushner tells the story of prison's teacher, of a corrupt cop, of a trans woman in a men's prison. Each of these stories carries with it a whole other world, completely rendered and discerning.

And this is perhaps where The Mars Room turns a bit sour. While these extra characters certainly show Kushner's great ability to work inside the minds' of a myriad of possible characters, their connection to the larger story is in some cases weak or entirely nonexistent. Some of the novel's best scenes certainly come from these diversions, but they detract from what is an otherwise solid narrative. When it becomes clear toward the end that these many threads are not necessarily joined, The Mars Room loses something of its believability in its loss of continuity. While there is a complete novel in here, it is joined by stories that are merely connected by theme.

Certainly, it didn't help that in the end, the story moves in a direction that deviates some from the overarching sense of realism. The conclusion isn't absurd, by any means, but it did strike me as slightly inauthentic. In fact, I'd say this ending would've been sufficient in the work of many less skilled authors, but coming from the author who'd established 300 pages of piercing authenticity, it had a bit too much of the made-for-tv-movie effect.

I will not be surprised or offended to see The Mars Room make this year's shortlist. There are probably too many strikes against it to take home the prize—primarily, or so I believe, that an American author cannot win a third year in a row. In a year when the longlist has been particularly sub par, in my opinion, I think Kushner has a decent chance of being invited to London this October.

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