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review 2014-03-08 22:17
REVIEW: The Martian
The Martian - Andy Weir

Note: This was a buddy read with the ever-wonderful Me Grimlock King!. She was nice enough to let me choose the book for our BR, and for that reason, I think it was more up my alley than hers (*understatement*). Regardless, thanks for reading with me, Grim!

 

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I went into my read of The Martian with pretty high expectations. Everyone I know who has read it has had some pretty lofty opinions of it.

As I started it, I could immediately see why. This book, which tells the (fictional) tale of a stranded astronaut on Mars named Mark Watney, sucks you in immediately. I mean, here's how it starts:

I’m pretty much fucked.

That’s my considered opinion.

Fucked.

However, as I was reading The Martian, I started to become a little wary. Yes, Mark's plight and his efforts to survive were interesting, but it started feeling a little one-note. All of the hard science included was cool, but it didn't necessarily help the book with regard to the "riveting" factor. I started to think that this was a book that I would end up being the "odd man out" on, enjoying it to a degree but not understanding why it's so beloved.

Well, after finishing it, I'm happy to say that I was wrong. Turns out, this was a great damn book.

Now, with that said, it's not for everyone. You probably have to enjoy survival stories, and you have to at least be able to tolerate, if not like, hard science. It would also help to have at least some interest in sci-fi, space, astronauts, and that sort of thing.

But, when it comes down to it, I'm pretty sure that I've never wanted a fictional character to live as much as I wanted Mark Watney to live. Following the story to find out whether he ultimately makes it or not is completely nail-biting. It's stressful. I'm not kidding - I had stress dreams about this book (it probably didn't help that I had a fever at the time, but I digress).

Initially, as stated above, I thought the story was going to be one-note, but once it ventures away from the diary-style writing and shows what's happening on Earth, the change of pace is refreshing. I still loved the stuff from Mark's point-of-view of course, but it was nice for that to not be the whole book.

I'm also super impressed by Andy Weir's knowledge of the subject matter, and the research it must have taken to write this book. (Then again, he could have made 95% of it up and I'd be none the wiser, but hey, at least it sounded really impressive!)

As I got about 50% into this book, I couldn't put it down. I needed to know what was going to happen to Mark. The things he did in the story to try to survive were amazing (I'm sure if I were in Mark's position, I would have given up and taken the morphine shots), and I had to find out what it all amounted to.

 

If I had one "complaint," if you could call it that, I just wish that there was more. I wish that there was an epilogue to tell the events of what happened after the book's story ended. I kept pathetically hitting the "forward" button on my Kindle when I was done, just wishing, hoping, and believing that there had to be more.

(spoiler show)

 

So yes, great book. Riveting. Compelling. Suspenseful. Go read it.

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review 2014-02-22 05:33
REVIEW: Warbreaker (Warbreaker, #1)
Warbreaker (Sci Fi Essential Books) - Brandon Sanderson

I really struggled with myself over whether to go with 3.5 or 4.0 stars on this one - 3.5 somehow seems to be too few, while 4.0 seems to be too much. I finally settled on 3.5 because I felt that this book, while great, had a few glaring issues, which I think are more accurately reflected by the 3.5 star value.

Ahem. Anyway.

Warbreaker takes place in a city of gods, the city of T'Telir, which is the capital of the kingdom of Hallandren. Siri, who is a princess from the kingdom of Idris, has been sent to Hallandren to wed its God King (Susebron). Despite the marriage, tensions of war are brewing between Hallandren and Idris, as the two kingdoms are like oil and water, with a lot of religious/political/historical factors dividing them. Meanwhile, Vivenna (Siri's sister) goes to Hallandren to try and rescue Siri from her fate.

Now, let's talk about the world-building. Those of you familiar with Sanderson's works will know that the man always shines in world-building, and Warbreaker is no exception. The book features a complex magic system, as well as a fascinating religious structure (both of which are closely intertwined to each other). Politics, religion, history, life in the city, and everything else you could need or want to know were comprehensively detailed throughout the story. By the way, I thought that one of the coolest (and strangest) things about this world was the sentient, talking sword, Nightblood. It makes me insanely happy that the sequel to this book (which we probably won't see for like, 5 years at least, with all the projects Sanderson has lined up) is called Nightblood.

Speaking of, the book sets itself up wonderfully for a sequel, while at the same time tying up most of its loose ends. I always appreciate when an author does this - that is, leaves me wanting more, without making me dependent on it for closure.

 

The book also had some amazing characters, my absolute favorite being one of the "Returned" gods of T'Telir, Lightsong. [He might take the crown from Kelsier (from the Mistborn series) as being my all-time favorite Sanderson character, but really, it's so hard to choose!] The main reason that Lightsong is so beloved by readers is his witty sense of humor, which Sanderson pens wonderfully.

“I swear, my dear. Sometimes our conversations remind me of a broken sword."

She raised an eyebrow.

"Sharp as hell," Lightsong said, "but lacking a point.”

(Hmmm... sounds kind of like my reviews! Well, at least the "lacking a point" part.)

Lightsong's story arc, though, is also brilliantly done, and was (in my opinion) the only story arc in the book to be handled completely perfectly.


So yes, there were a lot of really spiffy things about Warbreaker, and predominantly it was a great book, but, let's face it - this book also had a lot of issues.

One being, the characters. Wait, what?!? But I just said earlier that the characters were amazing! What I actually said, though, was that there were some amazing characters. At the same time, I thought there were some not-so-great characters. Susebron (the God King), for example - I felt that so much more could have been done with his character, but he was basically a snoozefest. I also found myself PO'd with Siri, who started off with so much potential, but didn't turn into the kickass female character that I wanted her to be. Instead, she seemed much more concerned about her own happiness than about the happiness and wellbeing of her people (*both* of her peoples, actually, since she was both a Queen of Hallandren and a Princess of Idris). I mean, that's only human of course, but there was no "growth" out of this way of thinking or internal agonizing about it - this just bugged me, and I expected more from her.

Furthermore, I felt that Warbreaker had a relatively weak over-arching plot. All the Sanderson books I've read (with the exception of The Well of Ascension, maybe) have had strong, clear plotlines. In Warbreaker, though, it just felt like a bunch of stuff was happening, without there being a clear sense of what the "main story" was.

And, finally, here is my biggest gripe about Warbreaker: I had to read the annotations to understand and/or find out things that I think should have been explained more clearly (or in some cases, explained at all) *in the book* itself. While I absolutely love that Sanderson provides chapter-by-chapter annotations for his books, I don't think that the reader should need to read them in order to grasp everything.

There were also some questions I had that didn't seem to be explained by the book *or* the annotations.

Overall, there just seemed to be a lot of gaping holes in Warbreaker. While this didn't ruin my enjoyment of the story, as I still thoroughly liked it, the holes left me from really, truly, loving it like I do with most of the other Sanderson works that I have read.

 

(Random Note: Way to pick the blandest cover for this book in existence, Booklikes! Normally that wouldn't bother me, but that cover is like the complete antithesis to the spirit of this book!)

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