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Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Martian

Last year I read a lot of books. There were some outstanding reads. I was happy to see a New Dresden files book by Jim Butcher, Skin Game. Kevin Hearne is always ready with a great outing from his Iron Druid Chronicles his book Shattered was a lot of fun. Cherie Priest surprised the hell out me with Maplecroft. If you were to tell me that a story told in letters and dispatches about Lizzy Borden and Cthulhu mythos would knock my socks off; I'd say prove it. Proof wasn't necessary. It happened. I also read Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman and I make no secret of my man-crush on him. He doesn't know how to disappoint. Don't believe me? read American Gods and let's talk about it. I was also introduced to a plethora of new authors with some incredible stories, but the best book I read in 2014 was the Martian by Andy Weir.

Now this is a first time author and nothing about this book should work. It changes perspectives, most of the book the main character, Mark Watney, is alone, it's very technical (and I'm a lover of science and an engineer and I've written technical manuals on DC power. DC Power = boring) mostly technical = put me to sleep. What made this book so compelling was the humanity and the use of humor. Andy Weir takes time to explain why these technical things are important in the ultimate story of survival in the most inhospitable place within human reach. The book also doesn't stray from what technically possible in a very near future, maybe even today. I read the book once. I put it down for a day and then read it all over again. I then listened to it on audio and it was the best audiobook I've ever listened to and I thrive on audiobooks in my hour and change commute in Atlanta traffic twice a day. It keeps me from road raging...sometimes.

I mention this because today I saw the movie adaption of the Martian and I couldn't be happier. Yes, they adapted the book and left chunks out. Sadly, we never learned what a pirate-ninja was, kilowatt hour per sol. We missed a couple of the disasters and the movie didn't open with book's first sentence, "I'm pretty much fucked." I've since only found one first sentence to rival it in the book Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, "The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason." I lean toward the Martian's just because of the precision of the word, fucked. (from my writing you'll know I'm in love with swearing) I can't think of a more compelling first sentence to a book, ever. Your mileage may vary.

Without spoilers, Mark Watney (played brilliantly by Matt Damon) in an accident is left on Mars with the crew believing he's dead. Not so much. He awakes to find that the crew launched without him and left him stranded. No one knows he's alive, he has no way to communicate and he's living in a habitat (hab) that's designed to last thirty one days. He's got figure out how to survive for four years until the next manned mission to the planet lands 3200 kilometers away on a lifeless, airless wasteland.

NASA learns of his survival and they have to figure out how to keep Watney alive. Amazing performances by Jeff Daniels as the bureaucratic head of NASA Teddy Sanders, Sean Bean as the flight control Mitch Henderson and especially Chiwetel Ejiofor as Vincent Kapoor, Kristen Wiig, Mackenzie Davis and Donald Glover all give outstanding if clipped performances. I know some things have got to give in any movie adapted from a book and the movie clocks in at the fastest 2 hours 20 minutes I've ever seen. thankfully, the story remains in tact and most importantly, the characters.

The flight crew of the Hermes is lead by the always welcome Jessica Chastain as Melissa Lewis, veterans Kate Mara as Beth Johanssen and Sebastian Stan as Chris Beck. I don't think there's anything that Michael Peña can't make better and his character's, Rick Martinez, witty banter with Watney gives an emotional kick that would be lost in overly dramatic dialog. These guys have been around each other and developed a shorthand. I can't recommend the book, or the movie enough. I plant as many stars, thumbs, tomatoes, etc. as I can on this movie.

It's not often that book, or movie hits me on an emotional level, Jim Butcher did it to me Changes and he's a bastard for doing it (I've told him so. He was delighted) and The Martian does it for an entirely different reason that I won't spoil, but it brought me to tears and I'm not afraid to write that it did. Go shed a few of your own.

My new book is Knight and Dex and it's available now in paperback and will be released in e-book on Oct 31st, everywhere.

Detective Rick O’Shea is an ordinary cop in an extraordinary world of superheroes and super-villains. In this sequel to “Dex Territory,” the New London Police Department and the Superhuman Task Force are inundated with government surplus military equipment, a much-needed godsend when a series of murders leads to an invasion of Dex-morph zombies. With the President due to tour the operation, Rick, Talon, Pink Panther, and Duke must unravel a sinister plot hatched by the Chessman, defeat the undefeatable zombies, and rescue a little girl before the entire Dex community gets blamed for the assassination of the leader of the free world.

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