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The Martian by Andy Weir: Superb Hard Science Fiction Book I’ve Ever Read

andy-weir-summary-xlargeThis description can easily fit into any blockbuster film but it is instead describing a book that is within a genre that is typically not easily identifiable with this category: Hard Science Fiction Books. Andy Weir’s The Martian is a definitive science fiction book that manages to draw in readers who normally would not read hard science fiction. The Martian manages to create a perfect mix of scientific facts and jargon with a fast paced plot. This perfect blend allows for science buffs to enjoy the accurate description of physics and space while also allowing a fiction junkie to just enjoy the thrill of following the protagonist trying to survive on Mars. Someone who personally loves Neil deGrasse Tyson and has an eclectic choice of fiction, The Martian is the best of both worlds: fictionalized science.

The Martian is Andy Weir’s first novel and he has been candied that during the writing of this novel he received numerous edits and corrections from people in the scientific field. As part of his drafting process he would post parts of the novel on several scientific blogs and ask the scientific community if the plot or character actions were accurate or even possible in space and Mars. That is what makes The Martian such a defining science fiction book, Weir completely steers away from fantastical plots and makes the actions of the protagonist as realistic as possible to how a human could or would survive on Mars.

The Martian is for all intents and purposes is a semi-space chronicle. Instead of the protagonist, or main characters, charting their way through space we have one who is stuck on one planet. The time period isn’t set in some far off future but the 21st century and allows for the reader to engage directly with the idea that man could soon walk and live on Mars, albeit accidentally.

The novel opens with Mark Watney’s supposed death, essentially his biometrics that was attached to his space suit was cut off during a storm and it appeared to other crew members he was killed in the same storm. The problem begins when his crew incidentally leaves him behind and it continues with Watney waking up on Mars and discovering that not only has the crew left but all means of communication with NASA and the spaceship was destroyed in the storm. The rest of the novel follows Watney and NASA as they focus on one goal: how to keep Watney alive on Mars for several years until another crew lands on Mars.

There are two main viewpoints throughout the entire novel; Mark Watney’s journal entries and NASA leaders. Watney’s perspective is told through daily logs. He begins these journal entries as a way for future astronauts who will land in Mars in a few years’ time to access his means of survival. The first third of the novel is only Watney’s journal entries and his attempts to come with terms with NASA not knowing he is still alive. He is essentially trying to survive while also knowing survival will not be long lasting; there is only so much food before he can no longer produce essential nutrients needed to survive. These first few chapters are jarring and emotional, whatever Watney is feeling we immediately see in his journal entry. Watney purposefully writes for an audience that will discover his journal entries long after he dies. One would expect that since he is expecting to die his journal entries will be full of life advice and profound life thoughts. Though Watney is reflective he is often quite humorous throughout the novel, several raunchy and survival jokes are written throughout his logs. The rest of the novel alternates once Watney and NASA find a way to communicate with each other.

The overall theme of the novel is perseverance not equating to hostile/unbearable reality. There are many instances when Watney’s death seemed inevitable: when essential machines stopped functioning, NASA debating if they should send a crew to save him or leave him to eventual death, and whether Watney himself had the wherewithal to survive long enough for help to come. All of this wrapped into a protagonist that somehow conveys to the reader a typical human without Herculean strength. This is why I believe this novel was such a standout under the hard science fiction genre. It had many opportunities to play into the fantastical science drama but it did not. Andy Weir was diligent in ensuring that the novel was grounded in reality and it was much better for it.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in trying out hard science fiction books but apprehensive about the genre. What I loved most about the story was the ease of reading ‘hard scientific facts’ intermixed with quirky antidotes exchanged between NASA and Watney. I did at times get a bit lost when the narrator explained his reasoning for employing certain scientific methods but that is because I am not a botanist or chemist. Of course people will ask whether the book is better than the movie and I always leave that up to the individual. Having seen both they are both comparably good in their own rights. Overall I would recommend this book to anyone who likes medium to fast paced plots with well-developed characters.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy Review

5th The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy ReviewThe alien invasion begins with an EMP, massive coastal destruction, and an evolved Ebola virus that wipes out billions of people. The fourth wave of the invasion is aliens using human bodies as host. What is the 5th wave, and can Cassie survive it and rescue her brother?Struggling with who to trust when anyone could be the alien enemy, Cassie must develop the skills to survive alone and combat the invading forces.

Warp Your Kid’s Mind With Some Great Science Fiction Books This Holiday Season

19by168sdhz6kjpgAre you a science-fiction lover?Want to share your love of science-fiction with your children?Perhaps read a bed-time story or give your child their first book?If you don’t know where to start, the following list is my top ten best science-fiction books for children.

Citizen of the Galaxy

This book does not take place in the Milky Way. Instead, it takes place in a distant galaxy, where slavery is still a common practice. Thorby is an orphaned boy who is sold at auction. However, he is sold to Baslim, an abolitionist spy.  The book is told through third person, looking mostly at Thorby’s thoughts and actions. This book is written by Robert Heinlein, a children’s sci-fi novelist and is a fast read.

A Wrinkle In Time

A Wrinkle in Time tells the story of three children as they search for their father, who disappeared while working the tesseract (a wrinkle in time) program. This book is written in third-person focusing specifically on the child Meg. The book takes place on Earth, and then they travel to different dimensions. This book is fun to read, and will keep the readers on their toes.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

This is a classic novel by Jules Verne which everyone should read once in their lifetime. It tells the tale of Captain Nemo and his submarine crew, as they travel around the world under the sea. This book is recommended for eight to twelve year olds, and is two-hundred and twelve pages. Jules Verne has written other great books such as Around the World in Eighty Days, and A Journey to the Center of the Earth.

The City of Ember

This book is about two children, Lina and Doom, who live in the city of Ember. Ember was built to sustain human survival. However, after hundreds of years, there is almost no food, and corruption is spreading throughout the city. The children wonder if the parchment fragments they found will help them find a way out of Ember. This book is written in third person, focusing on Lina and Doom. It is a lovable book and children of all ages will read it again and again.

Steampunk

An introduction to Steampunk would be best served by The Jupiter Chronicles. The Jupiter Chronicles: The Secret of the Great Red Spot
The novel is set in 1892, and Ian and Callie Castillo live with their single mother after their father disappeared. Ian’s last gift from his
father was a telescope. Callie looks into the telescope and is transported to the world of Jupiter where she and Ian must save their father. This
book is a fascinating and fun read (set in third person) that really enthralls its readers.

Conclusion

All in all, there a lot of science-fiction books geared towards children. The best book to start your child off on a love of sci-fi would be the
classics by Jules Verne, followed by Heinlein’s books.

The Sci Fi Book Series That Brought Space Opera Into The 21st Century

space_operaI love space opera science fiction novels. I just do. That is why I am delighted that in the past few years it has risen in popularity among readers and writers alike. Now, admittedly defining what is a space opera is kind of tricky since it is so broad. However, something that characterizes all space operas is that their stories are big and take place in much of a galaxy or galaxies. Here I have chosen what I consider ten of the best space opera science fiction to review.

Consider Phelbas (Culture series, book 1) by Iain M. Banks

In this is the first of a planned series, the main protagonist, Horza, is flung into an unexpected, life-altering adventure with a long string of crazy, and very interesting situations. In the course of all this, Horza happens upon all manner of colorful friends and allies. The wild action in all of these situations is possibly one of the most detailed in all of the science-fiction genre. But it never gets tedious. Banks has a very good way of making every detail interesting.

Hyperion by (Hyperion Cantos, book 1) by Dan Simmons

The mighty Shrike inhabits the planet of Hyperion and guards the entrance to the Valley of the Time Tombs. On the eve of a great war, seven adventurers venture forth to find a way to the time-traveling tombs in order to the future of humanity. Along the way you will get to know each of these personalities whose lives will become even more mysterious and complex than the Shrike or Hyperion itself. This is a great read of human drama and interpersonal complexity.

Revelation Space by Alistair Reynolds

This first in a planned trilogy is a space opera with a really big scope. The writing of this novel is very dense and deep. At times it can be very difficult reading. It is all worth it. It has achieved countless accolades from critics all around the world. All the praise is very well deserved with this being the kind of writing that stays with you your entire life. It will undoubtedly be considered one of the best space opera novels ever.

Abaddon’s Gate (Expanse, Book 3) by James Corey

This last book in the Expanse trilogy opens up with Jim Holden and his crew journeying with a large military convoy to investigate a reported alien artifact that has the possibility of changing all of human life. No one is sure, however, whether this is a good change or a really bad change as in possibly destroying all of the inhabited planets. This final book tells the story of the amazing things they find out.

Dune by Frank Herbert

This space opera was written in 1965 and is widely considered a Science Fiction classic. Many consider it to be the greatest science fiction book of all time. This multiple award-winning book has become the top-selling science fiction novel of all time. Dune should be considered science fantasy since so much of it belongs in the fantasy genre. It is piled high with lots of geeky sci-fi concepts and technology that most of us geeks love more than anything else.

I am positive that you will learn to love these great books as much as I do. You may even love them more. So have fun stretching your mind in the gigantic stretches of these massive galaxies and their many big stories. And these may be my favorite and what I consider the best, but there are many more very good ones. Enjoy them all. One is sure to be in your opinion the best space opera science fiction book.

Recent Reviews Four Dystopian Science Fiction Books

Insurgent is the second book of the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. This book starts rolling right where book one left off and enjoys more action and character development than the first book did. Beatrice becomes a stronger character, which helps to drive the
plot as she seeks the truth.

Legend by Marie Lu, tells the stories of two remarkable teens through alternating points of view of Day and June, who live in very different places within The Republic. The story is vaguely reminiscent of Aladdin, as Day is very poor and must steal to survive and help others, while June is from a very prominent family and poised to be a person of some standing. This novel is fast-paced and unpredictable.

In The Maze Runner, by James Dashner, Thomas wakes up remembering nothing but his own name. He is trapped with thirty other boys in an enclosed environment called The Glade. Thomas and the other boys work to try to find their way out of the maze through the book.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer was a dystopian spin on the classic Cinderella. Cinder is a cyborg who lives in a futuristic China. The book introduces a world of technology and wonder and fantasy as it moves between space, royalty, and robots.

Top 5 of the Best Military Science Fiction Books Ever

pndjneStarship Troopers (Robert Heinlein):

The classic military sci-fi/coming-of-age story. Fear of communist hordes attacking America expressed as a war between a fascist human government and relentless, intelligent space bugs. The story follows the training and combat experiences of a young man named Juan Rico who signs up for the Federal Service, then goes to boot camp to become a Mobile Infantry soldier. Action lovers will find plenty of fighting and plenty of high-tech weaponry in play. This Hugo winner is considered by many critics and fans to be his best work of the many novels he published up to that point.

On Basilisk Station (David Weber):

In the first of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, we meet Honor Harrington and learn more about her world. Yes, the series is military science fiction with a female protagonist. Harrington is a star ship commander posted to an obscure outpost run by a commander who hates her, and where she leads a crew that hates being posted in the middle of nowhere. This is the book for readers who enjoy breezy space adventure, so basically it is the opposite of The Forever War.

Ghost Brigades (John Scalzi):

Volume 2 of Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series also makes the cut for offering more great action, character development and world building. Jared Dirac, a new Ghost Brigades soldier, is the focus of this mystery inside a war story. Why are the electronic memories of a dead traitor not in his head like they should be?You don’t need to be familiar with Book One to appreciate this novel.

Armor (John Steakley):

This was Steakley’s first, and only, science fiction novel, but it has become a classic in military science fiction. As the title suggests, the story concerns soldiers who use advanced armored suits to help them fight bioengineered insectoid aliens. Felix, the hero of the book, struggles with the terror and excitement and confusion of trying to fight these aliens. Armor also features awesome descriptions of high-tech combat.

Old Man’s War (John Scalzi):

This classic tale of interstellar war for control of rare habitable worlds has an unusual twist to it – Earth’s Colonial Defense Force only recruits old folks. John Perry decides to join up when he turns 75, not sure what to expect. The story follows Perry’s training and adventures on alien worlds, fighting relentless and deadly aliens who want the same worlds humanity wants. This was Scalzi’s first published novel.

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The Passage by Justin Cronin

51jsvP9oScLUnique on this list as multi-genre, The Passage is western, horror, vampire and post-apocalyptic all wrapped up in one. Covering hundreds of years, we begin at the invention and testing of a military virus for extending life to the creation of vampire creatures to the inevitable battle for survival by a small band remaining humans. The Passage is very well written and full of plot twist and thrills.

The Hunger Games (Book 1) by Suzanne Collins

HungerThe Hunger Games trilogy is considered a modern classic take on a post-apocalyptic class system where the rich control the surrounding poor districts by drafting two teens from area to compete against each other. Book 1 introduces reluctant hero Katniss Everdeen, who saves her sisters life by volunteering to compete in a high tech arena controlled by her oppressors and broadcast for their entertainment. Katniss struggles in the kill or be killed environment by learning to play the game that has been forced upon her.

The Stand by Stephen King

StandThe Stand is one of horror genre master Stephen King’s takes on a post-apocalyptic battle between good and evil. Beginning with the death of the majority of human life from the spread of a man-made biological weapon, we get to see society crumble in 19 destructive days. We then follow a group of survivors drawn together by shared dreams who attempt to form democratic community in Colorado. This group is paralleled by another group of survivors in Las Vegas, led by the dark Randall Flagg. This group is ruled by fear and brutal tactics, resulting in the inevitable conflict between good and evil.

The Jupiter Chronicles: The Secret of the Great Red Spot

JupiterThe novel is set in 1892, and Ian and Callie Castillo live with their single mother after their father disappeared five years ago. Ian’s last gift from his father was a telescope, which Ian hasn’t touched. Callie looks into the telescope and is transported to the world of Jupiter where she and Ian must save their father.

This book is a fascinating and fun read (set in third person) that really enthralls its readers. This book introduces children to the sci-fi alternative that is Steampunk.