The Martian – Andy Weir

The Martian – Andy Weir
All of a sudden this book started showing up all over Goodreads and many of the online bookstores i visit, i mean like over the top kinda in you face showing up. I get everyone thinks its a good read but no need to shove it down my throat. Now granted this is a book that i would of picked up and read even if i had never seen it talked about anywhere else. I mean come on a man stranded on Mars, that’s all i read and i’m like i want this book!
Now im not a person that listens or even reads reviews whether its film or book because i have very particular tastes why would some hack sitting in an office be able to tell me if its a good book or film, most critics of movies will talk about cinematography or the score, likewise for books the rave about character building but serious i don’t care about any of that for me all that matters is the story! for that reason alone i ignore all reviews and just read the blurb to find out what its about and make my decision there,
Having read this book i can now see why everyone was so hyped up about it and why i was seeing the book discussed everywhere. it is nothing short of literary gold. i cant specify what it is that gets me so excited about this book, but i found  myself constantly smiling or laughing out loud on the train when reading this, much to the amusement of people sitting near me. Some authors put their characters up on a pedestal and they do nothing wrong and speak entirely appropriate all the time. Nope not here, this character felt real because he spoke like a real person, he used humour when nervous he swore, he cracked jokes. I can probably best showcase this by highlighting a part in the book that just made me laugh. After contact with earth is established the media starts running nightly news bulletins about our lost astronaut friend – Mark. They are discussing with a psychologist what they think would be going through his mind right now trapped on Mars all alone – the book then moves to Marks POV and we see he is thinking about comic books and why Aquaman can control whales when they are mammals not fish. Where the author comes up with this stuff i have no idea.
The book isnt overly technically but it does talk alot about the machinery he uses to stay alive and it is very scientifically accurate. As such i just could not put this book down, well i kinda had to when i got off the train but as soon as i was home again i picked it up and plowed through to the end. After finishing it i just had a big smile on may face not many book can have that affect on me where you really and truly root for the character. I have read that a film adaptation is being filmed right now starting Matt Damon – cant wait for that
I will definately be looking into seeing if Andy has any other works as this is now defiantely one of my all time favourite books

Havana Storm – Clive Cussler (Dirk Pitt Series #23)

Havana Storm – Clive Cussler (Dirk Pitt Series #23)
The one thing about this series i like is that you get to see the characters evolve and change. In the Dirk Pitt series we have seen him lose the love of his life, years later find out she survived and had twins, He eventually meets his kids and ends up getting them to work with him. We have followed his on and off again romance with loren and eventually see them marry and we see him progress to be head of his organisation( NUMA). I think this level of character growth is what keeps me coming back for more even though you would think we would be running out of stories for this guy but no not yet
Clive mangers to squeeze out another story for his legends of Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino. but i feel this is something all adventure series must deal with after some time, how after 23 stories can you continue to make it seem real and believable that these people keep getting embroiled in this situations. Naturally a parent would do anything for their kid so having his kids lives at risk kinda made it a tad more believable that a director of a company would go out into harms way himself but it still makes me cringe to think he has now dealt with 23 megalomaniacs essentially trying to take over the world or at least their country – that’s gotta be a Guinness world record or something
The story was pretty good, a post Castro power struggle to get the presidency of Cuba , which involves undersea mining and a trade agreement with a fellow communist country. Then the side story with the kids of chasing down an Incan treasure that was last seen on the warship USS Maine sunk in Havana harbour
Not sure if the author remembers plot lines because he has written over 50 books but he has written an Incan treasure story before in the book Inca gold which had the same characters in it, So the side story did feel a bit like a repeat. The similarities didn’t end there, that other story also had an object sunk in Havana harbour, these duplication’s aside the author always writes a good story that’s compelling and grabs your attention.
I have about 34 of his books (23 from the Dirk Pitt series and 11 from the Kurt Austen) in fact here is still one book in the Kurt Austen series i haven’t read yet. The Dirk Pitt series has been going for over 40 years now as the first book was released in 1973. with that in mind and the fact that this latest story had some repetitive plot lines, i cant help but feel that maybe its time for these characters to retire….. 40 years and 23 books is along time – how many more megalomaniacs trying to take over the world can there be?

Star Wars: Tarkin – James Luceno

Star Wars: Tarkin – James Luceno

Star wars literature is in as bit of a quandary at the moment. See anything set in the time frame after Return of the Jedi is now what they call a “Legacy” story meaning its no longer canon as the new trilogy will overwrite that. Fortunately for me i haven’t read anything set after Jedi. I’ve mainly read old republic and clone wars era stuff

The last star wars book i read was Darth Plagueis also by James Luceno which was a great read. I kept thinking this is like the Mein kampf of the star wars universe. How the emperor came to be and what his plans are, That was a fantastic read. So the expectations were high for this one, plus its author James Luceno has written some pretty awesome star wars stories before. Sadly i was disappointed from the get go, been waiting ages for a decent star wars read and this arrives and its only 288 pages, that’s like young adult story length.  How can they spit out a good story in only 288 pages, granted we don’t have to do too much back story since we know these characters but still 288  pages??
So anyway i put aside my distate of its page length and sunk into it, ultimately this book is how Tarkin became the first Grand Moff, gives us a little insight into who he is, where he grew up and how he met  good old Palpatine before he was emperor. We even found out Palpatine’s first name – Sheev kinda weird and not what i thought but oh well and we see the events that lead Tarkin from just a guy running a secret construction project for the empire (namely the death star) to becoming a Grand Moff and overseeing an entire portion of the galaxy.

It is an interesting insight into how things came to be for episode 4 A New Hope, i really did like the whole Vader / Tarkin relationship. Vader having worked with Tarkin back when he was still Anakin but of course not telling Tarkin that, as Vaders identiy is a secret and Tarkin wary of their working relationship begins to suspect Vader is in fact Anakin. it was a good but brief read and a nice return into the star wars universe for me as always James Luceno does a fantastic job of engaging the reader with his storytelling, i look forward to James’s next outing into the Star Wars universe hopefully with a bit more page length…..

The Abominable – Dan simmons

The Abominable – Dan simmons

When i first saw this book it was back when i was going through a Bigfoot craze i had watched several movies, most of them horror and seen a few documentaries about the mythical Bigfoot. Now i’m not a believer in Bigfoot or the yeti but i find the idea of the unknown quite intriguing. So when i read the blurb describing the climbers being stalked up a mountain i thought this might be good. Having never read anything by this author i grabbed the book solely based on my preconceptions from reading the blurb

The Story goes. its 1924 and George Mallory and Sandy Irvine have disappeared (yes its based on a true historical event) in their Everest summit attempt. The following year 3 climbers set out on a rescue / recover mission to find them. Funded by the Lady Bromley who lost her son the same year on the mountain, they set out to discover what happened. The team is joined by the cousin of the missing Bromley man and a team of sherpas. But as they climb the mountain they find they are being pursued…..

The book does take a very long time to set itself up. the blurb suggests the story is in fact about the being pursued up the mountain but that doesn’t start till like page 500, all of the beginning of the book is set aside for discussion on climbing equipment and what the men will use, interviews with witnesses to try and gather information on where exactly were the missing men last seen. I found this part very hard to go through. The the sudden introduction of some NAZIS got my attention. however it continued to be just discussion and alleged plot building.

Finally we get to the good part, when our climbers discover they are being pursued. Boy was this part of the book well written, i just couldn’t put the book down i had to know what was happening, as the camps below them kept being destroyed and they had to climb higher and higher you could feel the tension and fear rising.

Aside from the very long set up of this book the back half was quite an enjoyable read, oh and did i mention NAZIS. that really captured my attention when they joined the story. Needless to say the second half of this book was a great read filled with mystery, drama and suspense never knew what was going to happened after they climbed the next ledge. i will have to keep an eye out for more works by Dan simmons

1434 The Year a Magnificent Chinese fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance – Gavin Menzies

1434 The Year a Magnificent Chinese fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance – Gavin Menzies

I First read Gavin Menzies maybe about 10 years ago, the book was his bestseller 1421 in which he details his theory that  Chinese Admiral Zheng He, visited the Americas prior to European explorer Christopher Columbus. Not only that but that he also visited Australia before it was said to exist by Europeans. I was hooked this book was so exciting. So naturally many years later when i heard he had another book 1434 which extends his previous theory to say the Chinese Admiral also visited Europe. I just had to get it.

in 1421 Menzies wrote the book informally, as a series of vignettes of his travels around the globe examining the “evidence” for his hypothesis. The book is filled with a lot of speculation as he tries to answer the main question of “on some early European world maps, it appear that someone had charted and surveyed lands supposedly unknown to Europeans. who could have charted and surveyed these lands before they were discovered”

in 1434 Menzies claims that in 1434 Chinese delegations reached Italy and brought books and globes that, launched the Renaissance. He claims that a letter written in 1474 by Toscanelli and found amongst the private papers of Columbus indicates that an earlier Chinese ambassador had direct correspondence with Pope Eugene IV in Rome. Menzies then claims that materials from the Chinese Book of Agriculture, the Nong Shu, published in 1313 by the Yuan dynasty scholar-official Wang-Zhen were copied by European scholars and provided direct inspiration for the illustrations of mechanical devices which are attributed to the Italian Renaissance titans of Taccola and Leonardo da Vinci

His first book was filled with alot more (in my opinion) evidence. He visited ship wreck sites, archaeological digs where Chinese artifacts were found. DNA analysis. But this second book seems to be more conjecture and assumptions.

That being said it is still an interesting read and while of course its just a theory it does give you some food for thought and does show how the scientific community doesn’t like outsiders telling them whats going on. I enjoyed this book quite a bit from an education point of view. regardless of its truth or not this plus the previous book of 1421 are  must read for anyone interested in the era of early explorers and the age of discovery

Zero Hour – Clive Cussler

Zero Hour – Clive Cussler

I am a bad reader, i judge and choose books based on their covers allot of the time. Obviously there are issues with this approach, mainly i might miss out on some good stories because of one lame cover. If a cover looks lovey dovey it has zero chance of being picked up. Granted i don’t always choose books this way but for the most part when in a physical book store i do. Needless to say had i not been a Clive Cussler fan anyway seeing the opera house exploding on this cover would definitely made me pick it up. Much to my dismay i later discovered the opera house does not explode but just has a speedboat crash into its stairs

Now this book is the 11th book in the Kurt Austen series which means we are at the point where we need to have just a little bit of a suspension of belief and just accept the fact that 11 times these characters have been involved with megalomaniacs trying to take over the world. Ok so maybe i exaggerated that last part, they aren’t all megalomaniacs for instance this one is about a scientist seeking revenge and causing earthquakes against the countries that wronged him and killed his family but that kinda falls into the megalomaniac category in my opinion

Clive keeps up to date with the latest discoveries and scientific advancements and using them in many of his stories, for this one the key part of its plot if the concept of zero point energy. While not exactly a new concept it has been around for awhile now it is interesting to see him link this with some historical aspects aswell

For me i love the adventure genre, im just a big kid at heart and that’s why i keep reading these stories. but as i said before the story on its own is fantastic but when you look at the fact this is now the 11th time these characters have been in the wrong place at the wrong time it becomes a bit of a stretch of the imagination….