Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Martian

The MartianFrom the opening sentence to the heart stopping, climactic ending, “The Martian” is one of the best pure sci-fi books I have read for a very long time. 

Through a freak accident during a manned mission to Mars, astronaut Mark Watney finds himself alone on the red planet. As the rest of the crew head back to Earth, believing that their friend had died on the surface during their frantic escape, Watney must find a way to survive with no means of communication and no hope of rescue.

Salvaging what he can from the temporary base and abandoned stores, Watney has to rely on his own skills and ingenuity. At the same time, back on Earth, specialists from around the world pull together to find a way to rescue him.

To find yourself alone in any wilderness must be frightening, but to be alone on an alien planet, where everything seems determined to kill you, would be truly horrifying. Weir writes with real maturity, not only about the science, which is incredibly well researched, but also about the horrors of the situation. 

The plot is intense and gripping, and all too believable, As we begin once more to look to the planets and seriously consider the next phase of manned exploration, let’s hope that no one has to face the same predicament as Mark Watney.

“The Martian” is an excellent book. I hope it won’t be Andy Wier’s last.

The Outside

The Outsider“Outsider” is Chris Culver’s second novel, but the first I have read. It centres around the character of Ash Rashid, a detective with the Indianapolis Prosecutor’s Office. Like all good fictional detectives, Ash has to contend with his own internal demons, as well as those that the criminal fraternity can throw at him. He is one of the few Muslims on the force, but he is also a family man with a drink problem.

When Ash discovers that the mother of his daughter’s best friend has been killed in a hit-and-run, he steps in to help. But he soon discovers that things are not all that they seem. Suspecting that her death was not an accident, Ash begins and investigation that threats not only his own life, but also those of his family.

I must admit that I wasn’t sure about this book at first, but it soon picked up pace and before long I was hooked. It is well written and the plot is far from predictable. Sure enough, I had figured out most of what was going on before the detective himself, but that only made the book more compelling. 

“The Outside” is a well-told thriller that keeps you hooked right to the very end. Definitely a writer to look out for if you like a good detective story.

Starting Over

Starting OverTony Parsons writes about contemporary emotional issues with great wit and insight. “Starting Over” is the story of George Bailey, a desk bound policeman who at the very beginning of the book suffers a near fatal heart attack. Following the lifesaving transplant, 42 year old George’s life begins to change irrevocably. Is it the heart of a 19-year-old, or is it the second chance the transplant has given him? 

But his new found “youth” has some unforeseen consequences for George. His relationship with his son and daughter switches from stern father to friend. But this puts him in permanent conflict with his wife, Lara, with inevitable consequences.

Tony Parsons is a good writer who can take almost any situation and find the funny side. Although I don’t think this is his best book, it is non the less full of charm and wit, and a central character that I felt great affinity, and more than a little pity for.

The Red Room

The Red RoomAn interesting but hardly compelling novel, Red Room has a formulaic feel about it. Husband and wife team Nicci French have an interesting plot and a good character in Psychologist Kit Quinn, but somehow the book never really captured my imagination.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book, but felt that there was something missing. 

The story itself centres around the investigation into a seemingly straight forward murder case. But Dr Quinn becomes convinced that there is more to the case and finds herself at odds with the detectives she is supposed to be helping.

It’s not a bad book by any means. The story is well written, as you would expect, but for me the plot was a little too unbelievable. As I reader I enjoy trying to work with the characters to solve the crime. But in this case that is not possible. Neither the police nor Dr Quinn get close to solving the mystery behind the murders, and neither could I. 

Not a typical Nicci French novel, and certainly not one of their best. It was OK but I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it.