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Tweets from 2015-09-27 to 2015-10-03

Tweets from 2015-09-20 to 2015-09-26

The Martian

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian
by Andy Weir

We read this book for my SF group this month in anticipation of the film being released soon.  Amazing!

Through a cascading set of mishaps, Mark Whatney is left for dead on Mars by his fellow astronauts. This novel tells the exciting and harrowing tale of attempt to survive.  A few thoughts:

  • While I didn’t find this particularly difficult to read, many of my SF group expressed befuddlement at much of the science in the novel. It is a very “hard” SF book, meaning that it spends a lot of time on technical details.
  • The storytelling is terse and straightforward, which lends a lot to the drama of the moment — things unfold very quickly, but always told in the past tense (as they’re being written by Whatney in his mission log / journal).
  • I love the interplay of Whatney on the planet, the astronauts in the ship flying back from Mars, and the ground control folks.  Excellent.
  • My only complaint about the book is that there are a few too many near misses – it feels a bit contrived in that regard.  But like JAWS getting blown up by an air tank, it works because the story has you from go.
  • Books and stories to consider alongside this one: Robinson Crusoe, Apollo 13, Survivor.

Overall, an excellent, very good book.  If you can get over the technospeak, this is a book for you.


The Manhattan Projects

The Manhattan Projects, Vol 1-5
written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Pitarra

The Manhattan Projects

The Manhattan Projects

In the 1940s, the United States wrangled many of its best scientific minds together into the Manhattan Project, a military research group with the aim of creating the Atom bomb.  Hickman and Pitarra’s comic asks the simple question: what if the members of the Manhattan Project were power-mad psychopaths dedicated to megalomaniacal development of unethical and monstrous super-technologies?

The comic series takes a series of historical figures from the middle of the 20th century and reimagines them in a world reminiscent of Garth Ennis’ The Boys, where the good guys are only marginally better than the bad guys, and all of them do reprehensible things.  Only this time, it’s Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer.  A few thoughts:

  • Einstein is the most satisfying character, still somewhat admirable but much more practical and terrible than the sainted version of him we remember from Meg Ryan movies.
  • The heart of the government, particularly its Presidents, festers with corruption and incompetence, in this comic. It reminds me a bit of writing from Ellis, Ennis, or Chaykin. Not a comic for people who dislike iconoclasts.
  • My favorite part of the comic is the idea that the U.S. and Russian scientists bond together to use their joint powers to try and run the world secretly.  Also, Laika is a talking dog, in love with Uri Gregarin.

The series has a delightful chaos to it, suited perfectly to Pitarra’s scratchy (almost filthy) art style. It’s science as science adventure.  Worth a read, but gruesome and dark and funny.

Tweets from 2015-09-13 to 2015-09-19

In Which I tell Real Simple Magazine about zombies

Real Simple magazine ran a piece on Zombies in this year’s October magazine, and guess who’s quoted in the article?  Thanks to Kate Booth for sending me the pictures.

Real Simple Oct 2015

Real Simple Oct 2015

Real Simple history of zombies

Real Simple history of zombies (click for full size)

Real Simple story closeup

Real Simple story close up

Tweets from 2015-09-06 to 2015-09-12

Tweets from 2015-08-30 to 2015-09-05

Tweets from 2015-08-23 to 2015-08-29

Tweets from 2015-08-16 to 2015-08-22

Tweets from 2015-08-09 to 2015-08-15

Station Eleven

Station Eleven

Station Eleven
by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven is a literary, level-headed look at life after the apocalypse.  It’s not a comet, nor a zombie plague, but a simple especially-lethal influenza.  Imagine 1918, but far, far worse.  St. John Mandel tells the story of several people, all united by their common acquaintance with one man who dies at the beginning of the novel.  It’s a solid character study with a compelling through-line and expertly-crafted people.  Reminds me of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake or Colson Whitehead’s Year One.  It’s literary apocalypse, and very compelling.

A few thoughts:

  • The novel imagines the apocalypse in much less horrific terms than many of the books that I read, but it’s all the more chilling for that.  The common struggle for survival puts us way back into the dark ages, at least for a time, and people find both the good and the bad in themselves.
  • The mix of present-day and future storylines also works well, giving depth to the future with excursions into the past.  St. John Mandel even works out an effective way to tie the younger characters (born after the flu) into the older storylines.
  • My only complaint is that the novel gets a bit too cleanly tied up in the end.  It’s fair to say that the story is being told in a way designed to wrap up when the narrative demands it, but it feels like there’s an awful lot of coincidence at work in the final shakedown.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (Dickens did it, after all), but it feels a little too on-the-nose.

Also, I’d like to read the (fictional) comic book from which the novel’s title is taken.

Tweets from 2015-08-02 to 2015-08-08

Tweets from 2015-07-26 to 2015-08-01

Tweets from 2015-07-19 to 2015-07-25