Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Martian: You've Got Read This Great Scifi Thriller!

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

A team of astronauts visits Mars, the third to explore the cold, dry fourth planet in our solar system. After a hefty dust storm threatens the mission, he's wounded and stranded on the planet when the rest of the team can't find him and has to leave. His new mission is to survive until the next team arrives - in four years. Using science - real science - the astronaut faces one devastating tragedy after another, relying on his wits and his diminishing resources to stay alive. Written in the voice of the astronaut, it's a personal journey written with great humor and amazing insight into the psychology of someone undergoing isolation and great danger.

This is the well written story of The Martian by Andy Weir, a journey so intriguing I had to keep reading it even when I should be writing or doing chores or sleeping. I finished it in three days, I was so engrossed in the story.

To be fair, my wife's response was, "Meh..." But we often like different kinds of science fiction. I love hard-core science fiction. She more enjoys fantasy scifi.

Andy Weir did a huge amount of research to write this compelling novel, but he is also trained in much of the science. As a result, it's extremely well crafted and its accuracy is spot on.

When Weir wrote The Martian, he first posted it by chapter online. Then fans suggested he post it as an ebook. Others asked that he print it as a paper book. All which he did for free. It became so popular he put it on Amazon, where it's now a best seller. He tried to publish it for free on Amazon but Amazon requires at least some price, so it's no longer free. But in my mind, it's well worth the low price (only $5.99 for the Kindle version).

If you're a scifi reader, and in particular if you're a fan of hard-core scifi (scifi primarily based on actual science), then this is a book for you. I hope you enjoy nearly as much as I did.

Ridley Scott, who brought us the movie Aliens, is making a movie out of The Martian, coming to theaters in October 2015. The trailer (below) looks great. It's how I first learned about the book, and doing more research I found his website and the book on Amazon and read the excerpt there, where I instantly became excited about the novel.

I've since also watched an interview of author Andy Weir by Adam Savage (MythBusters), who read The Martian in one sitting. The interview is below. I hope you'll take Savage's enthusiasm along with mine as motivation to read this great novel.

OK, enough background - now go find a copy, even if it's in your local library.

(c) 2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Frontier Is Worth a Preview Read

Book Recommedation: Frontier by Raymond Alvarez

The author of the very popular The Martian started posting his book a chapter at a time online. Then he received requests to make it into an ebook, and then a paper book. It's now a bestseller. A new author is taking a similar tack, and I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes a similar success in time, too.

If you're a scifi fan, you need to take a look at Frontier by Raymond Alvarez. As of this writing, Alvarez has posted the first two chapters free online, inviting comment and corrections. The "Chapters" navigation link has spots for four chapters.

Here's a brief synopsis based on the introduction from Alvarez's home page.
Scientists find a mystery at the bottom of Europa’s hidden ocean, a spherical object that turns out to be an extraterrestrial spaceship with incredible technology asleep inside. A trillionaire on Earth insists on controlling the alien technology, but with the object’s powerful secrets within grasp something goes terribly wrong. It sets loose a chain of events as mankind struggles for its very survival. 
Like The Martian, Frontier is a novel based on science. Alvarez has done his research. And while his core idea is at this time a fantasy - finding alien technology - everything about Europa and getting there is based on what science tells us today. And of course, there are those who would say there is evidence that alien civilizations have visited us in the past, so maybe finding alien technology isn't so much fantasy as science awaiting discovery.

Alvarez is working on finishing the book and hopes it will become popular enough that readers will want to buy it. Now is a good time to get a free look at the first chapters and decide for yourself. And enjoy the opportunity of interacting with an author by commenting on the novel and offering suggestions. 

As a former bookseller, I can attest that writing and publishing books has changed significantly over the past ten years. Today, authors are able to take more of publishing into their own hands, and Raymond Alvarez is taking a bold step in an ever-changing and uncertain profession. But he's living the dream of actually being published, and he's taking the opportunity to do it his way. I hope you'll see what it's about and give him a chance to prove himself by reading a couple of chapters.

(c) 2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, July 24, 2015

"What If?" Great Summer Reading for the Curious Reader

Book Review: What If? by Randall Munroe

Not sure this book is meant for the poolside or the beach, but it makes good light summer reading, especially if you like humor and science: What If? by Randall Munroe.

I spotted What If? on the new-books table at my local independent bookstore, and flipping through its pages it immediately intrigued me. Although I have definite likes and dislikes in books, I would describe my reading tastes as eclectic and this book hit that spot perfectly.

What If? fills the desire for a fun read. It's crammed with humor. It brings up interesting questions or scenarios, and then it answers them, using real science - which is one of my interests. And it is written and illustrated by Randall Munroe who writes and illustrates the xkcd comic website. What's not to like about that!

Munroe studied physics and math in college and went on to work on robotics at NASA before giving it all up to freelance stick-figure comics on his own popular website. He uses that acumen to answer the silly hypothetical questions the people have sent him both to interact with his readers and to inform others through this book.

I would suggest this book is a great way to introduce science to curious young  minds who might otherwise be having a tough time finding science interesting in school. Or perhaps a way to keep their minds engaged in science during the summer or during other holidays. It's not like they have to take a test or exam when it's over - it's casual reading. And no actual math is involved.

So, if you're looking for a fun read and some crazy hypothetical questions with answers to go with them, or if you just want a good laugh, consider picking up What If? by Randall Munroe.

(c) 2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.