The Martian Playlist

The Martian

I read the Martian recently, and one thing that stood out in it was the music.

Mark Watney is stranded on Mars, trying to survive, and the only music he has to listen to is the 70’s disco collection one of his teammates left behind.

This is a playlist I put together on Spotify inspired by the music mentioned in the book, and every time I listen to it I can picture Mark on Mars, boogying in the red, dust-covered landscape, eating his potatoes.

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian

The Martian Blurb

A mission to Mars.

A freak accident.

One man’s struggle to survive.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’ surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, Mark won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark’s not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills—and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.

As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive.

But Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.

My Review of The Martian

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a proper sci-fi book, it reminds me of the best of 50’s sci-fi. I loved all the maths and the science and watching Mark Watney work out how to stay alive.

Watney’s voice was funny (very funny!) and compelling. I felt like I was there with him on Mars, and his science explanations were accessible enough that I could follow what he was doing and why.

I loved the insight into all the NASA equipment, and what they would take with them on a trip to Mars. I almost feel now like I know what it would be like to be an astronaut.

I wasn’t keen on the parts set on Earth. I liked the characters, but for me these parts were overdone and tried too hard to play with my emotions. There was a bit too much of how the whole world pulls together to save one man. Whatever. I get why we had to see what they were doing on Earth to try to save him, and I did like the plans they came up with, but I don’t need to be shown so obviously where I should find something moving.

But the rest of it I loved, even the 70’s disco soundtrack!

The Martian
Andy Weir
Sci-Fi
August 18th 2015
435

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

Fledgling

Fledgling Blurb

Fledgling, Octavia Butler’s new novel after a seven year break, is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly inhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted – and still wants – to destroy her and those she cares for and how she can save herself. Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of “otherness” and questions what it means to be truly human.

My Review of Fledgling

FledglingFledgling by Octavia E. Butler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shori looks like a normal human child but is actually a 53-year-old Ina, a vampire. The story is told through her eyes after she loses her memory and cannot remember who or what she is.

Shori is found and cared for by a human, but as they slowly realise what she is Shori starts trying to find her Ina family. This gives us as the reader a unique insight into the vampire community, Shori is one of them, but has to relearn everything about them, and we learn with her.

The Ina create strong families and communities. As an Ina Shori needs her human symbionts, she needs their closeness and their support.
I’m not 100% sure how I feel about the communal / shared partner way of living (I don’t like people, and sharing my life with one person is about as much as I can stand) but I like the different approach to vampire stories. It shows vampires as being capable of kindness and love for humans.

Shori has an intelligent, cold, analytical style which I enjoyed reading, and the whole story is quite serious, with no daftness in it.It makes a nice change from the normal over the top emotional vampire silliness!

I loved it at first, and the story built up a lot of momentum but then it kinda petered out towards the conclusion where it became quite slow.

It became what I felt was a discussion of race, prejudice, and moral values, which I found very interesting and thought-provoking, and the slower pace helped to digest it all.

This is one of the best vampire stories I’ve read and I’m excited about reading more of Octavia Butler’s books!

Fledgling
Octavia E. Butler
Fantasy
January 2nd 2007
320

Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang, Ken Liu (translator)

Folding Beijing Cover

A good story that starts off well and has some very interesting ideas.

The city of Beijing has solved it’s over population problem by splitting the city into three different spaces that can move and fold up underground. Each space unfolds into the open at a different time, and of course, the rich people in First Space get longer out in the open.

Third Space was vibrant and full of life, I enjoyed the parts that were set there. When the character actually reaches First Space though I thought the story became dull and flat, only picking up again at the end.

You can read online at Uncanny Magazine for free

Folding Beijing
Hao Jingfang
Sci-Fi
January 2015
40

Defy the Stars (Defy the Stars #1) by Claudia Gray

Defy the Stars Blurb

Noemi Vidal is a teen soldier from the planet Genesis, once a colony of Earth that’s now at war for its independence. The humans of Genesis have fought Earth’s robotic “mech” armies for decades with no end in sight.

After a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself stranded in space on an abandoned ship where she meets Abel, the most sophisticated mech prototype ever made. One who should be her enemy. But Abel’s programming forces him to obey Noemi as his commander, which means he has to help her save Genesis–even though her plan to win the war will kill him.

Together they embark on a daring voyage through the galaxy. Before long, Noemi begins to realize Abel may be more than a machine, and, for his part, Abel’s devotion to Noemi is no longer just a matter of programming.

My review of Defy the Stars

Defy the Stars (Defy the Stars #1)Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love sci-fi and anything to do with robots, so I was excited about reading this book. The cover is stunning, and the promise of an android main character and spaceships had me sold.

Unfortunately, the details of the sci-fi are glossed over and dumbed down. It seems to be used for something to make this book stand out from the mass of dystopian YA books that have been released recently. There are some interesting ideas and technology in it, but I’m not convinced the author’s put a lot of thought into how it all works. It’s just somewhere different to set the same story I’ve seen over and again since The Hunger Games.

Saying that though, I did enjoy the sci-fi setting. There are enough spaceships, star gates, and mechs (androids and robots) running about to keep me happy.

I liked the characters. Abel is lovely! He’s sweet and thoughtful and seems more human than a lot of YA male love interests. The way he tries to protect Noemi makes my heart melt. He almost seems too human to be an android though.

Noemi is a bit too perfect to be believable. She’s intelligent, kind, compassionate, brave, athletic and willing to die for her friends. If she has any flaws they’re not shown in this book! She’s that YA troupe made popular in The Hunger Games of an independent, almost unfriendly young woman that doesn’t think much of herself, but everyone else adores her.

The writing is very dry, I found it hard to get into at first. Once I’d got through the first 30% though I found I had become engrossed in the story. I lost track of time reading it, which is always a good sign!

The story is interesting and fun, if very fast moving, and a bit too far fetched even for sci-fi. There are a few very convenient coincidences, and a lot of dramatic “just in the nick of time” escapes.

So I’m a bit on the fence about it all, but I am rooting for Noemi and Abel, and I’d like to see what happens next with them.

I received a free copy in return for an honest review.

Defy the Stars
Defy the Stars
Claudia Gray
Young Adult Sci-Fi

Books with Dragons in them

Books with Dragons in

St George’s Day today! Which is my tenuous excuse for sharing some of my favourite books with dragons in them.

Please share your favourites in the comments, I feel like I don’t have enough dragons in my reading list.

The Copper Promise by Jen Williams

Sebastion and Wydrin are mercenary sell-swords who free a dragon-god whilst investigating a ruined citadel.

At first they try to ignore the problem they have created, but the dragon starts destroying towns and villages and leaving a path of destruction across the continent.

A refreshing and fun story, full of magic, adventure, fights and taverns. I’ve only started reading Jen Williams recently, but she’s jumped straight to the top of my favourite fantasy authors list.

The Hobbit

One of the most famous dragon stories thanks to the films that came out a few years ago. I much prefer the book though, shorter and better paced and without all the boring bits they added to be able to make three films out of it.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

Neither good nor evil the dragons in Earthsea are wise and long lived. Scornful of humans, they will only talk to Dragonlords, humans that understand the language of dragons.

Written in the 1960’s, the Earthsea series is one of the most influential and best-loved fantasies to be published. If you have never read it do yourself a favour and get a copy.

The Dragon Keeper (Rain Wild Chronicles, #1) by Robin Hobb

The Dragon Keeper follows a pack of dragons born so weak and deformed that they can’t fly or hunt for themselves. Tired of having to care for them the people of the Rain Wilds want to move them up river to a place where they can live away from humans.

Thymara is hired to be a Dragon Keeper, she has to care for and feed her dragon on the journey to her new home.

So if you like dragons this series is packed full of them, and Robin Hobb is a wonderful writer 🙂

Note – this series follows the Liveship Trader series, but I don’t think you need to have read that first (I hadn’t), and this series has far more dragon page time in it.

Guards! Guards! (Discworld #8) by Terry Pratchett

A secret brotherhood who want to gain control of Ankh-Morpork release a dragon into the city. Enter The Watch, the ragtag and incompetent town guards who have to restore order to the chaos.

This is one of Terry Pratchett’s best Discworld stories it has many of my favourite characters and is massively funny. If you want to laugh out loud, this is the one for you.

The Circle (Engelsfors #1) by Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren

The Circle

The Circle Blurb

One night, when a strange red moon fills the sky, six school girls find themselves in an abandoned theme park, drawn there by a mysterious force. A student has just been found dead. Everyone suspects suicide. Everyone – except them.

In that derelict fairground an ancient prophecy is revealed. They are The Chosen Ones, a group of witches, bound together by a power, one which could destroy them all. But they soon learn that despite their differences they need each other in order to master the forces that have been awakened within them.

High school is now a matter of life and death. Because the killing has only just begun

My review of The Circle

The Circle (Hammer)The Circle by Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Circle is a Swedish Young Adult novel. Set in the small town of Engelsfor in Sweden, The Circle follows six teenagers at the local high school that find out they have magic powers.

For the first few chapters I was a little confused by all the different characters as the viewpoint jumps between the girls, but by the middle of the book, I had them sorted. They are all very different and there is enough character development to start getting to know each of them.

Not all of the girls were very likeable and they didn’t get on with each other, this conflict and the regular action keeps the book moving nicely.

There wasn’t enough use of their magic powers for me though, for most of the book the girls struggled to understand what they were and had no real idea how to use them. It might be more realistic this way, but I want to see more magic!

It’s long for a young adult book, but it all wraps up nicely at the end, no cliffhangers here! So even though there are sequels this can be read as a one off.

I will be reading the next book though, I want to see them getting the hang of their magic powers and using them a bit more.

The Circle
Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren
Young Adult Fantasy
June 7th 2012

Kim & Kim Vol. 1 by Magdalene Visaggio, Eva Cabrera

Kim and Kim

Kim & Kim Blurb

Kim & Kim are twenty-something besties out to make a name for themselves in the wild world of interdimensional cowboy law enforcement. In a massive “screw you” to their parents and the authorities, they decide to hijack some high stakes bounty — and end up in way over their heads.

Kim & Kim is a day-glo action adventure that’s bursting with energy and enthusiasm. Blending the punk exuberance of TANK GIRL with the buddy adventure wackiness of SUPERBAD (if Michael Cera was a trans woman and Jonah Hill a queer girl partner in crime), Kim & Kim is a bright, happy, punk rock sci-fi adventure that is queer as shit.

My Review of Kim & Kim

Kim & Kim #1 (Kim & Kim, #1)Kim & Kim Vol. 1 by Magdalene Visaggio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram you might have seen me posting about this graphic novel a lot recently. I’m not gonna apologise because I absolutely loved everything about Kim & Kim! It’s loud and bright and crazy, and massively fun, and you need it in your life.

The two Kims are bounty hunters, adventuring around space trying to make enough money to pay their rent. Their spaceship is a van that looks like the one from Scooby Doo, and their weapons are an electric guitar and a bright pink gun.

It feels heavily influenced by Cowboy Bebop, but it’s got the brightness (and the wonderful outfit changes) of Jem and the Holograms, the crazy fun of Adventure Time, and a massive personality all of its own.

But I like it mostly because it has two badass female main characters with realistic personalities and a strong friendship between them. They’re not just a sexy fantasy version of badass either and that’s not something you see often in the graphic novel world.

More, please.

Kim & Kim Vol. 1
Kim & Kim
Magdalene Visaggio, Eva Cabrera
Graphic Novel
December 28th 2016
Graphic Novel

Hello, Moto by Nnedi Okorafor

hello moto

There is witchcraft in science and a science to witchcraft. Both will conspire against you eventually.

My Review of Hello, Moto

In Hello, Moto, technology and magic merge into one very interesting short story.

Philo had been in Jos when the riots happened. I knew it was her and her wig. A technology I had created. Neurotransmitters, mobile phones, incantation, and hypnosis- even I knew my creation was genius. But all it sparked in the North was death and mayhem.

It left me with more questions than answers and it’s a massive cliffhanger ending, but I feel like that’s a good thing.

You definitely need to use your own imagination when you’re reading this.

Read for free at Tor.com

Hello, Moto
Nnedi Okorafor
Fantasy
Online Short Story

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All by Jonas Jonasson

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of it All

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All Blurb

A madcap new novel from the one-of-a-kind author of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

A GANGSTER, A VICAR AND A RECEPTIONIST WALK INTO A BAR . . .

Hitman Anders is fresh out of prison and trying to keep his head down when he meets a female Protestant vicar (who happens to be an atheist), and a receptionist at a 1-star hotel (who happens to be currently homeless). Together they cook up an idea for a very unusual business that’s going to make them all a fortune – but then all of a sudden, and to everyone’s surprise, Anders finds Jesus . . .

Anders’ sudden interest in religion might be good for his soul but it’s not good for business, and the vicar and the receptionist have to find a new plan, quick.

My Review of Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It AllHitman Anders and the Meaning of It All by Jonas Jonasson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think people will either love or hate the farcical style of Jonas Jonasson’s stories. They are daft romps through life full of madcap characters who have crazy run-ins with police, politics and criminals.

The books are full of sharp and funny comments on life, and a lot of silliness, but for me, it’s the warm and likeable characters that make the stories stand out.

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All is nothing new from the previous books, but I didn’t find it as funny as the others. There were a lot of bits in it that had me smiling, but I didn’t have any laugh out loud moments.

I enjoyed it though, and I liked the characters. It’s still an entertaining and uplifting read, with some amusing bits!

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All
Jonas Jonasson
Fiction
April 21st 2016
400