Book Review: Artemis

Artemis
By Andy Weir

My Edition:
ARC e-book, 320 pages
2017, Crown
ISBN: 9780553448122 (hardcover)

Jazz Bashara grew up in the moon colony of Artemis – scheming and smuggling her way through life, hoping for that big break that will make her rich. When one of her loyal customers offers her a huge sum of money to sabotage a company he wants to take over, Jazz agrees. When her plans begin to go awry, Jazz realizes she’s in over her head and that her “simple” crime is at the center of a much larger conspiracy to control all of Artemis.

Artemis was a load of fun to read.

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Book Review: Press Start to Play

Press Start to Play
Edited by Daniel H. Wilson

My Edition:
Paperback, 507 pages
2015, Vintage Books
ISBN: 9781101873304

From the back of the book: You are standing in a room filled with books, faced with a difficult decision. A distinctive cover catches your eye. It is a groundbreaking anthology of short stories from award-winning writers and game-industry titans who have embarked on a quest to explore what happens when video games and science fiction collide.

I bought this collection for a friend for Christmas and almost didn’t give it to him because I really wanted it for myself. With authors like Andy Weir, Seanan McGuire, Holly Black, Cory Doctorow, Hugh Howey and a forward by Ernest Cline, how could I not be intrigued? Not to mention the video game theme. And the blurb is right, the bold colors and simple font do make the cover distinctive.

I’ve said it before (and I’ll probably say it every time I review a short story anthology), collections are hard to review because each story is often so different. And I’m not the type to sit down and write something about each story, especially as this collection has 26 stories.

In short, I’ll just say I absolutely loved this collection. I liked some stories more than others, but I enjoyed them all! Some of my favorites were:

<end game> by Chris Avellone – someone is playing an old text-based game, but there appears to be a game within the game. Or perhaps one of those games is real? Or neither? If you’ve read this, I’m interested on your take.

NPC by Charles Yu – this is a funny little take on what it feels like to go from being a NPC (non-player character) in a game, to a main character with a name and personality.

Save Me Plz by David Barr Kirtley – what happens when someone figures out life is a game and can be cheated and changed the way video games can.

The Relive Box by T.C. Boyle – if you could buy a device that would allow you to play, replay, fast forward, pause and rewind any part of your past (but not alter it!), would you? I think this was an especially telling piece about how many of us might end up “living” if such a thing were possible.

Creation Screen by Rhianna Pratchett – a look at what video game characters feel and think while we create them, tweaking them to perfection, and what they think about the world around them.

A friend on Instagram asked me if I thought this collection was suitable for non-gamers. Now, I consider myself a casual gamer – we have a lot of video game systems in the house, and while I play a lot less than I used to, I still love games – but this book isn’t just about stories based on or in video games. Like most sci-fi, there are a lot of deep questions here, and a lot of “what if” situations that made me think about how I would react to certain situations, or what humanity might do with certain technology. I would say that if you’re not a gamer, as long as you’re interested in sci-fi, you’ll enjoy these stories. Picking up on all the gaming aspects is a bonus!

 

Book Review: The Martian

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The Martian
By Andy Weir

My Edition:
Paperback, 387 pages
2014 (or 2011?), Broadway Books
ISBN: 9780553418026

I received this book for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Mark Watney is accidentally abandoned on Mars during an emergency evacuation and thought to be dead for weeks. But Mark survived and is scratching out a living as the lone man on Mars based on his ingenuity and remaining resources. But can he survive long enough for those back on Earth to try to put together a rescue mission – will that mission even be possible?

What I like:
This is another book where I just want to say “Oh  my gourd, go read it!” and just let you experience everything for yourself. I was hooked from page one and instantly appreciated Mark’s wit and sarcasm. I present you with the opening sentences:

“I’m pretty much fucked. That’s my considered opinion. Fucked.”

Well, that got my attention!

Mark makes this book – considering more than half of it is his personal log of his new life trying to survive on Mars, this is an important part. I instantly liked him as a character and while he’s a smartass, he’s also very smart. He’s primarily a botanist, and his skills actually help him to survive. He’s crafty with his resources and I don’t want to give away much, but I’ll say that he bounces back well from any mishaps. That’s another great part – Mark is not some super genius who flawlessly carves out his life on Mars. He miscalculates, he makes stupid mistakes and he gets knocked down. There’s a lot of science and math in this book and I’ll be honest, I have no damn clue if it’s accurate, and I don’t care. It felt accurate and that was enough for me. Surprisingly enough, while I didn’t understand most of Mark’s calculations, I didn’t feel bored or lost while he was working through them – it genuinely felt like a man keeping a log of just how he planned to try to survive on Mars for as long as he possibly could. Those of you who are actually knowledgeable about spacemath and sciencejunk might actually enjoy this book even more.

Part way through, we’re given insight into the lives of people back on Earth, as well as Mark’s other crew members. At first, I thought it might disrupt the journal-like flow of Mark’s logs, but it actually added essential detail to the story and there wasn’t a single page in this book I didn’t enjoy.

Here are a few more quotes that made me chuckle:

“I used a sophisticated method to remove sections of plastic (hammer), then carefully removed the solid foam insulation (hammer again).”

“Now that NASA can talk to me, they won’t shut the hell up.”

What I didn’t like:
Hmmm…uh……let’s see…..

Oh! I know. I have the paperback edition, and they designed the cover to have a shorter edge, so you can see the page beneath it, which they also made to be the same color as the cover background. So, why do that? It’s ugly and I don’t think it lends to the design.

Yep…that’s it.

~

Seriously, if you’re at all interested in a realistic sci-fi read (meaning no aliens and space fights, etc) then check out this book. I had a hard time putting this down and I enjoyed waffling back and forth between how I thought the book ended. Mark is an excellent main character who kept me laughing, despite what I consider to be a harrowing experience. I also hear (according to IMDB) they’re making this into a movie and if it’s done right I think it will be fantastic.