December 25, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir (Review)

Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
First published: 2012
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

I read The Martian in two days, finishing at 5a.m. This fact alone illustrates how great the book is, considering how I love to sleep :) The next day I enthusiastically recommended it to one of my colleagues, and the next morning he was spotted drinking too much coffee and blaming me for disturbing his sleep. Since then the news about the book spread around our office like fire, and I get emails from grateful colleagues all the time, telling me how they appreciate my recommendation. Well, we are a research lab and a bunch of geeks, so what do you want :D The book was meant to be read by the likes of us!

The Martian is about Mark Watney, an astronaut left on Mars after the evacuation of the whole expedition. Now his only chance is to survive for 4 years until the next expedition. Meanwhile, he deals with the lack of food, technical emergencies and loneliness, all with the help of his innate resourcefulness and great sense of humor.

What I loved most about this novel is the technical details Mark goes into while planning his escape and solving his everyday problems. You ever wonder how to make water from burning fuel in pure oxygen and not get exploded? Or how to measure the size of the hurricane and where it goes? Or how to fix the rover's receiver? It's all explained! Another thing is the writing. It's awesome and funny and keeps you turning pages through the wee hours of the morning. The novel makes you feel good and fills you with optimism and faith in mankind. This is a bit bombastic but it's true.

In my book:
This is the ultimate geeky book! But it's not only for the geeks, I can't imagine anybody who would not enjoy it. Read it! :)

December 17, 2014

My Autumn of Silent Escapist Reading

Hi everybody! :) As you've probably noticed, I haven't been in the mood to post for the whole autumn. I've also sucked at commenting and participating in events, and I'm truly sorry for this. I'm not sure what's happening to my reading habits, but my attention span is still very short, and now I shun from classics and big books and often pick books on a whim. I don't like it, as I usually enjoy being organized (and it's a pity I'm not finishing any of my challenges, the year has started so well!), but I can't do anything about it. Also, I'm reading much less now and am much more likely to play a game or watch a movie/series instead. Well, I hope it's just a short period...

Nevertheless, I HAVE been reading and I have missed blogging in the short moments of activeness. So it feels good to finally write a post :)

For starters, I've decided to make a small recap of what I read this autumn in the format of mini-reviews. These are really good books, and most of them are, I guess, unknown to many readers, so let me tell you more about them! :)

Title: Y: The Last Man
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
First published: 2003-2008
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

This 10-volume comics was October's book of choice for Coursera Fantasy and Sci Fi book club, and I loved it so much! It tells about a sudden epidemic of unknown origin which results in wiping out all the male population on Earth. All except Yorick and his monkey Ampersand. See? How can one NOT love a story with a plot like this? :) Add some great humor, kick-ass characters, amazing plot, beautiful pictures and an oh-so-great finale - and you get Y: The Last Man.

In my book: An awesome, awesome story. Read it.

Title: Spectrum
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko
First published: 2002
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: ★★★★★

This is my favorite Lukyanenko book, and I've read them all! :) It is also a standalone novel rather than a part of the series, which I also appreciate. Unfortunately, it is not translated into English yet, although it is very popular in some European countries. US publishers are just soooo bad at seeing further than the ends of their noses. As nearly every Lukyanenko book, Spectrum features a very likable hero stumble over some mystery of the universe and forced to make difficult decisions. The book is very clever and philosophical and yet packed with action and suspense and great world-building. I'm very glad I've re-read it!

In my book: This novel is like an old friend which, when you meet after a long time apart, never fails to keep you up all night while discussing philosophical problems and drinking wine :)

Title: Hard to Be a God
Author: Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky
First published: 1964
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

Another great Russian Sci-Fi novel, Hard to Be a God is also an old favourite. It tells about a historian from Earth doing research on a "medieval" planet. He poses as a noble and has to observe and cautiously encourage progress without getting too involved and unnaturally changing the course of history. But pretending to be someone else for so long is not easy, and with obtaining more relations it's hard to stay impassive during a shocking twist in the planet's historical course. Re-reading the novel as an adult dimmed my initial impression of it a bit, as the moral became much more obvious. But it's a great book nevertheless!

In my book: Still very relevant and makes you think a lot. And the main character is great.

Title: Night Watch
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko
First published: 1998
Add it: GoodreadsBook Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

As I've already mentioned, Lukyanenko is great, and luckily this book is translated into English, so it is an introduction to his writing for many readers. Which is a pity, because in my opinion it is not his best book, and the continuation of the series gets worse. I've read three out of (already) six books and don't intend to continue. The first one is still good though, if only a bit simplistic. The idea is that there are magicians between us, and they have two guilds: the Light and the Dark (I know, so obvious!) and they have some kind of a pact which ensures that they don't destroy each other. So it's "battles for souls" mixed with political plots to get round the pact.

In my book: Rather fun if you don't get sick of this whole Light/Dark opposition stuff.

Title: The Last Wish
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
First published: 1992
Add it: GoodreadsBook Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

You can already tell this autumn was full of Eastern European fantasy/sci-fi, right? :D Well, here's a super-popular polish fantasy saga, which inspired a computer game, dozens of spin-offs, fanfics, etc. I even have two friends who participated in role-playing games based on The Witcher world. The book is a collection of short stories telling about separate adventures of a Witcher - a guy specifically trained to kill different evil supernatural beings. I loved how Sapkowski took different Slavic fairy tale tropes and turned them into an entertaining and sometimes funny heroic saga.

In my book: An iconic novel, Slavic fantasy at its best. Recommended!

Title: The Master and Margarita
Author: Mikhail Bulgakov
First published: 1967
Add it: GoodreadsBook Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

This is a classic of Russian lit, which is unlike any other book. For most of high school students in Russia this is the only book they like from the school program, even though I bet none of them understand much of it. To tell you the truth I can't say I understood everything even after this re-reading, and I hope I can say that I'm now a more experienced reader then I was in the 11th grade :) Anyway, the novel is a satire about early Soviet era, and is set in Moscow in the 1930s. But it also has a plot line which tells about Pontius Pilate and the two intertwine through Master - a writer with a difficult fate, who wrote a story about ancient Jerusalem. The architecture of the novel, the beautiful language, the characters, the scaring hilarity of the dialogues, the macabre mood of it all - Bulgakov IS the real Master, and I can't possibly over-recommend this book :)

In my book: Just read it, OK? Nothing more that I can say :)

That's it! I have a couple of stand-alone reviews coming (hopefully soon) and I'm thinking about doing some year overview. We'll see if I have time and enthusiasm for that :)
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