thriller

“Signal” by Patrick Lee

 

Book Cover - Signal

Marnie Calvert, FBI agent in Patrick Lee’s “Signal,” smells the bodies before she sees them. A trailer is burned to a crisp, with not much left except a cage holding the corpses of four children. The owner of the trailer is missing.

 

Sam Dryden’s background includes special ops training with the military. He has left that life behind and now flips houses. His ordinary, peaceful evening is interrupted by a call from trusted former colleague in the military, Claire Dunham. She makes an urgent request of Sam: get in the car immediately and meet her in a spot that is two hours away. Once together, they drive to the trailer at breakneck speed and keep the owner from burning it and everyone in it. When Sam and Claire leave the area, the only corpse is the owner’s.

 

Yes, you read that correctly. Calvert, Dryden and Dunham have arrived at the same crime scene – just not at the same time and with very different results. The race against, through, and with time, begins.

 

Patrick Lee’s paradigms of time travel/time shifting are intriguing and part of what compels me to return to his books. Not every book uses time as a plot device, but I love the way Lee’s mind works. In his Travis Chase series, people traveled through a doorway in time to the future and back again. In “Signal,” Lee’s main characters listen to a radio frequency on a device that streams what is reported on the airwaves from the future – a very specific period of time in the future. In this world, time is fluid and actions can be changed before they happen.

 

Imagine if that power was held by people with decades to plan and reshape the future for their own agendas? Nothing good could come of it. Murder, kidnapping, torture? They’ll do anything to get the device that led Claire to the trailer.

 

In “Signal,” Lee deftly handles the time paradox challenges of adjusting actions in response to hearing the consequences. Any modification in events affects everyone in the timeline continuum for all time, and Lee uses that effectively to keep us absorbed. He gives us just enough information about how it all works without too much science-speak or theory that might take us out of the story.

 

Whose reality will control the tale? Can this knowledge ever be used for good? If your “enemy knows your mistakes before you make them,” how can you survive the battle? The answers will keep you turning the pages all night long, because “Signal” is flat out stay-awake reading. And not just because of the time-travel component or the pulse-pounding action. Lee’s characters have depth, a back story, and believable reasons for what they do, be it for good or very questionable motives.

 

Clear your schedule, turn off the computer and the phone (gasp), and be prepared to read straight through to the perfect finish.

 

I was lucky enough to meet Patrick Lee at a recent writer’s conference and he graciously signed my copy of “Signal.” He signed “Ghost Country,” from the Travis Chase series as well and you can read that review here.

 

For information about Patrick Lee, the terrific first Sam Dryden book, “Runner,” and his other series, please visit www.patrickleefiction.com

 

 

 

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“Phantom Instinct” by Meg Gardiner

 

Book Cover - Phantom Instinct - Meg Gardiner

Bartender Harper Flynn’s boyfriend has just returned her back door access card when the gunfire starts in Meg Gardiner’s “Phantom Instinct.” He is killed in the crossfire, a firebomb is tossed against the wall of liquor behind the bar, and the explosion and spreading flames cause a wall to collapse through the floor, taking a cop with it. And that’s all in the first eleven pages.

 

Harper’s job disappears with the bar and the injured Aiden Garrison, the deputy Sheriff on a case at the time of the fire, has been placed on medical leave from his. Each of them remembers three shooters that night and a year later, Harper thinks one of them is after her. Two of the shooters are dead, and nobody believes Harper and Aiden that the third ever existed. The case is closed. Or is it?

 

Aiden suffered a traumatic brain injury in the fall – serious enough to cause faulty facial recognition (Fregoli Syndrome). His people identification skills sometimes short-circuit so that he sees vicious criminals instead of the friends really standing there. That fact makes him dangerous and completely unreliable as a partner. And he is Harper’s only ally. They must work together to solve the puzzle of what really happened the night of the fire, in order to save their own lives.

 

The “Phantom Instinct” plot is edgy and complex, the players ruthless and fully developed, and it’s hard not to cringe when old ‘buddies’ reappear and work their special brand of evil. The connections to both Aiden’s and Harper’s pasts will make you wish you could read faster.

 

If you’re looking for a sweet, cuddly book…this is most assuredly not it.


“When it started, Harper Flynn had a fifth of vodka in her hand, six shot glasses lined up on the bar in front of her, and a stinging cut on her arm from a broken beer bottle.”

 

With that opening line, Meg Gardiner’s “Phantom Instinct” begins a pulse-pounding, page-turning thriller that will keep you riveted until you finish that last, gut-wrenching scene. And then you’ll yearn for more.

 

Meg Gardiner, an Edgar Award winning, bestselling novelist, writes books with strong, smart women in the lead. The plots are mind-bending, the action non-stop, and I can’t wait to get the next book.  🙂

 

Read the review of “The Memory Collector” here.

Read the review of “Ransom River” here.

 

Please visit www.meggardiner.com for information about all of Ms. Gardiner’s books. You'll be glad you did.

 

 

 

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Writers and The Writers’ Police Academy

 

WPA Logo.jpg

The readers at www.kerriansnotebook.com have heard me chat about The Writers’ Police Academy (created by Lee Lofland) on many occasions. They have seen the photos, read the posts and remarked on the amazing experiences shared at each WPA. The questions I hear most often are:

 

  • Since a bunch of writers attend those events, what kinds of books do they write?
  • Are any of them reporters?
  • Are they all mystery/crime writers?
  • Do they write cozies or thrillers?

 

Here’s a chance to let the readers of both Kerrian’s Notebook and Nightstand Book Reviews know what the FAB writers from WPA contribute to our reading pleasure.

 

The authors are listed alphabetically, along with a photo of one of their book covers and the clickable links to their websites. Many of the writers in this terrific list have been nominated (and/or awarded) for their great writing. Their websites will reveal all! Some are debut novelists; some have several series underway. Book content ranges from PG to hot and steamy, from cozy to hard-boiled, from friendly adventure to fast-paced thriller, along with non-fiction titles that provide true crime and forensics information, so there is something for everyone. More will be added to the list each week until the middle of September (2015). Please check them out. 🙂

 

Stacy Allen  "Expedition Indigo"    

Book Cover - Expedition Indigo

 

 

 

 

www.stacyallenauthor.com

 

 

 

 

 

Melanie Atkins  "Bayou Bounty Hunters Book 2: Sealing His Fate"

WPASealingHisFate - Melanie Atkinswww.melanieatkins.com

 

 

 

Allison Brennan  "Best Laid Plans"

WPA Best Laid Plans - Allison Brennan

 

 

 

 

 

www.allisonbrennan.com

 

 

 

 

Robin Burcell  "The Kill Order"

WPA The Kill Order - Robin Burcell

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.robinburcell.com

 

 

 

 

Kris Calvert  "Sex, Lies & Sweet Tea"

SexLiesSweetTeaCover1

 

 

 

 

 

www.kriscalvert.com

 

 

 

 

Kait Carson  "Death by Blue Water"

WPADeath By Blue Water - Kait Carsonwww.kaitcarson.com

 

 

Merit Clark  "Killing Streak"

WPAkilling Streak - Merit Clark

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.meritclark.com

 

 

 

Marco Conelli  "Matthew Livingston & The Politics of Death"

WPA Politics of Death - Marco Conelli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.marcoconelli.com

 

 

 

Doug M. Cummings  "Easy Evil"

WPA Easy Evil - Doug M Cummings

 

 

 

 

 

www.dougmcummingsauthor.com

 

 

 

 

 

Kate Flora  "And Grant You Peace"

WPA And Grant You Peace - Kate Flora

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.kateflora.com

 

 

 

 

Kaye George/Janet Cantrell  "Fat Cat Spreads Out"

WPAFat Cat Spreads Out - Janet Cantrell-Kaye Georgewww.kayegeorge.wix.com

 

 

John Gilstrap  "Against All Enemies"

WPA Against All Enemies -John Gilstrap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.johngilstrap.com

 

 

 

Stacy Green  "All Good Deeds"

WPA All Good Deeds - Stacy Green

 

 

 

 

www.stacygreen.net

 

 

 

 

Judy Hogan  "Farm Fresh and Fatal"

WPAFarm Fresh and Fatal - Judy Hogan

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.judyhogan.home.mindspring.com

 

 

 

Bill Hopkins  "Courting Murder"

WPACourting Murder - Bill Hopkinshttp://deadlyduo.wix.com/thedeadlyduo

 

 

Sharon Woods Hopkins "Killerwatt"

WPA Killerwatt - Sharon Woods Hopkins

 

 

 

 

 

http://deadlyduo.wix.com/thedeadlyduo

 

 

 

 

 

Polly Iyer  "Backlash"

WPABacklash - Polly Iyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.PollyIyer.com

 

 

 

Linda Johnson  "Trail of Destruction"

WPA Trail Of Destruction - Linda Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

www.LindaJohnson.us

 

 

 

 

Lee Lofland  "Police Procedure & Investigation"

WPA Police Procedure & Investigation - Lee Lofland

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.leelofland.com

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Lovely  "Dead Hunt"

WPADead Hunt - Linda Lovely

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.lindalovely.com

 

 

 

 

Edith Maxwell  "Farmed and Dangerous"

WPAFarmed and Dangerous - Edith Maxwell

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.edithmaxwell.com

 

 

 

Patricia McLinn  "Sign Off"

WPA Sign Off - Patricia McLinn

 

 

 

 

 

www.patriciamclinn.com

 

 

 

 

Donna Blanchard McNicol  "Barely a Spark"

WPA Barely a Spark - DB McNicol

 

 

 

 

 

www.dbmcnicol.com

 

 

 

 

Catriona McPherson  "The Child Garden"

WPA The Child Garden - Catriona McPherson.png

 

 

 

 

 

www.catrionamcpherson.com

 

 

 

 

Linda Mickey  "Test Scores"

WPA Test Scores - Linda Mickey

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.lindamickey.com

 

 

 

 

Liz Mugavero  "Icing on the Corpse"

WPAIcing onthe Corpse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.lizmugavero.com

 

 

 

Pamela Oberg  "Rogue Wave"

WPA Rogue Wave - Pamela Oberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.facebook.com/stonecreekwriting

 

 

 

Terry Odell  "Deadly Production"

WPADeadly Production - Terry Odell

 

 

 

 

 

www.terryodell.com

 

 

 

 

Alec Peche  "Death on a Green"

WPA Death on a Green - Alec Peche

 

 

 

 

 

www.alecpeche.com

 

 

 

 

Ashantay Peters  "Death Stretch"

WPADeath Stretch - Ashantay Peters

 

 

 

 

 

www.Ashantay.com

 

 

 

 

 

Patti Phillips  "Kerrian's Notebook, Volume 1"

WPA KN_Vol 1 fingerprint_cover_- copy 3

 

 

 

 

 

www.kerriansnotebook.com

 

 

 

Mar Preston  "A Very Private High School"

WPA A Very Private High School - Mar Preston

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.marpreston.com

 

 

 

 

Karen Pullen  "Cold Feet"

WPACold Feet - Karen Pullen

 

 

 

 

 

www.karenpullen.com

 

 

 

 

Fiona Quinn  "Weakest Lynx"

Book Cover - Weakest Lynx

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.ThrillWriting.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

Dr. Katherine Ramsland  "The Mind of a Murderer"

WPA The Mind of a Murderer - Katherine Ramsland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.katherineramsland.com

 

 

 

 

K.T. Roberts  "Deadly Obsessions"

WPA Deadly Obsessions - KT Roberts

 

 

 

 

 

www.ktrobertsmysteries.com

 

 

 

 

Mike Roche  "The Blue Monster"

WPA The Blue Monster - Mike Roche

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.mikeroche.com

 

 

 

 

Lori Ryan  "The Billionaire's Suite Dreams"

WPAThe Billionaire's Suite Dreams - Lori Ryan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.loriryanromance.com

 

 

 

 

Jamie Lee Scott  "Let Us Prey" – Gotcha Detective Agency Mystery, Book 1

WPA Let Us Prey - Jamie Lee Scott

 

 

 

 

 

www.jamieleescott.com

 

 

 

 

Terry Shames  "A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge"

WPAA Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge - Terry Shames

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.TerryShames.com

 

 

 

 

Sarah Levine Simon  "Winged Victory"

WPA Winged Victory - Sarah Levine Simon

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.sandbookstudio.com

 

 

 

 

 

Alexandra Sokoloff  "Cold Moon" – The Huntress/FBI thrillers

WPA Cold Moon - Alexandra Sokoloff

 

 

 

 

 

www.alexandrasokoloff.com

 

 

 

 

Nancy Sweetland  "The Virgin Murders"

WPA The Virgin Murders - Nancy Sweetland

 

 

 

 

 

www.NancySweetlandWrites.com

 

 

 

 

 

Ellis Vidler  "Prime Target"

WPAPrime Target - Ellis Vidler

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.ellisvidler.com

 

 

 

 

Elaine Viets  "Checked Out"

WPA Checked Out - Elaine Viets

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.elaineviets.com

 

 

 

 

 

Tamara Ward  "Private Deception"

WPA Private Deception - Tamara Ward

 

 

 

 

 

www.authortamaraward.com/jade-oreilly-series/

 

 

 

 

Nancy G. West  "Smart, But Dead"

WPA SMART BUT DEAD - Nancy G West

 

 

 

 

 

www.nancygwest.com

 

 

 

 

Lynn Chandler Willis  "Wink of an Eye"

Book Cover - Wink of an Eye

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.lynnchandlerwillis.com

 

 

 

 

 

Not a novel, but several WPA presenters contributed stories to this Mystery Writers of America collection, "Vengeance."

Lee Child, Editor

WPA Vengeance Anthology

Alafair Burke

Michael Connelly

Rick McMahan

Karin Slaughter

 

http://amzn.com/0316176354

 

Happy Reading, everyone!!!  🙂

 

 

 

 

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Choosing A Book by Its Cover

 

Book Cover - Rain FallBook Cover - A Clean Kill In Tokyo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I buy over 100 books a year from brick and mortar stores, and am given loads of free books at the conferences I attend, so I have piles of novels and a few weighty works of non-fiction sitting around the house. (This is the reason for the free drawings we hold for subscribers at NBR)

Soooo…what draws me to pick up a particular title at the bookstore if I’m not already familiar with the author? On any given day, I preselect the genre by wandering into category areas of the brick and mortar store, whether indie or big box store. Then, I am drawn to:

 

1) The color of the spine and cover

2) The artwork and text on the cover

3) The blurb on the back cover

 

Color

Notice that #1 is not about the author or the concept of the book. The initial interaction is not about the cover text. If you don’t pick the book up, you’ll never read that part anyway. Marketing people discovered years ago that the eye is drawn to bright splashes of color when choosing a product – any product – and that reds and yellows are seen first, then blues and greens. The rest of the artwork on the covers is set off by that color. Think of it as the backdrop for showcasing the information being delivered by the artwork and the text.

 

The art on the covers

Authors and publishers alike stay up nights, hoping and praying that the colors, the design, the font, the size of every tiny piece of graphic on the cover – all go together in a way that will entice you to pick up the book. Is there a person in the artwork? How about guns? Or beaches? Or cats? Is the setting implied somehow? Is the artwork dynamic, garish, or calming? Is the artwork representative of the actual content inside the book?

 

The Blurb

The publisher’s blurb on the back cover of today’s novels reveals something about the lead character and contains just enough about the plot to make us want to know more. If the book seems a little different, inspirational or more exciting than the norm, we feel compelled to plunk down money and take that book home. If the book is even better than the blurb promised? We tell our friends.

 

The following books exceeded the promise of the back cover. My thoughts are in bold type.

 

“John Rain kills people. For a living. His specialty: making it seem like death by natural causes. But he won’t take out just anyone. The job must be an exclusive. The target must be a principal player. And he’ll never murder a woman.” – Rain Fall by Barry Eisler.

This was the debut novel for the bestselling author. Excellent hit-man thriller that was made into a movie in 2011. Eisler drew from his own time as a lawyer in Tokyo for the exotic backdrop. The Rain series continues to be successful.

 

“Former army homicide investigator Paul Brenner has just gotten used to the early retirement forced on him after the disastrous end of his last case when his old commanding officer asks him to return for one final mission: investigate a murder that took place in wartime Vietnam thirty years before. Brenner reluctantly accepts out of curiosity and loyalty…and maybe a touch of boredom. He won’t be bored for long.”

Up Country by Nelson DeMille. The book delivers far more than a chilling murder investigation. It is based on DeMille’s own experiences in Vietnam and takes a look at war and its aftermath. Haunting. Reviewed here on NBR.

 

“First a dead stranger. Now a missing police chief. Did Cade run off to elope…or has he met with foul play?” – Southern Storm by Terri Blackstock Nobody in her right mind would think that Cade had eloped. The blurb seems purposely misleading. Thank goodness for Blackstock fans that the book was better than the blurb.

 

“Times are a-changin’ in Pickax, giving Jim Qwilleran some newsworthy notes for the Qwill Pen. A new senior center is in the works as well as a frisky production of ‘Cats.’ And a local mansion…” The Cat Who Had Sixty Whiskers” by Lilian Jackson Braun.

This was the 29th book in the gentle ‘Cat Who…’ series. Fans buy the books no matter what’s on the cover. Mom bought every one.  The series is reviewed here on NBR.

 

Now for the two covers for Rain Fall. The original cover is the red one. It popped into my view at a conference, piled next to stacks of books by other authors. The more recent cover is the blue one on the right (same book, different title) designed after Eisler regained the rights to his books and changed titles and covers. If you don’t already know who Barry Eisler is, which one would cause you to buy the book?

 

Do you choose a book based on the blurb? Is it the art on the cover itself that helps you decide? Let us know in the comments below.  J

 

*note: I buy lots of ebooks as well, but that’s for another post.

 

 

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Summer Shorts, 2015 – Three for the Beach

 

There are two kinds of Beach Reads:

  • Action-packed adventure/thrillers that rev up your blood pressure and provide stay-awake reading
  • Completely relaxing, low-key, fun mystery books that tweak your brain cells, but allow you to nod off on time


Action-packed Beach Reads are books that you can take with you on vacation, or allow you to immerse yourself between the pages if you can’t get away. They transport you to a place and time you will most likely never see and the heroes and heroines are super at what they do. A great action Beach Read delivers pure escapism.

 

Book Cover - Expedition Indigo

 

Stacy Allen’s debut novel, “Expedition Indigo,” introduces us to Dr. Riley Cooper, a Professor of Archeology at a renowned university, an expert in Mediterranean history, a certified diver, but not so expert in picking the right guy, or staying out of danger.

 

The Under Water Sea Adventures salvage company has discovered a sunken ship off the coast of Italy that may hold Charlemagne’s coronation cross, thought to have been lost forever. When Cooper’s boss is injured in a mysterious accident, she gets the chance of a lifetime to work in the field to verify the cross’ authenticity, but suspense and intrigue surrounding the find may be her undoing. The Vatican wants her help, a rival salvage company wants people dead, her love interest may have too many strings attached, and Riley just wants to do her job.

 

Cooper’s refreshing naiveté in the cutthroat world of treasure hunting, and the fascinating look at the world of archeology, combine to make this an entertaining (as well as educational) Beach Read, with plenty of action to boot. Nominated for the Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel.

 

Visit www.stacyallenauthor.com

 

 

Book Cover - Weakest Lynx

 

 

Fiona Quinn, “Weakest Lynx” – In Quinn’s first solo novel, she delivers an absorbing spin on the thriller genre with an under-the-radar, 20 year old psychic, Lexi Sobado, at the center. When a creepy stalker threatens her life, she receives round the clock protection from the Special Ops teams she has helped in the past. 

 

Quinn’s writing style is taut, as Lexi deals with the stalker that never stops coming, a honeymoon cut short, and constant psychic and physical challenges. Not to give anything away, but Lexi’s recovery from an accident is particularly hair-raising. Her psychic sensations will give you chills and the disturbing stalker will make you think about getting a security system installed before you finish reading the book. With a forbidden love interest, and loads of action from start to finish, this is a wild Beach Read and a Kindle Scout winner. Book 2 of the series, “Missing Lynx,” is out now.

 

Visit www.fionaquinnbooks.com

 

 

For something more mellow, look to…

Book Cover - braun1

 

Lilian Jackson Braun, “The Cat Who…” series

The prolific Lilian Jackson Braun wrote the extremely popular ‘Cat Who’ series of twenty-nine books between 1966 and 2008. They starred James Qwilleran, former newspaper reporter who inherits a large fortune in the fictional small town of Pickax. In order to accept the inheritance and manage a worthy Foundation, he must move to the town. A man of simple means and a huge mustache, this grates against his nature, but the greater good changes his mind.

 

Coming from the big city, Qwilleran isn’t used to the scrutiny of small town living, but settles in with two Siamese cats, KoKo and Yum-Yum. They help him solve cases, mostly murders, by doing what cats do best, knocking over books which miraculously open to pages indicating clues, chasing each other through the Apple Barn (in which he lives for most of the books) when something happens they don’t like. They have diets of salmon and other expensive tidbits – they eat better than most people – and won’t settle for ordinary food. Delightful series, quick gentle reads for those that want to enjoy quirky characters, solve the mystery, and de-stress while on vacation.

 

As always, Happy Reading, whether at the beach or staying home with a tall glass of sweet tea and a great book.  What's your favorite Beach Read? Let us know in the comments below.  🙂

 

 

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Reader Favorites – New Reviews 2014

 

Book Cover - Upstairs at the White House

It’s always fun to discover which new reviews get the most attention during the year. The most popular reviews were ReTweeted dozens of times, shared on Facebook, and Google+, and got some attention on Pinterest. There were old titles, new titles, fiction and non-fiction, seasoned authors and debut authors in the mix. Several were best sellers.

 

In case you missed the reviews, here are the 2014 favorites on NightstandBookReviews in alphabetical order by author. Click on the titles and take a look:

 

Lucy Burdette, “Appetite for Murder

 

Robert Dugoni, “My Sister’s Grave

 

Robert Dugoni, “The Conviction

 

Sarah Graves, “Triple Witch

 

Edith Maxwell, “A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die

 

Leigh Perry, “A Skeleton in the Family

 

MJ Rose, “The Book of Lost Fragrances

 

Barbara Ross, “Clammed Up

 

Daniel Silva, “The English Girl

 

JB West & ML Katz, “Upstairs at the White House

 

Lynn Chandler Willis, “The Rising


Happy reading!

 

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“The Martian” by Andy Weir

 

Book Cover - The Martian

Andy Weir’s “The Martian,” has received a tremendous amount of positive hype since it was first published in 2011, and lots of great reviews, even from scientists and astronauts.

 

It’s all well deserved. Instead of being a boring, techy tome (sorry, but some science based fiction bogs down in the science and forgets to entertain) it is a riveting, barnburner of a story.

 

Mark Watney is an astronaut that has been accidentally left behind on Mars after a sandstorm threatens to strand the Ares3 crew millions of miles from home. He has been seriously injured and the other crewmembers think he is dead, so they leave the surface under orders from Control.

 

When he comes to, he assesses his situation and declares that he is in deep trouble. Two words come to mind: ingenuity – the quality of being clever as well as inventive, and resilience – the capacity to recover quickly from hardship. Watney never blames the crew for abandoning him, and instead, attacks his problems head on.

 

The best sci-fi throws real people into a strange world where they must use skills from their own world to cope and/or deal with the new. “The Martian” is a cross between the TV shows MacGyver and Survivor. As if just being alone on the planet isn’t challenging enough, he has to work out his oxygen supply and food supply and somehow let Earth know that he’s not dead yet. Being the first and only Martian is not as much fun as you might think.

 

Watney knows that the next mission to Mars won’t arrive for another four years and that he has to travel 2000 miles to get to the rendezvous point. He has to find a way to stay alive that long. That is, if he doesn’t blow himself up before the food runs out. Anything can go wrong, including explosions and leaks and not having access to the guys at NASA. Yes, even computer access goes down. Imagine being cut off from the guys that keep thousands of possible solutions to any given dilemma only a keystroke away.

 

Complete silence outside the Habitat. Isolation. Like every other pioneer in the wilderness, every decision Mark Watney makes is about life and death. We groan at his harrowing setbacks, gasp/laugh at the outrageous solution to growing his own food, admire his ingenuity at solving space/sleep/water issues. “The Martian” is a celebration of man's resilience in the face of intolerable hardship.

 

When Weir (an actual scientist and software engineer) wrote “The Martian,” he worked out planet positions and shuttle orbits to support his storyline. Andy Weir tested many of the decisions made by his  astronaut so that Watney could realistically work his way through the challenges. If the science wasn’t right, it didn’t go onto the pages.

 

Weir gives Watney a belief system in “The Martian” that makes it all work. Watney has an outrageous sense of humor and an “I can fix this” attitude, no matter what is thrown at him. If he’s alive, he has another chance to get it right. If he can get past listening to old disco songs left behind by his crew mates, and do without even the fake coffee, he can survive anything. 

 

Of course, Watney has the right credentials (engineering and botanist degrees) to do the job, making the book that much more successful. There is no high school student solving the complex problems in this book just by virtue of being a computer whiz. But, duct tape – that heavy, cloth backed, silver tape that plumbers and electricians use so often – plays a great role in the book. Gotta love that legitimately, a low-tech item could save expensive equipment from complete failure.

 

There is strong language in response to some of his situations, so don’t read “The Martian” if you are offended by four letter words. It’s not pervasive, but it’s there, and appropriately used.

 

A movie based on the book, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon, was released in 2015. Happily, it was astounding.

 

 

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