I’m catching up on a lot of reading that I intended to do over the last few years that professional and life considerations interfered with. I recently finished two books, fast-tracked a third, and kinda sorta started the fourth. Everything here is spoiler free. Enjoy!
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
2001 is very different from what I expected. The first half drags and the second half is some of the best sci fi I’ve read. Clarke clearly did his research on this one and there is some solid conceptual science in it. Without getting too spoilery, the book chronicles alien intervention in proto-human apes four million years ago, followed by a space age mission to Saturn, and finally a journey beyond human comprehension.
I had actually never seen the film 2001:A Space Odyssey in its entirety before and I bought it and watched it after reading the book. The last twenty minutes of the movie are completely unintelligible and it is clear that this is what happens when an “art house” director gets ahold of something that wasn’t really filmable at the time. It makes no sense. At the end of the 60s, I could see how some people would like it. I do think Dave’s interactions with HAL are better in the movie than in the book. But there is just so much going on in the last half of the book and the movie essentially explains none of it. The movie and book were written simultaneously, and I can’t imagine Arthus C. Clarke being happy with the film after what he wrote. He was kind of a weird dude, so maybe I’m wrong.
So, I recommend that if the movie was strange to you, read the book. So much more of the science is explained.
The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
Robert Jordan has been criticized for his heavy handed description and I’m not sure if George R.R. Martin or Robert Jordan is worse in this regard. Book 1 of the Wheel of Time series surely has a ton of description and it does slow the narrative down tremendously. The Wheel of Time is classic LoTR style fare in which a young boy and his companions discover that they have special meaning and have to flee evil. Its very Fellowship of the Ring-ish, only not as awesome in scope or events.
The book doesn’t really “git gud” until the last 100 pages or so (out of 800, sheesh). I did like the ending because it introduces an unstable element into the characters that is a clear hook for the next book. Still, it amazes me how little he was able to resolve in 800 pages. If you like being teased, this is the book for you. I’ll see how I feel after the second book, but I likely won’t start that until 2016.
The Martian by Andy Weir
My buddy Jack recommended this one to me and I like the concept so much that I went out, bought it, and vaulted it to the top of the reading list. Its about an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars. If you follow movies, there is a trailer out right now with an October release date. Matt Damon is in the title role and he is perfect for it.
So far, the book is a real page turner. Andy Weir started snippets of this book as a series of short excerpts on a blog, he was encouraged to publish it, and it just took off. The book is fast-paced, constantly interesting, full of compelling characters, dramatic tension, lots of humor and narrative styles that change as the plot changes. The science is mostly correct, but I have a beef with the atmospheric dynamics in it. I can get over it. It will likely one of my top science fiction books. Yes, its that good. Go check it out.
I also have read about a dozen pages of The Color of Magic, Book 1 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. I had read the forward a few days ago and had intended to start this one in earnest, but The Martian took over. I also plan to read the Picture of Dorian Gray, Blackwood Farm, and more Conan stories over the next few months.