Jan. 28th, 2016

cyphomandra: (balcony)
Just finished:

The Martian, Andy Weir. I saw the movie first because reading a sample on-line made me unsure whether I could handle the narrator at book-length, but in many ways the book narrator ended up being less annoying than the film. This is probably mostly because I’m not all that fond of Matt Damon, and even when he’s doing survival puzzles in space I still have to look at him, whereas the book narrator tends to be much more tolerable when the author is caught up in the technical details and not trying to give him a personality. Watney is supposedly the catalyst that makes the astronaut crew function; he is also that annoying guy at the party who will not shut up about his pet topic and his personal brilliance, and who keeps trying (and failing) to come up with funny one-liners. There’s almost no suspense about whether the rest of the crew will be happy spending another year and a half in space to rescue Watney, so they must inexplicably find him more appealing, but then it’s not a book for interpersonal conflict, or even for anything much outside of Watney and his fight for survival. The bits not from Watney’s point of view are barely 2-dimensional - I kept envisaging stick figures in empty rooms holding up bits of cardboard with their names on them.

In terms of book versus movie I preferred the book - the dust storm sequence is particularly effective, and I also liked that Mark loses contact via Pathfinder. The final grab - hmm. The movie does oversell this, but the book undersells it because it takes the action away from Mark, and there’s not enough for it to work as a team redemption (it could, possibly, have worked if the key manoeuvre was made by Lewis). The book doesn’t return to Earth: I didn’t like Matt Damon lecturing at the end of the movie, but I did like that you saw he’d got back. In both cases, I wanted something between.

Neither book nor movie explain why Mark is going through every other crew member’s stuff looking for personal items and has nothing of his own. I am still bugged by this.

My Friends the Miss Boyds, Jane Duncan. First in the series. I will come back to these. By contrast to The Martian this is positively bursting with a sense of place, period and character. It’s a sad book without feeling grim or even downbeat, which is an interesting achievement, but it is limited by the narrator being a child, and I’m looking forward to the next ones.

In progress:

My Friend Muriel, Jane Duncan. Second etc. I like that we move very briskly through the second world war with only a few paragraphs referencing her time in Air Force Intelligence, most of which are about the batty arguments she gets into with her highly strung co-workers. She is quite casually brutally in assessing her own personality as well as others - not as much so as Doris Lessing in her memoirs, but it reminded me a bit of the approach.

Parenting from the Inside Out, Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell. How your own experiences (especially but not only those of your childhood/being parented) influence your own approach to parenting; recognition, understanding and allowing the potential for change. I like Siegel’s other books and this is useful but a bit more wordy and less specific than his later works, or so far anyway.

Coming up:

Expect a swathe of My Friends. Also, I suspect that the Ancillary books are going to lose out to a re-read of the Captive Prince series, because book 3 is OUT IN FIVE DAYS, OMG.


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