The Martian

Author: Andy Weirmartian
Publisher: Crown
Date: 2014
Genre: Hard Science Fiction
ISBN: 9781594138546
Price: $15.00
Number of Pages: 368
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 4Q, 5P

Links to Author’s Websites and Interviews

http://www.andyweirauthor.com/

http://www.ew.com/article/2014/11/05/andy-weir-the-martian-author

Links to Reviews

http://www.publishersweekly.com/9780804139021

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/andy-weir/the-martian/

Reader’s Annotation

Mark is alone on Mars with nothing but his ingenuity and Disco.

Plot Summary

The book tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney, who is accidentally stranded on mars after he is separated from his team and injured during a dust storm. His team believes him to be dead but in reality he was just knocked unconscious. When he wakes up, he finds that he is bleeding from his wound in his abdomen. This, in fact, saved his life, as the blood sealed a hole in his suit that prevented him from suffocating. The only thing in Watney’s favor is that he still has the HAB, a life-supported living quarters that they had already set up. It has food and supplies, not to mention oxygen and shelter from the harsh environment. Watney is alive for the moment, but a big problem looms: He only has enough food to last him a year and the next mission won’t be for another four years, not to mention that nobody at NASA is aware that he’s still alive. Watney must use his skills as an engineer and botanist to figure out a way to make his own food source and find a way to communicate with NASA so they can send someone to rescue him.

Critical Evaluation

This is another novel that turned out to be one of my favorites of the semester. I really enjoyed the Cast Away meets Gravity premise and Mark, as a character, was always entertaining. I liked the fact that he had such a great sense of humor and that he used his brain to get out of tough situations. He rarely panicked and examined everything with a cool head. I also really liked the fact that the book didn’t just focus on Mark but instead included multiple perspectives from NASA and the other astronauts in his team. Sometimes it was a nice break to get away from Mark and all the science-heavy calculations he was making. It was also really suspenseful to know as a reader what was going on while watch Mark struggle in figuring it out. Despite the science parts, the book is never boring, especially in the last half. It really keeps you on the edge of your seat.

After reading the book, I was curious about the audio version, so I gave it a shot. I enjoyed the narrator and I felt like he fit the character. I think because most of the book is diary entries, the audio version works really well because it seems like Mark is leaving an audio diary instead of writing it down. Not my favorite audio experience, but I still very much enjoyed it.

Appeal Factors

Fast-paced, suspenseful, compelling

Read-alikes

The Explorer by J.P. Smythe
Mars Crossing by Geoffrey Landis

Awards & Lists

Alex Award: 2015
Goodreads Choice Awards: 2014
Indies’ Choice Book Awards: Adult Debut Fiction
Library Journal Best Thrillers
LibraryReads Favorites: 2014
School Library Journal’s Adult Books 4 Teens: 2014
The Reading List (RUSA): 2015

Discussion Ideas

• How does the science add to the story?
• How does the inclusion of NASA add to the story?

Justification of Selection

I’ve wanted to read this book since it was mentioned in class. I was very intrigued at the prospect of a Gravity meets Cast Away hybrid.

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Pure

Author: Julianna Baggottpure
Publisher: Grand Central Pub
Date: 2012
Genre: Apocalyptic fiction; Science fiction
ISBN: 9781455503063
Price: $15.00
Number of Pages: 416
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 4Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Websites and Interviews

http://juliannabaggott.com/

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/12/how-i-write-julianna-baggott.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-a-carlson/juliana-baggott-interview_b_1258654.html
Links to Reviews

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-4555-0306-3

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/julianna-baggott/pure2/

Reader’s Annotation

The world has been torn apart by detonations. The lucky ones are inside the dome while the rest must brave the outside.

Plot Summary

This post-apocalyptic novel centers on Pressia, a teenage girl who lives with her grandfather out in the ruined landscape of America after the world is destroyed by bombs. The survivors are deformed and have been fused with whatever object, person or animal they were next to when the detonations went off. Pressia, who was a child at the time, has been fused with a doll head on her right arm. She has just turned 16 and is worried about a military faction that rules the landscape and takes teens to serve the militia when they turn 16. The novel is also about Partridge, a 16-year-old boy who lives in the dome. The dome protects a large society of people who don’t suffer from deformity, as they were able to get to it before the bombs went off. Partridge is the son of the dome’s leader and accidentally finds out that his mother, who he thought was killed by the bombs, may still be alive on the outside. Partridge ends up meeting with Pressia and they team up to find his mom.

Critical Evaluation

I thought this book was very well done. It had a slow start, but once Pressia and Partridge meet, it really takes off and becomes very entertaining. It’s also very well written, with a lot of character depth and development thrown in. It’s really unlike any other post-apocalyptic book I’ve read. While there is action, the book is more concerned with the characters’ journey. The fusing aspect is also really unique and interesting. It’s not just thrown in to be different. It has a large impact on the story and really becomes a big part of the characters and how they deal with it. The character motivations and actions are all very realistic and understandable. The book also features several interesting side characters that could have been one-note but were luckily elevated to important roles. A great example of this is El Capitan. At the start, I thought he would end up being a one-dimensional villain. However, his growth into a better person was one of the most surprising and enjoyable parts of the book.

Appeal Factors

Atmospheric, bleak, YA appeal

Read-alikes

The Passage by Justin Cronin
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Aftertime by Sophie Littlefield

Awards & Lists

Alex Award: 2013
Booklist Editors’ Choice – Adult Fiction for Young Adults: 2012
New York Times Notable Books – Fiction and Poetry: 2012

Discussion Ideas

• Discuss how Pressia changes throughout the book.
• Discuss El Capitan and his relationship with his brother.
• Gender roles in the novel.

Justification of Selection

This was one of the read-alikes on NoveList for my Science Fiction group book. Once I read the summary I was immediately intrigued. It sounded different from any other dystopian or post-apocalyptic book out there, so I just had to check it out.

After the Fall, Before the Fall and During the Fall

Author: Nancy Kressafter
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Date: 2012
Genre: Science Fiction
ISBN: 9781616960650
Price: 14.95
Number of Pages: 189
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, E-Book

Rating Scale: 4Q, 2P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://www.sff.net/people/nankress/

http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/kress_interview/

Links to Reviews

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-61696-065-0

http://thebooksmugglers.com/2012/05/book-review-after-the-fall-before-the-fall-during-the-fall-by-nancy-kress.html

Reader’s Annotation

The world has fallen and only a few survived. Can time travel be the solution?

Characters/Location

Pete

McAllister

Julie

Gordon

Summary

This is a bleak science-fiction book that takes place in three different time periods. The book is set around an apocalyptic event, with the book taking place before, during and after the event. The main character from after the event is a 15-year-old boy named Pete, who is one of only six children that are still alive on earth in the year 2035. All of the remaining people have been forced to live in a small, shell-shaped building. Through Pete, the reader learns that aliens have destroyed the earth and have placed the survivors there with the means to survive. However, the problem is that they are having problems reproducing. Most of the time, they miscarry. When children are born, they are usually severely deformed. Pete has some physical deformities but still manages to get around. One of the things that the aliens have provided is a time-travel machine for them to go back in time to steal items they might need. However, they are also stealing babies so that the human race can survive. Pete and the other surviving children are the only ones that can use the machine. Back before the event, the main character is a woman named Julie Kahn, a brilliant FBI consultant. She has found a pattern in the child abductions that have taken place and is attempting to trace when the next abduction will occur so they can capture the kidnapper. However, as the months go on, Julie begins to realize that the abductions are not what they seem.

Critical Evaluation

Although this book isn’t something that I would re-read, there is no denying that it is extremely well-written and thought-provoking. The characters are fascinating, especially Pete and the other survivors. The survivors are all very well-drawn and Kress does a good job describing their bleak existence. You get a real sense of their sorrow and desperation. Pete, although very abrasive at times, is also very sympathetic. In 2013, Julie Kahn is not as interesting a character because Kress doesn’t delve as much into the character. It’s not until the end of that book that Julie gets more page time and begins to shine more as a character. It wasn’t until then that I felt any connection toward her. The premise of the novel is very interesting but proved to be both confusing and a little disappointing. I had wanted the cause of the apocalypse to be different than it turned out to be. However, I recognize that this is just my personal preference and that it is still an impressive work.

Significance of Book

This is an award-winning science-fiction title. The characters are fully fleshed out and believable. The time travel is well-done and the environmental issues raised are fascinating.

Read-alikes

Pure by Julianna Baggott

Ark by Stephen Baxter

Dr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick

Awards and Lists

2012 Nebula Award Winner

2012 Locus Award Winner

2013 Hugo Nominee

2013 Sturgeon Award Nominee

Discussion Ideas

  • Discussion of the Gaia theory presented in the book
  • Discussion of the “villains” of the book
  • Discussion of the “during the fall” part of the book

Justification of Selection

What interested me about this story was that it merged both a post-apocalyptic narrative with aliens. The environmental issues also seemed interesting. I was more than curious to see how Kress would merge these different aspects.

Infected, #1

Author: Scott Siglerinfected
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Date: 2008
Genre: SF, Horror
ISBN: 9780307406101
Price: $24.95
Number of Pages: 352
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, E-Book, Audio

Rating Scale: 2Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://scottsigler.com/

http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/nonfiction/interview-scott-sigler/

Links to Reviews

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/jul/23/sciencefictionfantasyandhorror3

http://www.amazon.com/Infected-Novel-Scott-Sigler/dp/030740630X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425529841&sr=8-1&keywords=infected+by+scott+sigler

Reader’s Annotation

A parasite has been spread and is infecting people. Can the world survive?

Summary

Infected is a fast-paced, science-fiction thriller about a disease that is turning people into murdering psychopaths. The story revolves around three main characters: Dew Phillips, a CIA operative on the case, Margaret Montoya, a CDC epidemiologist, and Perry Dawsey, a former football player who has been infected. The story opens with Dew and his partner coming to the house of a man suspected of having the disease. They enter the house and find that he has killed his wife and children. They find him in the bathroom, soaked in lighter fluid holding an ax. Right in front of the agents, he proceeds to chop both his legs off. The agents are paralyzed with horror, but as the man proceeds to light himself on fire, Dew’s partner tries to intercede and gets seriously injured by the ax. Dew rushes his partner outside of the now-burning house, where an ambulance rushes him to the ER. After surgery, Dew’s partner succumbs to his injuries and dies, leaving Dew completely devastated and hell-bent on hunting down whoever bioengineered this disease. Meanwhile, Dr. Montoya has just been flown in to look at the body of the infected. This is the first time that she is able to do an autopsy in time, as the bodies of the infected mysteriously disintegrate after a few hours. As the body is already starting to decompose, she and another scientist work quickly and find some very startling aspects that reveal that the disease is a parasite that is so complicated and advanced that it is beyond modern science. The story also revolves around Perry, who wakes up to rashes all over his body that at first drive him crazy with itchiness. As a few days go by, he slowly gets worse.

Critical Evaluation

I thought that the premise for this book was absolutely fascinating. I loved the action scenes and the horror elements of the story. It was suitably gory and scary at times. However, I did have one big problem with this book and that was the characters. I didn’t feel a connection with any of them and at times they just didn’t feel believable to me. The dialog felt forced and at times extremely wooden. Montoya especially grated on my nerves and I solidly disliked her from the beginning. I think I would have really enjoyed this book if it wasn’t for the terrible characters. It’s the type of book in which character development isn’t a main priority, but if the characters are actively annoying it takes away from the pleasure of reading the story.

Significance of Book

Scott Sigler is a New York Times best-selling author who became famous in 2005 for releasing his stories for free through podcasts. Even now, he still releases parts of his story on Sundays through his website. He has earned the attention of a lot of news sources and has amassed a significant fan base.

Read-alikes

Parasite by Mira Grant

Pandora’s Legion by Harold Coyle

Awards and Lists

N/A

Discussion Idea

  • Discuss the use of science in the book and whether or not it adds to the story.
  • Discuss the characters

Justification of Selection

One of the reasons I picked up this book is that I was intrigued by the idea of a deadly infection that drives people to violence and madness. I am a huge fan of zombie fiction and this seemed to have similar themes. I was also intrigued that the infection seemed to come from an alien source, which is something I haven’t really read about.