Archives for posts with tag: film

In a sea of humdrum books, this one stands out.

Martian

The story starts with Mark Watney, an astronaut who is part of the third ever Mars mission.The mission has just been aborted, with the astronauts forced to leave the red planet. Yet when we meet Watney he is still on Mars.

Clocked by a flying comms dish that punctured his space suit and sent him flying far from the rest of the crew, Watney’s odds of survival were slim to none. Reluctantly, they leave him for dead and rocket away.

In one of fate’s sick jokes, Watney is not dead. Or not yet. He’s been abandoned on an inhospitable ball with a perforated suit, no breathable air, no water source and freezing temperatures. As he so eloquently summarises, he’s fucked.

Luckily for the story, Watney’s not the type to give up. Immediately he begins to weigh his options in his head, coming up with solutions to help him survive for at least the next little while. At first his inner monologue seems a bit dry as he explains the science behind some of his improvisations. But soon the reader is sucked in, caught by curiosity at what Watney’s going to come up with next and awe that anyone could be so ingenious.

Meanwhile, Watney’s screwball sense of humour keeps inserting dry asides that are completely incongruous in the situation and have the reader in stitches. I really pity this guy’s children.

Does he make it? Given the book’s being made into a film to be released later this year, I’ll let you bet on it. But the suspense doesn’t come from whether he survives, rather how he does. What’s not to love about Macgyver on Mars?

The Martian is a story of innovation, of perseverance and of beating the odds. It’s brilliance condensed. I’m going to give it a 5/5.

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(Credit: John Marsden)

I’ve spent a lot of time sick in bed this month.  Given I was sick, I decided to forget how expensive the sequels to Tomorrow when the War Began are (over $13 for each very short novel) and bought all six of the books I had not yet read. I managed to spend a $100 Amazon gift card in a matter of days, but don’t tell my husband that.

The Dead of the Night picks up where Tomorrow when the War Began ended — the children pick targets to attack. They start small and work their way up to larger, more ambitious goals. Despite how central some of the infrastructure is they destroy, the way the attacks are explained, it never feels unrealistic. The main character, Ellie, is always frightened, no matter how many operations they do. And some of the children are braver than others.

I think another part of why these books are so believable is that Marsden isn’t afraid to have his characters chicken out, ask for help or even get caught. Part of me was disappointed when the children are suddenly caught in The Third Day the Frost, but I realised later that they couldn’t keep escaping or the books would lose their grit.  Getting caught also allowed Marsden to write particularly poignant prison scenes as Ellie and Homer receive death sentences and consider the end.

Luckily, rescue comes out of an unexpected quarter, although not without casualties on the children’s side. Soon enough, the children are back where they started, conducting sabotage, despite having the option to stay safe in New Zealand. I love the action and I loved the characters (When I didn’t hate them, that is. They felt like real world people, after all.)

However, possibly the best thing about the series is how it ends. It’s not a Hollywood happy ever after — in this situation, where a large force from the region attacks Australia and takes control, I can’t imagine that it would be. Marsden doesn’t pretend that the invaders would just disappear, with mini nations New Zealand and Australia suddenly sweeping them from the country in a decisive victory. No, Marsden’s finale is much more realistic.

I finished the series only a few days before Australia Day this year, which is the day on which the invasion occurs in the first book. The books had affected me so deeply that I was uneasy the whole day, especially when our fighter jets flew overhead. I thought about the books in the supermarket when I bought my vegetables, considering what I would eat if the shops were no longer open. I thought about the books when I was in the shower, asking myself whether my Glebe flat would be spared if there was widespread bombing in the centre of Sydney. The way the books lingered in my mind shows how good they really are. If you haven’t read them yet, I would recommend them. I’m going to give this series a 5/5.

Now I just have to decide if I want to shell out for the following series which plays after the war. The jury’s still out on that.

(Credit: Tor Books, Orson Scott Card, Sam Weber)

A while ago I decided to read Orson Scott Card’s Ender series, because I’d been told by so many people that it was good. Then I found out Hollywood was making a film of it, and one of the favourite actors of my youth will be starring in the film: Harrison Ford. I was a big Star Wars fan and with the exception of my husband, I know no one who didn’t enjoy him as Indiana Jones. Many people liked his acting in Blade Runner the best, although I admit I never got into that one. The Fugitive was probably the last Ford movie that blew me away.

The sad thing is, I can only vaguely remember what happens in the Ender books and have absolutely no recollection of Ford’s character Colonel Graff. I’m wondering if I should read the books again before I see the movie, or if I should just leave it and let the movie tell the story.

What do you think?

Cover image for tomorrow when the war began

(Credit: John Marsden and PanMacMillan Australia)

While we’re on a nostalgia trip, this well-loved series by John Marsden was one I missed when everyone else was reading it at school. Sometime after I bought my Kindle (I know this isn’t being very supportive to the Australian publishing industry, but it’s the only device with text to voice) I checked to see if Marsden’s iconic books were available in ebook format. They weren’t. I swore at the Australian industry — thanks a lot Tim Winton — and decided it would have to wait for another time.

That time is now. A random check this week showed me that it was available. Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! So in typical fashion. I chewed through the book in a space of days.

It has not aged; I enjoyed it immensely. In a nutshell, it’s a story of a group of teenagers who go bush and while they’re gone, Australia is invaded by another nation in the region. They are on their own and begin a fledgling resistance. I love the way that Marsden takes his time at the start of the book, letting us get a feel for how normal life is for the characters. It is so much more poignant when their life is taken away, because we know what they are losing. He also doesn’t stretch the realm of believability too far. These aren’t soldiers, they’re children. And, as such, they don’t go marching around like Rambo. Of the three big operations contained in the book, the children are aided in large parts by luck and they feel the fear that normal people would feel.

I would happily have read the next book in the series as soon as I finished this one. However, I’m going to wait. For such short books they cost a bit more than I’ve been spending lately on ebooks. And given how fast I read books and how many there are in the series, I’ll have to pace myself.

But well done John and Pan McMillan. I’m glad they’re available in my format. As for the movie: I’ve heard it’s awful, but I think I’ll give it a whirl soon. Maybe in the Christmas break.