Two Truths And A Lie – February Reading Wrap Up

Truth #1

Book: The Martian

Author: Andy Weir

Date Finished: February 15

Review: Absolutely brilliant!

This book covers the near future story of an astronaut, Mark Watney, whose suit was punctured and was left for dead on Mars. He then spends the next year and a half struggling to survive on this inhospitable planet while those back on earth learn of their error and then scramble to recover him.

Right off the bat I honestly did not think I would like this. Much of the story is told in a diary style as Mark records his mission logs. For the first few days after he is stranded there is obviously a lot that needs to be done right away and these first four or five chapters are heavy on both technical detail and foul language.

Once his shock and urgency evolves more into a long term struggle you really begin to see a very well developed and written personality that shines through. Also once earth discovers he is alive the story broadens beyond just him and I found myself reading through the final 2/3 of the book in one setting (barely putting it down even to eat or… other stuff).

While I love physics and cosmology, I am not so much a fan of engineering and this book is highly technical with regards to the mechanics and biology of what it would take for one man to survive in such an inhospitable environment. I don’t know nearly enough to know how accurate and realistic Andy Weir was in telling this but he sure *sounds* well researched and knowledgeable. Please don’t let that technical detail scare you away from this great read. He writes it well enough that even an amateur like me can grasp it and it actually enhances the telling of Watley overcoming impossible odds in his struggle to survive. I can’t remember the last time I was pulled so deeply into the life of a book’s protagonist and found myself laughing and crying and cheering right along with him.
Read this book. Seriously. Read it.

Truth #2

Book: Chaucer’s Tale

Author: Paul Strohm

Date Finished: February 26

Rating: 3.8 of 5 stars

Review: This an excellent detailed and readable biography of Geoffrey Chaucer leading up to and concluding with the posthumous publication of the Canterbury Tales. Actually, I’m not sure “publication” is the right word for a book created before the invention of the printing press. Either way, if you are interested in Brit Lit or in the history of medieval England than this is a great read. If you like early British literature or are a fan of Chaucer, this is essential.

On the other hand, if such things do not interest you, don’t bother with this book. It is definitely well written enough to hold interest but the subject matter is quite focused. Personally, I’m more a fan of the preceding era (Richard Lionheart to Edward II) but even still I enjoyed the read.

The Lie

Book: The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho

Date Finished: February 14

Rating: 2 of 5 stars

Review: This is one of those books critics love to promote but the people suckered by the marketing into reading it end up disappointed. Honestly, I can’t believe I bought into the hype. I knew this wasn’t going to be worth my time but I just felt it needed to be one of those books I have under my belt. This is what I get for caving into peer pressure… a couple hours wasted time.

Imagine starting with a second rate life coach. This guy has a bunch of one liners that mean nothing like: “If you want something bad enough, the whole universe conspires into helping you achieve it.” Now convince this run of the mill life coach that he should write a book even though he has no real talent for the craft. This book would be the result of his efforts.

The Alchemist follows the journey of one poor Spanish Shepherd boy who crosses the straits into Africa and then journeys the entire Saharan desert all because one gypsey told him he would find treasure near the pyramids. Along the way he is robbed of his life savings three times but never loses his pluck. He also meets Melchizedek, the king of Salem (see Hebrews 7), a crystal salesman, an English scholar, a caravan master, the love of his life, and the alchemist. Each person teaches him some “profound” lesson as they spew their life coaching one liners at him. (About once every ten pages the one liner I quoted above will be repeated by someone new.) The characters and locations were brimming with possibility but no one and nowhere along the journey bears any true resemblance to the culture or history they should have represented. Each is simply a cardboard cutout trope meant only to convey the next phase of this life coach turned author’s “ten steps towards personal fulfillment” or some other such drivel.

Seriously, don’t bother reading it, but even if you do desire to cave to hype there’s no worries. It is a quick read. At worst you are annoyed for a couple hours like I was. At best, you have a few one liners you can throw around at the gym or when you want to annoy rather than cheering up a depressed friend. If that is your aim… have at it.

Other Books Read:

Blood and Bone – Ian Esslemont
Sharpe’s Eagle – Bernard Cornwell
Lion of Macedon – David Gemmell
Restoration of Faith – Jim Butcher
Storm Front – Jim Butcher
Fool’s Moon – Jim Butcher
Flourishing – Miroslav Volf

For reviews of these books (except Storm Front) or any other books I have read in 2017 please check out my goodreads page.

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