Meagan Reads Sci-Fi: The Martian by Andy Weir

I feel like it’s been a while since I picked up a book that made me really excited and breeze through it so fast, even with a full-time job and part-time grad school. Andy Weir’s The Martian did that for me. I read it as my 24th book for my 26 book reading challenge (almost done!) for the category “a book with a great opening line.” If memory serves me right, the opening line of this book was, “Well, I’m pretty much fucked.” That’s a really strong start in my opinion. It immediately sets the character’s voice as someone who has a sense of humor in the face of overwhelming odds, and that’s who Mark Watney, the main character, is. Throughout all the terrible things that happen to him, he never loses that smart ass attitude. I genuinely found myself laughing out loud several times while reading, and that is not something that happens often when I read a book.

I admit, I watched the movie first. Listen, I’m an adult now, so I can’t pull that, “I’ll only watch the movie/TV show after I’ve read the book,” crap anymore. There’s just not enough hours in the day. There’s something to be said for watching the movie first in this case. Personally, it helped me wrap my mind around all the science and technology described in the book. Weir’s writing is heavy with specific jargon and tremendous scientific detail. It was written in a way that did not overwhelm me though or make me feel lost, but I do think having the movie in the back of my mind helped with that interpretation of what was happening on the page. The story truly is an adventurous space romp with the added legitimacy of attention to detail about what is real science. At least it sounded like real science to me, so good enough.

Now, truth be told, the writing itself is nothing spectacular. It relies on some pretty shallow character development and the pacing could use improvement. Sentence structure is also lacking, as most of the book is written in frustratingly short, clipped statements. However, even with the lower quality writing style, the narrative itself never really suffers. It maintains its entertainment quality and at the end of the day, in my book, that’s what counts. Sometimes, it’s fun just to have fun with reading.

I’d like to end this post with a note about Mark Watney’s character that I noticed immediately. He reminded me so much of another fictional person that I adore from a show called Killjoys on SyFy: Johnny Jaqobi. So if you’re a fan of that show and that character, then I think you’ll like this book.

Have any of you read The Martian? What are your thoughts on the story and characters?

Advertisements

The Comic Book Kid

I was not, in fact, a comic book kid. They just weren’t something on my radar as a child reader. I had a subscription to a Barbie book club. I frequented the library and eventually as I got older, Borders Bookstore. But comics were just never introduced to me. There was never any negative attitude about them, like saying they weren’t real reading or anything like that. No, comic books just never appeared in my household and I never looked for them, frankly, because I didn’t know they existed to look for.

Then, a few years ago in my early twenties, the guitarist from my favorite band announced he was releasing a comic book series. Naturally, being obsessed with Good Charlotte, I absolutely had to pick up Billy Martin’s Vitriol series. This was my first dive into the comic book world. I had no clue what to expect. As far as I knew, comic books were basically big kid picture books. But oh, dear reader, they are so much more than that. Yes of course, the artwork plays a vital role in the consumption of this media, but to say, “They’re just picture books,” a) demeans the value of picture books and how they impact children’s reading and b) underestimates the true craft that goes into combining appropriate images with a storyline.

See, until I delved into the Vitriol series, I hadn’t realized that comic books had to work double time, with the artist making a conscious choice in structure and style that adhered to the voice and tone of the story being told through dialogue, onomatopoeia and narrative boxes (I don’t know the official industry term for the formatting, that’s just what I call them). In a novel, where the author would describe the movement, emotion, and noises of the protagonist as he bled out from a bullet wound, the comic book artist must use color, shading, and lines to portray the hero as he cringed in pain and indicated wracking coughs with the subtlest of dashes near the drawing’s mouth. Complex, right?

Now, I admit that before Martin’s work was announced, I’d been toying with the idea of picking up comic books because I was so invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Where was I supposed to start, though, with superheroes who had a 50+ year history? Starting with a publication that didn’t come from one of the big two in the industry turned out to be the perfect introduction to comic books. I found myself going back and rereading books to catch every inch of color and artwork that I may have missed while reading the words on the page, as my eyes had been so vigorously trained to do for so many years.

After that, I felt brave enough to try my hand at Marvel with the Axis series. Let me tell you, reading that storyline was a bonkers experience. It was confusing and chaotic, but still, I felt better prepared for it having accustomed myself to the format with the previous comic books. I may have been 22 when I picked up my first series, but now I truly feel like a comic book kid.

Childhood Pranks —

Reblogged from The Drabble. I couldn’t not share this one. Too funny.

By The Urban Spaceman Two weeks into summer break and bored out of their minds, Tommy and D.J. rode their bikes two miles to the abandoned church in the countryside. They spent three days chiselling the image of a giant penis into an outer wall, and the rest of the summer giggling over their artistic […]

via Childhood Pranks —

Crushing on Classics

For the longest time I could not put my finger on what about classics made me love them so much. As far back as I can remember I’ve been a fan of the classics, starting with stories like Anne of Green Gables and The Wind in the Willows. Eventually I graduated to works such as Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and made my way through high school readings like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and various Shakespeare plays. Of course like every other 13-year-old of my generation (probably. I’m just making that up), I became obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

While I take pride in having a fondness for the classics, I know I’m not a literary snob. Classics are obviously not the only worthwhile books to consume, and I’m certainly a fan of cheesy fantasy/scifi novels as well as comic books and mystery-thrillers. I read across genres frequently, but I always come back to the classics.

I think part of my love for them is the language. Since becoming a kindred spirit with my dearest Anne Shirley, it was the first time I ever read a character that sounded like me. She was a young girl like me and she spoke in earnest and with what the adults and others around us like to call “big words.” I always felt so strange being the kid with a sophisticated vocabulary, but trying to speak the way I was expected at my age felt wrong. It wasn’t until Anne came along that I found a repertoire of characters and people that spoke like me. The flow of the language, its poetry and drama, all spoke to me on an unidentifiable level.

It wasn’t until recently after I started watching Jane the Virgin (great take on the telenovela btw) that I realized why classics called to me. Remember that part I said about the drama? Well, growing up in a house with parents that watched telenovelas, and having been a huge fan of Aguamarina myself, I know a thing or two about drama. The classics spoke to me because even though they were written in English by Europeans (most of the ones I’ve read, anyway), they reminded me of home and my culture’s way of storytelling.

Everything is life or death. Love or hate. Joy or sorrow. Nothing is in between. Apathy does not exist in classics the same way it goes by the wayside in novelas. Catherine’s and Heathcliff’s toxic romance is something straight out of a show on Telemundo. And when Edna Pontellier makes her stand against the men who think they own her, I see glistening eyes, perfectly arched eyebrows, set crimson lips and an icy glare so piercing it makes the room go quiet.

It’s easy now to see the connection between what are considered the classics and my experience with passionate, dramatic storytelling. The language is big and over the top and emotions run high, because whether it’s Aguamarina or Pride & Prejudice, rich people got first world problems that suck everyone into their drama. And I am up front and center with popcorn in hand.

Forever Golden

Wrote this a few years ago for an assignment in my first creative writing class at UCF.

It was their fiftieth anniversary, the golden one. Fifty years ago on this day Theodore and Ethel were married in her father’s blooming garden. It had been filled with red and pink roses, white and purple carnations, purest white gardenias, and orange and yellow chrysanthemums, their sweet aroma dancing in the air around the young and hopeful newly weds.

She had worn her mother’s wedding gown and he had used his mother’s wedding ring. The sun floated in the sky, a brilliant, golden orb. There were only three witnesses to this matrimony, and they were Theodore, Ethel, and Father James. Both Ethel’s and Theodore’s parents were dead. They did not need to invite friends or distant family. They had each other.

After the brief ceremony, Ethel and Theodore remained together in the garden, reminiscing on times past and looking forward to the future. They danced to far away whispered music, hearing the strings of the acoustic guitar being plucked delicately from somewhere within them. Fifty years later, Ethel and Theodore still danced in the garden, appreciating the flowers’ sweet scents and feeling the golden setting sun warm them from the inside out.

“Theodore darling, can you believe it’s already been fifty years?” Ethel asked in a hushed voice and with a smile on her face.

“The best fifty years of my life,” Theodore responded tenderly, stroking her hair with a gentle hand.

“Do you remember the wedding?”

“Like it was yesterday,” he answered softly, a distant look in his eyes.

“You looked so handsome in your uniform.”

“And you were stunning in that dress,” Theodore replied lovingly.

“It was just the two of us.”

“That’s all we needed,” he said.

“We danced all night.”

“I held you just like this,” he whispered.

“We planned our future completely.”

“And all those dreams came true.”

A serene sigh escaped Ethel’s lips. The sun had almost completely set by now, leaving a perfect line of gold on the horizon. She and her husband swayed to the long forgotten melody of fifty years ago. The garden’s blooms were beginning to wilt away, but their fresh fragrance still lingered in the cool, evening air.

“Happy anniversary, honey,” Theodore said dreamily to his beloved wife of fifty years.

“Happy anniversary, Theodore darling,” Ethel replied, exhaling happily.

Hand in hand, they walked out of the garden as they had fifty years ago, and thought upon that golden sun and what it would bring them next.

Waiting On the River

This is an updated version of a piece of flash fiction I wrote for a prompt. The original is published on my old writer’s blog here.

A drop of sweat rolled down Riley’s forehead. Her eyes darted back and forth. She stared at the hand in her grasp.  She swallowed hard and licked her lips as she called the last bet, throwing more of her precious few chips into the pot.

With shoulders tensed and fingers clasping her cards tight, she felt a ripple of relaxation spread around the room, ending with the Cowboy tisking and whispering, “Brave little toaster.”  She said nothing.

True, it was only a two pair of sixes and sevens, and the Cowboy might’ve had her beat with a full house or four of a kind…if he was waiting on the river like her.

The river was everyone’s friend and enemy at the same time.  Schrödinger’s play.  All she needed was the kicker though, and she’d leave with the biggest pot she’d ever seen, on one of the crappier hands she’d ever played.

Small coughs and cleared throats echoed as the players waited for the dealer to flip the last card.  In slow motion, he took it from the top of the deck. With a communal intake of breath, he revealed the glossy print against the fuzzy green table top: ace of spades.

Riley peeked over her cards at her peers and watched fingers tap and brows furrow.  The last round started and two dropped out, leaving her against the Cowboy.

He raised the bet. Riley called, “All in.”

Reluctant Romantic

I’ve read Pride & Prejudice and was smitten. All Cassandra Clare books? Fell like a sucker. I watch The Vampire Diaries and am a hardcore Delena shipper. I openly admit that watching A Walk to Remember still makes me ugly sob. So what is it about the romance genre label that keeps me at bay?

I’m obviously a sucker for a good love story. Hello, grew up on Disney movies, of course I love love. I live for the warm and fluffy feelings of seeing couples come together and live happily ever after. I gushed over Olicity on Arrow (and was heartbroken when they didn’t last) and I still firmly believe Destiel is end game on Supernatural.

It’s not all about the romance in romance novels though. As is bound to come with hand holding and kisses is the sex. I’m certainly no prude. I watched True Blood (with my mother, no less), so I’m clearly comfortable with awkward, sexual situations in my fiction.

Perhaps there’s still a part of my mind that resists due to prior stigmas of romance novels being trashy literature. But I know now the negative perception of the genre and how it correlates with viewing all things feminine with disdain, and knowing is half the battle.

Still, I can’t let myself pick up books with titles like Rough and Ready or Take A Ride. I read Twin of Fire and Twin of Ice by Jude Deveraux and thought those were okay. I barely remember Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Fantasy Lover, only that the sex scenes made me roll my eyes and snort. I can’t possibly take these books seriously.

But why do I need to take them seriously? For crying out loud, one of my favorite shows features an archer that let’s loose arrows that turn into parachutes! Maybe when I’m reading the situations these romance novels unravel, they seem too unlikely to ever happen for real. Then again, I was forced to accept analyzing key strokes as a legitimate method of finding out corporate espionage, so perhaps realistic standards are not the problem.

I’m thinking what it all comes down to in the end, is I simply haven’t found the right romance read for me yet. I probably spent so many years adamantly resisting the notion of liking girly things, that even now, with all the wisdom and education I’ve gained, I’m still a little obstinate in my views of “trashy” books. I hope that changes someday, but for now, I’ll continue to consume my passion for passion through TV, movies, classics and YA reads.