Another modest month of reading, in October I finished four novels, along with the manuscript for a friend’s book. I haven’t written about it here, but will definitely be including it in my final count for the year!
The Martian, by Andy Weir
When a violent sandstorm hits the Ares 3 Mars mission, the crew are forced to abandon their camp early, but during their retreat, astronaut Mark Watney is hit by debris and killed. After searching for him unsuccessfully, the rest of the crew are forced to leave his body behind.
But Watney didn’t die during the storm and when he wakes up alone on Mars, he has a real fight for survival on a barren planet.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen the trailer for the new Matt Damon film, based on Andy Weir’s popular novel. I was keen to see the movie, so decided to read the book first while it was on offer for Kindle.
Originally self-published, this book has one of the most conversational narrators I’ve come across for some time. The book alternates between Watney’s Mars mission logs, where he records everything that happens to him after his accident, and the action back on Earth as NASA work to bring their stranded astronaut home.
Weir obviously carried out a lot of research as much of Watney’s musings are filled with detailed scientific information that does get a bit boring for the reader after a while. I did find myself skimming some of these passages to get to the next bit of action.
But The Martian is a fun read and Watney is an engaging character that you can’t help but root for.
And the book was definitely better than the film!
The Lewis Man, by Peter May
When the body of a young man is pulled from a peat bog on the Isle of Lewis, everyone assumes it is centuries old. But the tattoo of Elvis Presley on his arm proves otherwise. And when DNA tests flag a match with an elderly man still living on the island, who claims to have no male relations, an investigation is launched. But with the only witness suffering from dementia, the identity of the dead man might be lost forever.
An atmospheric crime novel set on the remote Outer Hebrides, this is a story about family and returning to your roots. The dramatic Scottish locations are beautifully evoked, especially in the flashback portions of the novel that explore what life was like there decades earlier.
Close Your Eyes, by Amanda Eyre Ward
When she was a child, Lauren’s mother was murdered and her father sent to prison for the crime. Her brother, Alex, has always believed in their father’s innocence and spent years digging into the case files, hoping to find the real killer, despite Lauren’s refusal to support him. When Alex travels to Iraq to work as a doctor, Lauren’s life descends into chaos and she is forced to confront her past and the truth about her mother’s death.
I’ve read a couple of Amanda Eyre Ward’s previous novels, so when I came across this in the library I decided to give it a go.
It’s part crime thriller, part literary fiction, exploring the effects a childhood trauma can have on relationships later in life.
Mr Fox, by Helen Oyeyemi
Helen Oyeyemi is one of those writers that I’ve always been a little envious of. After writing her first novel while studying for her A-Levels, she’s gone on to publish five novels, two plays, study at Cambridge – and she’s still only 30.
In Mr Fox, she explores the Bluebeard myth, writing a tale of a male author whose elusive muse reappears to challenge him, demanding that he stop killing off his female characters. A battle of wits ensues, told in the form of stories within stories, which after a while do stray from the original narrative and become a bit hard to follow.
Oyeyemi’s writing is always beautiful and insightful; she deals with the role of women and misogyny in a clever, poetic way. Yet this isn’t the most engaging of her novels. It’s an interesting concept, but one that loses its way a little by the end. If you enjoy quirky fiction that plays with narrative form, this might be worth checking out.
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