Book review: Obscura by Joe Hart

ObscuraObscura by Joe Hart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In space, everyone goes a bit crazy.

Dr Gillian Ryan is frustrated. She is trying to develop a brain scanning technique in order to help her daughter to avoid the same fate as her late husband. Losian’s disease is thought to be caused by the rapidly increasing environmental destruction and affects memory and concentration. Then a team from NASA show up promising money and technology to help her work if she agrees to go to a space station to figure out what is wrong with their crew. Of course, NASA hasn’t been completely honest with her about where they are going and the risks involved, but that’s okay, she didn’t tell them about her painkiller addiction.

This novel was a lot of fun. Joe Hart has mixed together sci-fi, thriller, and suspense in good measures. The main character’s addiction and frustrations pour out on the page as you wonder if she is going mad or something more nefarious is happening. Added to that is the brisk pacing that doesn’t get bogged down like some novels with similar themes tend to. I don’t know what a hydro is, but after reading this novel I feel like I need one.

Well worth a read for sci-fi and thriller fans.

NB: I received an advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Book to Movie: All You Need Is Kill – What’s the Difference?

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This month Cinefix’s What’s the Difference? tackles the underappreciated Edge of Tomorrow, and it’s source material, All You Need Is Kill. I’d so watch a film called All You Need Is Kill, even if it did have Tom Cruise in it.

Unfortunately I haven’t read the Manga, which appears to have some differences between it and the novel. I read the light novel of All You Need Is Kill before watching the movie. Whilst there are major similarities between the two, they are quite different. Edge of Tomorrow flirts with comedy, while anything with the title All You Need Is Kill is clearly going to have a darker tone. A film starring Tom Cruise is always going to have a Hollywood glamour to it that a novel can dispense with.

The biggest difference between the two is the ending. I said in my review of the film that they should have stuck with the book’s ending. The way the movie ended was the equivalent of “it was all a dream”, whilst the book ending had consequence and substance. Admittedly, watching Tom Cruise kill Emily Blunt would have had audiences outraged (#TeamBlunt) but I’m sure they could have deus ex machina-d something better than what was served up.

Interestingly, Hiroshi is writing a Manga sequel and they’ve announced a movie sequel. I wonder how similar those two will be?

Book review: The Martian by Andy Weir

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Potatoes and Pirate-Ninjas: the reason you will read this book.*

I’m late to the Mark Watney appreciation society, since I only heard about this book as a result of the movie trailer. I guess at least I didn’t find out about the book after watching the movie and wondering if it was based on anything. The blurb essentially sums up the novel “Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.” There you go, premise done.

To say I enjoyed this book is an understatement, as I usually hate novels that try to be hard sci-fi. I mean, if I want to read a physics text book I’ll grab the one on my shelf, not some of the “plausible” made up stuff that hurts my needless exposition aversion gland. So to find a hard sci-fi story that manages to be so entertaining was no small feat. The humour was a big part of the reason for the enjoyment. I felt that this addition was very important to not only the characterisation of Watney the space-nerd – because nerds are normally only funny to laugh at – but also in how too many novels would have taken the same premise far too seriously.

So now I’m looking forward to the movie. This should adapt very well to the big screen, and Matt Damon seems like a great choice for Watney. Hopefully Ridley Scott won’t go all Prometheus with The Martian and we’ll have a great adaptation.

Edit: The wonderful From Quarks to Quasars posted about the Real NASA Technology seen in The Martian. Check it out to get your geek further on.

Science-the-shit-out-of-this

* Because you’ll wonder what the hell those things could possibly have to do with a book about Mars.

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Book Review: The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

The Great Zoo of China
The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My mother bought me The Great Zoo of China for Christmas, which makes her the best mother in the world. Well, unless your mother bought you a copy as well, in which case the title of best mother in the world would have to be shared.

CJ is a herpetologist specialising in large animals like crocodiles, and being a Matthew Reilly novel, she also specialises in avoiding dying every page or two. She is recruited by National Geographic to take a press junket trip to a new zoo in China. The Chinese government have developed an amazing new zoo that is set to wow the world, assuming their main attractions don’t try to escape and eat everyone. What could go wrong during the promotion junket for a zoo filled with dragons?

Yep. Dinosaurs, sorry, Dragons.

I’ve seen some reviews that suggest Matt’s novel is just a rip off of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. I agree completely. I also like to ignore that Jurassic Park is a rip off of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, which is in turn a rip off of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, or possibly Off On A Comet – if you want to count dragons as dinosaurs. Because every idea is 100% original and comments complaining about rip-offs don’t primarily show the complainer’s ignorance.

Ignoring that point – because who cares? – Matt’s latest novel is all of the elements we’ve come to love from him. The story is fast paced, life and death, adventurous fun. I really enjoyed The Great Zoo of China: enough said.

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Book Review: All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

All You Need Is KillAll You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I’m not sure that there are enough sci-fi thrillers out there. Maybe we should get James Patterson to churn out a few dozen this year, or maybe someone can point me in the direction of a few dozen authors like Hiroshi Sakurazaka.

People may be aware of All You Need Is Kill because of the film adaptation starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, retitled Edge of Tomorrow because ‘kill’ had such negative connotations. I haven’t watched the film yet, but have heard very good things, which makes sense, since this is a very good book. The premise for the book (and film) is that Earth has been invaded by terraforming robots – Mimics – who are preparing the planet for an alien race to come live here. These robots have a special trick they use to help them win battles: they can send a signal back in time to allow time loops to play out until they win. Keiji Kiriya is a new recruit, but in his first battle he gets caught in the loop, and he is able to alter the future by learning from his mistakes.

Obviously this sounds a lot like the Bill Murray film Groundhog Day, just with less Bill Murray and more giant robots trying to destroy the planet. The story never lets up, despite the fact that the two days (the day before and day of the battle) are on an endless loop until either Keiji or the Mimics succeed. And the twist ending caught me somewhat by surprise. I recommend this book to any fans of thrillers, unless you can’t stand the idea of people in robotic suits fighting alien robots for the future of the planet – which is, of course, impossible not to love.

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