Friday, April 3, 2015

Read It, April 2015, Progress Report 1

I'm going to try something a little different for April. Instead of writing just one long entry at the end of the month, I'll post some progress reports, and at the end of the month list books I completed. It will give me a chance to write a little more frequently. I'll see how that goes.

I finished reading Andy Weir's The Martian, which I picked up in paperback a few weeks ago. This is a hugely entertaining, engaging book, a fast-moving story and a quick read, very nicely paced and structured. It's hard science fiction, in more than one sense. It follows our understanding of science and physics closely, and the plot itself hinges on various plausible physical realities about the technologies in use for exploring our solar system. Mostly. You will have to go along with a few things that aren't so plausible, but don't worry too much about that. It's a story.

The protagonist is part of a team on Mars, stranded when the rest of his team has to flee due to an intense sandstorm; because he's been knocked down, his suit punctured, and his vital sign telemetry has flat-lined, they think he is dead. Because their own lives are in imminent danger, they don't have time to double-check. But he survives (this is not really a spoiler; it's the book's premise) and we are immediately pulled into his journal of survival.

This sounds like it could get dull but, instead it is nerve-wracking and funny. I am going to give my wife this book to read. She does not typically like to read fiction, but one day a few years ago I gave her Ender's Game and she felt compelled to stay up all night reading it -- it's short and very engaging. I have a feeling she will have the same reaction to this book. Oh, and it will be a movie soon, starring Matt Damon and directed by Ridley Scott. So we might have an opportunity in just a few months to compare the book with the movie, an exercise I often find interesting and revealing.

Anyway -- on deck this month: Lawrence Wright's book on Scientology, Going Clear. We do not have cable, so I will probably not get the chance to watch the HBO documentary, at least not for some time. I have a long-standing interest in sects and cults; in college, I took a Religious Studies class called American Sects and Cults and studied several of them, including the Rajneeshees. One of the texts we read in that class was a book by Kate Strelley and Robert D. San Souci called The Ultimate Game: The Rise and Fall of Baghwan Shree Rajneesh. That was a great class, and as a person interested both in religious cults and the history of science fiction, this is right up my alley.

Also on deck: Andrew Hodges, Turing: The Engigma, a massive and apparently authoritative biography of Alan Turing; Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow, and so many others. In fiction, I'm chipping away at my shelf full of New York Review Books Classics with The Fox in the Attic by Richard Hughes, a dark and amazing novel. More later!

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