The Martian by Andy Weir : A Book Review

martianThe best-seller and awarded the Goodreads  Choice 2014 Winner   and   which is said to have done well  at the box office since  October 02, 2015  is indeed  WORTH READING. I  repeat it is WORTH READING.

If you have not read it yet and  have been curious about why it is such a big  talk in the Goodreads universe, I would like you to bear in mind  first some reminders before you prep it- but not necessarily that you take  them; I know you would still give it a try at any cost  out of idle curiosity.

You should be ready that reading it requires  a  paucity of MATH and other  branches of science such as CHEMISTRY, ASTRONOMY, ENGINEERING, PHYSICS , BOTANY, to name a few unless you majored in one of them. Otherwise, you might end up in a   moment of epistaxis  and cerebral hemorrhage. In other words, the   novel  is strewn with  technical words. Therefore, make sure that you have internet connection  at your disposal to Google some words beyond your imagination. In doing so can help you understand the story more clearly.

The concept of the story is very new to me, for it  may be my second Sci-Fi. The last  one was the Contact by Carl Sagan. I had enjoyed it at first since I was not completely familiar with all stuff in the universe. However, I lost my interest   in its book cover edition; I was very choosy then. (Uh-oh! Beggars cannot be choosers.) Then, I could  no longer get around to it.

An astronaut is stranded on Mars when it just happens  that he is not able to leave it with his other crews in the midst of the sandstorm. In order to survive the red  planet, he will use his vast knowledge of Botany and Engineering as well as his wide training   and experience in Astronomy. Each day is perilous for Mark as if he walks with a tight rope.

Admittedly, I was close to demoting it to 3 stars ( Not that bad. I still liked it ) for the three  reasons:

  • I did not like the writing style, let alone its prose. It is brusque in context despite the fact that it is  pregnant with jargon. ( But I know there is nothing wrong  with brusque language ; it could still be an art. Probably, it is not my cup of tea. I am more used to   classic writings  just the like of award-winning writers’. You know what I meant to say.  ^^)  Nevertheless, in the end, I realized that  Andy Weir’s intention is to  voice  what  a devastating   life of an astronaut   stuck on such  barren and dreary planet is like . ( If I am not mistaken!)
  • Although I enjoyed the parts in the beginning, of how Mark Wanty sorts  his dilemma out, the longer he describes his some problems , the  more I find them a pain in the ass. In short, they were taxing me too.
  • The plot of the story is  banal and typical of other there-should-be-on-the-rescue-scenes science fictions.

On the other hand, I can’t forbear from lavishing praise on it:

  • Indeed, it is spell-binding. Every page is so enthralling that I could no longer recognize the people around me, that I was not aware of  them, of  my environment at all. (laughs)
  • I liked its ending. It does not need to show that Mark Wanty will have a tear-jerking hero’s welcome as soon as he is back on Earth. The last   breath-taking scene of how he gets aboard and his final journal  are enough to bring a thousand words. Weir might have been aware that readers are already familiar with that schematic denouement.
  • I learned a whole lot about science. In fact, I feel like studying Astronomy. (blushing) I am now very interested in studying the heavenly bodies. All the things about Cosmo, NASA, space exploration, thingamabob. Wow! What an interesting field!
  • The theme is very purely scientific. It focuses just on Mars probe. As far as we know, Mars has been the favorite hobbyhorse among scientists in the  hypothesis that whether there is a  high chance to live on this planet or not.
  • It is very scientifically detailed. Obviously, Andy Weir researched about Mars and NASA thoroughly, especially the problems on Mars Mark Wanty has to sort out such as on how to produce water and oxygen , plant , repair the machines , blah blah blah . Wow, I was impressed. Kudos to him! ^_^
  • Despite its typically there-should-be-on-the-rescue-scenes story, the epistolary writing riddled with technical words did the justice. So, I can’t say that there is nothing new to it. Rather, I highly recommend it to everyone, notably to  students who have been taught the Creationism.

Upon reading it, I would like to conclude that:

  • The book awkwardly suggests that China has hidden ambition to compete with the USA in the field of space exploration. The good thing is that China has  not given Andy Weir a brunt of criticism nor even declared him persona non grata yet. Perhaps Weir also suggests that China has the capacity to keep up with the modern technology despite the world’s stereotype about made-in-China products.
  • The book suggests the perpetual debate among  theists and atheists whether God exists or not.
  • The book suggests that sometimes NASA or science itself has limitations; scientific analyses could be invalid, but nothing is impossible.
  • The book suggests that we, the world, at any cost, is raring to spend billions of dollars on space exploration. (Paradoxically, there is a widespread famine in some parts of the world.)
  • The book suggests that we could be optimistic in a dire situation. ( I doubt it. ) Probably yes, since we have the survival instinct. But gee, if I were Mark Watney, probably no! since I am not that as genius as he is.( laughs)
  • The book suggests that we should use our “common sense” as well as need to be knowledgeable about science at all times if the need rises.
  • The book suggests that a human being has a basic instinct to help one another out as what Mark Watney exemplifies at the end of the book  :

“If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re ,massively outnumbered by the people who do. And because of that, I had billions of people on my side.”

Well, no doubt it has received   positive  feedback, so the British magazine site ,The Guardian , should put it on the new  pedestal of 1001 Best Novels of All Time.

Since I am done with it, I am all systems go for its movie adaptation, especially the actor who leads the role of Mark Watney  is  one of my favorite Hollywood actors, Matt Damon. 13 13 13 ^_^

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it.)

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Up Close: Rachel Carson by Ellen Levine: A Book Review

Rachel Carson is famous for her science nonfiction, THE SILENT SPRING. I had been aware of its immortality among the literati, notably on the list of the TIME as one of the best nonfictions of all time. In fact,I had turned my back on it many times whenever I saw it at my stomping ground. I just skimmed it since it is nonfiction,and I was borne upon the idea that it could no longer be reliable.

Had it been written in great detail or by Rachel Carson herself,for sure, I would have given 5 stars. Nevertheless, I still LIKED it a whole lot,because Rachel Carson was an amazing woman . She inspired not only people with scientific mentality, but even the laymen like me. She even caused me to regress to the “delusional personality “I tried to be- a trying -hard environmentalist. I believe that any books attempted to be written about her would be still worth reading just the like of this Ellen Levine’s.

This book reflects in the other side of Rachel Carson,mostly her dedication to her field of studies, her determination to achieve her dreams, her sisterly and daughterly love for her family,and her viewpoints about religion and science -let alone the question about her being a spinster.

What I liked about Rachel Carson,according to the book, is her “reverence for life”. She humbled herself despite her superior intelligence. She preferred to use her god -send talent in writing in informing the public about how they should have loved the nature ,how they should have been aware of the dangers of artificial chemicals,particularly the pesticides. She used the literature as the instrument to catch their interest in natural sciences. She intended not to be technical ; she put her ideas into the language of the layman. This was how she may have been revolting against the greedy capitalists in 1960’s. She was the antithesis of Harriet Beecher,the author behind the UNCLE TOM’S CABIN. Both were considered nothing in the eyes of the big time business men and politicians but they made a big difference.

In some cases, reading a biography could be apocryphal because of the credibility of the facts and information data gleaned by authors. They could pad their “masterpieces ” with a pack of “fairy tales” to pan out in the market. So could autobiographers. On the other hand, Helen Levine’s may be credible since all the information came primarily from Rachel Carson’ s documents.But what I appreciated about H. Levine is the simplicity of how she narrated Rachel Carson’s personal and professional life. Reading it was like as though I watched a documentary peppered with enough information- enough to inform a reader like me.

Had she written it in great detail combined with her writing skills , like an ambitious novel,for sure, I would have really given it 5 stars. But giving it 5 or 4 stars is neither here nor there. I care about the message of Rachel Carson,so when I go to the bookstore one of these days, I will not give a shadow of doubt about buying the SILENT SPRING more so I’ve got an idea of how she wrote it.

TRIVIA :

Rachel Carson was an ailurophile. She had a confederation of cats which became her companions in writing her notable books. The last cat that became the instrument of her writing the SILENT SPRING was Jeffie. Hahaha! Cool, Rachel. ^^

Rating: 3/ 5 stars

GOD and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design is it Anyway? by John C. Lennox: A Book Review

stephenI can feel that John C.  Lennox is deeply devoted to his God. Thus, I cannot blame him if he is such a dye in the wool; he is not far different from the said notorious atheists  such as Sam Harris,  Christopher Hitchens,   and Richard Dawkins , militantly criticize all  the major religions in the world.  I may be an avowed atheist as I always put it here bluntly,  in accord with their proposition that God does not exist, but I have at last agreed with the famous contemporary British philosopher , Alain de Botton, that in practicality, people need religion , in a sense that  without it,  is dangerous  since  such practice has become part of  culture around the world. In fact, Alain de Botton  is an atheist too.

In this book, originally a response article to  Stephen Hawking’s book The Grand Design  (co-authored with Caltech physicist Leonard Mlodinow ) that appeared in the Daily Mail, September 3, 2010, John Lennox, a Mathematics professor and religious adviser , contradicts  Stephen Hawking’s claim  that:

 “ Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

In Lennox ‘s  apologetic opinion, the Universe  and everything  needs a creator: God. However, the problem with John Lennox’s argument is anthropomorphic and pantheistic.  Cognizant he may be of these facts , he points out that the Universe and all natural phenomena cannot come into existence without a creator: God. If so, what does he mean by God? In a sense that God is  in human form, a superhuman with such superpower to be able to create everything even the vast Universe? Such an idea is beyond our imagination. Or does  not he  mean that   creator is a  force  as what pantheists believe? How about  the idea of Carl Jung that human is the God itself? Since he argues that everything cannot be put into action without an agent?

John Lennox argues that scientific laws and theories do not  actuate human and have cause nd effects; they, according to him,  only describe how things happen. They are even untestable; for instance, the idea of M-theory.  He must have overlooked or, to put it mildly, brushed the fact aside that scientific laws and theories have   been the bases on explaining how things happen  and are changing ,or  can possibly happen  in the future , since the time immemorial. To put it bluntly again, I ‘d rather believe in those laws and theories than in something irrational, inconstant, and illogical.

Miracle is another argument not only John Lennox, let alone the believers turn to to believe that God exists. As far as we  are concerned, miracle means  something happens without explicit and rational explanation. In other words,  when people are not able to explain a phenomena, they invoke God. Once again, God means in superhuman  or pantheistic form? How about drawing the conclusion that   such case is under the subject to extensive and thorough studies Period.? The problem with believers is that they are instilled in the fear of denying  God’s  existence. And this is the point of Alain de Botton as I have mentioned above.

For me, not in a bellicose and belligerent way, John Lennox’s argument is a product of  religious upbringing. His reasons are incorrigible. But to avoid religious collision, I will take deBoton’s opinion: Respect one another. Sad to say, it turns out not to be a religious anti-dote at all.

I could have liked the book by giving it 2 out of 5 stars  only if Lennox were not so “ idealistic”.But 1 star does not necessarily mean this is poor, but in a sense that how the book convinced me. This is the way here on Goodreads it is!