The Blog's Mission

Wikipedia defines a book review as: “a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review”. My mission is to provide the reader with my thoughts on the author’s work whether it’s good, bad, or ugly. I read all genres of books, so some of the reviews may be on hard to find books, or currently out of print. All of my reviews will also be available on I will write a comment section at the end of each review to provide the reader with some little known facts about the author, or the subject of the book. Every now and then, I’ve had an author email me concerning the reading and reviewing of their work. If an author wants to contact me, you can email me at I would be glad to read, review and comment on any nascent, or experienced writer’s books. If warranted, I like to add a little comedy to accent my reviews, so enjoy!
Thanks, Rick O.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


What would you do if you were presumed dead and left stranded for 549 sol days (that’s an Earth day plus 39 minutes) on the planet Mars? Well, that’s the premise of this fresh new novel. It was an exhilarating story, although way too technical (for me) and somewhat predictable, but nonetheless well worth reading. Astronaut Mark Watney is injured and caught in a windstorm when Earth cancels the Mars mission because the MAV (Mars ascent vehicle) is about to tip over from the furious 175 kph winds. Wow, is that a tough situation, or what? The crew is leaving for Earth without you and the next mission to Mars is four years away. At least in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), Crusoe had his sidekick, Friday, to mingle with. And in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi (2002), Pi had a Royal Bengal Tiger to share his 227 days at sea with. Can two consecutive sentences end in the same preposition? Probably not, but I write with Cormac McCarthy’s rules.

Anyway, I found the story difficult without a companion for Watney on Mars. What’s left is his scientific effort to stay alive and bore the reader with empirical evidence. I must admit that this is not my strong suit. I don’t understand how to make oxygen, water, or make dirt to plant potatoes on Mars. I struggled through many pages of this without the action and exploits that I expected. Maybe the story needed a Dan Simmons innuendo type allusion. Yet... I did like the book! With the MAV leaving to dock with the ship Hermes (which is orbiting Mars) and then take the crew back to Earth, Watney knows he is in big trouble. Since the crew doesn’t know that all communications on Mars have been destroyed by the storm, and coupled with the fact that Watney’s bio-monitor computer readout indicates that he is dead (they don’t know it’s broken), they leave. On page seven, Watney thinks to himself, “So that’s the situation. I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last thirty-one days.”

After Mark settles in, he decides to find Pathfinder (from the 1997 mission) and the rover, Sojourner, so he can acquire it’s radio and communicate with Earth. In the meantime, Satellites orbiting Mars send pictures back to NASA indicating that Watney is still alive. Watney gets to Pathfinder and finally communicates with NASA on sol day 97. The next 251 pages are much better in the excitement category, as NASA tries to figure out how to get Watney back, and as you can imagine, many things go wrong on Earth and Mars (finally). I realize that this novel had to be demanding to write since it’s not really science fiction. And I knew that we weren’t going to meet eerie green Martians, but still I expected a wee bit more calamity and intrigue. The postulation of the novel was so grand. I was hooked on the first sentence on page one…”I’m pretty much f***ed.” That’s as close as I can quote, if I want Amazon to okay this review. All in all, I have to recommend this novel by Andy Weir.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: According to theguardian, besides the above mentioned novels, The following are excellent “marooned in literature” novels:

Lord of the Flies by William Golding: “ William Golding’s first novel describes the ghastly fate that befalls a group of British schoolboys when they are stranded on a desert island (Golding was a prep-school teacher when he wrote it). At first, the boys set about creating an ordered society, with the good-natured Ralph as chief. But a dissident faction emerges and seizes power. Ralph, together with his myopic sidekick Piggy, wants the group to concentrate on getting rescued; the other lot just want to hunt. The boys' descent into savagery symbolises mankind's innate capacity for evil.”

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet  by David Mitchell :
“The twice Booker-shortlisted writer's new novel (out next month) is set in 1799 on the tiny island of Dejima, a Dutch trading concession off Nagasaki. The book follows Jacob de Zoet, a young clerk who becomes stranded when war between the English and the Dutch breaks out. It's a detailed, richly imagined tale thoughtfully examining clashing cultures. Dejima was the notoriously repressive Sho dynasty's one point of contact with the outside world and Mitchell shows how it became a portal for western ideas to be smuggled into Japan.”

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss :
“Inspired by the teachings of John-Jacques Rousseau, this 1812 novel is the wholesome saga of a family's 10-year sojourn on a deserted island. When the Robinsons' boat is shipwrecked, things look bleak, but the island is blessed with a cornucopia of natural resources and the brave family survives and builds a successful colony. Incredibly, the worst thing that happens is that their donkey gets eaten by a boa constrictor. When help eventually arrives, some of the Robinsons decide to stay put in their tropical paradise.”

Concrete Island  by JG Ballard :
“Ballard's 1974 updating of Robinson Crusoe sees rich young architect Robert Maitland, marooned not in some far-off place but on a traffic island under three converging motorways outside London after his Jaguar crashes over a parapet. Unable to climb up the embankment to safety, Maitland finds himself imprisoned and the novel becomes a record of his struggle to survive using only what he finds in his car. Ballard suggests that Maitland's imprisonment is as much psychological as physical; it's weird, gripping stuff.”

I thought one of the better movies was 20th Century Fox’s Cast Away (2000), starring Tom Hanks as a FedEx employee stranded on an Island in the South Pacific with nobody but his buddy Wilson, who was a Wilson volleyball.

The Sojourner Rover: