Calling Major Tom by David M. Barnett #BookReview

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callingmtTitle: Calling Major Tom
Author: David M. Barnett
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 304 pages
Publication Details: June 18th 2017 by Trapeze
Genre(s): General Fiction; Science Fiction
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

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CALLING MAJOR TOM is a heart-warming and ultimately life-affirming story of a man who has given up on the world… but discovers in the most unlikely way that it might not have given up on him.

We all know someone like Thomas.

The grumpy next-door-neighbour who complains to the Residents’ Committee about the state of your front lawn. The man who tuts when you don’t have the correct change at the checkout. The colleague who sends an all-company email when you accidentally use the last drop of milk.

Thomas is very happy to be on his own, far away from other people and their problems.

But beneath his cranky exterior lies a story and a sadness that is familiar to us all. And he’s about to encounter a family who will change his view of the world.

Review

Calling Major Tom is a story about family and friendship, and more importantly about losing your way.

Thomas Major is an extremely grumpy scientist who partly by chance and partly by his own stupidity becomes the first man to be sent to Mars. It’s basically a suicide mission but that doesn’t bother Thomas. He’s just happy that he’ll be alone. For a really, really long time, if not forever.

Thinking he’s calling his ex-wife from space, Thomas actually gets through to Gladys, a grandmother suffering from dementia and he’s unwittingly thrown into the lives of a family with some very real problems.

Despite his best efforts to be alone, Thomas Major finds himself trying to help the family from space, and in helping them he learns that maybe he’s not quite the lost cause he thought he was.

Calling Major Tom is wonderfully odd. It’s one of those genuine heart-warming stories that just makes you smile. It’s far-fetched; not at all realistic in plot, but each and every character stands out providing a good injection of realness to bring us back down to earth.

That’s not to say that I didn’t find some faults in it. There seemed a  tendency to jump from one scene or thought to the next without any transition, but that may have just been the pre-proof format to be fair. However, it did put me off at first until I got into the erratic rhythm of it.

I am always impressed by anyone who can create a wonderful story like this, but what impressed me the most was how current it was. There are references to David Bowie’s death and Brexit which makes me wonder when Barnett started writing it and how long it took him. I loved all the Bowie references, naturally, and its crazy quirkiness and undeniable charm made it a perfect tribute to the great man.

 

unicorn rating 4

 

Lazy Saturday Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

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Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Series: N/A
Edition: Kindle Edition, 385 pages
Publication Details: February 11th 2014 by Crown
Genre(s): Sci-Fi
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it

Goodreads // Purchase

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.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive–and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit–he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Review

The Martian is like the most intense science lesson you never had.

Mark Watney is stranded on Mars, presumed dead. As the first line perfectly describes he’s ‘pretty much fucked’. But Mark Watney is also the most ridiculously resourceful astronaut there ever was, and he’s not about to give up.

He spends his days planning and problem solving in order to figure out how to keep himself alive until he can be rescued, whilst reluctantly listening to disco music and watching old 70’s sitcoms left behind by his crew-mates.

The story is told in the form of daily logs from Watney, in his smart-ass, witty voice, and also from the perspective of the NASA team who are trying to save him now that they’re aware he’s alive.

I was totally engrossed in this story, and rooting for Watney the whole way through. The book mixes hard science (something I know very little about) with fantastically real science-fiction which makes for an intense read. At times I did get a bit bored of all the minuscule details of Watney’s potato farm and water reclaimer, but all the little details added to the real-ness of the story.

I was surprised by how funny this book was too, which was all down to the characterisation of Watney. He was hilarious, and NASA’s reactions to him just made me laugh even more. If anyone could survive alone in space, it would be someone like Mark Watney.

I thought this was a really clever book. It had its ups and downs, but overall I found it interesting, exciting and hard to put down.

unicorn rating 4

Rereads Challenge Review: Northern Lights (The Golden Compass) by Phillip Pullman

REREAD

north

When Lyra’s friend Roger disappears, she and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, determine to find him.

The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through the frozen skies – and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horrible to be spoken about.

Lyra overcomes these strange terrors, only to find something yet more perilous waiting for her – something with consequences which may even reach beyond the Northern Lights…

I’ve always thought of Northern Lights as one of my childhood favorites even though I had only read it twice. The last time was probably when I was about 16 – almost 15 years ago (EEEEEK) – so it was long due a reread. Added to that, I went off on an adventure of my own in the hope of seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland, so I thought it would be the perfect book to get me excited about it.

Unfortunately, the beginning of the book felt more like a chore this time round. It’s funny how you always remember the good parts (Lovely Lyra, the badassness of Iorek Byronison, the magical descriptions of the arctic and the Aurora) but forget the bad parts (the slow pace and drawn-out plot).

But thankfully, my disappointment didn’t last too long. I’m pretty sure the reason I fell in love with this book when I was younger wasn’t just the fantasy, magical elements of it, but Lyra herself. She’s such a great protagonist. She’s inherently good and powerful but she doesn’t know it. She has no idea of her potential but runs on the simple instinct to do what’s right and to help the best she can. In the beginning her only motivation is to save Roger and a longing to explore the north, but little did she know where it would lead her.

I probably missed a some of the underlying themes in this series the first time round. It’s infamous for being anti-religious (or at least void of Christianity) much like the Narnia books are infamous for their not-so-subtle Christian themes, but that wasn’t what was new to me this time around. I’d somehow missed the onslaught political and racial commentary.

Also, it’s totally Steampunk, right?

All that aside, by the middle of this, I was hooked again, I stopped peeling back the layers and just enjoyed the story of a plucky girl and her daemon (oh how I wanted my own daemon growing up – OK I still do!) on a thrilling adventure to the arctic to save her best friend and find out the truth about the family that disowned her.

And it’s dark, really dark – with the human experiments, kidnappings and gory deaths…

And as he said that, the Aurora flickered and dimmed, like an anbaric bulb at the end of its life, and then went out altogether. In the gloom, though, Lyra sensed the presence of the Dust, for the air seemed to be full of dark intentions, like the forms of thoughts not yet formed”

Perfect!

I’m so glad I can still call it a favourite.

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure?: Nope, I own it.
Title: Northern Lights (His Dark Materials #1)
Author: Phillip Pullman
Details: Paperback, 399 pages
Publication Date: October 23rd 1998 by Scholastic Point (first published 1995)
My Rating: 4/5