In which I review three fantastic books from Madeline Dyer, Ernest Cline, and Andy Weir.
Untamed by Madeline Dyer
Untamed stood out to me in the swarm of dystopian novels in that it was more intimate in scale. Most dystopian novels I’ve read have been epic in scale, huge for the sake of being huge, but this book does a magnificent job of remaining small, focused on the core of Seven and her internal struggle between being Untamed or Enhanced.
Just enough nuggets are strewn throughout to paint the picture of just how bleak Seven’s world is, but the narrative itself never loses sight of her. Her journey is our journey, and it is a satisfying, fast-paced romp — satisfying in spite of the ending being a clear set-up for the next book.
Many in this genre stuff their pages to the proverbial gills, so busy trying to be grand and epic that stories lose focus and things that are supposed to resonate emotionally with readers fall flat. Untamed does not suffer from that lack of focus or over-saturation, and it’s a credit to Madeline Dyer that this story never loses sight of what it is or where it’s going.
If you’re a fan of the genre, you’d be doing yourself a favor in reading Untamed. If not, give it a try anyway. You might find yourself as engrossed in the story as I did.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
In a way, I feel like Ready Player One was what the film Pixels should’ve been.
This first-person, geektastic, and nostalgic romp through an immersive MMO world that would put World of Warcraft to shame is a lot of things, and fun is first and foremost among them. This was a fantastic, easy-to-read novel, one that spoke to every fiber of my geeky, born-in-1981 core.
Ready Player One is chock full of pop culture references: plenty I got and even more I didn’t. The overall story recalls some of the great treasure hunt stories over the decades, and I found particular glee in a closing scene in which Monty Python and the Holy Grail was prominent. Ernest Cline’s writing is mostly crisp, and you’ll find yourself flying through chapters as Wade and his friends work closer toward their goal.
But the references to geek culture and the nostalgia that practically drips from this book make Ready Player One a must-read for any fan of genre fiction, videogames, comic books, 1980 television and film, and anything else that qualifies as “geek culture.” It is impossible to divorce those references from the story, because the marriage of the two is what makes this book so much fun.
Ready Player One is an early favorite for “Best Book I Read in 2016,” and I look forward to giving Cline’s other offering, Armada, a read as well.
The Martian by Andy Weir
Y’all… I have read some damn good books in recent months.
Grave Beginnings by R.R. Virdi… Floor 21 by Jason Luthor…Ready Player One by Ernest Cline… and now, we can add Andy Weir’s The Martian to that list. This simultaneously self-contained and epic story grips you from the very first line (as openers go, “I’m pretty much fucked” is strong) and doesn’t let go.
This combination first-person/third-person story varies in pace, but it never slogs. Even log after log of astronaut Mark Watney being stuck on Mars doesn’t drag on like one might expect. I know some readers have been turned off by Watney’s demeanor, his wit and sarcasm, but the book established that his way with people and his positive outlook are a part of who he is. Keeping that in mind — as well as the fact that different people react to trauma in different ways — it never bothered me.
I wouldn’t crack jokes if I were stuck on Mars, but I’m not Mark Watney.
The Martian is heavy on the science at times, which is to be expected from a book in which one man is stuck on Mars and everyone’s trying to find a way to get him back home. But it never made my eyes glaze over, nor did it fly over my head. I’ve read my share of novels where the science does go over my head (the Kathy Reichs novels, mainly), but this book did not suffer from that shortcoming.
In fact, my only complaint about the book was the abrupt manner in which it ended. I wanted a taste of Watney in the aftermath of his ordeal, but the book didn’t give me that. Then again, it makes sense; the book started with him on Mars by himself, so it would make sense for the book to end the moment he’s off the planet.
The Martian is another early candidate for “Best Book I Read in 2016,” and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone, regardless of whether they enjoy this sort of book or not.
It’s that good.