Well, I've been to Mars several times now. I recently read The Martian then saw The Martian movie and cracked open Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles (my fave) and now have finished Robert Sawyer's Red Planet Blues. I'll give you the short review: It's good. It's funny. It's intelligent. It's dramatic. Did I mention how many times I laughed? Sawyer has done an excellent job of recreating the pulp detective story on Mars. I've read several of Rob's books and am always impressed by how he is able to get complex scientific ideas across to simpletons like me and still keep the story rocketing along. He does that again here, of course. But I can tell he had so much fun playing with the language and the stereotypes of the pulp fiction world. And somewhere along the way I actually learned what it would be like to be living under a dome on Mars. Two martian thumbs up.
Oh, and there's no mention of potatoes in this book. In case anyone was wondering.
Today I turn my mind to The Nest, Kenneth Oppel's latest opus (I like the ring of that). I am a friend of Ken's but, more importantly, I'm a fan of his work (Skybreaker and Silverwing being two of my favourites along with Half Brother). I'm often late to the bandwagon and this book definitely has a bandwagon: starred reviews galore, a glowing NY Times review, and general accolades and buzz (forgive the use of that word considering the book features magical wasps). It's completely deserving. It's one of those books that sneaks into your subconscious word by word and before you know it you are feeling those palpations of fear that you thought only Hitchcock could produce. Young Steve is the narrator of the story. His family is dealing with the arrival into the family of a child with an unknown cognitive disability. There are hospital visits and severe health complications to deal with. At about that same time Steve, after being bitten by a wasp, begins to be visited in his dreams by a wasp queen who promises to "help" with the baby. I won't say much more than that--other than you probably shouldn't accept the help of a wasp queen. This is spine tingling and skin crawling at its finest. But the book asks important (and disturbing) questions about what is normal. What would you do to "fix" a child with disabilities. As a father of a child with disabilities, this book nails those first weeks of angst and fear and not understanding why all of this happened and how to deal with it bang on. Read The Nest. Not just for the chills. But for the way the book makes you think.
What would you do if the queen of wasps offered help?
Well, I'm late with this review. I mean the book has already been nominated for a Governor General's Award and been sold into a bazillion countries. Plus, I read it a few months ago and have finally got off my duff to offer you a review. Susin Nielsen is one of my favourite writers and this book is a great addition to her growing list of excellent titles. It's the story of Stewart, an academically brilliant but socially clueless main character, who is struggling to adapt to the death of his mother and he's experiencing the massive adjustment of moving in with his father's new girlfriend and her fourteen-year-old daughter Ashley. Written from Stewart and Ashley's point of view, the book is spot on in terms of voice. Susin is a screenwriter (along with being a novelist) and I think that natural ability to structure a script comes through with this book. There are no wrong turns. Plus the book appears deceptively simple on the outside but the deeper you dig into it the more you discover is there. Nielsen has a gift for comedy that somehow reaches into your soul and plucks your heartstrings (I copyrighted that last sentence BTW). I laughed out loud several times. And may have had to wipe away a manly tear once or twice. Don't worry, I used my work gloves to sop...err...I mean wipe the offending tear(s) away. Anyway, two thumbs and a whole bunch of molecules up for this one.