Friday, October 23, 2015

Book Review: "The Year of the Flood" by Margaret Atwood

Book Two in the MaddAddam Trilogy

Oryx and Crake (read my review here) ended with Jimmy, aka Snowman, encountering the only humans he's come across since the human race was wiped out by an epidemic he unwittingly helped deploy. Spoiler Alert - this book ends in the same place. The Year of the Flood is not a continuation of where we left off in Oryx and Crake, but rather a view of the societal collapse and epidemic from different character perspectives.

Toby is probably one of my favorite female characters in recent fiction. She's immensely strong and pragmatic. We meet Toby at the AnooYoo Spa where she's been holed up to ride out The Waterless Flood unleashed by Crake to wipe out humanity. To survive in this situation the reader knows that beyond good luck there has to be some skills involved. Toby's origin story begins to unfold, and we are taken back in time to when she was just a teenager growing up in a world that was becoming increasingly fractionalized by Corporate Compounds and steroid consumerism. Her story is heart wrenching; laced with loss and hard decisions. Yet, Toby never becomes sullen. Toby survives.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Movie vs. Book: "The Martian"

I read Andy Weir's The Martian a few months ago (read my review here). The most compelling part of that story was the character of Mark Watney and the perseverance of the human spirit to survive. When I found out that Matt Damon was slated to portray Mark Watney in the film adaptation I was excited to see what he did with the character. Damon is capable of portraying seriousness, humor, pain and sinisterness...he's an actor. What I was most interested in was how Ridley Scott and Damon were going to balance Mark Watney.

Andy Weir's version of Mark Watney highlighted the character's humor and how something like that can go a long way in surviving horrifying situations. While reading the novel I speculated as to the deterioration of Watney's mental state, which was always masked in sarcasm and science, but the psychological impact was never thoroughly explored. This is one aspect of character that the movie was able to flesh out and show. Ultimately, the ability to show Mark Watney sink into depression or frustration before springing back out of it with his humor went a very long way. I was also horrified at the depiction of Watney's physical state as his diet changed. The contrast between Damon's fit physique in the beginning of the film and the emaciated malnourished shell of a man he became with a rationed diet of potatoes was shocking, and something that the film brought to life in the way the book did not.