Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke

His first full length novel, and although I have read none of his other works, I'm sure it is not his best. Otherwise his reputation is sorely underserved.

But while this doesn't hold up a candle to Asimov in literary style (as far as I'm concerned), the plot does start to pick up after 80 pages or so. Which is, admittedly, a rather long time to wait.

First published in 1951, the science is quite dated in many ways, but as the predictions of a Mars colony have not yet come to pass, it still looks expectantly towards the future (although I doubt there will be many Martians).

For terraforming, it doesn't compare well with Dune, but there are times when one gets bowled along with the enthusiasm of the characters. Strangely, however, main character - sci-fi writer Martin Gibson (yes, there is a lot of self-aware discussion, some of it interesting) - seems to show more interest in 'Squeak' the Martian than in his long lost son. But who knows how the mind works.

All in all, a perfectly readable novel, but certainly not great literature nor great sci-fi. Hopefully 2001: A Space Oddessy will impress more. 5.2/10.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Mort by Terry Pratchett

This is the fourth of the Discworld series, and the best (I am assured by various critics). It is Pratchett's most popular novel, and comes in at no. 65 on the BBC's '100 best-loved books'. I thought it a particular corker of a novel, just the kind of comedy I needed to lift me up after reading pages and pages of how impressive Robinson Crusoe's bloody wall is.

Some of the characters may be a bit weak, but the two main protagonists, Death and the boy Mort (his new assistant), are both splendid creations. Death is more complicated than one might think, with a penchant for cookery and kittens, but we never really get inside his head, the novel instead revolving around his apprentice, who has a rather wonderful thought process. There are some deeper issues present within the book, such as a midlife crisis (although undoubtedly that is the wrong word for an immortal anthropomorphic personification such as death) and love, but the comedy is what one should read this book for. 8.5/10.