I hyped both books as the type that would normally cause me to temporarily abandon my secondary book (as I always have two going at a time). But, in retrospect, that was a lie. A more accurate assessment: The Martian begged to be my sole focus. Blackbirds, on the other hand, was just entertaining enough I couldn't bring myself to put it aside.
Mind you, that's not a black mark on Blackbirds. A lesser tale would have been cast aside faster than you can say "post haste." I'm merely saying that, under different circumstances, it still wouldn't have been a one-at-a-time book.1
On to The Martian. I stand by my statement that it's one of the best books I've read, but I should mention it's not one of the best-written books I've read. I mean, it's written well enough, but there is unevenness to the narration (particularly the third-person omniscient sections I referred to last post). And though you suffer with astronaut Mark Watney throughout, you don't get a real sense of his character. The story, like Mark, is focused almost entirely on his survival. Unlike most great books, at its core this one is not about people or relationships. It's about crazy scenarios and clever solutions. And I loved it.
Although, I would've liked an epilogue.
One last thing. I've never been good at keeping track of what I read, but I did want to share a short list of the other books I've loveloveloved this past year. A few others came close, but these are the three that grabbed hold and didn't let go:
- What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, Randall Munroe
- Red Rising and Golden Son, Pierce Brown2
1 I also spoke of Blackbirds' plot twists. I'm not sure why; thinking back I can't recall any real twists. (Luckily, it didn't need them. Its concept and characters were compelling enough for this humble reader.)
2 Now these two are rife with plot twists. And backstabbing. And backstabbingly good plot twists. (Sure, you may not trust my judgment after my misstatement last time, but don't worry. There's absolutely no chance I'll be recanting these statements in a future post.)3
3 Note: I reserve the right to recant other statements.