Monthly Archives: October 2015

Movie vs. Book: The Martian

Mark Watney is admittedly the least important member of his NASA team. He’s not the commander, and his role as botanist isn’t the most integral to surviving on a mission to Mars. So when a sandstorm collides with his crew, he’s left behind, assumed dead by his crew mates, and wakes up millions of miles away from any other human being, he’s a little freaked out. But Mark Watney has underestimated himself. He quickly gets to work, figuring out how much food, water and oxygen he has left in his spaceship. It’s not enough to sustain more than a few months. Finally his botany background helps out, as he finds ways to grow food and create more oxygen and water to lengthen his lifespan.

It takes a while before NASA recognizes that he’s still alive. He was assumed dead by his crew mates, NASA and in turn, the entire world. It becomes as much NASA’s all-consuming goal to save him as Mark has to stay alive. He overcomes obstacle after obstacle over the course of more than a year until he can, maybe, be saved.

The book tells the story through Mark’s first-person journal entries narration of what’s going on on Earth and on the other spaceship where Mark’s crew mates remain. The movie is brilliant in its decision to turn Mark’s journal entries into video logs. It’s more visual and actually makes more sense; considering Mark is alone on Mars, he should want a reason to talk and pretend someone is listening. I was also impressed the movie kept the book’s humor. Despite the bleakness of Mark’s challenge, he always impressively kept up his spirits — making fun of the disco music his commander left behind, calling himself the “best botanist on the planet,” and praising the wonder and beauty of duct tape. It was great to see all of that in the movie. Plus, Matt Damon has great comedic delivery.

That said, the movie left some things out, likely for time. Probably Mark’s largest obstacle is a massive sandstorm that makes it hard for him to travel to the area on Mars where he’s supposed to make contact with his crew mates. It’s a supremely harrowing section of the book, and I was shocked that it was cut from the movie. Granted, he still had plenty of other troubles to deal with, but to have taken out the biggest one was surprising. The movie also altered the ending a bit; it changed which crew member grabs Mark in space and makes Mark a little more heroic in that moment.

Probably the biggest change is the very end of the movie, the epilogue-like scene of Mark after the NASA debacle. It  includes an overstated speech that differs from the points Mark makes at the end of the novel. It shouldn’t have differed so much because the last few pages of the novel are some of the book’s best and are a great, grand statement on human nature. But ultimately, this is one of the few movies out there that follows the book so closely, and besides those few, mostly minor changes, both the movie and book are great.

Get The Martian in paperback for $9.

Or on your Kindle for $8.99.

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New ‘Harry Potter’ E-Books To Have Animated Illustrations

It’s been eight years since the last Harry Potter novel was released, but now they’re all being released in a completely new way. Harry Potter e-books are now available, and according to The Associated Press, Apple has exclusive animated versions.

Enhanced e-book versions of the novels, exclusively for Apple products, includes more than 200 illustrations, many of which are animated or interactive. Other, non-animated versions of the e-books are available through author J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore web site.

Included in the enhanced e-books are author annotations similar to the ones Rowling’s written and included on her Pottermore web site, but there aren’t as many in the e-books as there are on Pottermore. The enhanced e-books also don’t include audio.

However, the illustrations are in full color, and the interactive illustrations are hidden; readers have to figure out what’s interactive for themselves. One example: during a scene at a meal, you can swipe to see all the food on other parts of the table.

The e-books cost $10 apiece, or $70 for the whole series.

As a kid, I read the paperback versions, but when I read the series to my eventual children, it certainly seems like the e-books are the version my kids will get to know.

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Review: Bond Girl

Recap: From the time Alex was a little girl and her father took her to his office on Wall Street, she knew she wanted to work there too. She studied for it. She interviewed for and got a job at one of the tops firms on “The Street.” But she didn’t know what being a “bond girl” was all about until the job began. There was the time her boss sent her a few boroughs away to pick up a 50-pound cheese wheel. There was the time she was called ugly at a work party. There was the time one of her coworkers ate everything inside the office vending machine in one day, and she had to babysit him. Sexism galore, Alex got through it all, learning the system and meeting a cute guy, Will, at work.

But nothing ever seemed quite right. Sure, she got paid well and was able to afford clothing, shoes and meals she never dreamed of purchasing on her own. But her relationship with Will never seemed real. He refused to talk to her on weekends, and she was never sure why. She got to hang out less and less with her friends since work took up so much of her time. And her boss was kind of a crazy person — demanding is an understatement. But when one of her clients started hitting on her to an uncomfortable degree, and when she finds out why Will is so distant, everything changes. And Alex had to ask herself — is this really what she signed up for?

AnalysisBond Girl is some light-fare chick lit, comparable to a Nanny Diaries or Devil Wears Prada in that it deals with a woman trying to get through the pain of dealing with a horrible boss. But Bond Girl is much more than that. In Nanny and Devil, those women work for women, employed in jobs that are typically held by women (nannies, fashion magazine employees). But Bond Girl turns that format on its head by throwing Alex into a male-dominated work environment. The added struggle of sexism thickens the plot and gives the novel the opportunity to make a social statement.

What’s better is that while Alex’s boss is demanding and especially hard on her, he’s ultimately a good guy. It’s easy to understand why Alex continues to work for him, and it’s refreshing to read a book like this in which the boss is actually likable. Alex, too, stays likable, which is an achievement in its own right for a book like this. Sure, she goes through some rough times — she cries, drinks with her girlfriends, complains. But she never becomes a horrible person like similar characters in similar books (i.e. Andy Sachs from The Devil Wears Prada or Nan from The Nanny Diaries). 

While the book’s ending may be a little open-ended — as most books in this style are — I finished it feeling confident she would be okay.

MVP: Alex. Of course it’s an obvious choice. She didn’t have much character growth or development, but she could have gone down the path of becoming unlikeable, and she didn’t.

Get Bond Girl in hardcover for $1.39.

Or on your Kindle for $11.14.

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