Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A few minis - The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, The Returned by Jason Mott, Redshirts by John Scalzi

A few minis, today, to help me catch up on recent reads (so many!) that have tossed me into backlog hell.  
The Rosie Project is a book I read in electronic form because I saw  so many effusive tweets and reviews that when it became available for $1.99 I figured fine, I can do without the paper for the sake of reading it sooner.  I really do hate e-books.

Don Tillman is a professor of genetics with Asperger's, brilliant in his field but socially inept. When he decides it's time to find a wife, he goes about the process in the same meticulous way he does everything else.  Don finds, however, that even the women who pass his stringent written test don't meet his criteria for one reason or another but Rosie, a completely unacceptable woman sent by his best friend, attracts him in spite of her unsuitability. 

When Don finds out Rosie wants to know who her father is, he uses his research techniques and knowledge to help Rosie narrow down the candidates, mostly as an unconscious excuse to spend more time with her. But, the more time he spends with Rosie, the more he realizes that it is he who must adapt to Rosie's needs, rather than the other way around.

Don is very much like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. His inability to understand human interaction and his need for strict order make for some hilarious situations. I absolutely loved this wacky  romance and highly recommend The Rosie Project to anyone looking for an upbeat, smart, funny read. Highly recommended.

The Returned by Jason Mott is a book I'm pretty sure I read about in Entertainment Weekly. When dead people inexplicably begin turning up all over the world, they are at first returned to their homes if there are survivors willing to take them in. But, as the number of Returned grows, people begin to panic.  Are they really the people that died or something else entirely? Why are they coming back to life, if they're real?  Should they be allowed to continue living when the sheer number of Returned threatens to decimate the food supply and overwhelm the planet's resources?  The living people who have not died are referred to as the True Living.

It took me a while before I realized that The Returned was not a science fiction novel that was going to explain away the return of the dead but a "What if?" that asks what would happen if the people we lost were able to come back, for a time.  That changed the way I viewed the novel but since it was based on a dream the author had about his mother after her death and I had that same kind of dream not once but several times after my father died, I found the book gripping and then touching.  It makes you think long and hard about what might happen if you really could speak to your loved ones and interact with them, again, if only for a few months or a year.  

I would have preferred that The Returned was sci-fi because it was the curiosity about what was causing the Returned that made it such a page-turner, at first, and yet I really did appreciate the book for what it was, once I figured out where the author was taking the story. The Returned is in many ways reminiscent of "Miracle Day", the fourth season of Torchwood, although in "Miracle Day" people cease dying rather than returning from the dead.  Of course, Torchwood is sci-fi and an explanation (although not an entirely logical one) is eventually given at the end of the "Miracle Day" series but there were similarities in the way people reacted -- with fear more than hope, separating the Returned from the True Living, considering the eradication of those whom many think should return to being dead. It's fascinating to theorize about how people might really react.

Recommended. Not at all what I expected.  Still, I enjoyed the book even after realizing it was something entirely different from what I thought it was going to be.

I think I already mentioned the fact that I have a library due-date to thank for the nudge to pick up Redshirts by John Scalzi.  

Redshirts is a story that begins on with a prologue in which several crew members on the space ship Intrepid are killed by Borgovian Land Worms on an away mission. In the first chapter, an entirely different group of new crew members meet up as they wait to board the Intrepid. It doesn't take long into their service on-board the Intrepid before Ensign Andy Dahl realizes something strange is going on. When Chief Science Officer Q'eeng shows up seeking away team crewmen, his coworkers disappear for coffee or to do inventory. Dahl's not stupid; he can see that they're ducking out.  But, why?  

Then, Dahl begins to notice certain trends regarding the deaths of underlings and he's given a warning by an elusive crewman who promptly disappears.  Why are so many new crew members dying during missions?  Who is the hairy man who gave Dahl a warning and why is he so difficult to locate?  Can Dahl survive as a new crew member who can't always duck his duty on away teams?  

Eventually, Dahl figures out what's going on and I'm not sure whether or not it's a spoiler but I'm not going to share his conclusions or what happens, just in case doing so might ruin the reading for someone. I like going into a book as clueless as possible, myself.  Suffice it to say, there is a very crazy reason for the deaths of the eponymous Redshirts (whom any Star Trek fan will have noted as the most likely crew members to die on an away team).  

John Scalzi never fails to entertain and Redshirts is a delight.  Subtitled "A Novel with Three Codas", I think the storyline could have stopped right before the codas and I would have been perfectly satisfied.  I didn't like the first coda at all; it was a jarring switch from the main storyline to the viewpoint of . . . oh, maybe that's a spoiler, but anyway . . . while I think the codas could have been dropped entirely, in the end I liked where Scalzi took the story.  

Highly recommended, especially to Star Trek and sci-fi fans.  There were quite a few grammatical errors in Redshirts, which surprised me because I used to read Scalzi's blog, Whatever, and he's such a sharp writer that I hesitate to blame the errors (mixed tenses in particular) on the author. Eh, whatever. It's a crazy-fun ride.  

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  1. Yep, yep, yep!! Adored The Rosie Project. Such a sweet and funny book.

    1. I know you did! So happy that your enthusiasm was among those that nudged me to buy. I loved it. :)

  2. So we obviously are reading twins. I felt the same as you regarding The Returned and Red Shirts, although I think you are always more generous than I am. I wasn't so forgiving when I found out The Returned wasn't really a Sci Fi or going to provide answers...I got bored and couldn't get through it fast enough at that point. And Red Shirts? I'm trying to remember if I noticed those errors....I read it last year before the Hugo Awards were announced and you know my memory is sketchy at best. I did like the book (thought it was the best of the Hugo nominees) but thought he went a little over the edge towards the end. Ah well. It was still good.

    As for the Rosie Project....it sits gathering virtual dust on my Kindle. I do promise to get to it soon since you loved it and therefore I know I will too. I will use it as a palate cleanser in between dark dystopia. :)

    1. It was a strange jolt when I realized what the deal was with The Returned and I was definitely disappointed. If I'd known what it was *really* about going in, I probably would not have read it at all. But, even recently (although my dad died in 1990 - you'd think that kind of thing would eventually stop) I've had that kind of a dream and I can see why he did what he did, so I guess that's why it didn't, you know, piss me off and make me feel like I'd just wasted X hours of my precious time. I can see why you weren't forgiving. I definitely wanted it to be sci-fi and desired answers. It would have been a lot more fun if it had been, IMHO.

      I agree with you completely about Redshirts. I think he went way overboard. Again, when I got to the end I was okay with where he took us but I personally think it would have been a better book if he'd dropped the final 100 pages - ditched the codas completely.

      The Rosie project is great for when you need a fluff break. Good idea. Sandwich that sucker between a couple of dystopian reads. It's a nice little upper.

    2. Also, serious yeah to the twins thing. So cool that we're getting to know each other. I love finding reading twins!

  3. ew. I listened to Redshirts on audio so I wouldn't have encountered the typos. That's annoying! I really need to read The Rosie Project.

    1. It didn't kill me but I was surprised by the number of typos.

      Yes, you need to read The Rosie Project, Kelly. It is such a fun book!

  4. Yay! So glad that you enjoyed The Rosie Project. Such a fun book, and the author is a lot of fun to listen to in person too! As for The Returned, I was a little underwhelmed. I have been seeing the adverts for the TV series recently so I guess that can't be far away.

    1. Wasn't The Rosie Project awesome, Marg? I'm betting you read it way in advance of the Americans.

      I haven't looked at other reviews of The Returned but it sounds like I'm in the minority for not being crushed when I realized it wasn't sci-fi. I do think it could have been a much better book if it was and if the questions were answered. Oh, well. I don't regret reading it. :)

  5. Well, I'm sold on The Rosie Project, but I'm on the fence about The Returned. The premise sounds intriguing, but if you and other readers were disappointed/underwhelmed, maybe I should just skip it.


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