Tag Archives: Character Development

JUST FINISHED: Stone Mattress

Author: Margaret Atwood

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Atwood’s “Stone Mattress” is a compilation of nine different short stories. Each tale is from a new perspective and time, though some are interweaved to relate back to other stories within the book.

One commonality that most of the short stories have is that the main character is elderly. This was a new one for me since most books that I do read never have a leading elder character. Having a point of view from that age group is fairly rare in fiction. Often, if a book is told from an older age, it’s a perspective looking back in time, not in the present. A present POV from an older person has a totally different effect with interesting thoughts on life and its future outcomes.

Each character has their own set of dimensions and each of them even manage to develop into likeable (or some unlikeable) people in the end. I find it impressive that the author can expel so much information and personality in such short instances.

Each tale has its own emotion, whether that be sad, angry, lost, confused, dark, comical, futuristic, or unexplainable. Atwood is fantastic at writing interesting characters from all walks of life and being able to dwell in several types of genres.

It was certainly fun to read a book filled with short stories, as I myself aim to actually write one worthy to even be called a short story. If you enjoy quick reads and are wanting a new age perspective for reading, this book is your go to. If not, I would still recommend you give it a try. You could even just pick one out of the nine.

JUST FINISHED: The Martian

Author: Andy Weir

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

So I’m just going to come right out with it—I hated this book. I actually hated it. There was no part I enjoyed. No part that fancied my imagination. I hated all of it.

Harsh, right? Well, let’s discover the why.

Reason one: numbers. There are way too many numbers and equations in this book. ‘I have x amount of water. At X liters per day, it will last X many days. I need to find more water for X additional days if I don’t want to die.’ This is too much information that I don’t care about. I could care less about the exactness of the situation. I only need to know that he doesn’t have enough water and needs more. And it’s not just the water, it’s about the soil, the growth rate of plants, and on and on and on.

Reason two: the mechanics. This book strives to be a non-fiction manual on how to survive Mars. Yes, a manual. You know like your car manual, that thick-paged book you shoved to the back of your glove box never to be opened? Every system gets described in depth in this novel. From the research center (HAB) to a rover to batteries and more. More information that is not needed!

Reason three: the main character. The character of Mark Watney is obnoxious and self-absorbed. Maybe he was supposed to be that way, but it’s comes off as really annoying to a reader. He is unrealistic and sarcastic to the point that I often just closed the book. For someone who may be doomed to death on Mars, he doesn’t actual seem to really care in the long run. It’s more of a big joke for him. And that loses all of the plot suspense (if there ever was any).

Reason four: unrealistic dialogue. First correspondence back to NASA from Watney: “…Really looking forward to not dying. I want to make it clear it wasn’t the crew’s fault. Side question: What did they say when they found out I was alive? Also, “Hi, Mom!”.” Then there is extreme overuse of the word “Yay!” and things like “Look! A pair of boobs!-> (.Y.)”. Enough said.

Reason five: unrealistic situations. Getting stranded on Mars, possible. Finding a way out of every bad thing that happens in good time, not possible. Come on Weir, everybody fails at something. There are many difficulties presented in the book but for one individual to miraculous solve every problem and it all go to plan is ridiculous. Also, boring and predictable. I didn’t even have to make it to the last chapter to know how this one would end.

Reason six: zero character development. Watney is the exact same person you met on page one of the book as you will know by the end. The other characters introduced just fade to the background. They are stereotypical people: shy computer programmer, remorseful captain, feisty PR woman, resourceful/strong-willed leader.  There is little more to them. Even their choice of words and thought patterns are stereotypes.

I will give credit to Weir for an outstanding amount of research to produce this book to the nth degree of accuracy. Apparently he started work as a “programmer at a national laboratory at age fifteen” with hobbies in “relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned space flight.” That explains a good deal of why this book turned out the way it did.

I wanted a nice space thriller with some intensity and what I got was a bland book filled with endless clichés and numbers (and I’m an engineer!). I’ve read other comments on this book where people took it more as a comedy, and perhaps that’s a better light to see it in. But even then, I didn’t find it funny. This book contains way too many meaningless situations and empty relationships void of development. Just a little bit of imagination, that’s all I ask for.

Would I recommend it to you? Only if you are infatuated with astronauts and space.  Otherwise, I would just wait for the movie because you might actually enjoy it more than the book.

JUST FINISHED: A Game of Thrones, books 1-5

Author: George R.R. Martin

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

With all the hype surrounding the Game of Thrones series thanks to the HBO television show, I decided to take a look into it myself. I have seen none of the televised version and quite honestly knew only that it was of the sci-fi/fantasy genre as far as the books were concerned.

I started this series with a blank slate on the author and the subject matter. Truly my favorite way to begin any book is as if it were a secret written for your eyes only. Although surprised by the shear length of each volume, I enjoyed this series whole-heartedly. It’s not often that I come across a fantasy set that piques my attention for so long. If the author has me thinking about the characters even when I’m not reading the book, they’ve done a fantastic job.

Speaking of characters, there are many and more throughout the Game of Thrones epic. Martin tells each chapter from a different character’s perspective, giving you an insight to many plots and ploys and often revealing the truth of the person that lies within. There are so many characters that I love and others that I love to hate and then there are just a few that I find vexing beyond comprehension.

One particular thing I appreciate is how each of the characters in this series has evolved. They have grown into actual people, developing depth and nature.  I believe it is a beautiful process when an author can paint a character so vividly in the mind’s eye that they become simply human. There is something elementary to how the reader then relates to characters that could be themselves.

Aside from the writing side of it, the logistics of keeping up with a handful of characters like this is mind-blowing to me. Just to think of all of the backstory, the house standards, the histories, the timing of the events, the placement of the people, the customs, and on and on….how did (and does) he keep up with it? There are several vines of plots that twist throughout yet he is able to keep them just intertwined but not to the point where they completely cut one another off. I think I would have to take a whole wall in my house and map everything out to do something of this magnitude, and even then I don’t think I could succeed. I find the ability to keep such a log correct and straight admirable.

Another aspect I want to hit on for these books is the level of detail. Now I’m not a huge fan of giving away too much; I like it when authors give hints of the outlining of the character and let the reader fill in the rest. Martin gives no room for such imagining by the reader. Everything down to the eye color is pinpointed. Every inn, every alley, every meal (oh, so many meals!), every clothing piece, etc. was described in depth. Some great visualizations, some too much in terms of unnecessary description. For this series I feel like an exception could be made for the extreme level of detail as his descriptions make up a lot of the book. The descriptions help to give the contrasts between the peoples, countries, and customs which are very important for this particular series due to the complexities of the plots.

The only major complaint I have is on the amount of sexual content that can be found in the text. I understand the need to have some scenes of that nature within a book to develop relationships and characters; but, I think Martin has a little excess in the series. For me, some sections were to the point where I felt like the exhibit was there just for the shock factor. The same kind of writing would be used in some of the violent sections as well. Shocking a reader to keep them engaged is a little on the deceitful side. To me it’s like: “Hey, I don’t have anything to put here, so let’s put in a shocking sex scene to prove character A’s aggression instead of finding an alternative scenario and get me from point A to B without the reader noticing.” Perhaps it’s just me and I’m a little old fashioned on those thoughts, but many a good books have been written without a shock factor.

Overall, I found this series to be exciting, intriguing, and complex. I’m am certainly looking forward to the next one (or two), so get writing George! If you’re a fan of the fantasy/adventure genre with a good amount of revenge and tactic, you’ll enjoy this one, too.