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on July 22, 2012 :
(WARNING: major spoilers throughout)
Yawn. I've already written an extensive review of the first book in this series, Oxygen, so I won't bloviate too much in this review (unlike the last one!). In short, I liked this book even less than the last one. The razor-thin characters are still here, the horrifically-executed "love story" between Bob and valkerie still drags its mouldering corpse across the pages, and hey, our sexy tough female Asian (Diversity!) reporter... err, astronaut finally makes an appearance! Yay! But this is pretty much the same mix of implausibility and smart people doing dumb things that the the first book was.
Where to start? How about the junior high school-level "romance" between Bob and Valkerie (geez, why couldn't they just have spelled her name correctly?!)? I'm surprised they don't start passing notes to each other and carving their initials in Martian rocks. Bob's still a bumbling idiot, alienating everyone he comes near, but gosh darn it, Valkerie still stubbornly loves the big ol' lug despite his every effort to make himself completely unattractive. There's no tension here because we KNOW they'll get together in the end.
How about the fact that the authors continually maniuplate you into believing things that aren't true? Does Valkerie really see an alien when she looks out the window? Or how about when she's in the cave at the beginning of the book? I don't know. She's our main POV character, but when that character may or may not be imagining things, it gets very difficult to know what's going on or to trust anything she sees. I guess that's the authors' intent, but unreliable narrators are usually left in the realm of first-person POV novels, not third-person.
And what's with the kid gloves in the way they handle Kennedy. The dude is utterly nuts and TRIES TO KILL THEM, but they gamely keep giving him opportunities to kill them again and again. Haven't these characters ever heard of three strikes laws?! And what's with the idea of traipsing about without spacesuits? (for example, when Bob and Lex take the rover to check on a seemingly-wounded Kennedy) Seems like a good way to get yourself killed pretty quick on such a harsh environment as Mars.
And hey, whoa, what? Bob EXPOSES HIMSELF TO THE MARTIAN ATMOSPHERE WITHOUT A SPACESUIT? I think he gets a little freezer burn but is otherwise fine. Mmmkay.
More false leads with EECOM being the scapegoat that we're set up to believe, some hilarious SUPER-ROVER attacks on the main habitation unit on Mars (how exactly is one able to control a rover on Mars from Earth when there's a 20 minute delay in receiving signals EACH WAY?) and then a breathless escape from the planet made possible by the inexplicable sacrifice of the formerly-crazy Kennedy... blah. This book really had little reason for being other than to make the sequel that the publisher wanted. The authors obviously had very little "story" to go on for this one (Oxygen: 156,000+ words, 5th Man: 140,000+ words. Both of which include lengthy appendixes) and had to inject dramatic tension by misleading the reader repeatedly.
Oh hey, the main love interest of Josh/Jake/Jim (really, who cares, any generic name will do for this generic character) is the REAL bad guy because her dad died from getting AIDS from a dentist and she's adamant about preventing the Martian astronauts from returning to Earth and potentially contaminating the planet with Martian bacteria. Mmmkay. So she's a scientist, and a very good one, but also completely irrational? Getting AIDS from a dentist? What are the odds there, buckaroo? One in a billion? It's pretty much like the rest of this book: completely implausible.
I'm disappointed, because I thought Randy would write better books than this due to his excellent writing advice. I give him credit for completing the writing of the books and for the sales and credit he's earned for them, but for my money (and yes, I did give him some of my money, so he wins in the end!), these two books were highly-disappointing and simply bad literature.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)
M. J. Carlson
on June 24, 2012 :
What a great book! Usually sequels don't match the intensity of the original. This book is an exception.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)