The Martian by Andy Weir. Near future SF: an astronaut stranded on Mars after an emergency evacuation has to survive long after the mission should have ended.
Liked this a lot. Lots of convincing technical detail: orbital mechanics play a big part, and previous Mars missions are relevant. The protagonist is appealingly determined and irreverent. Pretty tense with various problems occurring and a certain amount of human drama too.
I liked the way after the Boring Bureaucrat has his plans for the usual thorough rocket inspection overruled, it blows up on launch with an avoidable problem.
Certainly one of the best hard SF novels I've read in ages. Definitely worth a read if you like the genre.
What I'm Reading 2
Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child. Jack Reacher is riding the New York subway when he spots a nervous-looking woman who kills herself with a magnum revolver when he speaks to her. Straightforward suicide... or a complex conspiracy that needs to be unravelled by a burly ex-military investigator? You guess.
Previous entries in Jack Reacher's life: picking up his dry-cleaning and being abducted along with a federal agent by a psychotic militia; ordering a coffee and witnessing a kidnapper pick up a random; hitching a lift and finding the driver wants someone to murder her husband; going for a restaurant meal and ending up beating a protection racket gangster then getting blackmailed by the FBI for it; trying to cross a town and being run out of it by millenial fundamentalists busy bringing about armageddon. If I were him I'd probably just stay indoors and drink tap water by now.
Managed to get a day into town and go to some exhibitions, just like in the before-time, in the long-long-ago before the baby.
Inventing Impressionism at the National Gallery is based on art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who played a key role in promoting the Impressionists, but kept a lot of the good stuff for his own collection. Fantastic exhibition of beautiful paintings, starting out before the impressionists and keeping going. Well worth seeing.
Wellington at the National Portrait Gallery is tiny but free exhibition. Has lot of satirical cartoons of the Duke of Wellington, a couple of portraits, and fascinatingly a small photograph: he was in his seventies when it was taken.
If you take a short walk you can see Bonaparte and the British at the British Museum: a larger exhibition with a lot of cartoons of Napoleon, and also some Napoleonic propaganda. I thought the Gillray cartoon Democracy: or a Sketch of the Life of Buonaparte was interesting for its mocking of democracy.
Also saw the Ancient Lives, New Discoveries exhibition at the BM, based on four mummies of different social status, using X-rays and cat scans to look inside. Bit disappointed by this given all the hype. There are a bunch of interactive displays where you painstakingly turn a wheel and see different cross-sections emerge, but in usability terms it doesn't offer any advantages over a series of picture. Might work better on-line. Some of the actual exhibits are interesting though: I liked the model brewery with one row of people mashing, another row sieving, and another preparing the beer, making sure the Pharoah had plenty to drink in the afterlife. Found the dead kid oddly disturbing since he's roughly the same age and size as my son.
I really liked the Defining Beauty exhibition of Greek and Roman sculpture. (It's theoretically Greek but relies heavily of Roman copies as usual: not much of what is shown "Greek sculpture" is actually Greek.) The highlight for me was a room showing what the statues might have looked like painted. There used the different options: people debate whether the sculptures were entirely painted or left partly stone, so they showed examples either way. The most impressive was an imagining of what the Phidias sculpture of Athena on the Parthenon might have looked like: covered in gold but with piercing blue eyes. Worth seeing.
Socioeconomics. Britain's terrible economic discourse.
Politics. Je ne suis pas liberal: Entering the quagmire of online leftism, via. Lesbian misogyny? Via. Different pollster's methods. Government forbids private prison company from allowing a visit by penal reformer.
Articles. Paid Russian web commenter tells all. 5 historical graphic novels. How to survive a British prison, full book. Men you meet travelling by plane (I'm at least three of them). The micro-genre of "Islamophobic futurism".
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