REIGN Ep. 48 – There’s Only So Much I Can Do (The Martian, part 2, finale)

Mount Mark

Listen to Episode:

This book is “Castaway” for the space age. It’s a story of struggle and survival on a hostile world that astronaut Mark Watney is forced to make his home.

A spoiler free(ish) video review is here: Man vs. Mars | The Martian BOOK REVIEW 

Some of my favorite parts (spoilers ahead): when Mark had to think extremely quickly after he’s launched out of his HAB home by a decompression. The airlock was launched with him and it’s slowly leaking. He has to stop the leak in the airlock (the almighty duct tape!), then do some extreme modifications to his spacesuit with a cracked faceplate – nothing major, just cut one of the suit’s arms off, use it to cover the smashed helmet and seal both openings with his supersticky goo. The seal isn’t airtight, so he does the math on how much oxygen he has (4 minutes) before he makes a run for it to the HAB to get another suit, then hop into the rover before suffocating. Intense stuff.

After surviving a year and a half on Mars, Mark is on the verge of rescue. His rover trip to an evacuation site with a launch vehicle almost ends in his death because of a huge dust storm that is so immense (it could last months) that it slowly descends on Mark without him knowing. His solar cells are slowly getting less power because of the increasing sand particles in the air. He only realizes there is a storm when he leaves the rover to stand on the edge of a huge crater and realizes that he can only see a limited way in one direction of the horizon. Smart guy. He now knows the danger he’s in. Go in the wrong direction. Mark dies. Turn back. Mark dies. Try to beeline through the crater. Mark dies.

The solution he comes up with is amazing – as usual. He lays out solar cells 40 kilometers apart and videotapes the readings so he can come back and collect them later and calculate exactly how much solar energy each gets at a certain time of day. He can use the readings to find out the direction of the storm and then drive in the opposite direction, hoping that it’s a circular storm and maintain enough solar energy to get out of it. (DISCLAIMER: I completely failed at explaining the science of this book, so don’t trust anything more than my general descriptions.) One of my favorite quotes.

The storm is probably circular. They usually are. But I could just be driving into an alcove. If that’s the case, I’m just f&*%ing dead, okay? There’s only so much I can do.

Mark’s honesty, humor and courage are the core of the book. He never wavers and shows a determination and hope that represent the best of who we are. His crew too has some amazing moments in the few pages that they appear. All are memorable from Commander Lewis (“I left him behind. In a barren, unreachable, goforsaken wasteland.”) to Martinez (“Who would you have eaten first?”) to Johanssen, Vogel and Beck.

Long live the Ares 3 crew and long live Mark Watney!


REIGN Ep. 47 – The MacGyver of Mars (The Martian pt1)

The Martian

Listen to Episode:

This book is stunning. You read the first-hand account of astronaut Mark Watney, who is stranded on Mars alone with no means of communication with Earth or hope of escape. It would take years for a rescue mission to arrive. His survival instinct is extraordinary and he uses all his experience, intellect and training to carefully map out a plan that will give him the best shot of staying alive until the next Mars mission. His sheer ingenuity and resourcefulness make for a riveting tale. His wit, his vulnerability, his determination all show through and we see a human being unwilling to surrender in even the most insurmountable of odds. This man vs. nature tale is set in the most extreme of environments and science is Mark’s tool to beat the red planet. It’s amazingly funny, emotional, realistic and it will pull you in from the first page.

REIGN Ep. 35 – Confronting Evil Head On (The Great Hunt, WOT book 2, pt3)

Listen to Episode:


The conclusion to the Great Hunt was impressive with its grand stage setting and gripping confrontations. The story feels urgent with the odds seemly stacked against our group, which now faces powerful ageless forces separately and on different fronts.

Spoilers: My favorite part by far is the introduction of the marauder army from across the sea. The Aes Sedai are the most powerful group which wields the One Power, or so we thought. We see that women with the One Power are enslaved by this army from across the sea, being held as captives with silver collars and leashes that keep them under complete control. Jordan’s description of their enslavement was brilliant and utterly despairing. Egwene, whose control of the One Power is just beginning, is captured and we see her tortured. It shows that this series is growing up quickly. Nynaeve’s sheer will and determination make her the perfect force to counter this evil. Her trials to rescue Egwene make this one of my favorite parts of the book.

REIGN Ep. 34 – Let’s Just Survive This in One Piece (The Great Hunt, WOT book 2, pt2)

Listen to Episode:


(Spoiler-light) The wielding of an uncontrollable power takes Rand down a dangerous path, where many will seek to either use or destroy him. The group of friends from the Two Rivers are forced to separate and each of their journeys is amazing. The hunt itself is wild and wondrous and Rand battles foes, other dimensions, and his own fear. The places Rand and his band of Shienaran soldiers go in pursuit of the horn really open up the world and the scenes are vivid and unforgettable – those Trollocs and Fades are some evil creatures.

Nynaeve and Egwene explore the world of the Aes Sedai and they must protect each other in the growing darkness and uncertainty. One of my favorite parts of the book is the inside look at the mythology and rites of the Aes Sedai. The multiple Ajah sects within the sisterhood and their unique traits are fascinating to watch play out.

REIGN Ep. 33 – Get Your Hunt On (The Great Hunt, WOT book 2, pt1)

Listen to Episode:

The Great Hunt, book two in the Hugo-nominated Wheel of Time series, picks up right where the first book left off. This presents a rich exploration of the characters’ conflicts and motivations that each must face in this next leg of the journey. There’s no fast forwarding of the narrative with convenient resolutions that take place without the reader. This immerses us in the world and shows the crossroads at which this saga lies. Any story with an ensemble cast worth reading is able to show how each character deals with competing agendas and the process each goes through in deciding the path they must take. Let the hunt begin!


REIGN Ep. 32 – I Guessed the Ending, But Who Cares (Diablo, The Sin War Book1, pt2, finale)

Listen to Episode:


My buddy Jon put the question out there: Should we even finish this book? I voted yes because 1- I thought, against all hope, it might get better and 2- we couldn’t legitimately warn people away from it if we didn’t finish it ourselves. And, quite honestly, as I read on, I realized I had to find out how bad this book would get. It was a train wreck. All told, the group in the story did a little more wandering around, got into some nasty fights, fled, and in the end, kinda won, I think. (This is a trilogy, but there is no way you could pay me to read the rest.) I made a fickle prediction about how the book would end. One plot guess: the best buddy would bite the dust (spoiler: he did) and the second was the mysterious woman would hook back up with the fallen angel guy. After the best bud went bye bye, I started to actually pay attention. Would I go 2 for 2? It didn’t look hopeful as I reached the last few pages. My lucky streak was about to be up. But the last paragraph literally had the mystery woman revealing her devious plans to reunite with her beloved fallen angel guy. I laughed hard for a good 30 seconds. I will remember the book simply b/c I guessed the contrived and unoriginal ending. This book is that bad.

REIGN Ep. 31 – Fantasy That Fizzles Bad (Diablo, The Sin War Book 1, pt1)

Listen to Episode:


Uldyssian is the hero, I think, and his friends are trying to help him, we think. The women seemingly have nothing more to do than be mysterious or fawn over him. The story goes from point A to point B, introduces some characters who are quickly dispatched, our main character develops some nonsensical powers, he’s blamed for murder, then he must run. His friends join him, along with the mysterious woman, and they flee to where? The forest. And then they go in circles and get attacked. Everyone is worried, but no one knows what to do and altogether – between cut scenes with the bad guy – I wonder what I’m reading and why I’m reading it. Suffer with us on this weird, anemic entry into fantasy fiction. There is one high point – the book is mercifully short.

REIGN Ep. 30 – Choose Again (Rise of Endymion, pt3, finale)

Listen to Episode:


The fate of life, free will, a higher level of existence and harmony with the universe is pared down to these two simple words: Choose Again. The finale to Dan Simmons’ science fiction masterwork is shocking, poignant and one of the most grippingly emotional human stories I have ever read. I felt a sense of loss, hope, gratitude and awe at the mysteries Simmons weaved and the insight we glimpsed into a universe sewn together not by science, but by the intangible power of love. It’s not as cheesy as it sounds, but to say more is to spoil this story that has so much to offer and in my mind is a resounding achievement in science fiction and the human imagination. RoE’s characters display every facet of humanity – our triumphs and our failings – and explores the depths of the universe – the possibilities of other worlds and other plains of existence. The story is anchored by its lead characters who show the best of who we want to be and who never give up even in the face of relentless evil. It is a love story, an epic across space and time, a journey to find faith, and a beautiful homage to the spirit of the human race. Listen to the podcast as we share our thoughts on the best of what this story had to offer.


REIGN Ep. 29 – A Lifetime of Adventure and Love (Rise of Endymion, pt2)

Listen to Episode:


Our characters are perpetual nomads, refugees with no home, but they are guided by a strong sense of destiny that takes them across half the populated galaxy, again. The worlds are simply amazing and we are given this deep experience of what it’s like to be in these places, to feel the exotic cultures and to see our group of survivors adapt to them. Raul goes through one of the most truly remarkable and harrowing experiences imaginable (even having experienced a lifetime of adventures). The reunion of Raul and Aenea on T’ien Shan is beautiful, and the setting – on a world of mountains – is unforgettable in its grandeur. The humans on the world must live on the mountaintops away from the acid ocean surface. Life there is rugged and made for the strong, with zip lines, cliffside walkways, and mountain climbing the only way to travel the world. The people there live on the precipice, both literally and figuratively as one of the last strong free worlds not controlled by the Pax. This adventure gets serious and very passionate as we approach humankind’s final trial.


REIGN Ep. 28 – Unexpected Path to Destiny (Rise of Endymion, pt1)

Listen to Episode:


This is the finale to the Hyperion series. It’s a bittersweet realization to see this epic saga end knowing that these characters will leave us forever. But it’s also an exciting prospect to see this masterwork wrapped up and how Simmons deals with some weighty and ambitious issues that he has built up over four books and two generations.

We’ll take this in baby steps. Listen to part 1 of 3 of the book discussion to see how man’s final reach for an enlightened destiny begins. We have the reintroduction of the cradle of civilization, Aenea’s ascendancy to messiah status to restore humanity, and our favorite male hero Raul, who almost gets sidelined by kidney stones. Yes, even in the far flung future, they have kidney stones. Spoilercast ahead.