Book 77: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

PIMG_0211Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Finished reading on September 28, 2013

Rating 9/10

Norwegian Wood is an intertwining story of the lives of several people in 1968-1970 in Japan. The main character and narrator is Toru Watanabe, who is studying at a university and living in a dormitory. It is a time of student uprisings and seems like an interesting period.

The main story revolves around Watanabe’s friend Naoko, who was Watanebe’s best friend’s, Kizaki’s,  girlfriend.   Kizaki committed suicide and left Naoko in a rather odd state and that’s what Watanabe has to deal with in the book. But naturally being a student, he’s not cut off from other people. He meets a girl named Midori in a lecture, they become friends, but then there’s a lot going on in Midori’s life and drama ensues…

In some ways it’s kind of philosophical, showing different ways of looking at life and even studying and relationships.

It was a really good read.

And a movie was made based on this book.

 

 

 

Book 76: The Perks of Being A Wallflower by S. Chbosky

Finished reading on September 21, 2013

Rating 7/10

I think this book would be more interesting if it were read before  watching the movie, as it quite often happens with books that get turned into movies. Although for example with ‘It’s kind of a Funny Story’ I did still really like the book despite having seen the movie several times.

Anyway, to those who are considering watching the movie, try reading the book first. They’re I think almost exactly the same…

I liked it, but since I knew what is going to happen or what it’s all about then it wasn’t as exciting as it could have been.

 

 

 

Book 75: Mission to Mars by Buzz Aldrin

PIMG_3308Mission to Mars by Buzz Aldrin

Finished reading on September 20, 2013

Rating 7/10

Mission to Mars tells about the vision that Buzz Aldrin has for Mars missions. Known best for him being the other astronaut to be on the Moon with Neil Armstrong, he has a long history and connection to such missions.

However, while for example Zubrin supports the Mars Direct plan which would send men to Mars for around 6 months, then return them and send the next ones, then Aldrin’s vision was a slight surprise for me, but I have to say it does seem even a tad bit more exciting than Zubrin’s. Namely instead of just having many missions to Mars, Aldrin would rather support colonization of Mars instead of a few rare astronauts leaving their footprints in the Red Planet’s soil.

For example one part of Aldrin’s mission would be to use cycling spacecraft, that keep orbiting around Earth and Mars and one would have to take a smaller and faster spacecraft to get to this “interplanetary taxi”.

There were some other interesting points in the book as well, and it is filled with pictures, either artist’s impressions of different spacecraft or photos of previous missions etc.

I think this would be a good introduction to the topic of Mars Missions, but if you know more about them already, then there might be little new in this book for you.

 

Book 74: Strange New Worlds by Ray Jayawardhana

Finished reading on September 17, 2013

8/10

“Strange New Worlds” is a book about the exoplanets. That is planets that circle some other star and not the Sun.   The first time that exoplanets were mentioned in scientific literature was already in 1855, but the fist discovery of an exoplanet came only in 1995.

The book describes all of the different  types of exoplanets and the methods how to find them. So for example one can use the Doppler method, measuring the red- or blue-shift of a stars light as it moves towards or away from us because of the planet’s gravitational force. Or astrometry, where you’d measure the difference in the stars location, or something that the Kepler satellite did – measure the stars light-curve and see whether there’s any indication of transits – that is whether there are small dips in the stars brightness that might indicate the presence of a planet around that star.

Since exoplanets are a hot topic in astronomy, I’d really recommend reading this book, you’d get almost all of the background information you need about exoplanets.

 

Book 73: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Finished reading on September 7, 2013

Rating 8/10

This book is a story told by a Pakistani named Changez to a foreigner he has just met in Lahore. Changez tells him about how he got his first job after finishing his studies in Princeton and how he goes to a trip with his classmates to Greece and there finds a girl named Erica.

Changez’ story continues with him coming back from his travels and the twin towers have fallen. Now his life is about to change – he wears a beard that doesn’t help him make new or keep old acquaintances, as it’s a reminder of the terrorist attacks.

Also there’s some drama going on with Erica, who Changez falls in love with, but who has had a difficult time in the past few years and disappears in the end.

There’s also this question up in the air, whether there will be a war between Pakistan and India or not.

As an addition to the story that Changez is telling, there are also these events in the present that are going on – he is sitting in a restaurant with this foreigner, and eating dinner with him and drinking with him, and they leave together, and there’s always this suspicion that either Changez or the foreigner is not who he’s trying to appear as, and the book ends with a kind of mystery.

I guess the reader has to continue thinking about the book on their own, to guess what was in the foreigner’s pocket… If you want to find out, why that’s the last question that remains, then read this book.

And here the author is reading  some parts of the book:

You can find out more about the writer  on his homepage here.

Book 72: Mars: The Dusty Planet by Ellen Lawrence

Camera 360Mars: the Dusty Planet by Ellen Lawrence

Published by Ruby Tuesday Books, 2013

24 pages

Finished reading on September 5, 2013

Rating 4/10

Today at work I had an amazing chance to read this book, that had no new information in it for me at all. It’s not too surprising, since as anyone can see from the previous reviews, there have been “The Mighty Mars Rovers” and “The Case for Mars” on my reading list recently.

I’m guessing the audience for this book would be either children who have just learnt to read, or the purpose of the book is the images that the parent can point at and read the short and simple text to an even younger child.

As a real introduction to the planet Mars, it’s similar to Mars in it’s dryness.

There are lots of other better and more informative space books out there.

Basically it was just boring. And short.

Though I did find one sentence there really funny. It went something like this: “Curiosity is taking pictures of itself on Mars”. Me, having the wild imagination as always, thought of it as a tourist taking a picture of himself/herself with a famous landmark like the Eiffel Tower, but Curiosity is being a lot cooler and trying to say “Look at me! This is where I am!”

 

 

Book 71: The Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin

PIMG_1396The Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin

Finished reading on September 3, 2013

Rating 9/10

This was the best book about a possible manned Mars mission I’ve read this far.

The Case for Mars tells about the Mars Direct mission, which would be able to send manned missions to Mars by 2025 and enable humans to stay there for up to a year and a half for exploration purposes.

The mission architecture and design is really interesting and one of the cheapest ones ever proposed.

Basically for that mission they’d need a rather heavyweight launch rocket to send first an Earth Return Vehicle to Mars that would there put up a chemical plant for supplying the ERV with rocket fuel for the trip back.

During the next launch window a manned crew with a habitation module would be sent off on a six month trip to Mars on a trajectory, which would enable them to get safely back to Earth if anything went wrong almost up to reaching Mars, since it could be launched on a free-return orbit.

Now that’s just one part of it. There are lots of details and possibilities and other interesting information of how a Mars mission could be conducted, what kind of technologies would have to be developed or what now existing technologies could be put into use in order to utilize a lot of resources already available on Mars. For example how to get water, how to get electrical power, what kind of building materials might be possible for the future colonizers. But it goes into even more interesting territory – namely terraforming – how to get the atmospheric pressure on Mars up to higher levels, how to get the surface temperature higher by using different methods to get the greenhouse effect going strong.

So all in all – it was a fabulous book for any space geek and I believe it would be interesting even for a common reader who knows next to nothing about space exploration and such.

As an added bonus one also gets a short overview of some of the other missions to Mars that have been proposed and the reasons why Mars Direct would be a better and more cost-efficient way to go. For example for some missions it would be necessary to have a manned base on the Moon or to assemble a huge interplanetary spaceship in Earth orbit (has to be done there because of it’s huge size). As another thing the heavier the spaceship itself, the more powerful the launch vehicle has to be. For example for the Mars Direct mission the requirements aren’t much higher than the former US Saturn V launcher or the Russian Energia rocket. Another point there is how long the mission would stay on Mars or whether there would be an orbiting module around Mars and just a part of the crew goes down to Mars and for how long.

In general just an excellent book.

If you want a good space exploration book, read this one!