“Design Is a Job” by Mike Monteiro.
“Educated: A Memoir” by Tara Westover.
The audiobook version of “The Martian” by Andy Weir is also great.
I also listen to a number of audiobooks about self-compassion and positive parenting.
This is actually a similar idea to the latest novel by Andy Weir (Author of "The Martian"), "Project Hail Mary", which is great and I highly recommend if you liked "The Martian".
Lot of great recommendations in here. The Martian by Andy Weir is my pick. Absolutely exhilarating.
Artemis by Andy Weir (the author of The Martian) its pretty good to relax before sleep
- Andy Weir
I'm not an avid reader, but the way this book was written (mostly journal style) and the humor just pulled me in. Glad I'm almost done reading it before the movie comes out and spoils anything.
+1 (+2?) for Deep Work and Ready Player One. Read both this year, and both are excellent. Also really liked The Martian.
Really cool! This reminds of Andy Weir's The Martian (I highly recommend the book - there was a movie as well - especially the chapters that touch on some programming!) and the lead characters clever efforts to use what (bio)tech he has in order to survive on Mars.
+1 for The Martian - fantastic book!
I was hoping this article would be about "The Hail Mary" which is an amazing book by the author of The Martian that involves a starship. I listened to the audio book and basically binged the last quarter of it. It's rare to find something so good I prefer it over streaming TV shows & movies.
I cannot recommend audio books highly enough. I've been promising my daughter to read Harry Potter for years, but only with the audiobook have I been able to fit it into my schedule. I also finished The Martian on audiobook, which was probably the most riveting book that I've read since childhood.
I just read Andy Weir's The Martian in one day -- it was (obviously) fantastic. I highly recommend it.
I'm enjoying The Martian by Andy Weir.
Yeah, I read Seveneves, then The Martian and many things felt very familiar. I have to say, however, I was very annoyed with the style of The Martian.
Serialized fiction is basically how many many classics came to us. Today, lots of online fiction, like Andy Weir's The Martian or Scott Alexander's Unsong, starts out as serialized fiction that comes out in sections. The episodic model for books isn't novel.
The Martian was fantastic and the author is a programmer. I recently got hooked on the Bobiverse books and their author is a programmer too. In fact, I wholly recommend anyone reading this to check both of those out :) Super fun books
Seconded. The main character came off a lot like Mark Watney from The Martian, but what a great, quick read Artemis was.
"Thanks! I wrote The Egg in an evening but it took years to write The Martian
. Sometimes I'm a little sad that The Martian wasn't anywhere near as popular, but I guess it's a niche readership. Hard sci-fi isn't for everyone."
I’ve read the first two but will certainly check out the third. I loved The Martian, but Artemis wasn’t my jam. Felt too far fetched to me.
The Martian is a thoroughly agreeable read. I thought it might be a bit dry but it's interspersed with some really funny bits that made me laugh out loud.
I can attest to this. I don't read that much (trying to change that), but I so badly wanted to re-read The Martian because it's just that good, and I must say I enjoyed it even more.
For space sci-fi fans, I highly recommend the new book by Andy Weir, Project Hail Mary. Andy Weir is the writer of The Martian
Similar story line but detailed enginnering skills.
Depends on what you mean by 'rose to prominence', but Andy Weir's The Martian (being one of the most fun science-y novels I've read in recent years) started life as a number of blog entries before being self-published (only to be picked up by a 'real' publisher once the buzz had started)
I read The Martian, Snow Crash, and Ready Player One over the course of a month or two. All three of those books have their flaws but I enjoy the style and page turning nature of them a lot.
There is a bit more character development in new Weir’s book - Project Hail Mary, but it still is a great book. Not as great as The Martian, but solid second.
is a much better read as a technical manual to surviving in low-resource/low-water environment.
Andy Weir was on the 'Imaginary Worlds' podcast recently for anyone interested . He's nominally plugging his latest book, but most of the interview is about how he came to write The Martian
(when he was a software developer by trade)
"Seveneves" by Neal Stephenson was a great read. (The last third is almost a different book and can be skipped imho). You mentioned you liked The Martian so I think you'll like this one.
If you are going to read one sci-fi book this year, read "Ready Player One" or "The Martian". Don't waste your hours on Cixin Liu. :)
The Gene: An Intimate History
Currently reading Sapiens: A brief history of humankind. I would recommend all these books, if you're interested in the subjects they are written about.
It's difficult to write galaxy spanning fiction without some form of FTL communication. Even Isaac Asimov uses "ultrawave relays" in Foundation.
If Foundation isn't hard sci-fi anymore, what's left? Only books like The Martian that don't leave our solar system?
I read from screens all day: phone, tablet, desktop. I just finished reading The Martian on my phone. The only time I find I absolutely must have text on paper is when I'm memorizing lines from a script for a play. I've even tried using flashcard software as well as audio I've recorded for my lines and cues; it doesn't work for me.
I bought my wife pretty much every book written by Brandon Sanderson. (Mistborn, Stormlight Archives, etc).
I've also donated a couple of copies of Dune, Zelazny's Amber books, and The Martian over the course of the year to various local friends.
It's actually a lot more like The Martian than you might think. Most of the book is about how hard it is to live in space.
For those interested in a technically detailed fictional account of a rescue mission to Mars, read The Martian by Andy Weir. It raises some of the same feelings as this article.
This is pretty much the plot of Artemis by Andy Weir. Second best hard sci-fi novel in my opinion. The best being The Martian by Andy Weir. Arthur C. Clarke takes the next few spots.
you found The Martian bland ?! That's...I am...speechless. It is an amazing book. The characters are superbly fleshed out and Andy Weir's humour is par excellence. The calculations were not tedious at all. LOL - if you stuck on Mars, calculations are you best friend. I think the author has actually dumbed it down quite a lot TBH.
Never Split the difference by Chris Voss (FLIPPING AMAZING! This book is so good I didn't want to share it here.)
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
(Fantastic Look into how we as humans work and how to deal with each other and ourselves)
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
(Enjoyable and entertaining)
The Martian by Andy Weir
(The Audiobook of this was AMAZING! The book is still amazing especially for technical people)
The Hard thing about Hard things by Ben Horowitz
(I think it would be a great book for people who are already running companies.)
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
(It had some interesting parts. Wasn't a bad book, but also not crazy memorable)
Boundaries in Dating by Henry Cloud
(I found the advice for the christian dating relationship to be a honest eye opener. This book taught me a lot about myself.)
The Launch Pad by Randall Stross
(How I found Y Combinator and Hacker news. I really enjoy the startup community and love the fact that this introduced me to it)
The richest man in Babylon by George S Clason
(OMG EVERYONE SHOULD OWN THIS BOOK!!! It teaches you about handling money in one of the most entertaining ways I've ever read. It was crazy good and I reread it often.)
Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull
(Great read about the interesting problems solved and the fight for survival to one day bring about a worthy ideal)
Fiction: The Martian
- Andy Weir
Non fiction: Predictably Irrational - Dan Ariely
I'm not reading TFA because I'm sure it's garbage, however Andy Weir, the guy who wrote The Martian
(the book) recently out a new book out called Artemis and I won't spoil it, but there is a moon and there is people living on it.
Really awesome book with a TON of cool details about space and construction and chemistry and physics, orbital dynamics, welding, robotics, navigation, biology, religion, it literally has all this shit and more. Great book. One of the best I've read.
I kind of never thought too much about the moon landing until SpaceX hype and the book The Martian
got me interested in the skies. Someone here recently posted http://www.firstmenonthemoon.com/
which is a collection of video, audio, and data streams synced in real time of the landing. It's so exhilarating and amazing. And it was the 60s! It was just so rock and roll, an incredible feat.
The Martian by Andy Weir, if you haven't seen the movie yet. If you have, he's had another similar novel out recently, Hail Mary.
The Martian is pop-fiction pablum, it does not stand up even in science-fiction, a genre notorious for its lack of literary quality. He made the big $$$ so good for him. Pablo Coelho, Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyer did the same though.
Good for you on posting so soon! Must be pretty scary but I'll be nice :)
Cool idea - I've always loved reading through the Hugo Awards each year to find new books, but I can never really trust that they're doing a great job. And sometimes Amazon does an even better job, recommending books like The Martian before anyone I knew had even heard of it.
What do you imagine 'Premium Content' being? And how do you think you can differentiate from what platforms like Amazon Kindle are doing?
You say your background is a game developer - care to expand a little? It seems like something like this would need lots of web development and payments integrations; when you say something like Steam, would this be primarily a website or a desktop app?
And would it let me get things in formats I can easily put on my Kindle/e-reader/iPad? Are those formats difficult to generate or pretty straightforward?
I think my best tip is both to read (for amusement, education, and inspiration) and to write (as in - just do it, and if you're stuck silence your inner critic and just DO IT).
I'm just some engineer. But I'm a really imaginative and passionate person and I have a lot of ideas I care about. And so I write about those. I was inspired by reading The Martian, which was an amazing book written by a Software Engineer. It was after reading The Martian that I began writing.
Have you tried writing? What has been your blocker?
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown - discussion of shame culture, its effects on people, and how to combat it - pretty good book about a topic that doesn't get raised often enough, even if I don't agree with everything the author says.
The Sports Gene by David Epstein - how genetics may affect sport performance (and not only that); a bit of a counterpoint to Gladwell's Outliers - probably my favorite book this year.
The Martian by Andy Weir - a guy tries to survive on Mars - found this one rather bland. I would have liked to see more psychology and less calculations, and I am not sure how I feel about its presentation of the scientific community.
Agreed (unfortunately). I gave up on SF decades ago, and The Martian is the only SF book I think I've liked this century. I liked it a lot and occasionally search for others like it. In vain, it seems. I think it is an ill omen that popular culture no longer seems as excited about real science and technology, the exploration and discovery, as was the case way back in the "Space Age".
I believe a sol is a Mars-specific term (at least in this context).
But maybe reading The Martian has me thinking that.
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
- Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight
- Rework by Jason Fried
- Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam
- Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
- The Martian by Andy Weir
- Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman
Are you saying the wind storm that stranded Whatney in The Martian
So much for that book being well researched...
I finished The Lord of the Rings! It took me three years of reading it on and off, but once I finished it the movies became significantly less epic.
I also read:
The Martian, Andy Weir --Loved it, but not for everyone
Streams of Silver, R.A. Salavatore --A fun read, disappointing ending
A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin --Wonderful
Meditations, Marcus Aurelius --Also wonderful
The Art of Peace, Morihei Ueshiba & John Stevens --Platitudinous bullshit and an affront to O'Sensei
Honestly, I have mostly given up on recent science fiction so any recommendations are welcome.
Anyway, it feels like a cop out but The Martian by Andy Weir is worth the read. The most obvious issue is the opening storm would not have done much because the atmosphere is so thin, but it is generally ok on the science side.
I second your notion. I read The Martian
on the website while it was being published there. (Oh hey, the website is still alive even though the story is gone - http://www.galactanet.com/writing.html
Oh boy, you fucked up now. Here are the books I read this past year that I felt were "Good", starting from the most recent :
To Kill A Mocking Bird (Insanely good)
True Grit (Insanely good)
The Little Friend (Good)
Priceless (Very good, about art theft)
The Secret History (Insanely good)
Ready Player One (Good, nerdy)
Shadow Divers (Very good, history nerd book)
Diary of Anne Frank (Very good)
Unbroken (Very good, way better than the movie)
With The Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa (Very good)
Seveneves (good, but I'm a Stephenson fanboy)
The Martian (Very good, but just watch the movie).
I read a bunch of other stuff, but that's what I found really "good" this past year.
Glad to hear that he's doing another "scientifically accurate". For a while, he was saying that the next book would be a 'typical' space-opera style novel without that aspect, and while I do enjoy that genre, I didn't feel like the writing quality of The Martian
would be good enough to carry a space opera.
He's found a niche, something that he is good at, and I'm really glad to see him sticking to this rather than trying to do something that I doubt his ability to pull off.
"Off to be the wizard" is pretty light and fun. "John dies at the end" was fun, not really sci-fi, more buffy the vampire slayer esque. "Existence" by David Brin made me want to puke it had so many good ideas. A tiny bit dated, but very smart. "The Martian" I expect you've read it. Good romp, easy to read. Reminded me of a Michael Crichton. "World War Z" was good.
That’s how Andy Weir did The Martian
. It’s also how Isaac Asimov wrote the first two or three Foundation
The Screwtape Letters (C. S. Lewis) were done that way.
Lots of prior art. Also, it makes the books easier to read.
> It’s why The Martian
is one of my favorite movies (and book, of course)
It's funny because even though the book was so loved because it was so rational, and human's actually acted how humans would act in that situation, Hollywood STILL couldn't resist making tweaking the end slightly to make it over the top and impractical. Thus we ended up with Mark Watney flying around like Iron man in space with a hole is his space suit.
Still a great movie though. But a better book.
At least in The Martian book/movie there is something about the topic.
I started The Martian
by Andy Weir about 3 days ago and I'm really enjoying it. It's a really entertaining book that I highly recommend!
Last week I finished The Paradox of Choice and Zero Day. I enjoyed both of them, although I don't think I'll be reading any of the sequels to Zero Day.
Before that I went through The Maze Runner trilogy, those were entertaining reads.
Some other books I've read recently that I can remember off the top of my head are the Divergent series of books (eh), How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen (great read), Ready Player One (loved, loved, loved this book), Starters (didn't bother reading any more in the series) and Moon walking With Einstein (I enjoyed it).
I rarely read fiction. I'd love to read something great, but I have harder time finding it and getting into it.
Harry Potter and The Methods of Rationality is the best fiction I've ever read, and am actually rereading now, so that's one.
I absolutely love everything written by Alexander Wales, The Martian by Andy Weir, and a lot of stuff from /r/rational. Also I think that Atlas Shrugged and everything written by Ayn Rand is brilliant.
I've read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson not so long ago, they were pretty fun, but I wasn't blown away or anything.
Aside from that, I don't know many great ones, so I mostly read non-fiction.
I just finished reading The Martian
recently, inspired to write a review: http://www.alphadevx.com/a/453-Review-of-The-Martian
Currently reading Flash Boys by Michael Lewis, which is about High Frequency Trading in Wall Street which is interesting for the technology involved.
Favorite book of all time is Frank Herbert's Dune, the six books are great in fact.
My favorite books of 2016 was, and I can recommend all of them:
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
Honorable mention from 2015: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. I have just started Homo Deus and my first impression is that is is a worthy sequel.
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull
It's the story of Pixar and there's so many things I enjoyed about this book. It helped validate for me many of my instincts in running a creative business.
The Martian by Andy Weir
I very much enjoyed the story and how it was all approached.
Seven Eves by Neil Stephenson
Similar to his other books (Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon) I've gifted these a few times. I really enjoy his method of storytelling and his stories appeal to the geek in me as well.
Quote: "TL;DR: Scrivener, Vellum, KDP, Createspace"
Scrivener is US$40, Vellum is Mac-only and US$200, the other two are unnecessary/replaceable and IMHO should be a list of equivalent options -- once you have a manuscript, which can be created using any number of free tools.
Someone who imagines writing the Great American Novel, but who also expects to have to pay a premium for each step along the way, may not grasp the essence of novel writing -- how it fits into the big picture.
There are any number of free word processors able to organize a book project into chapters and sections. Self-publishing is also free or should be.
My favorite story about novel creation is that of Andy Weir and The Martian. Weir started the project as a series of blog posts, got very useful feedback from his readers, improved his content on that basis, and the project grew nearly on its own. By the time Weir wanted to talk to publishers, they already wanted to talk to him.
> I think "The Martian
" counts as moving forward, but I'm much less happy with most of the books Amazon recommends for me
I'd believe that more if there would have been any wider followup of similar works. But alas, there hasn't been (or at least I haven't heard of them), so I'm more likely to categorize The Martian as an outlier rather than a herald of new era.
Thanks for the tip on REAMDE - it and Dodo are the ones I haven't read.
I'll add Fall; or, Dodge in Hell. It's Stephenson's most recent book, and has nice scifi and (HN-crowd-relevant) societal concepts. Beware of a very slow opening.
Also: Project Hail Mary. Similar to The Martian in the right ways. More ambitious, with all its benefits and plausibility traps.
Weir himself has discussed the varying characterisations in the Martian, Artemis and PHM. In an interview at , he says:
Well, my previous two books, The Martian and Artemis (which are also available for sale!) feature characters whose personalities are based on aspects of my own real personality, Mark Watney [from The Martian] has a lot of my own personality traits and Jazz Bashara [from Artemis] who is a Saudi woman living on the moon, believe it or not, her personality is based on largely the way I was when I was her age.
I wanted to grow as a writer this time, so I made Rylan Grace’s personality not [be] based on my own. I created a new character out of whole cloth, not just using aspects of my own persona. So one thing I decided is that he’s conflict-averse and likes to stay in a safe environment (or something he considers safe) and being a middle school teacher is a safe environment. He doesn’t get a lot of adversity from the students. They look up to him because they’re not teenagers yet. He’s also a goody-two-shoes, so it makes sense that he would work with children.
In a separate interview (that I can't find now) Weir states that PHM was an attempt to write a character that evolves, unlike Watney, who in effect retains the same character (wise-cracking optimist) throughout the book.
It’s why The Martian
is one of my favorite movies (and book, of course). No evil, conniving, contrived antagonist designed to be hated. It’s just everyone working together against the most unforgiving antagonist of all: the universe itself.
I don’t want to watch movies or read books where people are just awful to other people, I can open the newspaper on any given day to find that.
I'm about a quarter of the way through "The Martian
" by Andy Weir. It's good, geeky fun so far. Some of the dialog is clunky but the main character is interesting and fun.
I also read "11/22/63" by Stephen King. An interesting twist on time travel with the usual King propulsiveness. Recommended for King fans like me who may not have read him in awhile.
"Geek Sublime" by Vikram Chandra is a surprising mix of "my career in writing" with computation lessons and history. I took a break from it to read The Martian but it's extremely interesting. He's one of my favorite writers and I'm glad he's got something out that might expose him to a different audience.
Since the publishers won the rights to set their own prices on Amazon, the Kindle version has started to become $2-5 MORE expensive. There's two book groups I'm in right now where the current book they're reading is more expensive for the digital copy than for a brand new paperback. I refuse to pay more. Sometimes I might be willing to pay the same, but NOT more.
In comparison, The Martian was only $2 for the Kindle version because that guy originally posted his book for only a dollar (or something), and I bought it immediately and told everyone I knew about how cheap it was (the book was good enough I'd have been happy to have paid $10 for it, though).
Because we don't always like awarded books. I read "The Three Body Problem" a couple of years ago which had won a Nebula award and found it to be mediocre at best and much overhyped. Last year I read the "Neuromancer" which had won both a Nebula and a Hugo and was for me one of the worst SF books I've ever read. And then there are books which are brilliant, but have never won an award, like "The Martian".
If you like SciFi, and you didn’t read The Martian yet, then now’s a good time. In my opinion this is by far the best SciFi book of all time. Hard SciFi, in the style of Arthur C Clarke, but packed with 10 times the “sci” of the Odyssey or Rama. If you already read this, go for Andy Weir’s second novel, Artemis. Not the level of The Martian, but still better than 99.9975% of all the SciFi books out there.
My usual recommendation for HN crowd is Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality(http://hpmor.com
). If you haven't read it - you definitely should, it's absolutely amazing. Incredibly fun and life-changing.
I have also recently finished reading The Martian, and I have really enjoyed it. It's one of the best fictional books I've read during the past year.
Another great story I want to recommend is The Metropolitan Man - http://fictionhub.io/story/the-metropolitan-man
Now I am reading Ra by Sam Hughes(https://qntm.org/ra), it is about the world where magic is a branch of science, and is treated as engineering. Very interesting so far.
I haven't read Kill Decision, but I have read The Martian
, so I'll answer in that vein.
I don't think The Martian is realistic, or even a good predictor of anything. Now, there may be an expedition to Mars in future, but AFAICT there's really no good reasoning for it. What's your argument for an expedition to Mars?
EDIT: I just wanted to add: You and I -- humans that we are -- only remember the hits, i.e. the predictions that turned out to be true. There are a lot or predictions (sci fi novels, etc.) that turn out to not be true and are thus forgotten. QED
On the other hand, I read the book before seeing the film and wish I had done it the other way around. Same case with The Martian
too - I found myself distractedly comparing notes (in my head) too often while watching.
Perhaps the one book-then-movie reading/viewing sequence I'm happy with was Casino Royale. It was a good faithfully-gritty adaptation.
Plenty of great content can be found online. The Martian
: rebuffed by literary agents when trying to get prior books published, Weir decided to put the book online in serial format one chapter at a time for free at his website. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Martian_(Weir_novel)
Honestly, I have read hundreds of books, but my personal favorites are all online or started that way. Freedom means a lot of junk, but also stores that are truly different.
I've read 33 books so I'm not going to publish the list here, but i blogged about it: http://blog.habrador.com/2015/12/books-ive-read-in-2015.html
The books I liked the most were:
- The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why
- On Intelligence
- The Martian
- The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution
- Einstein: His Life and Universe
- Alan Turing: The Enigma
- Neuroscience for Dummies
- Thunder Run - (which is about the battle of Baghdad in 2003)
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson is a good starting point. Written by an author that knows how to write pop-thrillers with a very keen attention to the details in his books. It deals with the aftermath of the moon spontaneously breaking apart. No explanation is ever given to the reason. The first line of the book is:
> The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.
If you're looking for something even harder there's one author to stands out. Greg Egan. Most of his books are created by modifying some part of relativity and seeing what kind of world would be the logical conclusion from that modification. From the blurb for his book "Orthogonal".
> In Yalda’s universe, light has no universal speed and its creation generates energy.
> On Yalda’s world, plants make food by emitting their own light into the dark night sky.
Every one of his books are this weird, and he has books worth of education material and graphics to help explain the mechanics of each universe he creates. He has also done some novel discoveries when it comes to superpermutations.
If you don't want to go quite that deep into it all, you could take a look at "The Martian". The movie is a fine piece of work, but the book is really amazing. It goes into a lot more details. Andy Weir, the author, even made sure the phases of Earth and Mars matched up so closely that you can figure out when the book is happening by inferring the travel times and communication delays.
Generally, you won't find much of this genre. Writing space opera (Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.) doesn't require too much. You have to have good characters exploring an interesting scenario, and then write it competently. Proper hard Sci-Fi on the other hand is incredibly difficult. It requires intimate knowledge of things like orbital physics and being able to infer what is and isn't possible within the next ~20 years. This is where most hard Sci-Fi is set because it grounds it the most. An analogous issue is that hard Sci-Fi often "expires". Stories written 30 years ago suddenly start sounding silly because technology developed in a new and at-the-time unexpected direction.
Interesting. In my school days I saw many classes that would definitely give a lot
of adversity. It required tough leadership sometimes from the teachers.
By the way I thought Artemis was his best book by far. It wasn't all about science and the story wasn't as limited as there wasn't a single isolated individual. I thought it was a really good book and I hope he comes up with a sequel. I suppose as people now know him for The Martian they want more of the same and Project Hail Mary certainly fits the bill.
Interesting. For context I loved The Martian
and quite often use bits of the audio book to fall asleep to. Artemis wasn't bad, but there was a lot of interpersonal and stupid decision making in the lead up to critical events which I found a little annoying and contrived.
Hail Mary I started reading last night at my first comment. 7 hours later I'm about 50% of the way through and absolutely loving it. So far we seem to be doing the problem->fix cycle in the small and large scales with an interesting overarching plot. Looking forward to continuing.
I think the Martian
was great the first time through, but re-reading it isn't as much fun when you know what's going to happen. I didn't enjoy Artemis as much the first time, but I think it holds up better at being interesting and entertaining even when you know what's about to happen.
Hail Mary I haven't read twice yet, but my take is that it fits somewhere in the middle.
The Martian is probably the best example of an author really embracing the 21st century. You give the text of the book away for free on a website and make money off the people who want the audiobook, the movie rights, the kindle, etc. In the 21st century, entertainment is free, attention is expensive, so you have to give away your free entertainment to get attention and then sell the entertainment in more rarified mediums like movies, audiobooks, even kindle, that require higher production costs than writing a blog.
Perhaps irrelevant to Wodehouse (who writes farce), but I'm a big fan of 'frivolous, empty, and perfectly delightful' popular sci-fi and fantasy novels, especially if they go multiple books! Sometimes you want an escape from the human condition. Good examples include Mistborn, Farseer, Belgariad (especially), the Martian
, Ready Player One (although this was a bit shallow, even for me).
If anyone has other recommendations, would be much obliged.
That's the thing, I was aware of all the hype about this movie, including the terrific consulting. After 20 minutes though, I gave up. What exactly did I miss? Some time travel, some worm holes? Well, I don't personally think that has anything to do with science.
For my taste, The Martian is the best hard sci-fi book and sci-fi movie out there.
Right now I'm doing my annual re-listen to John Ringo's "maple syrup trilogy" (next I'll do my annual re-listen of The Martian
, narrated by R. C. Bray not Huwill Huwheaton) https://www.goodreads.com/series/51166-troy-rising
It's a really fun series, basically an alien race appears in the system and installs a gate to open up trade with the system. It has some really neat ideas in it and some good challenges they work through from fuel to interstellar war, with the primary character being your run of the mill guy with tech industry experience working in a rural community fighting his way to being fantastically wealthy and arguably the primary defender of human space.
Book 1: Live Free or Die:
>First Contact Was Friendly
>When aliens trundled a gate to other worlds into the solar system, the world reacted with awe, hope and fear. But the first aliens to come through, the Glatun, were peaceful traders and the world breathed a sigh of relief.
>Who Controls the Orbitals, Controls the World
They're a good read, but the narrator makes them quite a good listen. I've actually bought other author's entire series purely because Mark Boyett has narrated them.
Mark Boyett, R.C. Bray, and Luke Daniels are some great narrators and all do a lot of narration in the hard science fiction space. They make the audio versions of books far superior to reading it yourself, at last in my opinion.
Daemon and the sequel Freedom TM by Daniel Suarez are also a fun read. It uses near-future, or even at the time experimental tech, to weave a mostly believable near-future scenario.
>When the obituary of legendary computer game architect Matthew Sobol appears online, a previously dormant daemon activates, initiating a chain of events that begins to unravel our interconnected world. This daemon reads news headlines, recruits human followers, and orders assassinations. With Sobol’s secrets buried with him, and as new layers of his daemon are unleashed, it’s up to Detective Peter Sebeck to stop a self-replicating virtual killer before it achieves its ultimate purpose - one that goes far beyond anything Sebeck could have imagined....
Coincidentally, I'm watching The Martian
right now after reading the book last week. I have to agree, the movie just does not capture the same sense of surprise and careful attention to detail as described in the book. The sets are nice though, and it's pretty cool to see how the production team visualized the scenes and hardware compared to how I had imagined them. Seems like there could be some scientific inaccuracies too (e.g. hab repairs with only hardware store plastic film and duct tape).
Overall, I'd say Interstellar works much better in movie form, although perhaps that is partly due to the scale of the concepts it employs compared to The Martian, which is smaller and more technical.
What people find "believable" or "realistic" will vary.
Within the genre of Science Fiction there is a sub-genre of Hard Science Fiction in which it's considered more important that it could actually work. Fire Upon The Deep probably wouldn't generally be considered at all Hard because it has Faster-than-Light travel, which is one of the things you generally would rule out of Hard SF because of how conservation rules in Physics work, if you can do FtL then you can do time travel (because space and time being the same kind of thing), and then what's your story?
"The Martian" a novel subsequently made into a movie is pretty realistic, turns out the setup (a storm on Mars separates Mark from the rest of the crew) is the least realistic part of that entire story.
If that's a bit too realistic, some of Liu Cixin's shorts are pretty wild while remaining down to earth about what's practical. "The Wandering Earth" for example.
Greg Egan is very Hard, but you may find you think Greg's technically possible stuff seems harder to believe than faster-than-light travel which isn't possible at all. The Clockwork Rocket couldn't happen here, but it's set in a universe with a different dimensional symmetry, the Amalgam stuff is set in this universe, but with a society far more advanced than ours.
But then if it turns out "realistic"/ "believable" counts like Star Wars style laser blasters and stuff then I dunno, lots of things, maybe you'd like Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch stuff, (or indeed Iain M Banks' Culture novels) which aren't Hard at all.
This is actually more or less how Andy Weir wrote The Martian
- and as a product development model it really did build a story of a kind that otherwise wasn’t getting built by the market. There’s definitely something to this.
Consider also the way standups hone material over many performances building up their set.
So there are incremental feedback models in entertainment - but they’re rare.
I guess remakes and reboots are a crude model of iteration as well, although it’s not like each new iteration of Spider-Man is a refinement of the last based on audience feedback - it’s still speculative ‘here’s that same thing repackaged in a way new audiences will love!’ thinking, rather than creeping towards product-market-fit
I read all of The Expanse. Fun series that takes place after we've colonized the solar system with infighting between Earth, Mars, and those who live out past the belt, when suddenly an alien artifact shows up.
Influx (a large secret govt. sect suppressing technology breakthroughs and keeping it for themselves) and Kill Decision (autonomous killing drones) by Daniel Suarez were fun. I liked Deamon (a murder mystery of sorts where the murderer is already dead and automated scripts and whatnot carry out the deeds) and Freedom (part 2) better however.
Beyond what I've read this year in Sci-Fi, I would recommend the Hyperion saga (my vote for best sci-fi ever), The Martian, Ready Player One, Snapshot (a short by Brandon Sanderson, my favorite author by a wide margin), and, heck, while we are at it, the whole of the Enderverse, though I preferred Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind the most).
It has been said that the difference between sci-fi and fantasy is spaceships vs trees. If you are looking for fun fantasy, I suggest just about anything from Brandon Sanderson. He has his Cosmere universe composed of many book series, the best of which are the Stormlight Archives.
The Martian (Andy Weir), Mind's Eye (Douglas Richards), and Wool/Shift/Dust (Hugh Howey, set quite a bit in the future, but the story started (chronologically) in with near-future sci-fi)
I haven't read Kill Decision yet, I've heard mixed reviews. The thing I loved most about Daemon and The Martian is that it's all completely plausible that these things could happen in my lifetime. Hell, they could happen right now if someone was willing to put forth the money. Nothing is particularly outlandish or impossible.
I'll have to check out your suggestions, thanks. It's my favorite genre, but I struggle to find worthwhile books in that genre.
I'm currently re-reading Seveneves again. Great book. I even like the third part which many people have criticized. However, that might have actually planted the seed for this new book.
This book looks like it might be a bit in the same spirit in the sense that our home planet is abused a bit. Part three of Seveneves is about the aftermath of essentially terra forming Earth in the distant future after it gets destroyed in part 1.
People think about other planets when it comes to terra forming but of course our home planet might be the easiest one to practice on and doing so might get a bit urgent as we seem to be destroying it. Great premise for a near future science fiction novel.
If you are looking for recommendations. Ian Banks can be a bit hard to read but can be very entertaining. Arthur C Clarke wrote some awesome science fiction. More recently, The Martian (Andy Weir) was great. And Andy Weir just published another book that's on my list to read soon. The expanse series of books (James S. A. Corey) is a good read. 2312 (Stanley Robinson) is also worth a look.
And of course if you at all enjoyed Seveneves, you might want to read the rest of what NS wrote. Anathem is great. Snow Crash, the Diamond Age, and Cryptonomicon are classics at this point.
The book was great, like many people I discovered it after pointing someone else to http://www.galactanet.com/oneoff/theegg_mod.html
I loved reading The Martian online even in the inherently somewhat annoying written in realtime form; so much I showed up to get a signed copy when it was released.
In general I'm a sucker for hard scifi, but much of the state of the art in that space is often inaccessible to those of my friends that aren't deeply versed in the literature. The Martian is both accessible (at least to an audience which is generally okay with science and technology) and compelling story telling as well.
Taking extreme sports and jobs into consideration, and the fact that space is considered more and more as a lucrative destination for profit making, I think that human beings will be the first to do most of the ground breaking work. Virgin Galactic, the SpaceX moon flyby, etc. are meant for tourists, hence the different approach to absolute safety. I think the public's acceptance of the dangers of space, and the thrill/benefits of confronting them will come before we get to the point of having the necessary robot tech to make significant progress without humans on site. Then again if you consider things like Andy Weir's The Martian you realise that's a likely scenario of the kind of spending that might happen in the case of a stranded astronaut after a disaster, sending more afterwards would still be a financial decision rather than one of public opinion regarding safety however, and in my opinion the tech and financial support for these sorts of missions is going to be up to it in a few years.
Andy Weir also published Artemis in between The Martian and Project Hail Mary.
Audiobooks I have Read Recently: (Sanderson is Awesome)
* The Reckoners #1/#2
* Stormlight Archive #1/#2
* Mistborn #1/#2/#3
* Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures As the World's Most Wanted Hacker
* How to Win Friends and Influence People
* Malazon Book #1
* The Forever War
* The Martian
Things on my List:
* Think and Grow Rich
* Watership Down
* Rainbows End
* Snow Crash
* What is Zen
* Wool: Silo
* Founders at Work
* Light Bringer
* The War of Art
* Atlas Shrugged
* The Demon Haunted World
* Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software
* Joe Abercrombie's books
* Rich Dad Poor Dad
* Founders at Work
* Fear the Sky
* Daemon -- EDIT ADDED
Things I recommend:
* All of Brandon Sanderson's Books
* The Kingkiller Chronicles
* How to Win Friends and Influence People
* Issac Asimov's short stories and Foundation series
* The Forever War
* Gentleman Bastards
* Ready Player One
* The Martian
* A Wizard of Earthsea
Short Reading I Recommend:
Yeah, The Martian is like, the hardest sci-fi book I've ever read, but I found the film adaptation... lacking
Oh man. So many.
Anything by Brandon Sanderson. Most of his stuff takes place in the same fantasy universe, and some of the series are starting to cross over. Stormlight Archives is the crown jewel. Edit: each series takes place on a different planet in the universe with a separate (well thought out) magic system. Different books in different series start to reveal the why's and how's and how it is all linked.
Enjoying the Expanse series right now by James Corey, sci-fi with us living on Mars and in the belt, when a dangerous alien self-replicating molecule shows up.
If science fiction is your thing, I can't recommend higher the Hyperion series.
Freedom and Deamon by Daniel Suarez were really fun, a muder mystery where the murderer is dead and uses an advanced AI to do his dealings.
The Martian was fun, if a little shorter than I typically like. Better than the movie, as nearly always.
I could go on. Gaah! So fun!
Edit: usually not a history person, but also really enjoyed The Right Stuff read by Dennis Quaid. The start of the space program.
I've yet to see The Martian, but have read the book and found it pretty reasonable for the behaviour of all characters, I guess the advantage of a book is that the author can describe the internal thoughts of a character much more clearly than an actor can portray on screen. Further while I'm not rocket science (I prefer rocket surgeon, thanks KSP), my understanding is that the science in The Martian was pretty solid the whole way through.
So much judgement. Just like with programming, The way to write good fiction is to first write a lot of bad fiction. Its not a matter of being a 'technical type'. Its practice.
Andy Weir (author of The Martian) is a 'technical type' and The Martian was fantastic because of his nerdy mind. His book drops with his love of STEM and all the research he put into it.
The world needs more fiction by programmers; not less.
I've read The Martian in no time, I struggled with Artemis though
Slightly OT, but I just finished reading The Martian
 by Andy Weir. I have always been fascinated by space and space travel, but I never really had a good grasp on the technical complexity of it all until I read that book. Now that I understand that, I have a whole new appreciation for how awesome the Rosetta/Philae and the New Horizons missions are, and exactly why it is so incredibly exciting what we have done in only the past 60 or so years of space travel.
I read a lot of Science Fiction for fun. These are a few of my favorites that I've given to other people:
1. Vacuum Diagrams by Stephen Baxter. When I think of epic hard science fiction, the Xeelee Sequence books spring to mind. With a story line that spans millions of years (and a few dozen books), this collection of short stories is a good introduction to one of the best and most underrated sci-fi series out there. Baxter's Manifold trilogy (Manifold: Space, Manifold: Time and Manifold: Origin) are also fantastic.
2. Foundation by Isaac Asimov. The whole Foundation series is wonderful, but this book is a landmark of sci-fi that should be on any fan's bookcase.
3. The Martian by Andy Weir. This book is what I've been giving the last couple years to people who don't think they like sci-fi. Everyone I've given it to has loved it.
4. Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. Another hard sci-fi staple. The rest of the Rama books he "co-wrote" with Gentry Lee are decent but become more space opera than hard sci-fi. I enjoyed them but many sci-fi fans find them polarizing.
5. Silver Tower by Dale Brown. More of a military thriller than sci-fi (Flight of the Old Dog is another favorite of mine by him) and terribly dated by modern standards (it was written when the Soviet Union was still a thing). But it's the first "adult" sci-fi book I ever read as a kid, so it'll always have a special place for me.
EDIT: Another one:
6. Coyote by Allen Steele. I love stories like this one: primitive, longshot interstellar exploration and primitive, first generation colonization. Especially for desperate reasons. The first two Coyote books were good, but I just can't get into any of the subsequent ones.
I recently heard Project Hail Mary mentioned. I didn't know Andy Weir wrote a third book until that moment. It's a great novel on par with The Martian
, and after the success of The Martian
, I'm surprised I didn't hear about Project Hail Mary sooner.
I use an adblocker and don't watch TV comercials. Does anyone know if Project Hail Mary was advertised? I guess that's one downside of not seeing ads.
Gyroscopes accumulate error with time, they make sense for an application with a short range but they're useless over long periods of time without a reference standard to crosscheck and recalibrate. That's one part of The Martian the author got entirely correct despite the criticism. The mechanical odometer in your car is only accurate to +/-3% of reading and the best mechanical calibration standards are only 0.25% of reading, that puts the trip described in The Martian off by ~90km.
I'll second someone else's recommendation for The Martian
, that was just a really fun read you can just burn through because it is so enjoyable.
If you want another really fun read, Ready Player One was fantastic.
I've also enjoyed the Old Man's War saga, there are 6 books but you can skip book 4 since it is a retelling of book 3 from the POV of another character. This is a space saga and I really like the universe he created.
In the hard sci-fi genre, I really enjoyed The Forever War.
And for just pure world building fantasy, the Game of Thrones books (The song of Ice and Fire series) are some of the best written books I've ever read.
It's half novel, half related series of 9 short stories, but Accelerando is great. The Martian
by Andy Weir (movie based on it) was quite good. Daemon I think also qualifies, though it's SF dressed up as a thriller. Oh, Blood Music by Greg Bear probably counts? Except maybe the ending?
Tempted to mention The Diamond Age, but not sure that qualifies as "Hard", though closer than some other Stephenson maybe...
> Our 12-year-old daughter who, like us, is a big fan of The Martian
by Andy Weir, said, “I can’t stand that people think we’re all going to live on Mars after we destroy our own planet. Even after we’ve made the Earth too hot and polluted for humans, it still won’t be as bad as Mars. At least there’s plenty of water here, and the atmosphere won’t make your head explode.”
Kid has a good head on her shoulders. She sounds like an engineer.
I grew up dreaming about humanity exploring space. I majored in aerospace engineering in college. It was incredibly educational--it taught me we're not going to Mars. Not in my lifetime, probably not in the lifetime of any of my descendants who still remember my name. It would be fantastically expensive and there would be no point. There are no resources out there that would justify the kind of economic investment necessary. Committing that money here on Earth would be transformative far beyond what it could be if spent on Mars.
Moreover, the technology has plateaued, leaving us with wildly unfavorable physical realities. You know how progress in CPUs has stalled? How the last several generations of Intel processors hasn't really gotten faster, and all the focus is on making them cheaper and more power efficient? That happened to aerospace technology around 1970. Now we spend billions of dollars to eke out 0.5% gains in efficiency.
Jared Diamond - "Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed" (non-fiction)
Iván Repila - "The Boy Who Stole Attila’s Horse": short intense novel about 2 boys who are trapped in a well
Margaret Atwood - "The handmaid's tale"
Khaled Hosseini - "The kite runner"
Agatha Christie - "The murder of Roger Ackroyd" (very surprising plot)
Andy Weir - "The Martian"
Charles Dickens - "David Copperfield"
Clare Mackintosh - "I let you go"
Carlos Ruiz Zafón - "The Shadow of the Wind"
M.R. Carey - "The girl with all the gifts"
Wheel of Time! I'm in my second re-listen now, book 6 or so. It's such an elaborate and well thought-out world, and of course 14 books that read as a single big story postpones the post-book depression... Well, not quite indefinitely, especially if you read other things like The Martian in between (that's my favorite book btw), but it limits it to once a year and a half rather than every month and a half.
Eh, I still think The Martian
was a good book. It had the plot and humor to make its concept stand up. And the very fact that some people have made complaints about the accuracy of its science is a testament to the fact that it did take its science seriously to some degree: Most fiction doesn't show enough work for you to question it.
RP1 was okay. Cline's next book, Armada, was similar, and that's where it really starts to fall apart.
It is also quite possible Mars still has 'hot spots' as geologically it was very 'recently' volcanically active. Every now and then there's little anomalies that possibly hint at subsurface hot spots that might allow for hot springs and similar.
In Robert Zubrin's fictional (but hard-science) book "First Landing" on the first manned Mars mission they actually find a hot spot and drill into it resulting in a geyser (which obviously, the water instantly freezes creating a snow-like effect). All of Zubrin's books are worth reading if you are at all interested in manned missions to Mars. He has some non-fiction looks (that are a bit outdated now due to scientific discoveries, like finding the polar caps are lousy with water ice) but he goes into the math and gets you in the right mindset. The fiction book is similar in nature to The Martian (came out well before The Martian) and he also has a short little fiction book meant to be sold to future colonists called 'How to Live on Mars: A Trusty Guidebook to Surviving and Thriving on the Red Planet' which also takes a hard-science fiction approach to the subject.
I need to rewatch Primer - it managed to twist my mind into a knot, so I honestly say I didn't understand much of what was happening. Moon is on my list, of Pandorum I haven't heard. Thanks for the titles, I'll definitely see them :).
RE shortening, I remember watching Ender's Game and leaving cinema angry, because the movie had compressed the book so much that I felt it won't make any sense for a person who hadn't read the novel. I now imagine that the Martian may have seemed similarly poor to you because of that. If you happen to read the book and find the text being crap, please get back to me, I'd really like to hear your perspective.
We, or rather - some of us - are talking not books, but book+movie combo. The Martian was quite a thing among space geeks even before the movie was announced, and doubly so after the story broke - so, like me, they probably implicitly assume others read the original too. I guess it's a lesson for me for the future, to bring up explicitly whether one had or had not read the book :).
For some reason I didn't really like The Martian (as in the movie). I guess after having read the book there just wasn't any surprise left, and I felt that this sort of story just works much better in book form. I prefer Europa Report over it. IMO Interstellar is the big popularizer of hard sci-fi though, or wouldn't you put it in that category? For me it took its liberties in just the right places where it's justified due to lack of more knowledge.
I was mostly treading water in my Portuguese practice for the past few years, before getting remotivated this year and making some decent progress.
I agree with many of TFA's points
> To learn a lot from reading, you need to read a lot, and for that you have to understand at least the gist of what you are looking at.
Reading was huge for me. After "speaking" the language for 5 years I finally read a full novel. I immediately noticed improvements in my writing and understanding. A few weeks later I finished reading a second novel and am now on to the third.
(I really recommend The Martian by the way, it seems like it's been translated a ton, and it's written in a mostly first person diary style so the tenses are fairly simple while being more engaging than kid's books)
The Martian by Andy Weir (Fiction)
Eat That Frog! (Brian Tracy)- Lots of useful productivity tips. Motivating and practical.
Bleachers (John Grisham) - I learned a lot about the culture behind American Football and school/college sports.
The Wide Lens (Ron Adner) - I learned a systematic approach towards evaluating ideas and the environment around them so that I could determine what needs to change (outside of my innovations) that must be encouraged for my ideas to succeed.
The Martian (Andy Weir) - I got a "feel" for living on Mars being a reality potentially sooner than I appreciated.
Brownlow North (K Moody Stuart) - A book about a Scottish Evangelist. It was superb to see where he started from in his preaching, how he differed from everyone else, and how that was probably the key to his startling effectiveness.
Songs of the Spirit: The Place of Psalms in the Worship of God (Ed: Kenneth Stewart) - I learned an appreciation for the book of Psalms, though written long before it, it is clearly (by how it's written, what it discusses in the past tense, and what's only understood now) FOR the New Testament church.
In my Father's House (Corrie ten Boom) - a beautiful insight into what a Christian household can look like.
If you think sci-fi is not a good predictor for the near future, just post it as a statement, not a rhetorical question. I agree with you, though, that RPO is not meant to be realistic in any way and a bad example, but the way you generalized it to all of sci-fi makes it also not very helpful. Try The Martian from Andy Weir, or some of Daniel Suarez' books like Kill Decision. There is some scary realistic sci-fi out there.
Currently reading Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages
by Mark Abley and The Most Human Human: What Artificial Intelligence Teaches Us About Being Alive
by Brian Christian. Just finished No Place to Hide
by Glenn Greenwald, My Real Children
by Jo Walton, The Martian
by Andy Weir, and Toki Pona: The Language of Good
by Sonja Lang (the official reference to her conlang, which I had already studied extensively from online references).
Waiting for new chapters in the serial Ra by Sam Hughes. Possibly about to read Engineering a Safer World by Nancy Leveson.
No. First, every kilogram we send to Mars will be hugely
expensive, so low mass will be prioritized over long-term sustainability for research and exploration missions.
Second, the plants chosen for bottle gardens are very sturdy and tolerant of non-optimal environments. Humans are a lot more sensitive.
If you're interested in the topic, read "The Martian" by Any Weird, a very well-researched SF story about an astronaut who gets left behind during a Mars mission and has to survive for several years using equipment that was only specced to sustain the expedition for a month.
You're right, I haven't read the book, the movie was my first exposure to this (unfortunately apparently?). To say it compresses it strongly better words so many of my issues with the movie than I could have put it. (in that it seemed like a series of set pieces attached together by musical interludes; echoing your lack of character development as well)
To answer the question from your other post, my "holy trinity" is Primer, Moon, Pandorum. (the first two on a pedestal above the third, but the third manages to fit in being an "action" movie without going too far down that road such that I can't but love it.)
If we're talking books, that's an entirely different discussion, and seems to be the one most people want to have when bringing up The Martian. I've certainly felt the same about some of my favorites. (I recall the whisper of a Foundation movie that made me want to run and hide)
At the same time, you could tell that he deliberately didn't include those moments in The Martian because he's not comfortable writing from that standpoint. In Project Hail Mary, those moments seem shoehorned in and the voice turns back into being aloof and impassionate in the next sentence. Even the end of the book presented two options and he took the less emotional one.
I was watching a review of The Martian
on YouTube a while ago. The reviewer was a young female, and her major complaint was that Mark Watney's character-voice just sounded like a middle-aged white American guy. I thought "well, he is ~ this isn't very valid criticism..."
. Perhaps not all readers identify with the main character, and that's a valid criticism, but I don't think it's a flaw of the writing itself. This same YouTuber had the same critique about Jasmine in Artemis. Yeah - that's fair criticism of the writing; Jasmine did sound like a middle-aged white American guy. If you can look past that, Artemis is still a fun, enjoyable read.
[Edit] Added sentence beginning with "Perhaps not all readers..." to clarify.
The Martian had some very odd ethics. I recall at one point of the book there was a 30% chance of failure for a mission that would save one astronauts life. Failure would result in the death of six additional astronauts. Of course the fellow who pointed out it was obviously not worth the risk was a portrayed as a coward, as I guess coherently valuing lives is a cowardly act.
was released one chapter at the time. Same with Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. As for the last one, it's felt that it was written as it was going along, with certain changes the author normally would have gone back to fix. Like stuff ending up not mattering, or certain inconsistencies in the world building.
But even for larger book series this happens. Like Wheel of Time, one can in an earlier book read about Lan sitting and sharpening his sword. Some books later it's mentioned that his sword never loses its edge. So in later versions of the first book it has been changed to him sharpening his knife instead.
But my guess is those things would happen on a larger scale when not having the opportunity to go back and edit previous chapters.
If you haven't yet, listen to one of the recent episodes of Star Talk Radio (Season 7, Episodes 4). They have Any Weir, author of "The Martian", and Dr. Jim Green, Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. Dr. Green describes how they now think extracting water from the Martian soil may be as simple as heating up soil. Supposedly, the Martian soil contains roughly 35 liters of water for every cubic meter of soil.