Guest post by Adam.

Find it at your library!

While consuming copious amounts of Halloween topical literature recently, Taryn happened upon this book. On the surface, it checks all the boxes for her, primarily that big one next to “Colson Whitehead wrote it.” Unfortunately, it checks a similarly weighty box on her oh-no-no list, namely “Is about zombies.” So what’s a girl to do?

Convince her charmingly hapless husband to read it and report back on whether or not she “can handle it.”

Zone One follows main character Mark Spitz as he works with a team of “sweepers” to finish clearing out the first zone of Manhattan that the newly reformed American government is retaking. The USMC has already rolled in and handled the bulk of zombiecide and all that’s left is the tedious task of clearing every single building and structure floor by floor.

For a zombie novel, the main character does a surprising amount of self reflection, but once I got used to the atypical pace, I really enjoyed it. Something about it reminded me of the post-apocalyptic movie Book of Eli. Sure, Denzel kicks some major ass, but he also has dialogue and a measure of thoughtfulness and introspection.

I’m just saying, don’t be surprised when mid-zombie attack, you all of a sudden start getting random backstory. Don’t worry. He comes back to the action eventually.

Mark Spitz (not his real name, but a nickname you eventually learn the story behind) is an odd main character. If forced to pick a single word to describe him, I would have to go with unobjectionable. Even weirder, the main character obviously embraces and proclaims his mediocrity. I have little doubt that he would wholeheartedly agree with my moniker of unobjectionable-ness. I cannot properly explain why I liked him so much. My overinflated sense of self (I really am amazing) guarantees that it’s not a kindred spirit kind of thing. Whatever the reason, I can honestly say that I genuinely liked the guy.

So back to the million dollar question. Can she handle it? I’m happy to report that the awesomeness of Colson Whitehead’s writing is well worth the slightly gory price of admission. Five stars!

Book Nerd Note from Taryn: Colson Whitehead really is awesome. He's also having a bit of year, with his latest novel The Underground Railroad being chosen for Oprah's Book Club and winning a National Book Award. His NBA acceptance speech is definitely worth a watch (I've watched it several times, and it gives me a lot of feelings. BMF!)

Guest post by Adam.

Find it at your library!

This book is amazing. Five stars, no hesitation. Awesomeness without peer. If you don’t want to have to continue to hear a grown man gush, now is your chance to stop reading.

When Taryn first suggested this book to me (and she definitely gets all the credit on this one), she made it sound like an episode of Survivorman set on Mars. And somehow that’s EXACTLY what it was. Main character astronaut Mark Watney finds himself alone, stranded on Mars. As a part of a NASA landing party, he has supplies and equipment to survive. The only problem is that those supplies were intended to last months and the next manned mission to Mars is several years away.

Going into this book, I was worried the science would be less than thorough. I half expected the resolution to be that Mark would impossibly fashion himself a rocket out of rudimentary supplies or that he would discover that Mars was inhabited all along. Some kind of weak tea crap like that. But that’s absolutely not where Weir took it.

What you need to know about author Andy Weir is that he’s a HUGE nerd. And I mean that in the best way possible. Throughout the book, it was obvious that one of Weir’s favorite parts to the writing of this book was that it afforded him the opportunity to “do the math” so to speak. The real magic is in the fact that he was able to stay true to reality yet somehow still make it immensely entertaining.

If the epic nerdiness isn’t enough for you, this book is also hilarious. Mark Watney is the type who often mitigates stressful situations with humor. And he’s not a whiner. I mean, he does his fair share of bitching and moaning, but through it all, he sucks it up, buckles down, and looks for creative solutions. In short, Watney is the type of hero that nerdy engineers worldwide can aspire to be.

This is hard science fiction at its best, people. Read this book. And then buy it for every single high school age kid you know. This is how you create a love for the sciences. Through awesomeness and snark.

Besides being a kickass husband, Adam is what you might call an irregular contributor around here. These are some of the other titles he's touted:

Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey

Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan