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Book Nook - 26-03-2018

Monday, March 26, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com

Girl On The Moon
In Andy Weir’s last sci-fi bestseller, The Martian, an astronaut was mistakenly left behind on Mars, and finds ways to survive alone (Ridley Scott directed the movie with Matt Damon), as his colleagues figure out how to rescue him.

In his second novel Artemis set in 2080 (the not too distant future), Weir has created a colony on the moon, called Artemis, where the superrich go to live and vacation. In its gleaming underbelly are people like Jazz Bashara, a young woman of Saudi Arabian origin, who works as a porter and moonlights as a smuggler of contraband items forbidden to be brought to the moon.

Weir describes the working of the lunar settlement in minute—sometimes boringly so—details, and for all one knows when Earthlings finally do get to colonize the moon, they might actually live in a town like Artemis. The small population, policed by just one administrator and one cop, lives with lighter gravity, under sealed bubbles named after real-life moon-landing astronauts, depends on tourism as its main revenue source and uses a form of cryptocurrency called slug.

Jazz is the daughter of a devout Muslim welder, who is fed-up of her wayward lifestyle. So she lives by herself in a ‘coffin’ – a tiny space just enough to crawl in to sleep. She is smart, sassy, and would rather use her remarkable brain on her small criminal scams than to put it to better use; in fact, nothing annoys her more than people commenting on her potential.

She is offered a very lucrative assignment by billionaire Trond Landvik, to sabotage the harvesters of the Sanchez Corporation that supplies oxygen to Artemis, so that he can pick up the big contract for himself. Jazz is as unscrupulous as she is greedy, so she takes it up for a million slugs, and causes such a disaster that she almost wipes out the population of the town. She has to undo the damage then, with the help of her reluctant father, former boyfriend Dale and a tech wizard, Martin Svoboda, who is in love with her.

Weir concentrates so much on Jazz’s antics that other characters are left half-baked; the dialogue is juvenile and the plot quite predictable, but when it comes to the science, Weir’s imagination is unbeatable.  And he has the ability to make all that jargon quite entertaining.

Artemis is on its way to the screen too, let’s hope they don’t get a white actress to play the brown-skinned Arab badass.

Artemis
By Andy Weir
Publisher: Crown
Pages: 320

Excerpt of Artemis
I plodded through the maze of aluminum corridors to my home. At least it wasn’t a long walk. The whole city is only half a kilometer across.

I live in Artemis, the first (and so far, only) city on the moon. It’s made of five huge spheres called “bubbles.” They’re half underground, so Artemis looks exactly like old sci-fi books said a moon city should look: a bunch of domes. You just can’t see the parts that are belowground.

Armstrong Bubble sits in the middle, surrounded by Aldrin, Conrad, Bean, and Shepard. The bubbles each connect to their neighbors via tunnels. I remember making a model of Artemis as an assignment in elementary school. Pretty simple: just some balls and sticks. It took ten minutes.

It’s pricey to get here and expensive as hell to live here. But a city can’t just be rich tourists and eccentric billionaires. It needs working-class people too. You don’t expect J. Worthalot Richbastard III to clean his own toilet, do you? I’m one of the little people.

I live in Conrad Down 15, a grungy area fifteen floors underground in Conrad Bubble. If my neighborhood were wine, connoisseurs would describe it as “shitty, with overtones of failure and poor life decisions.”

I walked down the row of closely spaced square doors until I got to my own. Mine was a “lower” bunk, at least. Easier to get into and out of. I waved my Gizmo across the lock and the door clicked open. I crawled in and closed it behind me.

I lay in the bunk and stared at the ceiling—which was less than a meter from my face. Technically, it’s a “capsule domicile” but everyone calls them coffins. It’s just an enclosed bunk with a door I can lock. There’s only one use for a coffin: sleep. Well, okay, there’s another use (which also involves being horizontal), but you get my point.

I have a bed and a shelf. That’s it. There’s a communal bathroom down the hall and public showers a few blocks away. My coffin isn’t going to be featured in Better Homes and Moonscapes anytime soon, but it’s all I can afford.

I checked my Gizmo for the time. “Craaaap.” No time to brood. The KSC freighter was landing that afternoon and I’d have work to do.

To be clear: The sun doesn’t define “afternoon” for us. We only get a “noon” every twenty-eight Earth days and we can’t see it anyway. Each bubble has two six-centimeter-thick hulls with a meter of crushed rock between them. You could shoot a howitzer at the city and it still wouldn’t leak. Sunlight definitely can’t get in. So what do we use for time of day? Kenya Time. It was afternoon in Nairobi, so it was afternoon in Artemis.

I was sweaty and gross from my near-death EVA. There was no time to shower, but I could change, at least. I lay flat, stripped off my EVA coolant-wear, and pulled on my blue jumpsuit. I fastened the belt then sat up, cross-legged, and put my hair in a ponytail. Then I grabbed my Gizmo and headed out.

We don’t have streets in Artemis. We have hallways. It costs a lot of money to make real estate on the moon and they sure as hell aren’t going to waste it on roads. You can have an electric cart or scooter if you want, but the hallways are designed for foot traffic. It’s only one-sixth Earth’s gravity. Walking doesn’t take much energy.

ALSO RECEIVED
Ruby Tandoh’s book, Eat Up a delightfully different take on eating. Says the synopsis, “Think about that first tickle of hunger in your stomach. A moment ago, you could have been thinking about anything, but now it's thickly buttered marmite toast, a frosty scoop of ice cream straight from the tub, some creamy, cheesy scrambled eggs or a fuzzy, perfectly-ripe peach. Eating is one of life's greatest pleasures. Food nourishes our bodies, helps us celebrate our successes (from a wedding cake to a post-night out kebab), cheers us up when we're down, introduces us to new cultures and - when we cook and eat together - connects us with the people we love. In Eat Up, Ruby Tandoh celebrates the fun and pleasure of food, taking a look at everything from gluttons and gourmets in the movies, to the symbolism of food and sex. She will arm you against the fad diets, food crazes and bad science that can make eating guilt-laden and expensive, drawing eating inspiration from influences as diverse as Roald Dahl, Nora Ephron and Gemma from TOWIE. Filled with straight-talking, sympathetic advice on everything from mental health to recipe ideas and shopping tips, this is a book that clears away the fog, to help you fall back in love with food.”

Eat Up: Food, Appetite And Eating What You Want
By Ruby Tandoh
Publisher: Hachette
Pages: 256

Helen Thomson’s Unthinkable: An Extraordinary Journey Through The World’s Strangest Brains attempts to unravel the human mind. The book summary states, “Our brains are far stranger than we think. We take it for granted that we can remember, feel emotion, navigate, empathise and understand the world around us, but how would our lives change if these abilities were dramatically enhanced - or disappeared overnight?
“Award-winning science writer Helen Thomson has spent years travelling the world tracking down incredibly rare brain disorders. In Unthinkable she tells the stories of nine extraordinary people. From the man who thinks he's a tiger to the doctor who feels the pain of others just by looking at them, their experiences illustrate how the brain can shape our lives in unexpected and, in some cases, brilliant and alarming ways.

“Delving into the rich histories of these conditions, exploring the very latest research and cutting-edge medical techniques, Thomson explains the workings of our consciousness, our emotions, our creativity and even the mechanisms that allow us to understand our own existence.

“Story by remarkable story, Unthinkable takes us on an unforgettable journey through the human brain. Discover how to forge memories that never disappear, how to grow an alien limb and how to make better decisions. Learn how to hallucinate and how to make yourself happier in a split second. Find out how to avoid getting lost, how to see more of your reality, even how exactly you can confirm you are alive. Think the unthinkable.”

Unthinkable: An Extraordinary Journey Through The World’s Strangest Brains
By Helen Thomson
Publisher: Hachette
Pages: 290
 
Jyotin Goel’s Bheem: Destiny’s Warrior is written with a filmmaker’s vividly visual style, with a deft blending of mythology and modernity. According to the synopsis, “From the battlefields of Lanka and Kurukshetra rises a deadly threat to the modern world Only one man is bold enough to confront it-the legendary warrior Bheem.

“As Mandodari, the queen of Lanka, watches the destruction of her golden kingdom, her fury erupts as a curse. Morphing into an incurable virus, the blight takes root in the vaanars and sets out on a destructive path through the centuries. Unknown to present-day humans, the seed of their total annihilation has already been sown . . .

“Ripping through the vortex of time, Bheem arrives in the twenty-first century to seek out the only four humans who, with their natural immunity, can help develop an antidote. However, his quest becomes a perilous race against time, for a sworn enemy from the past-Ashvatthama-has also journeyed to the present to prevent the cure from being found. Amid the glitter and chaos of modern India, an ancient war reaches its cataclysmic finale . . .”

Bheem: Destiny’s Warrior
By Jyotin Goel
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 289

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