Book Review: The Passengers

Finished Reading: The Passengers
by John Marrs

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Sci-fi thriller

Cilka's Journey: A Novel

In a future where self-driving cars are becoming the norm, a mysterious Hacker takes control of 8 different vehicles, each with Passengers inside. These eight people are told that they will likely be dead in just over two hours. The Hacker than forces a jury of 5, alongside the entire world watching from their electronic devices, to decide which one of the eight should be saved.

I was really into this book for for the first 80%, which were parts 1 and 2. If I gave a rating just on that much of the book, it would be a solid 4 stars. Then part 3 came along, and everything just fell apart for me. The writing was good, for the most part, and some of the characters were interesting. Some were major stereotypes, but to be honest, with that many characters, it doesn’t surprise me. But the thriller aspect just died in the last 20%, even with a push to bring it back.

To be honest, the hacking done on the cars might have been wholly unrealistic, but I don’t really care. I’m blessed to be someone who can just enjoy it for what it is, because I don’t really know a lot about software, AI, or electronics in general. It was pretty clear that some of the Passengers were only in the book so that the Hacker could show how serious he was, as the number quickly dwindled from 8 to 5. Each of those 5 Passengers has their secrets, which are unveiled as the Hacker hurtles them to their doom.

While this is happening, the protagonist, a woman named Libby, is one of the 5 on the jury that is being forced to decide these people’s fate. While there were some things that she did that really bugged me, it was a good perspective to watch the events from. The very end of part 2 was a bit confusing to me, and unfortunately, in the mess that was parts 3 & 4, the book didn’t really give a satisfying reason for what happened.

Parts 3 & 4 are messy and mostly unnecessary. They felt like a tack-on, and frankly, soured the mysterious nature of the Hacker. I felt like there were too many attempted twists, and I quickly got to a point where I just didn’t believe anything, which makes it difficult to enjoy a book.

In the end, I am glad I read this book. Enough of it was enjoyable that I would recommend it for fans of sci-fi, especially people who enjoy books that show horror stories about the direction our technology is heading. Because of the many higher ratings this book has gotten, definitely check it out if you think you might enjoy it.

**Side note: One of the characters in this futuristic story mentioned that Facebook peaked in 2020. The idea of this was really funny to me.

Thank you to Netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me a copy of this book to review.  

Find out more about The Passengers

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

NaNoWriMo Day 8

Day 8 writing badgeThe Words: 3525 words. I did a solo sprint for 10 minutes in the afternoon, and the rest of the words came alongside @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter in the evening. I came on during a shift change, so the feed was quiet for 30 minutes (happens a lot to me lately), but rather than just write while I waited, I decided to read. (I’m close to the end of a book, so just kept wanting to get back to it.) Two 30-minute sprints later, I had my words for the day.

The Story:  Today was spent on storyline 1. After the main characters squeezed help out of a guy that couldn’t really do what they were hoping, we switched to a very familiar character, who has just come face to face with a man who used to torment her. What fun (for me, not her)!

Total word count: 30,670

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already:
November 8, 2019

Book Review: The Martian

Finished Reading: The Martian
by Andy Weir

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Sci-fi drama, suspense


Following a dust storm that forced an evacuation from the surface of Mars, astronaut Mark Whatney is left behind, presumed dead. But he’s very much alive, and must now figure out how to survive alone on Mars while back on Earth, they work on how to bring him home.

I watched this movie a few years ago (as research for a mini escape room I helped build), and I really liked it. The book is even better! Whatney is resourceful and determined. The repertoire between him and the rest of his team is fun and touching. The determination of those back on Earth to do whatever they can to help him survive is really interesting too.

The book has a lot of explanation about the different sides of what Whatney needs to survive. Ideas are thrown out and dismissed for better ones. It has such a real feel to it, as if it were any other modern space mission that went wrong. The genre is sci-fi, and it’s obviously a bit in the future, but the science isn’t far out there. It’s just a bit past what we have now.

The format of the book was interesting. Much of the narration comes from journal entries by Whatney, so it basically reads like 1st person. Then there is the 3rd person narration of what happens back on Earth. There are other formats, but explaining that would be a bit spoilery. I enjoyed feeling like Whatney was sharing his experience directly with us.

I watched the movie again a few days after finishing the book. I still think the movie is good, but like with many adaptations, they weren’t able to reach the depth of characterization that the book did. Plus, some harrowing moments and difficulties that Whatney faced were completely written out for the movie. Still, a good movie, and a great book!

Find out more about The Martian

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

NaNoWriMo Day 7

Day 7 writing badgeThe Words: 3404 words. Today was just a terrible day. My daughter and I were at odds all day, probably the worst it’s ever been. Not only did I have no chance to get a few words done earlier in the day, by the time my evening writing time came, I was just so drained, both physically and emotionally. I took a shower to try to kind of reboot my mind, then sat down to start writing at about 10:15.

I went straight to the trusty @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter and jumped into a 25-minute sprint with 15 minutes left. After that was a 30-minute (aka #1k30), during which I wrote 1500 words (that definitely helped!). Another sprint and a little more on my own to try to hit 3333 landed me with my total for the day.

The Story:  I went back to storyline 2 today, which at first I thought was going to be a problem, given the late start to my writing. Two characters were poised on the edge of a discovery the details for which I hadn’t really thought out yet. I planned to just gloss over it and move on, but I ended up figuring it out as went along. One of the characters ended up having some insight into what she’s thought to be right and wrong for years, and we’re about to make a huge leap the next time I come back to this storyline!

Total word count: 27,145

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already:
November 7, 2019
And in case you need some extra inspiration, check out the 2nd episode of the NaNoMusical!

NaNoWriMo Day 6

Day 6 writing badgeThe Words: 3521 words. My husband and kids were gone for a couple of hours this afternoon, during which I did some sprints with @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter. By the time they got home, I had 2800 words, and planned to get 500 more for the day. So when my normal evening writing time came, I just wrote until I’d hit 500, and called it a night!

The Story:  In my first real deviation from the planned back-and-forth between storylines 1 & 2, today I only wrote for what I’m now calling storyline 2b. It is a focus on one single character, who is in a bit of a predicament, and will eventually join with storyline 2. Today, he mostly asked questions of someone involved in the predicament he’s in.

I was actually halfway through today’s word count before I realized I was continuing this from yesterday, rather than going back to storyline 2 like I “should” have been. Then I decided that I was enjoying it enough to just keep with 2b for now.

Total word count: 23,741

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already:
November 6, 2019

Writing Wednesday: IWSG Nov 2019


For this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, I’m keeping my post short and simply answering the question posed on the IWSG site. Part of the reason for this is that I’ve got a novel draft to write, but I also have an interesting answer to the question.

Here is the question posed for today’s IWSG post:
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever googled in researching a story?

In my early writing days, I looked up how long it takes for a dead body to start to smell. I thought that was pretty strange at the time. I’ll bet it’s actually fairly run-of-the-mill though.

I topped it in 2015, when working on prep for my NaNoNovel that year. For the climax of the story I was outlining, I looked up what red-hot metal would do if stabbed into a body. It was a difficult topic to research, but led me down some really interesting rabbit trails that were not necessarily helpful for my novel (like common Hollywood misconceptions about how blades are made).

Nowadays, most of my research involves getting an accurate idea of weather during a certain time of year in areas that my books are set in or near, or distance between certain locations (like Alaska and Maine). Not nearly as interesting, but necessary to make sure my novels have a real feel to them.

So what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever researched for a story?

IWSG Blog Hop, Powered by Linky Tools
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NaNoWriMo Day 5

Day 5 writing badgeThe Words: 4392 words. My husband and I both had today off, which isn’t very common (outside of Sundays, which are usually busy for other reasons), so I was able to find some time in the afternoon to write. I did some sprints with @NaNoWordSprints. The first one I caught was 15 minutes, but when I got down to 5 minutes left, my husband told me we had to turn off our computers. Apparently someone from the electric company was here to replace our meter, and he was going to need to turn the electricity off for a few seconds. Of all the ways I’ve been interrupted during NaNoWriMo word sprints, that was probably the most unique. After 3 sprints with the Twitter feed, I had 1800 words.

On Tuesday nights, we have write-ins at my local library. They’re the only write-ins I go to, because most of the write-ins in my region are about 40 minutes away (I live in a city near the actual city of my region). I planned to get another 1500 words tonight, and figured I’d get most of that during the write-in.

I should mention that these write-ins are kind of an off-shoot of a writing group at the library. We meet one Tuesday a month throughout the year, but meet every Tuesday during NaNo. However, of the regular attenders of the group, I’m the only one that does NaNo. While they do call the Tuesdays during November write-ins, for most of them, it’s just an excuse to write more than they normally do, of whatever they’re working on. So it’s not like your typical write-in (though to be honest, I only have a passing understanding of how normal write-ins are). We talk at least as much as we write, and tonight was no exception. We did do 2 sprints though, one of 25 minutes and one of 20. Between them, I got 2500 words (far more than my goal!) on my Neo.

So for once, I’m post before midnight, because I do not plan to write any more today. Night off, yay!

The Story:  The first chunk of writing was for storyline 1. The newlyweds were interrupted on the way to their honeymoon, and are now poised on the edge of trying to force someone to help them who is going to be resistant to the idea.

While I was at the write-in, I continued the 3rd storyline, which I have decided to label storyline 2b, because it will eventually meet up with storyline 2. Right now, it’s just introductions mostly.

Total word count: 20,209

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already:
November 5, 2019

NaNoWriMo Day 4

Day 4 writing badgeThe Words: 3351 words. I didn’t get started on my writing until after 9 pm, which is normal for me, but I kept hoping to have time earlier in the day. Some of the writing was done with @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter. I did one 15-minute sprint with my region’s Discord group. Then at about 10:40 pm, I did the math to find out I was 700 words shy of my goal–3300. My husband would be coming home at around 11 pm, and I knew he’d like to play a game together tonight if I was willing. So I basically did a reverse sprint, where I wrote as fast as I could to get to 700 quickly, rather than writing for a set amount of time. I made it with a few minutes to spare before his car pulled in.

The Story:  I went back to storyline 2 today. The angry character got some words of advice and realize that underneath her anger was fear. And she decided she needed to do something about that fear, so she has brought another character to a location where, together, they can try to make a plan to find her missing best friend.

Today’s writing included a small “Aha!” moment as I stumbled over a chance to set something up that won’t come up until the book that follows this one. I love those moments.

Total word count: 15,817

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already:
2019 – November 4th

NaNoWriMo Day 3

Day 3 writing badgeThe Words: 3628 words, all on my Neo. I tend to bring either my Neo or a notebook everywhere I go during November, just in case I have some free time. While in the car today, I realized that I was missing some prime writing time. Normally, I can’t do anything like read or look at a phone while riding in the car, or I get dizzy and queasy, but with the Neo, I could just type without even looking down at the keyboard. So on the trip back home from church, I wrote for maybe 15 minutes and got a bit over 600 words.

Later, I caught a couple of word sprints on my region’s Discord server for right around 2000 words, and a couple of sprints with @NaNoWordSprints in the evening got me to my total for the night.

The Story:  When I was in the car, I wasn’t sure where I’d left off in either of my main storylines, so I decided to start on a 3rd. It is technically part of storyline 2, but it’s a different location and separate character, which will meet up with the rest of storyline 2 at some point later in the story. Then the rest of my writing at home, I worked on storyline 1. There was a wedding and an explosion. What an exciting day!

Total word count: 12,466

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already:
2019 – November 3rd

NaNoWriMo Day 2

Day 2 writing badgeThe Words: 2810 words, all on my Neo. Today being Saturday, I had dreams of getting some writing in during the day, but it wasn’t meant to be. My evening writing time came a little late too, with me finally sitting down to write at 10 pm. And the 2 hours from then until midnight (I always stop at midnight to count my words for the day) lacked focus, both in the time spent actually putting words into the Neo, and in the content of what I was writing.

When it got to be about 11:20, I planned to hit 3000 before stopping, but my numbers got thrown off by 400 extra words I found last night after midnight, when transferring my writing from the Neo to the computer. Though I tried to get the NaNo site to recognize that those words from the day before, apparently that feature isn’t working on the new site yet.

Anyway, 2800 words isn’t a bad number by any means! But my goal every year is more than just hitting 50k, but actually finishing the draft, because I know that if I don’t before November ends, I won’t for a long, long time after that. And based on the length of this year’s story’s outline and past experience, I think shooting for 100k words this year is my best bet. Hence setting my personal daily goal at 3333 words (double the normal amount). I didn’t make it today, but surpassed it yesterday, so I’m still on track.

The Story:  I switched to the other storyline today (I’ll call this one storyline 2, simply because I started it after storyline 1, but I don’t actually know which will start first in the final story). Today brought a character that has been around since the beginning of this series and is usually pretty calm and collected, but today she got to show a different side, as she is understandably pretty angry at her best friend, who made a huge, life-affecting decision at the very end of the previous book that she really doesn’t agree with.

I need to get a synopsis written up for this story…

Total word count: 8835

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already:
2019 – November 2nd