Gripping Martian tale ripe for the big screen
IN The Martian (Broadway, 387 pages, $18) by American author Andy Weir, an astronaut is stranded on Mars. With its shifting points of view — journal entries of astronaut Mark Watney alternate with chapters detailing the earth-bound efforts to cobble together a rescue mission — the story is both wildly imaginative and frighteningly plausible. Ridley Scott ( Alien, Blade Runner) is making a movie out of the book, and it’s easy to see why: Watley’s story of survival against extreme odds is mesmerizing (he has to find ways to grow food, keep warm, and make water), and the frantic race to save his life is extremely suspenseful. Brilliant. Raymond Khoury has a pretty clever answer to one of history’s more interesting mysteries: how the infamous Grigory Rasputin went from being a peasant to a confidant of the Russian royal family at the turn of the 20th century. Rasputin’s Shadow (Signet, 517 pages, $12) is the latest Sean Reilly thriller; looking into the modern-day death of a Russian diplomat, Reilly uncovers a tangled plot that reaches back into history. Khoury, who lives in London, England, has a real knack for mixing real people and events with made-up characters and fictional stories. This pageturner is almost seamless: you really do think that Reilly, his fictional FBI agent, has stumbled on the solution to the mystery surrounding the very real Rasputin. Another first-class thriller from an always entertaining writer. If you want to know how to make a bad movie — an awful, almost cheerfully inept movie, like the kind of thing Ed Wood used to make, only somehow even more incompetent — you should pick up The Disaster Artist (Simon & Schuster, 268 pages, $19) by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell. It’s the story of how the famously bad movie The Room got made (and, if you can believe it, released) about 10 years ago. The movie was supposed to be a sort of urban love story about a man, his fiancée, and another man. Sestero, who played one of the movie’s major characters (Mark, the other man), chronicles the chaotic day-to-day production, but that’s only half the story. The other half is the story of his eccentric relationship with the film’s auteur, the almost comically enigmatic Tommy Wiseau, a man so inscrutable that even Sestero doesn’t know what nationality he is or how he got the several million dollars he spent on the movie. Sestero and his co-writer, magazine journalist Bissell, both work in L.A., and have produced what might be the most entertaining, psychologically compelling making-of book ever written. If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of some of your favourite television series — House of Lies, The Good Wife, Bones, Sons of Anarchy, The Big Bang Theory, and many others — you should check out Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show (Titan Books, 240 pages, $17), by New Jersey’s Tara Bennett. Based on Bennett’s documentary of the same name, the book features interviews with some of TV’s top creators, writers, and producers. A showrunner is the person who steers a television series through its day-to-day operations — they oversee everything from set design to casting to making sure the scripts are sufficiently polished to massaging fragile egos. Reading this fascinating book, you get the sense that it’s one of those jobs that’s both incredibly tough and rewarding, both massively frustrating and exhilarating — the kind of job only a certain kind of person is cut out for. The book is like a crash course in television production, and a must-read if you’re a fan of well-crafted TV shows. Halifax freelancer David Pitt’s column appears the first weekend
of every month.