Tag Archive | penguin random house

The Martian – Andy Weir

This book was given to me by Paul Martinovic at Penguin General last year, so thanks Paul! Only just got around to reading it but I’m glad I did, and I definitely wanted to read it before watching the film.

The novel tells of Mark Watney, a botanist-astronaut who gets stranded on Mars after a dust storm makes his crew think he’s died. Whilst Mark’s initial struggle is working out how to survive on Mars, NASA eventually realises he’s still alive and the mission turns to working out how to get Mark back to Earth.

It’s a sciency novel, let’s be honest here, and it was a little difficult for me to wrap my head around. Whilst Mark’s going on about oxygenation and EVAs, I found my attention waning, but once the secondary storylines of NASA back at home and the Ares 3 Crew are brought into play, the novel became much more engaging and exciting to read. Mark faces a lot of obstacles throughout his journey – which is understandable, survival and escape from Mars was never going to be an easy task, but it did become a bit repetitive at times.

The characterisation of Mark really is the novel’s highlight. He is witty, immature and incredibly relatable, rather than being a smarty-pants geek of an astronaut. Maybe it’s a good thing he doesn’t have a huge psychological breakdown (which in all fairness, might well come after the end of the novel, because during his time on Mars it’s highly likely that he was just trying to get from one day to the next) because otherwise it would have been a really bummer of a book. Instead, the novel and its protagonist are captivating and engaging, which makes you want to read on and see how this joker is going to get off Mars.

And you can bet that Mark’s interviews once he gets back to Earth were probably hysterical.

As I said, it’s slow to build and can be a little jumpy at times (there was a whole section of interspersed paragraphs describing the production of something for the airlock that ultimately failed, which felt a bit out of place), but if you like science and outer space, then this is definitely for you.

I also really liked the little prequel in the back of my book, telling you about Mark getting into the Ares 3 programme. I’d be interested to read more of that, and even a sequel/epilogue about Mark’s return to Earth.

I think readers of this novel will divide into two camps: people who like science and people who don’t. Those who do will love the opening sections of all the maths and sciency stuff, and those who don’t (like me) will enjoy the human side of the novel, and the action going on off-Mars, such as the parts on the ground and of the Ares 3 Crew.

Overall, if you stick with it, I think it’s a really great book and extremely well written by Andy Weir. Which is saying something for someone who is clearly intelligent enough to invent his own Mars mission. Usually science and emotions don’t really mix, but here, they do.

The Martian is published by Del Rey, the SFF Imprint of Ebury. 


The Scheme 16!

Hello readers!! As I am now entering the final months of my undergraduate (last week I finished all my formal classes – scary!) my own personal reading is sadly on the back-burner as I devote my attention to dissertations, essays and Spanish Grammar. Currently should be writing an essay on Spanish Civil War poetry but I’m taking a little break to discuss The Scheme 16!

For anyone who doesn’t know what that is, The Scheme is Penguin Random House’s non-graduate scheme, which welcomes any and all individuals to apply, with or without a degree, to become one of their editors of tomorrow, as long as you have the talent.

I first read about the Scheme last year during my year abroad, when it was in its infancy and was a Scheme for Marketers. I knew from last March that I would by applying this year and have been waiting in anticipation to submit my application, which I finally did on Tuesday. *HAPPY DANCE*

The application doesn’t ask for a CV, any qualifications, experience or formal training, which is both exciting and really scary, as we only had four questions to really show ourselves off and demonstrate that we have the skills and qualities that Penguin are looking for.

I’m not going to go into detail about those qualities, but you can find them here if you choose to apply. Can’t quite decide if I should be advocating applications or not… Obviously if this sounds up your street then of course apply, but now I’ve definitely made more competition for myself!

I’m hopeful that my answers made me stand out and that I get through to the next round, which we find out on May 3rd, after which we have 2 weeks to complete a video interview. I really do hope I get though, because it’s so hard to convey my natural enthusiasm through answers of 300 or so words. So keep your fingers crossed for me readers!

Something I do want to talk about it is something that Liv, one of the current Schemers, discussed in a video yesterday about The Scheme. Liv was talking about doing an English Lit degree, which obviously I can relate to, and how in the final stages of your undergrad the endless reading and being forced to read instead of being able to read for pleasure can make you really despondent about reading and really put you off reading.

I know that these days, when I’ve done a full day of studying and reading about Chaucer or the Spanish Civil War, all I want to do is crawl into bed and binge-watch something on Netflix or even watch infinite YouTube videos that have no purpose at all. I can see The Martian, which you’ll know I’ve been reading since February, according to My Long Long List of Books, looking at me saying ‘Read me! Read me!’ but I just can’t seem to enjoy reading at the moment because I spend my life looking at words.

I was so incredibly pleased to hear that working with books re-invigorated Liv’s love of reading and it made me more determined than ever to get a job in books, purely so I can get my love of reading back. I think I deserve that much – don’t you?

And now, I should probably get back to Spanish Civil War poetry, as this essay will not write itself. Do you ever feel despondent about reading even though you know it’s your one true love? Let me know in the comments below!

Incidentally I spelt The Scheme wrong every single time I wrote it here. Better work on that… 

PRH Removing Degree Requirement – Opinion

Penguin Random House announced today that they are removing the university degree requirement from job applications to attract candidates from more varied backgrounds that might not necessarily have the qualifications. I read about this on The Bookseller and after thinking about it all day, decided I needed to put my two cents in.

I think that I’m probably one of the most stereotypical candidates for a publishing job. I’m in my fourth year of a degree in English Literature (and Hispanic Studies JH – please let that make me stand out!), I love books, and I’ve been working tirelessly at building up contacts and experience for the last two years (since I decided that publishing was the thing for me).

I’ve been lucky enough to have two work experience placements with two big names in publishing: Hodder & Stoughton and Penguin General. There are some people saying on Twitter today that unpaid experience is really only available to people from wealthy backgrounds. I definitely wouldn’t say I’m from a wealthy background, but a comfortable one. But my background and my parents’ jobs have nothing to do with me gaining experience. I gained my experience from putting myself out there, emailing as many people at as many companies as I could and proving that I could put my skills to good use. The only thing my background guaranteed me where others might not is that my uncle lives in London so I could stay with him for the two weeks of the year I did experience.

But that’s something that does hold me back, like so many others. I don’t live in London, I can’t spend hours working unpaid with the knowledge I’ll have somewhere to go back to every night. It’s not enough to have an uncle in London because I really don’t think he’d want a 21 year-old living with him for more than 2 weeks. So if you are lucky enough to live in London, make the most of unpaid experience because just by living there, you can afford at least 2 weeks.

The real problem is the unpaid experience and the unpaid internships, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about today.

I (will) have a degree (by July), which I got not through my background but through student loans and debts and a desire to further my education. I know that’s not an option or a choice for everyone, but it has been the choice for me because of pure academic want, rather than the knowledge that I needed one like you might do for Medicine or Law. But what PRH are saying today isn’t that now people with degrees are “excluded” but rather that the gates are opening for more than just those that do have. So hopefully my degree (along with the transferable skills studying has given me) will be useful when applying, but these days it’s not a necessity.

It seems like a bit of a knockdown sometimes when you read things like this after having spent 3 and a half years working on a degree. It feels a bit like that time I read that ‘English degrees aren’t a necessity anymore’ and I wanted to cry into the Complete Works of Shakespeare. But I understand that it is time to open the doors to something new and to acknowledge that traditional routes aren’t the only routes into the industry.

At the end of the day, I will say that I do believe my degree has been useful, in the main because of the transferable skills and opportunities it’s given me. I have a more analytical mind now than I did at the start of my degree, my writing and communication skills have improved, and I studied abroad in Spain for a year, which I would’ve been unable to do without my degree.

But if you have other experiences and other ways of attaining transferable skills, like these or other ones, there should be no reason why lack of qualifications should hold you back. Like Neil Morrison (of PRH) says it’s about attracting talented people, of any background or walk of life.

So rather than debating whether it’s necessary to have a degree or whether this is a good move, we should be finding ways of building up our skills and experiences in order to put our talents to their best use, whether that’s directly into a job or into perfecting our dissertations (as I should be right now).

Also, there are plenty of ways of getting experience that might not necessarily be traditional; i.e. it doesn’t have to be in publishing house. The wonderful Maria of Jobs In Books (check out her blog Once Upon The Book) taught me that: try bookselling, or admin work, or volunteering. These are all experiences worth having on your CV, which don’t necessarily require qualifications.

So I (will) have a degree, you might not. As long as we both have skills, there should be nothing stopping us. It’s great to see the doors opening for so many people – the harder part is seeing supposedly entry-level jobs that say at the end of the description ‘at least one year’s experience required’. Maybe that’s what we, as an industry, should be tackling next, along with those pesky unpaid internships.