Wednesday, October 2, 2013

On Love by Alain de Botton

Title: On Love
Author: Alain de Botton
Publisher: Grove Press
Original Publication Date: 1993
Pages: 194

I have been having different slices of the same loaf. And I plan to continue on finishing the platter until kingdom come. After reading Fromm's Art of Loving, Alain de Botton's On Love was consequently partaken of.

At the outset, Art of Loving must be considered as a league of its own. The theorizing Fromm achieved was incomparable in that love, like any other concept in the social sciences, could be easily demystified, unraveled and explained by the use of inquiry and reason; even though what Fromm wrote in the intro that every endeavor committed to such pursuit is bound to end in failure still held true until the bitter end of his book. An aspect which De Botton's work did not tackle (and conclude with) in a  significantly different matter.

If Fromm wrote about the origins of love and how love can be successfully pursued as an art in itself in a very scholarly manner, De Botton on the other hand wrote on the inception of love and the processes it goes through, albeit ending in an unideal and rather depressing manner. For all it's worth however, On love manages to encapsulate the reader for the very personal, realistic and relatable (most especially) manner De Botton has chosen to write this book.

The book is divided in essays on particular issues connected through out a developing relationship. We are treated to numbered paragraphs under these essays. The riveting aspect of this book however lies in the manner De Botton was so successful in enlacing the theoretical aspects to the fictional aspect that objectified and so perfectly represented his theories and arguments. De Botton not only theorize love well, he presented the readers with something they can objectively relate to through Chloe's fictional love story, and in doing so, managed to humanize what was conceived in abstract. More than that, it managed to establish a connection with the reader, by a common thread of experience in the story. De Botton did not only theorize actions of love like putting meaning where there is none, holding hands, happiness, betrayal and fear of loving again and of loving again, he wrote about it through Chloe. De Botton is one great love story writer that most YA Romance novelist will ever dream of.

The sentences were beautifully written, incomparably so. I remember reading Hemingway and having the same reaction. De Botton simply writes beautifully.

If there were any limitations to this book, we have to concede that it is written in a certain perspective, a man's perspective, which sometimes arguably is guilty of permeating the objectiveness of the arguments.

Taking on the Dead by Annie Wells

Title: Taking on the Dead (Famished Trilogy Book #1)
Author: Annie Wells
Publisher: Create Space/ Independently Published
Original Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 322

I have substantially pondered the rating I would give to this book with finality. First because this is an independently published book, a fact that should always be afforded respect if not praise for it is no mystery both to writers and even to non-writers like me how hard it is to establish names in the market, more so to move beyond great names in the myriad of genres like Tolkien, Lewis or Le Guin in Fantasy, or of Asimov, Clarke or Heinlein in Science-Fiction (or of Max Brooks in the Horror-Zombie Genre?). Second is that this book has claimed (this word is most appropriate as will be discussed later) to be under the proliferating Horror-Zombie genre. However, it is a greater sin to rate this with something it does not deserve. If a book should break those veils Tolkien and the likes have unconsciously erected albeit in a successful and (portentously) ageless manner, it should be by its merits alone, and by merits alone that this two star rating is founded upon.

The Zombie Factor
I am a fan of the mindless, flesh eating, human craving zombies. Somehow, in this fictional setting, a thinking, evolving, zombie is untenable and its essence against the basic tenets of the zombie horror genre. Why? The appeal of the zombie genre has been anchored upon the story of survival of humanity, but this story of survival undeniably comes hand in hand with the zombies. This survival has two faces, the possibility of extinction on the one hand, and on the other, triumph over this fictional anathema. Put a thinking zombie in here and the balance tilts to either what is called human extinction removing the conspicuous appeal of human triumph and power or    could either be a book, meant more for humor or for the YA shelves of romance. Enter Taking on the Dead! Where there is no need for a zombie literary pundit to tell that zombies are either subplots or plot devices. It is a subplot because the book is not about survival but of personal feelings, specifically the female sexual feeling of the main character. It is a plot devices because zombies momentarily appear to further personal (sexual) relations of the female protagonist with the numerous male characters. The middle of the book is solely dedicated to romance of the female protagonist.

Character Development
I don't know how the author has visualized the main character, it turned ultimately as an in inconsistent persona. The author wanted to paint a protagonist who knows how to survive in the post-apocalyptic world by saying that she had resource materials, can jack a car and survived alone for four years since the outbreak. For all that, she turned out to be stupid, real stupidity or forced stupidity, i don't know, all that matter is she is stupid. (e.g. Who takes a bath in a lake fully naked unarmed?)

The men are all objects of the pent up libido of our main character, that is all I can say.

The supporting cast is the literary embodiment of racial stereotypes. The asian-american as practitioner of martial arts, the african-american as the street gangster/rocker type.

The Writing
The writing is, like most YAs, (drumroll) in the prevalent stream of consciousness occasionally interjected with conversations. So it is an easy read.

There are a number of awkward passages within the book. Like this:

"Ice seemed to spread through me."

Better Fit for the YA Romance than the Zombie Genre
I fault myself for not taking caution after reading the prologue:

"Sometime later, we got off the Ferris Wheel, both heated, clinging to each other, and ready for another tryst when we went off the beaten path to use the foul port-a- potties. When I think about it now, I know the outbreak began early in the day. We passed several wrecks, heard many helicopters and sirens, and probably saw a few zombies, but were too wrapped up in ourselves to notice. I blame it on being in love, but I swear to myself now if I saw a person walking down the street covered in blood or eating someone, I would have paid attention. Maybe."

The paragraph was portentous. It had the picture of a romantic, sexual, stupid oblivious makings of the book. I mean come on, who ever you are, however in love you are, you can't be oblivious to several wrecks, helicopters and sirens. That's just being plain stupid.

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

Title: The Lover's Dictionary
Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux 
Original Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 211



Belated 
adjective 
1 : delayed beyond the usual time
2 : existing or appearing past the normal or proper time

Actually took me up until letter B to realize that I was bored reading it.

Drop/Dropped
transitive verb
1 : to let fall : cause to fall
2 a : give up 2, abandon

I am putting this into my DNF shelf. I cannot simply force myself to finish this! I think my upcoming finals schedule is taxing enough. Also I forcibly placed this so that 'did not finish' could be inserted, just like how the book felt, a lot of the entries were rather conventional, if not forced. No fluidity.

Continuance
noun
1 : continuation
2 : the extent of continuing : duration
3 : the quality of enduring : permanence

So I will be enduring this, because I know it takes a lot of trees to produce copies of this book. it will be a waste and shame to the trees to simply stop at letter B.

Tree
noun
1 a : a woody perennial plant having a single usually elongate main stem generally with few or no branches on its lower part
b : a shrub or herb of arborescent form

Wasted paper. Wasted trees. The format aimed to be novel and fresh and exciting. I'm telling you now it was nothing like that but large chunks of wasted spaces. In contrast to Nicole Krauss' History of Love and Jonathan Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close which masterfully employed this minimalist aspect in type-setting, I see nothing but fragmented struggling minimal entries in paper.

Hodgepodge
noun
: a heterogeneous mixture : jumble

The dictionary entry styles barely made any sense. Interjected themes, issues and ideas where they would randomly fit through the words. At the risk of being redundant, there was no fluidity.

Honesty
noun
1 obsolete : chastity
2 a : fairness and straightforwardness of conduct
b : adherence to the facts : sincerity

I confess I only read this because I failed to find a copy of Raymond Carvers' book What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
I also confess, I never got past B. Sorry trees.

1984 by George Orwell

Title: 1984
Author: George Orwell
Publisher: Signet Classics
Original Publication Date: 1949
Pages: 328

Perhaps what makes this tale so gripping is the propensity of the imagined world to be translated in an objective observable human reality, more so as an empirical experience (not discounting that it may have been translated already). Orwell did a superb job merging a tragic romance and a corrupted political ideology. Worthy to be read beyond its years.

The Diary of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain

Title: The Diary of Adam and Eve
Author: Mark Twain
Publisher: Harper and Brothers
Original Publication Date: 1905
Pages: 112

A take on the socially constructed gender roles and biases through a narrative anchored on the belief of the creation.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Title: The Metamorphosis
Author: Franz Kafka
Publisher: Kurt Wolff Verlag
Original Publication Date: 1915
Pages: 195

Between the alienation experienced by Gregor and his family, the inescapable lost humanity though a failure of communication, and the apparently weird and unexplained but interestingly exciting story, deeper meanings in the book escape me (for I am led to believe there are), perhaps a second reading will put it within my grasps.

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Title: The Art of Loving
Author: Erich Seligmann Fromm
Publisher: Harper and Brothers
Original Publication Date: 1956
Pages: 184

There's a lot of grain of truth in this theorizing and objectification of love that Erich Fromm successfully wrote. Let me quote with liberality such instances more so for the inherent beauty and magnificence of such statements.

One page xix

"It (book) wants to convince the reader that all his attempts at love are bound to fail; unless he tries most actively develop his total personality so as to achieve a productive orientation."

On page 22

"Love is an activity, not a passive effect; it is a 'standing in' not a 'falling for.' In the most general way the active character of love can be described by stating that love is primarily giving, not receiving."

On page 56

"To love somebody is not just a strong feeling — it is a decision, it is a judgement, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no promise to base the promise to love each other forever. A feeling may comes as it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgement and decision?"

On page 71

"Most people believe that love is constituted by the object not by the faculty. Because one does not see that love is an activity, a power of the soul, one believes that all that is necessary to find is the right object - and that everything goes by itself afterward. This attitude can be compared to a man who wants to paint but who, instead of learning the art, claims that he has just to wait for the right object and that he will paint beautifully when he finds it. If I truly love one person I love all persons, I love the world, I love life. If I can say to someone 'I love you,' I must be able to say, 'I love in you everybody, I love through you the world, I love in you also myself."

From a scholar and an academician's perspective, Art of Loving is highly reminiscent and indicative of the great scholar Fromm is. His arguments are well thought out and psychologically anchored. The conclusions are convincingly rationalized. My propensity to disagree however trickles in regarding certain points in his arguments.

Fromm situates fatherly love as love that is conditional in contrast to motherly love as unconditional. This condition, Fromm writes, depends on the child's capacity to please, satisfy and fulfill every fatherly expectation, requirement and demand. Now before anything else, the strength of this forthcoming argument is not anchored on personal disposition (for I am neither a father nor a husband yet) nor is it on a personal father-son relationship but on the patent criticism on Freud's study —that much of adult psychological development is founded on the child's experience (because it perpetuates that development is not progress and change but accumulation of the same static component). Now for you Fathers out there, is Fatherly love truly conditional? Does it really depend upon any fulfillment of a condition? Isn't it a bit partial, bordering sexism for fatherly love to be labeled as conditional? This is pivotal since Fromm forwards the argument that conditional fatherly love is the significant half component for the development of a mature being capable of truly loving. Cannot fatherly love be demanding, hard-driving, expectant and directing while at the same time be unconditional? Because in contrast to what Fromm writes, that the failure to transcend the conditional fatherly love results to one extreme end of the stick, the incomplete and incapable-of-loving person, perhaps such incapability have resulted from such conditional fatherly love in a very fundamental manner. Fromm's proposition of this kind of a fatherly love however carries something more portentous because as much as reality has put it, the general rule is non-fulfillment of such 'condition' and the fulfillment being the exception which necessarily forwards the conclusion that most individuals are incapable of loving.

The social milieu (having been published at 1956) at the time of the writing of this book is gleamed from the very words and arguments Fromm has employed. Take for example Fromm's argument on homosexuality, capitalism, and on criticism on Freud.

What surprised me however is Fromm's repeated employment of biblical passages and resources. In hindsight this should have come with no surprise at all as no better book talks (categorically and objectively) about love than the Bible, and this is true whether one reads it as a religious keystone or as a plain literary work.

Basically one of the theses of this book is that an individual has to be a complete individual by himself/herself. And I have always believed this to be true and found that acclaimed romantic statement 'you complete me!' to be a grossly incorrect statement. Fromm hits that mark masterfully.

Considering it all, Art of Loving is one enlightening work, something I'd never fail to recommend.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Title: Looking For Alaska
Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Children's Books
Original Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 231

Here's the second book borne out of having been lost in a labyrinth that is Tolstoy (it is true that YA are easy reads, with respect to Looking for Alaska though, that is an understatement).

John Green's first book that I have first read, which interestingly, did not leave any hint of novelty. The reason is conspicuous enough. The plot is conventional and prevalent (predictable too). Who hasn't read, or heard of, of teenagers who know everything, of people who believe they stand at the top of the world only to be confronted by something beyond comprehension? Relegating the plot, perhaps the characters echo of redemption. I am again to be disheartened. The characters were the embodiment of stereotypes. Miles (stereotypical nerd) who leaves for boarding school only to search for his "Great Perhaps". What is surprising however is that Miles forgets this Great Perhaps of his only to reemerge in the last parts. One can hardly argue that his stay was his Great Perhaps, as the stereotypical nerd, he gets pushed and nicknamed Pudge, (where's any hint of a Great Perhaps?) with no attempt ror what so ever of shaking off occurred, in the contrary, Miles subdued himself to it, he pays for Colonel's cigarettes, and is of course forever chided by Alaska. Colonel (stereotype of a cool friend who strives because of a definitive family background). Alaska as the stereotype of the hot and smart girl who I guess Green envisioned to be near perfect in light of his feminism (who doesn't ever go beyond the pseudo-feminist bickering), a roomful of books and precal tutorials. So everybody likes her, but hell, you can't have her because once you thought so she'll start spouting that she's oh so loyal, right after making out with her.

Miles lost any redemption towards his Great Escape, something the author conventionally concludes through their predicament of "looking for Alaska". And if to add insult to injury, they never really did find Alaska, emphatically that is, did they?

The appeal is easy to see. The character's are in a school, no less of a boarding school, and yet they have access to booze, sex, and smoke. They can carry out any prank with little injury. So I guess Green cast his characters in a mold embossed with intelligence, love for learning and books not only to offset, but to some extent justify, what his characters do. Who would, from the young (who want to experience such), the YA (who are experiencing such), and the young once (who have experienced such), not get caught up in such a subjectively pleasing read?

So yeah, we give in to the occasional emotional torrent to which the work's success must have been anchored. We give in to the dreaded  effects of bullying, to the alienation, to the incomparable feeling of first love or lust, whether it be real or not, and to lost love, to chasing ghosts. We give in  to the pursuit of redemption, of Looking for Alaska through pulling the best imaginable prank ever in Culvert history. After all there is something somewhere to which we can relate to what Green has written, however minuscule or insubstantial that is.

I guess, if I were a teenager, I would have given it a 4 or even a 5. I admit I liked Mile's devotion to last words (got me curious to a great extent I'll be picking up a book on this), but somehow, the prank they pulled off was seemingly anti-climatic. I expected something more. Or then again, I am totally in the wrong for every word in this review, after all, it is American culture Green is writing into.

addendum
In an attempt dictated by convenience and compelled by the material, I have somehow visualized this review.

not viewable, here's the <a href="http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/856/40020854.jpg"> link </a>
**i dread repeating words, which in this case is not only fitting but inevitable  in lieu of the indistinctness of the plot.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Some of the World's Best Bookends

Game of Thrones Direwolf bookends. A double delight!


Arthurian Knights bookends!


David McCullough's Typewriter Bookend


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Title: Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos #1)
Author: Dan Simmons
Publisher: Bantam Spectra 
Original Publication Date: 1989
Pages: 482

Whenever I come across an epic masterpiece a great difficulty in talking about it (in this sense, reviewing it) arises. Perhaps an empirical testament that Hyperion is nothing short of a masterpiece is that I have mulled over what I have to say over this work for an uncharacteristically numerous number of days (and still, ironically, I came up with technically nothing). I will struggle to mark my statement with brevity, lest I contradict myself and lose credence that Hyperion, is one that every sci-fi fan should read.

Every story has been told, one way or another, the gift of the author is in retelling that story and in such retelling, create a story of magnificence of his own. This is to say that Hyperion is a modern-sci-fi-setting retelling of the Canterbury tales. Six stories, woven into one epic masterpiece. This holds true to Hyperion, as one would later see. To say that Dan Simmons, in writing Hyperion, is gifted would be an understatement. He is a genius and his work a revelation. Once again, I am plunged to experience the unfathomable urge to read the book's sequel.

The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison

Title: The Worm Ouroboros
Author: Eric Rücker Eddison
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Original Publication Date: 1922
Pages: 446

To say that The Worm Ouroboros has bolstered my love for the classics, is to strain credulity, for I have devoted much time going through the 49 pages more than I would have wanted to.

A plain reason why 'classics,' or in a more encompassing sense, early works in literature experience a fallout, at its more merciful dispositions, has something to do with the language it has been couch with. The philosophies that give life to the plot, the mythologies in the origin of the story, the psychologies of the characters, be they stupidly consistent or brilliantly logical, are all contained in the language. Failure must not exists in the basic and most vital component of a book, lest it be fatal. Language, one might say, would be the shell of the book by which it is most peremptorily judged, just as how The Worm Ouroboros came out to be. (Perhaps this too contribute to the proliferation of YA novels, they are as simple and easy as they could possibly be - although this statement is in danger of suffering from generalization)

I look forward, knowing that a moment will come when i should once again pick this book up, not only giving justice to the words Tolkien have immortally left with it, but to knowing, at last, the merits it contain. Till then, unrated it will be left.

The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons


Title: The Fall of Hyperion
Author: Dan Simmons
Publisher: Bantam Spectra
Original Publication Date: 1990
Pages: 517

I had a hard time getting a copy of this book considering the fame it has enjoyed. Perhaps such effects has bolstered the value of this book.

At the outset I would like to emphasize that Fall of Hyperion is more likely a part of the first book just as Endymion and Rise of Endymion are one, in other words, the series is actually more in the content of two books divided and stretched over four, pursued for the contingency that readers may experience some difficulty wading over a thousand paged story. At this point I actually do not mind if it was, Dan Simmons is great, and I would gladly add him up to the likes of people who can write a thousand paged story.

I love writers who do not talk down to their readers, who present complex ideas and let their readers understand, and who create a world and lets us visualize it.

The book still fundamentally carries the same format. POVs of the pilgrims later to be merged for the concluding parts. Dan Simmons did this in a masterful manner.

I revel at how he has created and developed the characters. They have remained true all throughout.

Sometimes I however pause at Dan Simmons' bombardment, literal bombardment of high-fallutin technical words that is categorically his world building and descriptive environment. I guess this is a standard of science fiction works, but to an extent Simmons is beyond any standard science-fiction work, and that tells a lot. Further, I see the embers of the story delving in parts that have been left in philosophical debates and religious contentions. I am interested at how Simmons will later play this on out. The work still delivers a wallop of a punch on the emotional level, and this is testament to how good Dan Simmons is. Take for example the moment where General Morpugo was leading the ship with his son saying 'I love you, Son'. This military man, who was fashioned to be uptight at all bearings, shattered all conceptions, and delivered such effect that it must be one of my favorite moments in the second book.

The Final Odyssey by Arthur Clarke

Title: The Final Odyssey
Author: Sir Arthur Charles Clarke
Publisher: Del Ray
Original Publication Date: 1997
Pages: 272

It is noteworthy to consider how Arthur Clarke opened the third book, and what the ramifications to the entire series were. With wanting pragmatism, he wrote that:

"Just as 2010: Odyssey Two was not a direct sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, so this book is not a linear sequel to 2010. They must all be considered as variations on the same theme, involving many of the same characters and situations, but not necessarily happening in the same universe.

Developments since Stanley Kubrick suggested in 1964 (five years before men landed on the Moon!) that we should attempt 'the proverbial good science-fiction movie' make total consistency impossible, as the later stories incorporate discoveries and events that had not even taken place when the earlier books were written. 2010 was made possible by the brilliantly successful 1979 Voyager flybys of Jupiter, and I had not intended to return to that territory until the results of the even more ambitious Galileo Mission were in."

Deriving not only from what Clarke tried to project as a caveat but as well as from general systemic observations from the series, I find the pressing need to elaborate on the following points.

Clarke cautions his readers not to treat the apparently labeled series as well, a series of books characterized with continuity and relativity. This is clear when he phrased that 'it' was not a direct sequel and must be considered as variations of the same theme. For the reader however this is rather demanding if not theoretically impossible considering the method, characters and story arcs Clarke choose to write with. Putatively and substantially seen in this simple manner:

Book One: Dave Bowman mysteriously disappears while in transit on his mission

Book Two: Dave Bowman returns as a part of the Monoliths and another mission is launched in pursuit of ascertaining what had happened, Dr. Floyd Heywood becomes one of the major personas by this point

Book Three: Floyd Heywood returns in the scene of another space exploration

Book Four: Frank Poole re-emerges as what could be labeled as the single persona in the fourth book establishing a connection with the series.

For one who has read the series, the meager attempt to express the thought in the words above should suffice. After all the recurring references while reading the books there is hardly any need for me to elaborate on this.

Arguendo however, if we find the utter need to satisfy some inner justice and lend credence to Clarke's desire to treat the succeeding books not as sequels but stand-alones (and i believe this is what he meant when he said that they were "to be considered as variations of the same theme"), the books, with intrepid audacity, fall into a position that is not only demeriting but which I fear could unfortunately be an unprecedented fatal waterloo for the whole of Space Odyssey books. I qoute myself by saying that:

"The book did not feel a book at all while reading it (something i've started to feel in the first book already), but more something like of a novella, or a piece greater book that is the series. I'm starting to get the impression that the 4 books should have been published as one judging by what the content has encompassed so far"

Nothing has proven to be quite substantial in the series to merit a change in this perspective. In the contrary, I find that the deeper I was into it, the further my pretense was affirmed, conclusively in varying instances.

I too find it rather irritating, as short as the books already were, that Clarke included a chapter or three from the previous books, lifting them by the whole, which presumably he wanted to function as ardent nostalgic chapters reminding the reader of events that have passed. I find them nothing but repetitive vestiges that can choke the living hell out of the reader (to be fair that was an exaggeration). It was redundant, draggy, convenient and a poor excuse for an imagined attack of writer's block (and this is what I've honestly felt).

To be critical however, Space odyssey is still a page-turner as it is (whether of excitement with the next chapter or with boredom with the lifted ones). Arthur Clarke writes in a gripping manner that catches you until the last of the pages. I give credit to his imagination contained in the writing. For me they were fresh, novel and exciting. The mystery of the monoliths can keep the reader enthralled as far as the story goes, the very idea of the monoliths was exciting in itself. The biggest letdown of this series/variations on the same theme however lies in the revelation that it failed to deliver (sole reason why the fourth book was rated two stars). After all that excitement, I opened the Pandora's box only to see, nothing.

A Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi


Title: A Book of Five Rings: A Classic Guide to Strategy
Author: Miyamoto Musashi (宮本 武蔵)
Publisher: Gramercy (1988)
Original Publication Date: circa 1645
Pages: 96

Superb. Somehow when he speaks of the way, Star Wars' Jedi's way come into mind. However, I have yet to find a work that does not to pale in comparison with Sun Tzu's Art of War. A book of five rings talks about the way of the long sword (primary samurai sword), everything affecting it, and how, a successful master strategist could apply the "individual aspect to those of a battle of a ten to thousand warring individuals." I however miserably fail at this endeavor. I simply cannot visualize the acclaimed application of the contents to a full-scale battle (perhaps a veracious sign that I have not been born with the makings of a strategist). The book is rather concise in form and owing to the brevity and nature of the topic by which Musashi wrote, he could't have done any better. As in Musashi's words one must either "study this well" or "research diligently" to rationalize substantial parts of the work.

What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell

Title: What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures

Publisher: Little Brown & Company
Original Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 688

Have you ever read a book because you were impressed with the writer? Loved the writer? And want to read his other works? This is one book which falls into that category for me, and again, such experience betrays.

I got bored with this book. Malcolm Gladwell is a great writer, that much is a fact, however, in comparison to his other books, 'what the dog saw...' did not fare well. For one, his writing always presented a grand theory or idea which captivates the reader through well researched pieces of information and undeniably entertaining facts, while this book is the exact opposite being a compilation of articles he previously wrote, yes there were highs and lows with the book but the lows easily outnumbered the good articles and i just suddenly realized i was skipping some pages, telling myself 'don't wanna read that' 'boring' and so on and so forth and i was nothing but thankful to finish it, at last. This boredom i talk of is attributable to the fact that his claims and ideas in his other books were convincing for as long as he kept a well versed and thoroughly backed argument, and this is what the article lacked, precisely due to the reason that they were only articles. Some were too complex and abstract that an article for a piece did not give it justice.

Turn of the Cards by Victor Milan

Let me start off by saying that the wild card series has a way of endearing itself to its readers considering the volume and extent to which the series has grown. Of course, the finesse of workmanship that goes with the series captivates one in further picking up the next book in the series, and that is how, I find myself writing a review for the series in this twelfth book.

The continuity by which the series' has been riddled with can be said to be one its strength and yet it too is the source of a waterloo for the series. What happens when a reader gets enthralled with a series is that we find a connection with the characters, we developed an inkling to these characters' stories and we expect a closure if not a continuation on the foundations we have been fed. We look, or rather we crave for further developments for personalities and characters we have inevitably labelled 'favorite/s' or more pretentiously identified with 'me'... or is ambitiously seen as what 'I' 'you' or 'me' would like to be. We have made it personal for this is the only process whereby one appreciates the written work. And this is precisely the reason why Turn of the Wild Cards garnered a three-star rating, or something lower if not for the Capt. Trips.

Mistral inhere for example is a misnomer. From the conclusion of the superbly done arc that was the jumper-rox-arc, she just suddenly appears pursuing Capt. Trips. Where a concise and substantial caveat could have sufficed, nothing was offered. How the hell did she get back to her body? And what of his father, Cyclone, feared dead in the previous arc. And it begs to be emphasize that in the succeeding books in the series, much of the discontinuity escalates into full blown disjointed story arc presentations, presumably (and i do hope i do stand to be corrected) due to the transfer of the right to create and publish the succeeding books to several publishing companies like TOR and IBooks.

For a person who wants to find the same continuity I am looking for, there's something to look forward to in the seventeenth book of the series Death Draws Five.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Somehow a very predictable plot. When I say this what I mean is that Norwegian Wood is discernably portraying Japanese culture, impeccably. I'm struggling to grasp the novel theme inside this work that makes Murakami so celebrated, and distinct as claimed – a struggle in vain (Perhaps there is none, and my inherent failure to connect with Murukami's elegiac writing is barred by my preferences. One thing that have always remained in earnest interest is that misery does love company and perhaps a reason why melacholic writings proliferate under this arrangement. A depressed book for a depressed world). Even Murakami is baffled at the popularity of this work. Until then I'm inclined to agree that Murukami is really not worth a Nobel after all.

Now, off to his other works which I hear treat suicides more thoughtfully, or perhaps nothing else beats a talking cat.

The Weird of the White Wolf by Michael Moorcock

I was giddy picking this book up. I was looking for a good series in the field of epic fantasy after reading full blown novels and saw that the Elric series is revered in the genre. I finished the two books and did not stop until well within the third of the series. However, the seemingly unprecedented fears of reading Moorcock and the Elric saga emerging within the second book (which for me) seemed to have been nothing but unfounded was embossed within the third books as if fundamentally attached to the series, at best, and at worst, with Moorcock's writing. I place a caveat as need be. I did not read the succeeding books in the series, nevertheless, I will carry on, with intrepid audacity, rendering a review that would seem conclusive for the entirety of the Elric saga. Who knows, the edit button is never far from reach if i may chance to pickup the other books in the series, which i doubt with great veracity.

Elric was off at a good start, if I can remember, Elric is the first antihero scheme i have read under the genre. In hindsight, it proved disheartening. The series lacked the grandiosity that is fantasy (for me, defines books under the fantasy genre). The world building, which is vital to a fantasy series categorically failed. Conceivably due to the fact that the series' books are almost always composed of three novellas rather than being a single composite work. Withal, Moorcock did not seem to have deliberately expounded on his world building aside from laying the essential necessities of the Elric series. The character/story arc, although credited as idiomatic as it were, just went too wide losing sight of the main arc. They were entertaining yes but in the end it leaves you candidly empty. This arc failure is because of Moorcock's concept of the Eternal Champion (please google it) of which i will not go into pains elaborating but to me simply is (sad to say) another marketing strategy to get you to read his other works. I do no want to read another book to understand a character. If a renvoi is in the making so that i can enjoy your books, then that's consequentially disappointing. But this did not lead me to stop, no, I read the next book and that's where the proverbial straw was lying.

DIMINUTIVE ASPOILER CAUTION!

A. Moorcock was simply repetitive in his stories. There were a handful of plot repetitions of some of which i ought to mention.

1. There will always be a sleeping girl!

Which of course Elric will help.

2. After helping a high-born short of being a perfect lady, our man Elric will always leave her.

3. Elric will never lose because he can summon a god, or when that god is defeated, a stronger god, or a stronger one or so on.....

This repetitive sequences simply sucked the life of the story barely leaving Elric with any character or persona at all.

B. Numerous PLOT HOLES (easily discoverable)

C. Story conclusions are what would rather seem convenient to the arc rather than well thought out inferences. (Elric can just summon a God to end whatever the hell is pestering him - but then again this may be a selling point of the series).

Considered however as revolutionary and radical with the presentations of fantasies in the tone of an antihero theme (one of the earliest of its kind), Moorcock is still something that an avid fan of the genre should not miss.

White Fang by Jack London

Reading Jack London's White Fang was beyond any expectation. The manner by which he has so vividly written in an animal's point of view leads one to incredulous experiences and conclusions while wholly experiencing the enthralling story. I'm almost inclined to argue - with an implausible idea - that London is white fang himself experiencing firsthand all that he has written. This statement does not render absurdity but rather should be further taken as an evidence giving credence that London's White Fang has perfectly captured the wolf experience, however fictitious it may be. I did not give it however a perfect five star rating due to the manner by which it is written as short as it is, that in itself is not even a flaw but a matter of personal preference. White Fang is surely a must read.

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Boy, that goddamn killed me!

Reading is never an easy thing. Surprisingly I still find that there are books that are laboriously... fatal. It killed me, it really did.

Now, where the hell do I goddamn start? I'm obviously done with the use of profanities.Some things are just not good enough, certainly not with the use of profanities in this case. The concluding paragraph on chapter seven for instance has this:

"When I was all set to go, when I had my bags and all, I stood for a while next to the stairs and took a last look down the goddam corridor. I was sort of crying. I don't know why. I put my red hunting hat on, and turned the peak around to the back, the way I liked it, and then I yelled at the top of my goddam voice, "Sleep tight, ya morons!" I'll bet I woke up every bastard on the whole floor. Then I got the hell out. Some stupid guy had thrown peanut shells all over the stairs, and I damn near broke my crazy neck."

How can Holden be so irritatingly inconsistent of a character and yet at the same time be so annoyingly repetitive. In hindsight it actually is of no surprise, it is rather a perfectly unfortunate complement.

If "Holden was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it,"(as an antihero who decidely hated phonies, he hated this world) still if this is what he considers one of the things he labels a phony, it is contradictorily funny, at best and at worst, is an ironic manifestation of the hypocrite that he is, seeing that he has this decisive use for the word ugly. More than anything that merits of a hypocrite label is how well and how much he lies saying "he could go for hours" (as he showed on the train with his schoolmate's mother). A condescending and rather conceited reason he has for lying is that he hates explaining things to people, thinking that it's easier to lie than to explain the truth to people. Holden Caulfield is not really self-aware that is to say, he can't see that he himself is a phony.

Laden with inconsistencies, I got the feeling that I was reading a book with a child that was not depressed in any meaning of the word, but who is rather a child with a savant syndrome.

Page 38:

"My brother Allie had this left-handed fielder's mitt. He was left-handed."

Holden was repetitively stupid.

If the point of the anti-hero is to annoy, then it did succeed, too well, far to well that I absolutely hated Holden.

A lot of people loved, venerated and labelled this book a classic. Some say the reason they do so is that, God forbid, they identify with Holden and in that process, it changed their lives. This is not surprising for Holden is, without any discernible difficulty, the book itself. I however recommend that rather than fraternizing with Holden, one should seek a cathartic outburst, and if failure still lingers, nothing beats employing professional help.

Lest some incomparably emotionally attached reader lambast me and do educate me that all I've been talking about is Holden and not the book, and I do, to some extent acknowledge that, here then is my leverage.

The book actually had barely any plot at all. This is precisely what I meant when I said that I toiled and labored going through this book. I would gratify at the fact that I could be rectified concerning this point. Adding to such disposition, the stream-of-consciousness narration writing style in the book did not help at all (n.b. most YA novels proliferate under such school).

For all that is now between me and this book, I too have to acknowledge the fact that Salinger wrote this at the end of WWII, an anti-hero theme which gave light to the themes of teenage angst and alienation in a world that the youth are nothing but alienated, in a world that precisely needed it.

A clear undeniable precursor of things to come.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Redeeming. The innumerable opinions and notes on this work do not give justice to the masterpiece that it is. Now this is distinctively Murukami, epic, superb, astounding, is what I would have said, but alas, as clichés are, the book is boring.

The surreality the readers love about this book (and of Murakami) is a trap. The story carries an atmosphere where anything can happen, which antithetically results in nothing happening. That is only the tip of the iceberg though (a cliché of which I'd say, Murakami did nothing to avoid employing). What bugs (cliché) me however is that Murakami knowingly wrote a 600-paged novel tackling an epic story only to leave out things unexplained, unsubstantiated and unanswered.

Surreal. Defined by Merriam-Webster as:

1. marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream; also: unbelievable, fantastic

Under the definition Murakami hits the spot (cliché). The book was irrational and dream like. In some instances (cliché) the prose is simply too verbose it was practically begging for brevity to make some sense, but not even the kind that would give you a minuscule fragmented understanding of the story. Not to mention it was repetitious (perhaps the fault lies in the translation of the material? perhaps this too is a compliment).

Someone on this site said that the book is a flawed masterpiece. I interject, out of sheer audacity more than the cheated feeling of reading a 600-paged novel absolutely arriving nowhere, that technically a masterpiece is something done with extraordinary skill and a flaw is an imperfection or weakness. This is what is now either a masterpiece or a flawed work of art. Either way, I give up on Murakami.

To his credit I enjoyed a subplot (on the WWII) better than anything contained in the book. But alas, even that was lost and forgotten.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz


I get the fact that Junot Diaz is a pioneering author when it comes to writing the experience of Dominican immigrants approximating the American dream. I also get that the gritty writing, the occasional offensive Spanish references, and the objectively sexual portrayal is his trademark. What I don't get however is what this book is all about. One doesn't need to be a literary pundit to know that Diaz is telling us that CHEATING is how you lose her and Diaz presents this to the readers by writing every male character in the books as a cheating fornicating bastard. So yeah, definitely, this is how you lose her, sadly, this was how you lost me too. But I guess there must be something profound here, meriting the adulation this book has garnered, so please do tell, that this book has a message aside from that one redundant thing that says, Cheating fucks you up. Genius!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The book gathered an exceptionally high rating, was recommended by a Goodreads friend and is under my beloved epic fantasy genre, clearly necessitating a well founded text-based review, lest I be berated by some die hard fan out there. Withal, I apologize for an uncharacteristically long winded review. 

At the risk of being redundant, let me restate that all stories have been told, and retold, one way or another. This carries serious implications. First is that a lot of published books are nothing but replications and poor imitations which are but mere mockeries of the original masterpieces. Second is that a certain preferential degree of liking has to be attributed to the reader (albeit in connection to how good the writer is), that is some people may have either come to appreciate this substantial nuance, relegate it to the background (something that is really hard to learn) or disdain the book for such (subjectively) fatal aspect. Third is that this could be an objectively effective measure in gauging how good a writer is because a great author is someone who either creates an original and novel masterpiece or is someone who takes what has been written, incorporates conventional aspects, employs  prosaic themes but nonetheless comes up with a masterpiece. The Name of the Wind lies in the middle of all this in a peculiar manner. 

The plot is, too put it in a blunt but veracious way, unoriginal.  The gifted/special boy subjected to life's most savage tribulations coming to power thorough education/training to be hailed the greatest hero who ever live later on has been perpetuated to taxing degrees in this genre. The idea of naming the wind or the elements for that matter is also not unprecedented. Countless times while reading this, I was vividly reminded of Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle, just without the gritty, profound and captivating meanings in the prose. I do not agree however that the deus-ex-machina/wish-fulfillment/infallible-hero/superman plot some claim to be perpetuated was actually employed to  such encompassing degree. Conspicuously, Kvothe is fallible albeit exceptionally adroitly. He is gifted and must undergo training, but not miraculously powerful. 

The magical system is guilty of being in dearth of explanation, rationalization and at least a claim of any verisimilitude. Perhaps (maybe without fault on Rothfuss) because I have just read Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson which boast of an incomparably novel and well-thought of magical system. 

One of the most common critique in the fantasy genre is the objectification of the female sex and its relegation as mere plot devices. This book is, no exception to that. Notice that every female in this story is described as seemingly sexually attractive to Kvothe (even his mother!).
On chapter 16:
“My mother, slender, fresh, and bright, pale and smooth-skinned in the firelight..."

 Denna, or whatever her names is for that matter must be fundamentally considered or at least can be objectively approximated to a whoring girl if not a desperate courtesan. For all its worth, Rothfuss managed to elicit an irritating  reaction in regard of Denna. 

The name of the wind is peculiar because in the same manner that it perpetuates conventional plot devices, it also employed themes that are revolutionary if not novel in the fantasy genre. One of these is pitting science against music( or the arts) and not with religion. Another is the subtle use of kindness in Kvothe's life journey rather than full-blown overly-exaggerated life trials.  Case in point is the farmer in Chapter 19 or of the shoemaker in Chapter 32. What I revel the most in however is the manner by which Rothfuss delivered in Kvothe's struggle to win his silver pipes. Personally, the time when he was playing in the Eolian was the strongest moment for the book. It was utterly riveting. Lest I forget, up to now, I have yet to make sense of why  the University, which is supposedly the bastion of reason and logic, employed means that were so barbaric, i.e. whipping. Any thoughts?

There are also waterloos on the technicalities of writing. The first could be more personal rather than objective but merits mention. Rothfuss is found of using imagery and metaphors in writing. Somehow I find this bordering appropriateness to sheer lack of capacity to tell. 

On Chapter 47:
“And there was Ambrose. To deem us simply enemies is to lose the true flavor of our relationship. It was more like the two of us entered into a business partnership in order to more efficiently pursue our mutual interest of hating each other”

On Chapter 50:
“I couldn’t stand being near music and not be a part of it. It was like watching the woman you love bedding down with another man”

On Chapter 58:
“She smiled at me then. It was warm and sweet and shy, like a flower unfurling. It was friendly and honest and slightly embarrassed. When she smiled at me, I felt”

I will stop with that for brevity's sake. There are negligible albeit  basic errors in construction. 

On Chapter  44:
“We were none of us particularly drunk”

On Chapter 45:
“And we were both of us very young.”

On Chapter 88:
“Otherwise the story don’t make a lick of sense. It was a demon he called up, and it drank up the fellow’s blood, and everyone who saw was powerful shook up by it”

And even tough this story is told through Kvothe's recollection, there are numerous shifting of point-of-views in narration. From first person there comes a third person omniscient narrator. At times this could be problematic, and at times appropriate and indispensable since a third person omniscient narrator makes sense of things. This leads us to the next contention which is Rothfuss oftenly talks down and tells rather than shows. This statement for example tops the list. 

On Chapter 92:
“THAT SHOULD DO FOR now, Imagine,” Kvothe said,gesturing for Chronicler to lay down his pen. “We have all the groundwork now. A foundation of story to build upon.”

He could't have been any more conspicuous talking down to his readers than this statement. For the record, That is perfectly clear since the plot hardly moved at all with the first book. My biggest complaint is that book one was simply too Loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong. A lot of chapters could have been done away with, without compromising the story, plot and character development, and quality. He could have dispensed the detailed horse-ride, the excessive chapters on Kvothe's vagrancy in Tarbean (it was perfectly clear that he was poor, homeless, hungry, beaten and desperate by a good length with one chapter, to extend it to three or four chapters is simply taxing the readers), or the 150+ pages concerning the killing of the Draccus, I hope that such event did not only contribute to the already blurry relationship Kvothe has with Denna and was not only a plot device contributing to Kvothe's supposedly notoriety, but is something else and something more. 

As a stand alone, this book titters between the edge of something that has wasted my time and something I have to be patient with. Perhaps its merits lies in its completion. 

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin

Originally posted at Goodreads

The story on grand personal struggles continue giving credence to the feeling that one is reading a stand alone fictional tale rather than a book from an epic-fantasy genre. Exceptional fluidity, gritty and resolved, Le Guin's writing is as distinct as it can be. And yes, labeling this YA does not seem to do it justice. To profound to be a YA.

As usual, the book's delivery depends on the relative experience of the struggle and symbolism and not on the story itself per se.

A Wizard of EarthSea by Ursula Le Guin

Originally posted at Goodreads

There is something eerily familiar with A Wizard of Earthsea, something almost personal (perhaps there really is). It evokes pleasant memories of coming home, of finding home. Now this statement is meant in the figurative as much as it is in the literal for the book is almost dialectical in all of its aspects.

It employs the commonplace scenario of a coming of age story, of magical schools and of a powerful hero but delivers a resolution unlike any major names and titles in the fantasy genre, perhaps this is Le Guin's riveting hallmark. What is most fascinating in this unique work of fantasy is how personal and particular the main struggle is and yet it carries a worldly importance to the book. The perpetuation of the grand narratives of good against evil, or of the prosaic if not routinary overblown dilemmas of kings and men have endeavored to situate if not relegate this grand personal struggle everybody must go through (and yes, even characters in a book) in the background as mere subplots at the best and at worst as plot devices, never really brought in the forefront.

Subtly, I revel in the fact that the protagonist in this was envisioned to have dark skin. For it is not so much as the color of the skin that talks but of the profound meaning and effect it carries concerning simple details not only in the fantasy genre but of printed work generally. Considering this was first printed in 1968 where progress in the views of equalization and humanization has yet to get a foothold in the written work, the intent is as noble as it can get, and the end, almost revolutionary considering that most fantasy plots are patterned if not derived from the middle ages of conquest where the dichotomy of the white and black or of the east-west conflict is fundamentally translated to good and bad respectively and the stratification of the social class is at its height.

A fair warning however for those who will read Le Guin. The book is not about protracted world-building, nor is there extensive revelation on the magical system or of substantial supporting casting. Even the mythos is barely at a degree only sufficient for the story to have a leg to stand on and a cane to progress with.

The story is told in hindsight which for some may be a tinge of being anti-climatic, to an extent it is, for it will always defeat the ultimate question of 'what happens next?' Antithetically it also contributed to the mysticism, charisma and guile of our main hero.

These, I repeat is not where the A Wizard of Earthsea derives its strength.

The First Filipino by Leon Maria Guerrero

Originally posted at Goodreads

For all the years, studies and romanticisms of Rizal, he has somewhat remained, an enigma. This is not surprising.

The vast number of scholars that have attempted a great many times to deconstruct and understand Rizal on his writings have fallibly tainted Rizal’s political ideologies and perspectives in doing so. Some even failed to see that what they have deconstructed was not Rizal, but an image hewn from themselves.

Some of this were, Agoncillo who regarded Rizal as a “revolutionary reformist” or “reformist revolutionary” while Constantino declared Rizal’s genuine agenda were the Hispanization of the Indio and the assimilation of the Philippines to Spain, which proved little to clear the matter but in essence has founded the contradiction that has bedeviled nationalist historians. Romeo Cruz however puts it differently by saying that Rizal’s purported assimilation is the union of sectionalism – loyalty entrenched in the Filipino people and nationalism – this he refers to the loyalty directed to Spain. The belief that these sentiments are subversive and seditious to the national cause is wrong, for nationalism does not favor class and the nature by which it is defined.

Floro F. Quibuyen maintains that this view is inherently flawed on the aspect that most of our scholars’ personal standpoint is levied upon the Enlightenment terms when Rizal is studied. Viewing the matter in the Enlightenment terms merits a view in terms of the liberal concept of the nations–state. The state exercises power in making and enforcing laws in behalf of the people it stands for. But Rizal’s vision went beyond the liberal concepts conceived by the Enlightenment period.

Does this rudimentary predicament afflict Leon Maria Guerrero's work?

In the pursuit of veracity more than brevity, I quote and support the introduction in saying that:

"... it presents him in the guise of the original and singular philosopher he is, as well as the great stylist and thinker of clarity, precision, and profundity he also is."

An achievement in itself.

The question looms however, and whether one accepts the answer entirely depends on no one else but the reader as much as the material. Is Rizal worthy to be the first Filipino? Is it fitting?

As any historical work, the historical narrative is to be subjected upon critical objective examination. Points of contention undeniably exist, which are realistically inevitable, in the historicization. This subjective scholar preference I'm pointing exists for example on Leon Guerrero's choice with which to start his discussion (Gomburza), which also implicitly carries his nationalistic orientation (that is much to be desired).

Still, as it stands, a great scholarly work.

Endymion by Dan Simmons



Originally posted at Goodreads

Somehow I felt that Endymion is the weakest of the series. It seeks to makes a connection with book two and at the same time prepare the events of book four so much so that it almost landed in a predicament where we have nothing going on.

Dan Simmons range is incredible. He has woven in this books what others might only dream of. With the monumental ideas of science fiction, the deepening anchorage on spiritual and religious facets of the story and the indispensable importance of emotional cacophony that is the series have endeared it all to me.

The weak points have rather been emphasized on this book, maybe because of what I have mentioned supra.

There is unneeded extended characterizations with the manner the characters are presented. On page 123 on De Soya's presentation:

"More than three centuries - comes first the Shrike Palace, farther south than the others, its barbed and serrated buttresses reminiscent of the creature that has not been seen here since the days of the pilgrims, then the more subtle Cave Tombs - three in all- their entrances carved out of the pink stone of the canyon wall; then the huge centrally placed crystal monolith; then the obelisk; then the jade tombs; and finally the intricately carved Sphinx with sealed door and outflung wings."

He could have simply done away with this and simply said that De Soya knew the place like the back of his hands from the Cantos. This repeats for several instances and honestly the book could have been shortened by doing so.

I had some trouble visualizing or rather digesting the facts, the story and the plot that have been revealed. I hope for further clarification on the next book.

But as i said, less than 5 pages in and already Dan Simmons had me hooked. This is certainly his gift.

Speaker for the Dead; Xenocide by Orson Scott Card




















Originally posted at Goodreads

I had the benefit of having read a handful of books under the sci-fi genre before reading Card. I say a benefit for perhaps it had laid a saturated foundation of sci-fi conventionalities and cliches that had made the Ender's Series not only a new and fresh and enticing piece, but rather an unprecedentedly enjoyable one. I have disconcerted reviewing the second book for a visceral feeling that such review would almost encompass the third, which in hindsight is nothing less of what I deem to have been an accurate prediction.

I grudgingly gave three stars to both second and third books in the series. Card is a great story teller gifted with novel imagination, to say that he is also as consistent as one could possible be in writing is as true as the former statement can be (perhaps the solitary fundamental rationale for rendering the review for both the second and third books).

Ender's Game is one which I could call a true series. Now what this statement evidently precipitates is that the plot is so well thought of that it takes care of the two essential things in a series that is: 1) The plot development in every book is good in itself 2) The plot development in each book serves as indispensable precedent to the next one in the series. Already this sets apart Card and the Ender Game series from the myriad of series that are so drawn-out in all genres because of the reasons we all know too much about. I praise this continuity in Card that other writers can only dream of and so desire to have. Card however strains me beyond relief with his numerous recapitulations that are repetitive, impractical and oh so annoying. Take this for example:

On page 163 of Xenocide
“Not far from the gate, but outside it, stood two fathertrees, the one named Rooter, the other named Human, planted so that from the gate it would seem that Rooter was on the left hand, Human on the right. Human was the pequenino whom Ender had been required to ritually kill with his own hands, in order to seal the treaty between humans and pequeninos. Then Human was reborn in cellulose and chlorophyll, finally a mature adult male, able to sire children.”

On page 172
"Ender ignored the argument, because Jane was whispering in his ear through the jewel-like transceiver he wore there. "

On page 372
“The xenologer Pipo became her surrogate father-- and then became the first human to be tortured to death by the pequeninos. Novinha then spent twenty years trying to keep her lover, Libo-- Pipo's son, and the next xenologer-- from meeting the same fate. She even married another man to keep Libo from getting a husband's right of access to her private computer files, where she believed the secret that had led the piggies to kill Pipo might be found. And in the end, it all came to nothing. Libo was killed just as Pipo was.”

As I said, on this aspect, the book flayed. I guess I have to consider the fact that Card struggled trying to explain to middle-of-the-series-book readers what the precedents were. It was utterly impractical and annoying. The book can only be truly enjoyed by reading it as a true series. If card removed such parts of his writing devoid of meaning, he could have easily staved-off ten pages or more. The second of the series is a 400 page novel, the third a 600 paged one, respectively. Card is great, but a 600 paged novel is taxing credulity, so perhaps the resort to the innumerable recapitulations throughout? For all that, I found myself turning pages both for the occasional jewel, for the sought out eureka moment in Card's story and the unbearable extended internal monologue that by now has characterized Card's manner of writing. And on that concluding moment, I again find myself, looking forward to the conclusion of the series.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card


Originally posted at Goodreads

So, here's the search for the Napoleon who will never lose, for the Alexander who will die of old age and for the Caesar who's fidelity to his ideals define him. Here's Ender's Game.

I have put off reading Ender's Game for innumerable times now, for a reason I cannot fully comprehend, which is strange since Ender's Game easily occupy the top spots of the myriad of sci-fi book lists that exists out there. The book's following is noticeable, the appeal conspicuous, the devotion emphatic. Of course, who doesn't want to be the genius? The commander? The leader? The prophetic revelation? The savior? It's fairly easy to fall in the routine (surprising as it is) of kids defeating the bully, both personal and imaginary, and saving the world through video games (who could have thought of a more convenient way?).

The bone I'll be picking however is as conspicuous as the appeal of this book.

I have strangely felt that I was not reading a sci-fi book at times, but a psychological epic, bluntly guilty under such theme of extended internal monologue. Admittedly, there is depth in the book even under the purview of sci-fi conventions. That is to say the psychological meanderings and military motif give it a worthwhile kick. But then again, Ender's Game seemingly exist in a pole, in the extremities, which is conspicuously embodied in 1) The repeating, intense desire to kill both in and outside a military training facility; 2) the love between siblings bordering future incest; 3) and (in perhaps the most fiddling negligible example) sleeping naked in a room of 40 people you have just met. Nuances exists as do occasional irksome parts like this:

"Since he hadn't fired a shot, he had a perfect record on shooting-- no misses at all. And since he had never been eliminated or disabled, his percentage there was excellent."

It is worth emphasizing that there is no statistic if the variable is null.

There was no difficulty relegating the rating to Ender's Game, which due to Goodread's lack of a more defined rating system, is three stars.

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson



Originally posted on Goodreads

PERFECTION.

I am staring at this page, and time and time again, I return to the same question whenever I write a review for something I have come to love, Why is it so hard to write and talk about something we love? And so easy to author extended reviews on the ones we hate? I somehow always attribute this to physical science. Human emotion is located in the Limbic system of the brain, while human speech and communication in the frontal lobe. It is said that the frontal lobe is a fairly recent development in terms of human mental evolution. It is not surprising then that people subjected to a flurry of emotions would have dominating Limbic systems trumping out the frontal lobe, leaving us somewhat, speechless. As i am now.

Perfection, that is all I have to say to what Brandon Sanderson has done with the Mistborn Trilogy.

The magical system was not only novel and unique but well thought of. The plot twists and revelations did not feel forced and unprecedented, in the contrary they were well situated and considered. There is subtle morality in the work. The character development was excellent, substantial and veracious. Again, this is lack of capacity on my part to express what Sanderson has endeavored to create and has successfully done here. I apologize for such failing.

I appreciate this work on a more grand and epic scale the likes of which we rarely see in the fantasy genre.

First is that Sanderson has created this work incorporating ideas that do not lie in banalities' sphere. Perpetuated in his discussions of wars of stabilization rather than of conquest, of eunuchs and women rather than of men, of scholars rather than of warriors, of mistaken antagonists rather than of perpetual and one-dimensional adversaries, of beliefs and cultures rather than of grand narratives and especially of tragedies rather than those of perfect happy endings. And somehow he has masterfully integrated such themes into more commonplace ideas of human emotions of trust, love and betrayal; of class stratification and conflict; of politics, and of god mythologies.

The more substantial antecedent of this work however is something that the fantasy genre needs. This work has splendidly and masterfully pierced Tolkien's veil of dominance and hegemony that he has so imposingly laid over the fantasy genre, albeit unprecedentedly. It has established itself independently as a worthy read in the genre without attaching and employing cliches, recurring plots, and elves and dwarves in the picture. Perhaps I am guilty of romanticizing this work, I however absolve myself, after all, I did say that I simply love this work.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Mockingjay By Suzanne Collins

Originally posted at Goodreads

I'm thinking of the perfect way to open this review, and while doing so, I realize that I am genuinely saddened at how the series developed and ended. I liked Hunger Games, I liked it to the point that even after what Collins did with Catching Fire, I still finished Mockinjay, partly because Catching fire was evidently prefatory to Mockinjay and partly because I sincerely hoped till the last pages the book can recover. It did not.

I see that most if not all of my Goodreads friends have rated the book from 4 to 5 stars. I could have given the same rating to Hunger Games, but doing so to Catching Fire and Mockinjay would be taxing credulity.

Collins killed her own creation.

Collins killed the Katniss that has captivated readers from Hunger Games. She killed the independent, headstrong, resolute and determined Katniss. Instead she gave us a Katniss who is fatally fickle-minded, inconsistent, vacillating and hesitant. This points out Collins' failure in developing Katniss' character concomitant with that of the plot, both in the substantially abstract aspect and the literal one. Notice how Collins has perpetuated the use of questions and maybe's in Katniss' extended internal monologues. Katniss was left unsure and questioning all the time. It is worth repeating that one of the reasons I have read this book is the empowerment and divergence from gender norms presented through a female lead. However what remained of such positive assertions were obliterated with the 2nd and 3rd books. They contained nothing but mere vestiges of something that should been worth perpetuating in any literary work. It is truly heartbreaking.

Collins killed the plot too. Systematically done through an incoherent execution and severely erratic pacing. One moment we see a rescue getting organized for Peeta's liberation the next, he's just there. Collins could have cut back on Katniss's internal monologues, because by this point, it is tedious and borders boredom. I half-expected that she would do so, she had every capacity and opportunity to her disposal, considering that there were numerous moments she could have drawn out in the book, like writing out Peeta's rescue but instead we get a sudden surprise that it was successful,(view spoiler) I know Collins wanted those deaths to deliver a wallop of an emotional punch, but it did not. She failed to establish the reason and the need for the deaths. It was simply disjointed. Collins did not need to spend a hundred pages or so on building-up the rebellion through Katniss' long walks over District 12. And most especially revolting, since this book is half dystopian and half romance is how the romance was eventually played out. I was eagerly looking forward at how it will be resolve, at how Katniss will choose between the two, I could swear I could have thrown the book in the thrash when I notice EPILOGUE suddenly looms over the next page. I mean just fu*k it. Fu*k it. Aside from the indecisive use of the kisses and the subtle objectification there was actually no resolute conclusion on the romantic issue was there, or could one hardly call Peeta's reappearance shoveling the snow at Katniss' house the decisive moment? This was the point that Collins should have employed those excessive internal monologues of Katniss and explained why Gale is suddenly out of the picture. Well, if one fundamentally considers, Katniss did not actually choose anybody did she? Peeta chose her from the beginning till the end (bolsters the predicament that Katniss is indecisive). Haymitch was proverbial when he said to Katniss that she does not deserve him a thousand lifetimes over. For all its worth, Peeta's the real martyr here, that is why it was actually a relief that he was hijacked.

Believe it or not, Collins managed to kill the excitement too. The books were overly anticlimatic. The escape from quarter quell being told in hindsight, and so is the conclusion of the supposedly epic rebellion. I mean, Collins simply build it up and up and up and just cuts it. It would have been more riveting if she wrote it straight out.

I finished the series because I was in love with the possibilities presented by the plot I experienced with Hunger Games. I was captivated by that Katniss. And I am saddened of how things turned out. This was something that started out great, turned tepid in the middle and ended up badly. One of the stars in the rating is rationalized by my love for Hunger Games, the other comes from my sister. She's gonna hate me with leaving Mockingjay with only a star, so here's two.

Daylight War by Peter Brett


Originally posted at Goodreads

There , I read it. Left my cases unread, responsibilities unattended to, made sleep simply an abstract. Some people savor great books, occasionally pausing and taking breaks, digesting, intimating, throwing that far-off graze that echoes of realization that some books are simply meant to be read in one's lifetime. This is one of those books, which I was indubitably compelled not to read, but to devour, the voracity of which easily compares to the manner a number of classics and modern favorites have been read.

Brett's writing doesn't talk down to his readers, something one has to admire and appreciate considering the intertwined time development and shifting POV in the story. For all its complexity given the format with which it is written, it is heart-rending and incomparably moving. Even moments of serenity in the book carry great weight toward the development of both character and story, infused with depth and direction. Brett certainly has raised the bar on this third book, I only hope he can maintain this momentum throughout the series. The lacking dosages of what I wanted in book two was substantially supplied by this book. It had plot development, a fix of the favorite faces, and a hefty serving of blood and ichor, and finally some demonic information. Truly outdoing yourself Brett. So yeah, I could even dismiss every nuance I have written on the second book, forget plot holes and simply fall in the moment that is the Painted Man series. The only dilemma now is when the fourth book would be coming out as this ended not only with a cliffhanger but a cliff fall. XD

At times like this, where patience is truly a virtue and waiting the name of the game, I console myself knowing that masterpieces are not hurried, but are waited upon.

So the question begs to be asked, what's stopping me from giving that last star that apparently it outweighs in importance for even world-building and plot development nuances can be let go? It's conspicuous actually, something that I did not want to relegate to the whole series. After the third book, it is clear that this waterloo is infused in Brett's writing as much as any of his strengths are.

Arlen Bales or the Painted Man can be loved easily. Brett's has this knack, or in technical labeling considerations, gift, in deciphering the complexity (or simplicity) of the male mind and ego and translating it in written medium so that male readers could not simply relate but fundamentally identify with their triumphs, struggles and shortcomings. I know because I too, just as most male readers out there, fell in this pattern. It was elating almost surreal (This is one of Brett's strength). After all, it is only in dreams and books (and only in books can we consciously relive it) that we can be superhuman, or in this case, Arlen Bales, the Deliverer turned superman almost Creator. What is even greater of a feat is that I can visualize myself as one of those Cutters, or common folk under Arlen, and see the charisma in this persona, that I will follow this man to death, where ever that may be.

The female personas however are riddled with writing that is better left in an archaic thinking debase of modern developments of reason and rationale, and on this point Brett is even guilty of extended portrayal of such predicament. What I mean when i say this is that female characters, Leesha, Renna, Inevera to some extent, and even Wonda, are motivated not by self-realizations or internal psychologies, the characters are moved and developed based on how they are objectified by the Man or Men they are more commonly infatuated on and less genuinely in love with. The blatant unrelenting use of the female sexuality (even considering the milieu of the book) emphasizes this further. Without these, this series would have easily fallen in my top shelves.

Crusades: The Illustrated History by Thomas Madden

Originally posted at Goodreads

Religion is the power that wields the sword that is faith.

The Crusades are seemingly anomalous in nature which however, save for the rai·son d'être that is still under great contention, was like any other war waged in the history of men: devoid of mercy, riddled with corruption and which ended in mutual defeat and further enmity if not in destruction. There is inherent difficulty in reconciling the Christian doctrine that emphasizes the value of life beyond any measure to those of taking it under the claims of being sanctioned by God, if ever it truly was. And by this inquiry a further irony is revealed that one has to have faith with God, the Church and Religion to question such disposition. This is why the crusades have such proclivity towards disquisition with scholars and laymen alike.

Let me start by saying what Madden's work is not. At an entire 228 pages, including the illustrations, explanatory boxes, sidebars and chronology, one can accurately deduct, even foresee, what the book contains and to what extent it manages the historical narrative of the Crusades. One who desires to be well versed in the history of the Crusades should think about picking this book up. It is not a historical book brimful of historical discourses nor is it chockfull of the rationalization for such discourses. It too lack the further essential milieu existing in derivative albeit vital events of the era. However, it should be the first book that one who desires to be well versed in the history of the Crusades should pick up, INITIALLY.

This is because Madden's book is a concise historical work, aspiring to provide a broad overview of the Crusades. Works such as Madden's are characterized by broadness in trying to present every facet of the narrative and yet they too are distinguished by the brevity at which they delve into each facet. One can say that the particular design books of such kind address is providing laymen with an outline of events and basic knowledge of the subject.

The dilemma of books of this kind is that they are presenting a convoluted and sophisticated narrative intricately entangled with man's history as simple and as concise as possible (with the use of these adjectives I feel I could not further improved on emphasizing my point). More essential to this argument is that books are written in the writer's perspective and it is he/she that determines the pivotal points in the historical narrative to include. Differences inevitably arise between works, but more importantly, the reader's interest falls into a deadlock (of which i pray should not happen, once is too much in this occasion) encountering a point in the narrative that is mentioned only in passing but is seemingly vital to the reader's conscious reasoning in understanding the very narrative itself.

Further consideration is, and this is true not only with Madden's work, the volume by which the people and events are mentioned are taxing to the memory of a non-eidetic intelligence (as i have experienced myself). This is also because the persona of the individuals involved does not create a connection, relation, or mark in passing mention, just as the events do not leave an impression. A pedigree would greatly help. Also a map for every vital period within the narrative, as these are limited in the work, would be a revelation.

A caveat however is needed. The perspective from where this is review is written is apparent. I would not relegate the work into failure even how much it would seem the words are couch in the negative. I picked up the book out of sheer curiosity of the illustrations inside. Critically speaking, the book did present the Crusade's narrative as objectively as possible save on one or two occasions where Madden claimed support for his thesis.

I have yet to compare the illustrations (composed of photos of ruins and relics complimented by the paintings of the era) to other books constituting of the same composition. As it stands, The included illustrations are visually pleasing, well detailed and I might say, well selected by virtue of their relevance and bearing with the discussions presented.