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


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.

Paper Towns, An abundance of Katherines by John Green

Originally posted at Goodreads

In an attempt dictated by convenience and compelled by the material, I have somehow visualized this review to be like this:

**i dread repeating words, which in this case is not only fitting but inevitable in lieu of the indistinctness of the plot.


Protagonist (stereotype of the nerdy-smarty-pants boy without/with a handful of friends who is enlightened(however this word is defined under the books that is) after the proverbial encounter with the female protagonist)

Female Protagonist ( seemingly physically perfect cool girl who deep inside is depressed, radical and rebel who either dies, disappears or leaves and in doing so does not only enlighten and leave the protagonist helplessly obsessed but also moves the plot, anchored as it is.

Sidekick Protagonist (is either cool, bordering coolness, or leading to coolness)

Paper Towns, Abundance of Katherines, and Looking for Alaska are the same. No statement rings as true as this statement concerning these three books could ever be. And no, neither is this straining credulity. And in hindsight, I somehow miraculously wonder at how I've come to finish these three books (which is to Green's credit?).

To Green's credit, he doesn't push the moment beyond acceptable verisimilitude. It wasn't drawn out, it wasn't pushed in urgency, contributing to the enjoyability of the prose and occasional attempt at humor.

So i guess if you want to read the classic transition of a nerdy/nobody to an enlightened albeit obsessive and depressed boys, buy the book. Sorry, let me rectify myself, buy all three books.

The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett

Originally posted in Goodreads

The initial fever with the first book has settled down. The time for a categorically objective and critical review is at hand. Desert Spear, is rated 3.5 stars.

For all its worth, I read the second book in a day's worth of time (just as what happened with the first one), somehow though it is not straining credulity when I say that, as with most series I have read so far, book two has a tempered force of impact (I will substantiate this shortly). Nonetheless, I already have the third book within reach, though as a result of book two, I ent sure if i'd be finishing it in a day or too.

So, the nuances.

The world-building is still novel in itself. Demons, wards, magic. There has been no direct nor express statement (rectify me on this if possible) that the past world Brett has chosen to historicize or mythicize is Earth (even considering the base story of the Deliverer). There is however numerous implied clues that it really is Earth or something fundamentally similar, on the idea of sciences, technologies, countries on war, people in billions, etc. It is undeniable at the least. Whatever the case is, the premise has been established. The problem this presents is two-fold. The world-setting is simply too small. Yes the book acknowledges that there are realms beyond of what has been mapped with Brett's story with Arlen saying that he wants to go 'beyond', but the established world is not even a fraction of what should have been given a glimpsed of as an AR post-human-Earth. The topography too is queer. Land masses do not change in three centuries. The dubious point of the premise however is the loss of science and machines in Brett's world that it returned to basic hunting and gathering methods. Even if the new religion claims the destruction came from such technology, people must at least have retained any fraction of scientific advancement beyond the social and political associations considering that they still mine coal, build castles, and fight wars. It is a weak defense to say that books of the ancient world have been monopolized for knowledge of them were not. To say that the world fell into the second dark ages would be a lot more descriptive and even fitting (for as can be seen, people too loss reason and rationale succumbing to an an abstract religion). These arguments, as can be seen, will still hold true even without the premise to stand on. And for all my academic leanings and self-professed enlightenment, I have always seen the use of real-life religions to be degradation in varying degrees when put in fictional print and used as basis, just as what Brett did with Islam fusing the rigid Indian caste system to it.

Brett's strength lies in his character building. He has woven his characters in a systemic manner giving birth to consistent characters one can either genuinely love and utterly hate. For all his character-development however, the plot suffered of languid if not stagnant movement. I mean, after a 700-paged story what do we have? A third if not more of the book dedicated to Jardir's POV of nostalgia, a third to Leesha's failed hooking escapades (which is true no matter how you see it, I would praise Brett to see Leesha just settle once and for all), and a third for Arlen (which is simply too short for any fan of this series Brett!!) with fraction even given to Renna. Knowing that the third book is supposedly written in the POV of Ivenera doesn't help a bit in motivating me in reading it anytime soon. So I guess just as any series out there, writer's really need to stretch the story, after all, it is their living we're being entertained with.

But as I have written earlier, I have the third book within grasp. Thanks to Arlen, and Brett's superb humanization of this inhuman character. The gift of the writer lies in making the reader feel. One could clearly see how heartbreakingly human Arlen is. The disconsolate purpose with which he live his life, the betrayal he suffered, the exuberance he felt returning home, where ever it was, forgiveness to his father, and the desire for companionship. I too felt it or imagined feeling it. Simple, and as cliche as it may sound, yet profound

Revolutionary Clergy by John Schumacher, S.J.

Originally posted at Goodreads

John Schumacher, S.J. is an amazing academician and that is giving respect to where it is due. He had written 180+ books and articles (and is still continuing to do so at this review's writing), all considerably well-researched. Ironically however, I must write down that the reason by which he can be considered a successful researcher is also the reason by which his writings (most prevalent, concerning those of nationalism) must be greatly challenged if not expounded and more thoroughly (as it is well researched as it stands) researched upon. However, before expounding on the reason for giving only three stars on John Schumacher's works, I still suggest one to read his works as they provide a distinctive perspective and approach upon the topics he has grazed.

John Schumacher offers us a different perspective on the development of nationalism. He presents the standpoint of the friars, and the clergymen present in every facet of the colonial regime. His excellent academic and scholastic training merits him an effective researcher. To such end, his works have been great historical researches, founded upon documents of great importance.

Schumacher’s works, however, can only be credited as far as merit for use of sources go (my standpoint as a scholar). His works clearly provide us with a perspective but in so much that it is examined as an objective work, it fails to impress for precisely the same reason, that he is first and foremost a man of the Church.

If he is credited well in his voluminous works and use of sources in his studies, it is apparent that his authorial bias induced that parts of contrary evidences and repudiating circumstances were left out to fit in his defense for the clergy.

(One example of the manner by which Schumacher is blatantly guilty of my claims is when he repetitively asserts his argument that Jose Rizal derived his nationalistic bearings and was greatly influenced by Father Burgos though the evidence he presents to support this claim is nothing but an indirect connection between Rizal and Burgos and nothing else was presented further. This indirect connection was between Rizal and Paciano who is Burgos' nephew, who also helped him enter Ateneo Munipal, but as i stressed, no other personal and direct connection between Rizal and Burgos was presented).

This bias in research can actually be summarized in the fact that his nationalistic ideas are modernist in nature. By this consideration, never did Schumacher really give any significance in the pre-Spanish era of Filipino culture and history that post-colonial studies actually call for.

There is this fundamental conflict within his ideas that ultimately fails to impress but in effect exposes the evident bias with the friar orders. I am led to question for what reasons were such researches done. Was it in light of clarifying matters and the genuinely love for knowledge or was it in the end aimed to defend the positions the men of the faith took those pressing times? He presents a well-researched historical inquiry that is founded on the role of the clergy that in the end, demerits his claims at worst, and at best, contaminates his ideas and conclusions. The fundamental conflicts in his arguments demerit it so some extent but more importantly it exposes his attempt to wipe clean the slate of the friar orders and is a clear representation of his authorial bias.

Researchers could very well consult his works as it does provide a significantly different perspective, and it was exceptional at doing that. By doing so, one can supplement and avoid the very dilemma we consequentially aim to address, a limited and bias understanding of things. As it stands, it will provide an excellent perspective of Filipino nationalism from the eyes of the clergy.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Originally posted at Goodreads

At the outset, it is worth mentioning that the reason I read Hunger Games is that the lead is a woman. I have finished a number of YA books (not numerous, but substantial enough) to see a subtle inclination (at least to the ones I have read). Those books were epitomes of woman empowerment at the most, and at the least were divergents from a male-lead, paternalistic, socially constructed society. I find that Hunger Games is no different from those books and certainly no stranger to that, although to what degree I have yet to conclude.

The books is presented through Katniss' POV, I guess this should have said lot of what was forthcoming. I am hesitant to ascribe as form of a fault more than necessity the extended internal monologue and world-building through Katniss. I guess there is simply no other choice considering the manner the book is presented. The problem though is that the mental disposition of Katniss is more of a hodgepodge, that is to say clutter is involved. Sometimes it is questionable that someone who suddenly daydreams of the past and fantasizes of what could have been won the games. Although I am lead to believe that such fickle-mindedness is prevalent among the female sex. But beneath that, I can see how Katniss has been tempered, the verisimilitude of the persona within the setting is riveting.

There is almost none to little character development at all aside from Katniss' is there? This waterloo is intricately embossed with the manner of writing the story. How can one build another character through a single POV?

The book is also labeled as dystopian. To this aspect too much have yet to be developed, and after the first book, I have yet to conclude if I am in the middle of either a gory love story or a dystopian novel. I am picking that second book to answer all this. I have high hopes that this will not be one of those books that are using dystopian themes to perpetuate comical and laughable love stories that are better left unread, or better yet, unwritten. This book comes with a three star rating meaning I'd follow Katniss to death rather than live a thousand lives with a simpleton like Bella.

Conspicuously, and still strangely enough, the tragic love story of 1984 is what comes to mind with Peeta and Katniss' relationship and of course, Battle Royale. I am even inclined to say that the plot was lifted from this Japanese work.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Notes on the New Society of the Philippines by Ferdinand Marcos

Title: Notes on the New Society of the Philippines
Author: Ferdinand Marcos
Original Publication Date: 1973
Pages: 214
Genre/s: History, Academic, Filipiniana

Marcos has proven too well that his political charisma can be fully translated in what he writes. Notes on the New Society of the Philippines is no exception to that (Caution: He might win you over).

Just as his tyrannical and definitively despotic regime pretentiously stood for the mere vestiges of democracy itself, so too does this book contain what the ideals Marcos has sought to ennoble which, as history judged it to be, succumbed to nothing less than corruption and iniquity.

Aside from the standard fill of making things superficially palatable, of unfounded and unsubstantiated conclusions and the not too subtly contrived authorial biases, Notes on the New Society of the Philippines can still infallibly function as the proverbial window to the soul of one of the most remembered Presidents in the Philippines, not in a noble nor revered manner (save what could be called fundamentally fanatics in existence), but still remembered.

Let us take in hindsight what he wrote in page 50 concerning the Constitution and Martial Law.

"The Constitution therefore provides for its (Martial Law) survival in a clear, orderly and democratic manner for the instrument used is not only legal but moral in the highest sense. It places the proclamation of martial law under the Rule of Law.

This resolves the eternal moral question of Ends and Means, The Constitution, being democratic in spirit and content, does not recognize means which are not integral with, or not logically follow from, its ends, even though that end may be self-preservation itself."(Emphasis mine)

And on page 127 on Martial law and its so called uniqueness.

"Our martial law is unique in that it is based on the supremacy of the civilian authority over the military and on complete submission to the decision of the Supreme Court, and most importantly of all, the people. It is unique in that it does not seek to maintain the status quo but has instead brought about radical reforms.(Emphasis mine)

We all know how that turned out to be, with old Justice Teehankee(later C.J. under Cory Aquino) barely holding out, but certainly with great conviction and nothing less of the ideal.

Much can be said and deduced with these meager passages. I do not intend to misquote nor offer an unwarranted argument lest I fall in the same boat. Deductions are clear as can ever be as echoed in the annals of history.

In hindsight, this perspective relegates the human capacity in determining morality, which I believe is an entirely different thing with what is legal. This stand does not come with surprise. Marcos has alienated the people and these words point to his mental inclination to pursue such ends, and history sufficiently offers us the more than adequate manifestations of his bearings.

And just as most writings concerning sociological and cultural matters, Notes on the New Society lies in the plain of the ideal. And if not for critically examining the facts, all would have but remained an enigma, hauntingly questioning us, what went wrong? What revelation it would have been if the ideal remained, forever to be, an ideal, but depressingly, it became a corrupted, depraved and brutally oppressive reality beyond any recognition.