Thursday, April 24, 2014

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Orion
Original Publication Date: April 12, 2012
Pages: 325

Sad stories make for good books. The better statement would be that sad stories are treasure troves for writers to make books about.

At least this statement holds true for Eleanor and Park as it does for most YA Romance books, in the likes of John Green's, Daniel Handler's or the other various books in this genre. I read this book after reading a number of Saramago's books which are laden with sentences paragraphs long, Eleanor & Park, was, as one would say it, a welcome break. As it would turn out, the reading itself was not however a welcoming experience.

There was a sense of familiarity with this book, which is sadly, not of the good kind you experience reading coveted stories of childhood like that of Atticus Finch, or of even of the fictional world of Le Guin's where deliverance from nostalgia is an unwelcomed visitor. No. Unlike the desire to embrace and revel in this book's familiarity, one tends to get tired and exhausted. The first romance between two teens, both with familial problems and issues of their own is lifted straight out of cliche and hackneyed themes. I've read it a number of times and in every case, the essential struggle, if not the sole aim, is to find something new the book, the story, the characters, the author is offering. Sadly, the book was not able to discharge this burden.

I'm not a pundit but it doesn't need one to see that the story development and the social and factual setting of this story, in 1986, is in conflict and inconsistent. Discrimination and preferential treatment in those days were not as subtle as it is of this age. I simply felt that there was a lot of potential in Park as this half Korean kid whose mother was directly taken from Korea right after the American perversion, sorry, assertion of capitalistic designs disguised through its affirmation of its unilaterally defined democratic principles in the Vietnam War. The point is, I think Park would have been more interesting if he wasn't defined by the traditional sibling rivalry which to some extent Rowell did endeavor on, only she did not expound on it.

As standard YA Romance novels go, the book falls under the stream of consciousness thought, albeit the narrative is directed by the alternating POVs of the male and female protagonist. The narrative is interlaced with conversations that are direct and crisp, which makes this book really an easy read and hastily contributes to that well neglected reading challenge. The problem with the alternating POVs is that sometimes it borders repetitiveness, though it may also stand for recognition of the emphasis and weight of the moment in the book.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tehanu (The Earthsea Cycle #4) by Ursula K. le Guin

Title: Tehanu (The Earthsea Cycle #4)
Author Ursula K. Le Guin
Publisher: Atheneum Books
Original Publication Date: June 20, 1990
Pages: 294

It is surprising that it has taken Le Guin up to the fourth book to bring to the forefront one of the most conspicuous and prevalent  inequities not only in the fantasy genre but more importantly in the living world, that is inequity between the sexes.

Le Guin's writing aside from boasting of incomparable depth, truth and weight is exceptionally fluid. Tehanu is surprising in respect with the presentation of the themes in the book in that some almost felt like that they are forced rather than something that has come naturally. Perhaps this is by reason that Le Guin was severely criticized for not touching sexism up until this point or that the Earthsea cycle was originally slated only for three books. Some transitional points are also rather quirky.

On page 242 Ged and Tenar's conversation

“Well,” she said, “which bed shall I sleep in, Ged? The child’s, or yours?”
He drew breath. He spoke low. “Mine, if you will.”
“I will.”

Suddenly the inhibitions are all forgotten. What happened to about a hundred pages of inhibitions, subtle refusals and of repressions? I guess pent-up sexual tension can only be held so much, even in books.

Ged has been built up as the proverbial Archmage, full of wisdom, the seemingly cradle of power. So when he gave up his arts, and ended up perpetually depressed and moping at what has been, it was somehow inconsistent with the man that has been painted (this is more of a personal dislike rather than an objective point). Though i guess this is one of the more elegiac themes albeit  of real life importance that Le Guin presents (considering further what characterizes her writing). And one she presents as veracious as possible I might say.

At the risk of being redundant, the Earthsea cycle is not for those of fantasy readers that seek excitement and action. The books contain a diminutive portion of these servings, they are enjoyable, and I could only wish that Le Guin expanded this portions however meager. Alas, this was not the end she sought.

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Trilogy #1) by James Dashner

Title: The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Trilogy #1)
Author: James Dashner
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Original Publication Date: October 6, 2009
Pages: 374

The Maze Runner is like Pandora's box. As the mysteries haven't been revealed just as Pandora's box haven't been opened, it remains to have this unlimited, unknown potential. This statement comes after reading the main trilogy under Maze Runner, and is a subtle way of saying, that  I really liked how James Dashner conceived this world, but did not so much as appreciate how he ended it. Tragic and disappointing.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Title: The Last Unicorn
Author: Peter S. Beagle
Publisher: Viking Press
Original Publication Date: 1968
Pages: 294

Beautiful. Beautiful. Pure soulful beauty. Though I still find it hard that this is compared to Tolkien's The Hobbit. Things lose their luster when they are compared. No. There is no need for comparison here. Still, this is beautiful enough on its own that it must and should be read by every fantasy genre fan.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Title: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
Author:  Max Brooks
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: September 6, 2006
Pages: 342

I had to read this twice so that I could review it. The first time was wholly devoted for the satisfaction for my growing insatiable thirst of the literary work from the post apocalyptic zombie genre. The second, for the claimed critical review.

For all its worth, aside from genuinely giving the zombie genre a foothold to establish itself as a legitimate  class by itself, Max Brooks has successfully revolutionized the traditional platform of novel writing.

The employment  of an objective presentation of oral recorded histories is magnificent and reveling. Not only did it transcend the traditional, linear narrative form of story writing , it was employed masterfully so that the grand scenario was adroitly painted through the systematic presentation of personal stories. intellectually stimulating and a a clear literary pleasure in one. This is why I find it rather disappointing that the great dissenters of the greatness of this book is anchored on the argument that 'they' cannot seem to follow the story given its non traditional, non linear narrative form. Truly, a shame, but more so, a great loss.

I have yet to confirm my second point of adulation for Max Brooks writing(the truthfulness or rather the accurateness of material facts). Suffice it so say that he has written with a great range, albeit shortly. I love the possibilities Max Brooks has perpetuated in this book.

The critique of this work, if one may arguably call it, ironically lies with its form too, something I almost didn't notice at all, perhaps because at the subtlety with which Max Brooks has crafted this book. One reason this book is so enjoyable is that the persons from whom the oral histories have been taken were almost always witty, funny and smart ( I admit this is rather more personal than objective). All I'm saying is that it could be more realistic if there were some (more) natural (not boring) recorded oral histories. But I guess this has to be counter weighed with the ends the author sought to achieved, the enjoyability, and the marketability of the book.

the movie is nothing like the book except for the concept of a u.n. worker and the high walls of Israel. It has merits as a movie, but as an adaptation, a lot has to be desired.

Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Title: Patient Zero (Joe Ledger #1)
Author: Jonathan Mabbery
Publisher: Martin & Griffith
Original Publication Date: March 2009
Pages: 421

This is also one of those books that use the Zombies as mere plot devices rather than being the plot themselves, hence, it too is an error to classify this under the Zombie genre, something I should have known better by through the sub-labeling of the series under the title Joe Ledger. The further testament to the veracity of this statement lies in the succeeding books in the series. If you're into covert military operations pick this books. It's enjoyable for its action packed sequences. To the end however, I commend Maberry for using the zombies as a stepping stone to launch his series, intentionally or not.