Clashing Perspectives – The Beach by Alex Garland

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You ever look back at something you read 15 or 20 years ago and have that “A-Ha” moment.

Not the ridiculously good band from the eighties A-Ha (see above), but the mind-altering epiphanic moment when you realize that a plot point that was salient to the whole freaking novel zoomed right the hell over your head. Yup, I had one of those.

I read this book when I was right out of high school and entirely in love with the idea of a wild wonderland. A paradise filled with gorgeous people and no responsibility. I wanted to see, do, and experience that life. I still do now. However, those ideas are now tempered with age, trust, and hopefully, some integrity.  I think in the end, the soundtrack sealed it for me. Does anyone still like the group VAST? They are one of my favorites still to this day because of that movie. From that moment on I set out to read the book “It will change my life,” I thought. Maybe I could eternalize a little of this wild abandon that I so desperately yearned for.

After discovering a seemingly Edenic paradise on an island in a Thai national park, Richard soon finds that since civilized behavior tends to dissolve without external restraints, the utopia is hard to maintain.

Plot summary – goodreads.com

The problem was that when I read the novel, I was left unsettled and feeling dirty. It felt like someone had taken my brain and used it to scour pans for an afternoon. The book was like a beautiful Honey Crisp apple sitting on a shelf, but when you cut into it,

“Trust me, it’s paradise. This is where the hungry come to feed. For mine is the generation that travels the globe and searches for something we haven’t tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite & never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience— And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.”

― Alex Garland, The Beach

the apple had a rotten core filled with maggots. It had not lived up to my fantasies. I felt cheated and weak.  What was actually weak, was my perspective and understanding of life beyond my hometown at the time.  “The Beach” has nothing to do with paradise, but the outlook on what actually constitutes a paradise, the darkness in people, and the lengths of which one would go to protect it.  It is a smart book, and subtle in its narration.  Its overall gravitas was not something I could appreciate at the time, but it is something that I can look back on now and understand.

One of the key things that garland does it keep the undercurrents flowing within the language of the everyday life of the travelers. He describes the day to day tasks that they need to accomplish; Fishing, farming, and partying. While subtly hinting at the darker parts of the characters psyches. Reminds me of a much less ham-fisted and more eloquent “lord of the Flies,” but for a much older audience.  In the end, the characters are scarred both mentally and physically.

“The first I heard of the beach was in Bangkok, on the Ko Sanh Road.” ― Alex Garland, The Beach

If you are looking for a book that tears you up inside a bit, look no further. It is worth the second read, especially if you have some life experiences behind you.

A Review Longer Than 100 Words for “Vox” by Christina Dalcher

Procurement

Audio book on Scribd


Stats

  • 4 out of 5 Stars
  • Hardcover
  • 336 pages
  • Published August 21st, 2018 by Berkley
  • Original Title – Vox
  • ISBN 0440000785 (ISBN13: 9780440000785)
  • Edition Language English
  • Characters Jean McClellan, Patrick McClellan, Sonia McClellan, Steven McClellan, Jackie Juarez…more 
  • Setting Georgetown, Washington, D.C. (United States) 

Awards

Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Science Fiction (2018)


About

From the publisher, “Set in an America where half the population has been silenced, VOX is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial—this can’t happen here. Not in America. Not to her.

This is just the beginning.

Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard.

But this is not the end.

For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean, will reclaim her voice.”


My Thoughts

We live in a world of contradictions, a wild world of feminism and Donald Trump. A society that needs the plethora of feminist dystopias that have risen due to our collective anxieties and we need them to give these feelings of unease a voice. This book provides a direction and says, “See this is what could happen if we don’t change our course.” Now, Vox is an extreme example. Dalcher is not trying to give us a vision of a likely future. It is more of a radical thought experiment and an interesting one at that.


“Think about waking up

one morning

and finding you don’t

have a voice in anything.”


Christina Dalcher, vox

Vox is part of the dystopia movement brought on by society and the popularity of The Handmaid’s Tale. If one was looking at patriarchal societal timelines, Vox occurs before the Handmaid’s Tale could. The storyline of Vox happens one year after the rise of a fundamentalist Christian movement based upon a literal translation of the old testament. Woman have lost the right to read, write, hold a job, have control over their own bodies, and eventually the right to speak more than 100 words a day. Much of the religious zealotry is couched in the idea that women, who come directly from man, need to be protected from themselves and resume the rightful role that is preordained in society. This leaves our main protagonist, Dr. Jean McClellan without a job and a purpose. Jean, a world-famous scientist, and linguist must shut down the part of her that is so desperate to be free. The part that yearns to speak. The reader spends a lot of time listening to Jean’s internal monologue. Also, very much in the vein of dystopias of this ilk, homosexuals lose the ability to speak and are shipped off to “work” camps for some forced sexual re-education.  Heterosexual pre-marital sex is work camp worthy (for women), and if a woman is unable to marry and be supported by a male, she may go to work in government-run brothels to take care of the needs of unmarried men in society. Men have needs, you know.

Most of the plot revolves around Jean’s trouble, both familial and societal with her imposed shackles, and what happens when Jean needs to have a voice again. The government decides to allow her a chance to work on an experimental vaccine, and from that, the meat of the plot actually happens.


“My fault started two

decades ago, the first time

I didn’t vote, the umpteen

times I told Jackie I was too

busy to go on one of her

marches or make

posters or call my

congressmen.”



Christina Dalcher, VOx

This story is many things: Discourse on female roles in society, how marginalized people are treated under tyrannical regimes, how important language is in culture. Mostly though, the book speaks a lot on non-participation in government, or as I like to think of it “frog in a pot.” We, as a society, give up small, almost unimportant, values and rights to help the “greater good.” In doing so, our more substantial rights are slowly eroded upon. The second theme of the story is the author’s thought experiment. What if a language was excised from society? What then? What happens to fifty percent of society that loses their voice?

I think the main issue I have with this story is pacing. The story is interesting, and well written and held a constant, albeit slow pace through most of the book. But, the central denouement of the story didn’t happen till 30 pages or so from the end. The reader just coasted on the troubles that Jean has with her forced verbal shackles. The shackles are very important, but the lack plot movement. The ending felt rushed and added on to give the story an arc. Also, the conflicts that did occur throughout the story were very neatly tied up at the end. This lost me a bit. Romantic relationships, especially ones that are very long, don’t just tie up with a neat bow and again, the resolutions to the family conflicts felt added on. The story felt like many great ideas all sort of duct taped together.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a good book and a fantastic debut for author Dalcher. It just feels uneven. I do recommend reading this tho. Even with the plot feeling uneven, it is a fascinating book and well written.

I look forward to seeing what other thought experiments Dalcher can write about. I am sure that the next books she writes about will be even better than this one.

This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on LovelyAudiobooks.info


About the Author

From Goodreads, Christina Dalcher earned her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University. She specializes in the phonetics of sound change in Italian and British dialects and has taught at universities in the United States, England, and the United Arab Emirates.
Her short stories and flash fiction appear in over one hundred journals worldwide. Recognitions include the Bath Flash Award’s Short List; nominations for The Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions; and multiple other awards. She teaches flash fiction as a member of the faculty at The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, Virginia. Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency represents Dalcher’s novels.
After spending several years abroad, most recently in Sri Lanka, Dalcher and her husband now split their time between the American South and Naples, Italy.

Her debut novel, VOX, will be published in August 2018 by Berkley (an imprint of Penguin Random House).

First Chapter, First Paragraph

I am currently reading the second book in The Hatching Series by Ezekiel Boone, “Skitter.” Pretty exciting stuff, although not quite the pacing and rhythm of the first book. 

“It was a big freaking spider. That was the only reason he screamed. He wasn’t afraid of spiders. Really. But the thing had been the size of a quarter, Right on his cheek. He’s been backpacking solo for fifteen days, and he hadn’t been scared once. Until his last day out, today, when he woke up with a hairy, scary spider on his cheek. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. Fifteen days alone in the Wind River Range in Wyoming, not seeing another soul the entire time? Fifteen days of scrambling across scree fields, traversing open ridges, even doing a little free-solo rock climbing despite what he promised his dad? He’s be a complete moron not to feel a twinge of concern here and there. And Winthrop Wentworth Jr. – nineteen, the son of privilege – was not a complete moron.”

Graphic Novel Review – Criminal Vol. 1 (Coward) by Ed Brubaker

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“Revenge. That’s what he had come for… But it didn’t really exist, did it?
Just empty regret and bitter heartbreak, wandering the streets.
The city around him, white and grey and cold, felt suddenly so small.
Hyde had been right about family, there was no escaping it…
Even when there was no one left to run from.” 
― Ed Brubaker, Criminal, Vol. 2: Lawless

About

From Harvey Award-Winning Best Writer Ed Brubaker, and Scream Award-Winning Best Artist Sean Phillips comes the first collection of Criminal, one of the best reviewed comics of 2006. Coward is the story of Leo, a professional pickpocket who is also a legendary heist-planner and thief. But there’s a catch with Leo, he won’t work any job that he doesn’t call all the shots on, he won’t allow guns, and the minute things turn south, he’s looking for any exit that won’t land him in prison. But when he’s lured into a risky heist, all his rules go out the window, and he ends up on the run from the cops and the bad men who double-crossed him. Now Leo must come face-to-face with the violence he’s kept bottled up inside for 20 years, and nothing will ever be the same for him again. Collects Criminal #1-5.

Awards

  • #895 of the 1001 Comics to Read Before You Die
  • #28 of CBH Best Comics to Read
  • 2007 Eisner Award for best writer

My Thoughts

CriminalIssue1-thumb-500x773-1016261.jpgThere are some things you need to know before starting this series:

  1. This graphic novel is straight up crime noir. There are no superheroes, magic, aliens, or mystical forces. What there is though, is dark searing dialog, blood, violence, and language.
  2. This is a very adult comic. Adult themes and imagery. The story is designed to haunt the reader. To sear some of the images on the frontal lobe.
  3. The protagonist of volume 1, and from what I understand continuing volumes throughout the series are anti-heroes.
  4. Each of the volumes is a different story arc all taking place in the same world.

Knowing all this if you want to continue into this world, it is quite a ride. The premise revolves around the protagonist, Leo Patterson. A former heist strategist who has left the life of crime to take care of Ivan, an old family friend. Ivan is addicted to heroin and has Alzheimers. At Ivan’s age, breaking heroin addiction becomes untenable so Leo provides palliative care to Ivan.  Leo agrees to the heist against his better Judgement, swayed by an attraction to recovering heroin addict Greta. From there, the story progresses through a series of backstabbing and double-crossing that leave various people dead.

The title of the book is coward. Which is ironic because Leo is anything but. His cautiousness and reservedness at the beginning of the story lead other criminals into thinking that he is weak, “he doesn’t just walk away from trouble, he runs.” What people don’t understand, and the reader soon finds out is that caution does not necessarily mean forceless. It could mean that you are thoughtful and very, very smart. Like in the case of Leo. He is pushed to the breaking point and becomes a force of nature abandoning all pretense of cowardness and serving up a side of badass on his betrayers. The bold and brazen end up dead or in jail while the cautious and calculating walk away with the money.

91hsjgUvI6L.jpgBrubaker is the king of crime noir in graphic novels. A genre much changed since the 1950’s. Here Brubaker sticks to familiar themes, but he serves them up bruised, foreboding, and dark. Although “Coward” could be a standalone series, minor characters in this arc play much larger roles in other character arcs. It is really fun to dissect the minor details of the story when you go back and flip through. Pay attention because there are many offhanded comments in this story that play a larger part in others. This is just good storytelling plain and simple. The dialog, story, and graphics are top notch and it is absolutely worth the journey of discovery. I look forward to checking out the next story arc in “Lawless.”

The Five W’s Book Tag

Books In Library
image courtesy of http://www.techcrunch.com

The Five W’s Book Tag

What a fun tag. I found this over at Thrice Read and loved the idea. So here we go.

WHO | WHO IS AN AUTHOR YOU’D LOVE TO HAVE A ONE-ON-ONE WITH?

Seanan Mcguire. There are a lot of wonderful authors out there. But, I have consistently loved her books, both Mira Grant, and as Seanan Mcguire and I think she would be a fun person to talk to.

WHAT | WHAT GENRE/STYLE DO YOU MOST OFTEN GRAVITATE TO?

Probably Science Fiction and Graphic Novels at the moment. But I do love fantasy as well. Most books have merit one way or another.

WHERE | WHERE DO YOU PREFER TO READ?

In Bed or bathtub. Gives me an excuse to take long baths.

 

WHEN | WHAT TIME OF DAY DO YOU PREFER TO READ?

All freaking day.

WHY | WHY IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK?

That is an outstandingly hard question to answer. I think the Saga series really stands out for me right now. I have never been so shaken by writing in a graphic novel. It is superb.

BONUS: HOW | HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT SELECTING WHAT BOOK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I check my multitude of lists. Hey, everyone has neurosis. Find one that looks tasty and go for it.

 

Comic Review – Max und Moritz by Wilhelm Busch

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By Wilhelm Busch – extract from original an book, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1576406

Awards

#3 on “1001 Comics to Read Before You Die”

About

From wikipedia, “Max and Moritz: A Story of Seven Boyish Pranks (original: Max und Moritz – Eine Bubengeschichte in sieben Streichen) is a German language illustrated story in verse. This highly inventive, blackly humorous tale, told entirely in rhymed couplets, was written and illustrated by Wilhelm Busch and published in 1865. It is among the early works of Busch, nevertheless it already features many substantial, effectually aesthetic and formal regularities, procedures and basic patterns of Busch’s later works.[1] Many familiar with comic strip history consider it to have been the direct inspiration for the Katzenjammer Kids and Quick & Flupke. The German title satirizes the German custom of giving a subtitle to the name of dramas in the form of “Ein Drama in … Akten” (A Drama in … Acts), which became dictum in colloquial usage for any event with an unpleasant or dramatic course, e.g. “Bundespräsidentenwahl – Drama in drei Akten” (Federal Presidential Elections – Drama in Three Acts).”

My Thoughts

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By Wilhelm Busch – Digitised book, Gutenberg Project, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48616276

Max Und Moritz is a German comic that was first published in 1865. It became a turning point for children’s literature which was created to moralize rather entertain. As far as what kind of entertainment this is, that is up to the reader. I found the two little kid, max and Moritz, to be absolute shits. However the end of the story is just as or more vulgar as the actions of the boys, they get ground up into grain and devoured by ducks. Wow. That is some dark children’s literature. Very much like Grimm’s original stories. Cinderella’s original story ends like this, “When the wedding with the prince was to be held, the two false sisters came, wanting to gain favor with Cinderella and to share her good fortune. When the bridal couple walked into the church, the older sister walked on their right side and the younger on their left side, and the pigeons pecked out one eye from each of them. Afterwards, as they came out of the church, the older one was on the left side, and the younger one on the right side, and then the pigeons pecked out the other eye from each of them. And thus, for their wickedness and falsehood, they were punished with blindness as long as they lived.” Also somewhere in there, they chop off their toes… Must be a thing for early children’s literature.

 

Max_und_Moritz_tinted_3.png
By Wilhelm Busch – Digitised book, Gutenberg Project, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48616007

I may not like the content, I am not a huge fan of grimdark, but I can understand and appreciate the importance of it as a piece of literature. It is one of the forerunners of the newspaper comic strip and a very important story in Germany culturally. The image of the two boys has appeared in everything from comic books, schools, to hot dogs. They even have an award for Best Comic from a German writer called the Max-und-Moritz-Prize. I don’t get it, but who am I to judge?

The below is a sample of the original text and English translation of the comic. I found it on www.davidgorman.com if you are interested.

Erster Streich / First Trick

Mancher gibt sich viele Müh’
Mit dem lieben Federvieh;
Einesteils der Eier wegen,
Welche diese Vögel legen,
Zweitens: weil man dann und wann
Einen Braten essen kann;
Drittens aber nimmt man auch
Ihre Federn zum Gebrauch
In die Kissen und die Pfühle,
Denn man liegt nicht gerne kühle.
To most people who have leisure
Raising poultry gives great pleasure:
First, because the eggs they lay us
For the care we take repay us;
Secondly, that now and then
We can dine on roasted hen;
Thirdly, of the hen’s and goose’s
Feathers men make various uses.
Some folks like to rest their heads
In the night on feather beds.

 

Review of “Scourged” by Kevin Hearne

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Atticus meet readers, readers meet Atticus. http://www.kevinhearne.com

 

Hearne, Kevin. Scourged. Del Rey, 2018.

Content advisory: scattered F-bombs, some violence, and innuendo. (if you are a long time reader of this blog, you should be used to that.)

Book Summary 

From the publisher, “Kevin Hearne creates the ultimate Atticus O’Sullivan adventure in the grand finale of the New York Times bestselling Iron Druid Chronicles: an epic battle royale against the Norse gods of Asgard.

Unchained from fate, the Norse gods Loki and Hel are ready to unleash Ragnarok, a.k.a. The Apocalypse, upon the earth. They’ve made allies on the darker side of many pantheons, and there’s a globe-spanning battle brewing that

“An owl hoots in the night, spooky as five hells and a jar of creamy peanut butter—that shite’s unnatural.”
― Kevin Hearne, Scourged

ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan will be hard-pressed to survive, much less win. Granuaile MacTiernan must join immortals Sun Wukong and Erlang Shen in a fight against the Yama Kings in Taiwan, but she discovers that the stakes are much higher than she thought.

Meanwhile, Archdruid Owen Kennedy must put out both literal and metaphorical fires from Bavaria to Peru to keep the world safe for his apprentices and the future of Druidry.

And Atticus recruits the aid of a tyromancer, an Indian witch, and a trickster god in hopes that they’ll give him just enough leverage to both save Gaia and see another sunrise. There is a hound named Oberon who deserves a snack, after all.”

DSC0968
Truth, Oberon!  http://www.worldbuilders.com

My Thoughts

Some minor spoilers are ahead. I will attempt to not ruin the story, but ye have been warned.

Scourged is the ninth and final novel in the “Iron Druid Chronicles” by Kevin Hearne. Hearne did it, he ended it, and we are sadly at the close of Atticus, Oberon, and more. At least for now. Hearne has been quoted in saying that he may visit these characters in the future, but for right now their story arc is completed. Sadly, all I can say is book nine was weak sauce. It is easily the worst of the nine.

Book nine starts with a funny conversation between Atticus and his hounds. “Yes, Food!”

“Ragnarok will begin in the next few days, and it won’t end well for anyone, because apocalypses tend not to include happy endings.”
― Kevin Hearne, Scourged

They are lovingly talking about the joys of meats and gravies. Which most readers will agree with. Myself included. The almost impromptu conversations that flow between Atticus and his hounds throughout the series are Kevin Hernes’s writing at its best. Oberon’s commentary is a welcome addition to almost any scene in previous novels. Sadly, Oberon was sidelined for most of book nine. His missing analysis was sorely missed and the levity it brought.

Now into the meat of the story. Ragnarok is happening, and Loki is letting forth his pent-up daddy-issues upon the world.  It is time to marshal the troops in opposition. The gods and goddesses of various pantheons join together for the fracas. Thus enters some pretty interesting characters we have met before: Sun Wukong who is also known as the Monkey King, Granuaile, Owen, Coyote, Flittish, Laksha, the Morrigan. Each has a specific role to play in this war, both predestined and not. Here is where I think the story begins to go off the rails. Kevin Hearne wrote this book to be single fight scenes or dialog scenes that are strewn across the world. All happening at different times with the span of a few days. Loki’s actions have affected the world at large, not just small segments of it. Thus the main characters are needed in various parts of the world. These scenes feel chaotic and disjointed. Instead of exciting and climatic scenes, we get boring, unessential, and insignificant ones. The action scenes, which in previous novels where trim and concise, are so irregular and hardly understandable that it knocks the reader right out of the story. They are literally scratching their heads and saying “what the f$%?”

Granuaile.png
Redheaded tart.

The denouement of some of these characters is a complete train wreck. At some point between book eight and book nine of this series, Hearne decided that a complete rewrite was needed for their personalities. It feels like he was very done with writing these characters. Especially Granuille. Her ending was ridiculous. It felt vicious, cold, and mean-spirited, in a very “kick them when they are down” kind of way. Which is out of character for her. There must have been a better way to carry out the meat of that scene without making her seem so coldhearted. Atticus made her into what she is primarily, and she kicked him while he was at the lowest point in his many centuries.  I suppose there is a school of thought that says writes owe their readers something when it comes to their characters. That’s not true. Writers owe their readers nothing. But it is in bad form for the author to take such a beloved character like Granuille and weirdly ruin her for many people. Bad form man, bad form.

Atticus deserved a lot of what was heaped on him, and I understand what Kevin Hearne was attempting to write regarding Atticus’s end of the journey. But instead of the bittersweet ending, he was looking for, it came off as a whole lot of bitter, and absolutely nothing sweet. Except for maybe his interactions with his hounds at the end.  This is a sad end for this series. It really felt like the proverbial punch in the gut.

Conclusion

I have no idea what to tell you to do. If you have loved this series as I have through all eight books and side stories, you will want to go on and finish the series. There is nothing for it, you need an end. But that ending will feel like someone dropped a load of rocks on your big toe while simultaneously stealing your wallet and telling you are ugly. If you haven’t started the series yet, I still say go for it. It is a fun and wild ride till the end where you will unceremoniously have rocks dropped on your toes, your wallet stolen, and be emotionally injured with name calling. You are seriously damned if you do or don’t.