Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cannonball Read # 4: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

I started reading this because it is on my list of "books I should read for my general enlightenment". I confess that I didn't know much about Achebe's work prior to reading this book but since I wanted to expand my bookshelf outside the realm of science fiction, I thought that this would be the perfect time to stop procrastinating and just do it.

This book starts off quite slowly for me and slowly builds momentum. At first we meet Okonkwo, and he is a man's man. He holds a high status in his village, he has proved his physical prowess time and again during the village wrestling matches and because of this, is quite famous at an early age. He has multiple wives and children and in general has a very severe demeanor. Most of the first part of the book concentrates on developing Okonkwo's character and as we follow his life, we get to learn much about the village, clan hierarchy and Okonkwo's family structure. Suddenly we see the introduction of Anglican missionaries and the entire clan system slowly but surely begins to fall to pieces. Okonkwo's son joins the missionary church and Okonkwo's mourns the loss of his eldest son to the church. Since Okonkwo's entire life has been about proving his masculinity, he feels keenly the loss of his son to "these effeminate men of the church".

You can see that initially the men of the village tolerated the missionary as a joke, thinking that no one would take them seriously and therefore when the white men set up a judicial court and start hanging villagers for offenses against the Church, they are all taken aback. But of course by then it is too late.

Initially I didn't like Okonkwo as a main character because he seemed to be completely intolerant of change but as the book went on I began to see that he was the eyes through which we began to see the complete and total destruction of an entire village culture. At the end of the book, Okonkwo has committed suicide in disgrace after killing a District messenger. The Anglican Church has completely taken over the area and superceded Okonkwo's peoples' own justice system because they are teaching the "heathens".

The part of the book that actually spoke most to me was the last couple of paragraphs.

      "The Commissioner went away, taking three or four of the soldiers with him. In the many years in which    he had toiled to bring civilization to different parts of Africa he had learned a number of things. One of them was that a District Commissioner must never attend to such undignified details as cutting a hanged man from the tree. Such attention would give the natives a poor opinion of him. In the book which he planned to write he would stress that point. As he walked back to the court he thought about that book. Every day brought him some new material. The story of this man who had killed a messenger and hanged himself would make interesting reading. One could almost write a whole chapter on him. Perhaps not a whole chapter but a reasonable paragraph, at any rate. There was so much else to include, and one must be firm in cutting out details. He had already chosen the title of the book, after much thought: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger. "

Although I didn't LOVE the book, I understand the importance of a work such as this one. We need to see the subjugation of the African people from their own perspective.

Avatar is the Truth!

So I went to see AVATAR in Tobago this weekend, unfortunately not in 3-D but still it was utter greatness. Even though it was 2.5 hours plus, I was completely engaged. Everyone NEEDS to see it.

The funniest thing was that I was sitting in front of THOSE people in the cinema, you know, the people that constantly comment on everything.

"Girl, it preetty eh?"
"Why he goin' dere? Wha he doin'? Wha dey sayin'?" Lol. only in Tobago will they ask someone next to them what the 10 foot Avatar is saying in the imaginary Na'vi language. Gots to love home ;-D

Anyway, I'll be spending New Years over here with the fam, pictures to follow. Happy New Year to all and a blessed and prosperous 2010!!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Weird News

So I saw this article on MSNBC about a 13 year old kid who runs up a $22,000 phone bill in one month on his dad's cell phone plan. How is this possible, you ask? Well apparently he decided to download to the phone 1.4 million Kb of data without having a data plan. That's 1.3 Gigs.  I mean WHAT??!!?!

If you want to read about it go to:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cannonball Read #3: Wit'ch Fire by James Clemens

"Wi'tch Fire" is a classic epic fantasy story that must be told over the course of 3 -4 books. Too bad I didn't know that when I started reading. In this book, it is mainly about the "let's get to know all the characters" part of the game. I guess given the length of the book, there was literally only time to take the main character and say, "these are the people that are going to travel with you on your quest". Because of this, the entire book felt extremely unfinished, kind of like I was reading chapters 1 and 2 of the entire story. 
Basically, the book begins in the land of Alasea where they are in the middle of a battle to remain independent from the evil forces of Gul'gotha aka The Black Heart aka the Dark Lord. (and p.s. why are all the evil ones dark and black? Lets get another evil colour representing the enemy forces for once!) Anyway, we meet Er'il who helps his brother Shorkan forge a Book that wille eventually save them. Cut to an unmentioned amount of time later, and we meet Elena who bears the mark of the lost power of her people, ie. a crimson hand. In essence, the usual happens, someone tries to kill her, her power gets away with her and she burns up some stuff thus creating the essential hero's moral dilemma of "my power is destructive I don't want it. but I'm The ONE. Oh what a responsibility!". At the end of the book, her band of merry travellers has found their way to her side, all of them for various and sundry reasons. 
1. Er'il - yes he's still alive hundreds of years later, oops. 
2. a nymphai (tree spirit) the last of her people. 
3   a elv'in who is searching for their long lost king. Guess who it is? (that's right sexist elv'in, your king is a girl)
4 a half shapeshifter half ogre who is on a quest to rid his og're clan of a curse. 
5. A pair of shapeshifter twins, one stuck in human form and the other stuck as a wolf. P.S. the human one is completely craven and whiny on top of everything else.

Blah Blah! Somehow this book had all of the elements of a great story and I found myself struggling through it  and even in writing this review, I don't really care. Somehow Clemens managed to write a book that was both interesting and forgettable at the same time. And did I mention that the plethora of apostrophes in all the names are quite annoying. Like the difference between Gulgothra and Gul'gothra is really all that significant?

I will be taking a break from fantasy from now on and concentrating more on different types of fiction. So next on my list is "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe. Wish me luck!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Notes on a Kindle

Having lusted after the Kindle ever since Amazon first put it up for purchase in my sophomore year at college, it was with great pleasure that I received one from my parents as a graduation gift. I've alway been an avid reader and to me, an iPod for books had the potential to be the most world-changing device since Apple said that you could have music without CDs. I also saw it as freeing me from airline overweight baggage fees because I would no longer have to pack 15 books to travel, I could have them all available on my Kindle. To my disappointment, while I love my Kindle, and use it most of the time, there are certain things that I did not expect and still cannot get used to.

1. I feel cheated out of the bookstore experience. Before I would enter a bookstore with the same reverence that someone would enter a church. This place was going to give me my next epiphany; the book/s I walk out with will change my life somehow. That sort of thing. Instead going to bookstore now its unsatisfying. I find books that I like, but I'm hesitant to buy it because the amazon store might have it for much cheaper. Because of this, I no longer get the same pleasure from picking up a book and that upsets me.

2. When flying, because the Kindle is an electronic device you cannot use it during take-off or landing. For me these are perhaps the most crucial times when I need to read; my iPod cannot be used, the movie has been turned off and all you ever have to do is read. So now with the Kindle, all I can do is sit there concentrating on how long it is taking for the pilot to land the plane.

3. I miss the weight of a book in my hand, and the smell of slightly worn pages and the crease in the spine that means its one of your favorites.

4. Last but not least, you cannot lend your Kindle books to a friend.

For all of the admittedly wonderful things that a Kindle does. Such as its portability, accessibility to Amazon's vast e-library, there are certain things that one cannot ever recreate with a digital book. And I may be an old fogey in saying this, but I will miss books when they are gone. The digital will become the convenience and the norm and people like me will be thought of as eccentric or clinging to a bygone era. Be that as it may, the act of holding a book brings back memories of every book I ever held, and to a certain extent every book I've ever read.

The move toward digital literary content got me thinking about a science fiction short story I read once (of course! ). It was a tale of xeno-archeologists (studying alien artefacts) who come to a planet where they are unable to make head nor tails of any of the old buildings, monuments and artifacts that they find. In the end, they reason, that particular civilization had gone digital, meaning all of their art, literature and cultural content had moved into a completely insubstantial medium. After the civilization became extinct, noone could celebrate them or study them because no one could truly know them.

Perhaps that is a gloomy thought but at the end of the day, progess stops for no man (or however the saying goes) and we will continue to evolve and change as we please. In the meantime however, I guess what I'm saying is that I will continue to celebrate books in their most tactile form until I no longer have that option.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pretty Things

So ever since the Boston Book Festival Boston Noir party where I got to wear this awesome hat, I've become kind of obsessed with hats and hairpieces.

Here are 2 of my "I wish I had". Enjoy!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cannonball Read #2:The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

So for those of you that are unfamiliar with Robert Jordan's work, this is the twelfth book in the Wheel of Time Series. After Jordan passed away, Fantasy author Brandon Sanderson picked up where Jordan left off.
      Anyway, most of this book is based around the main character Rand's struggle to maintain his sanity in the face of the incredible stresses that come with being the Dragon Reborn. His intense distrust for all those around him, even people that he previously thought had his best interest in hand, fuels the world's fears that he will not be up to the task of facing the Dark one in the Last Battle.
     I do not know if this was a stylistic choice made by Sanderson or if Jordan dictated it be so, but the best part of this book was delving into the hero's psyche. In most fantasy books, while the hero may be superficially conflicted about his journey, he doesn't really seem all that affected psychologically. With Rand, he's damn near driven himself crazy and most of the book is his psychological journey through the crazy; controlling his powers, trying to shut up the voices in his head.
   I appreciated that in this book, unlike the last 3 that Jordan wrote, the plot actually moves along swiftly and even the characters that don't make much of an appearance still manage to do something significant. My problem with the last couple books that Jordan wrote is that they seemed like filler. When a lot of nothing happened over the course of 800 pages and it gets tedious.
  All in all a respectable sending from Brandon Sanderson, and I know we who grew up on the Wheel of Time series are just excited to finally get the story moving again.