WordPress 028 – Book Experience 013 – Inferno by Dan Brown (Spoilers)

Hi everyone, it’s Monday!  No, there’s no video today, but there will be one next week revealing what I plan to do for the rest of that week.  I’ll half-reveal it on Thursday, but I’ll make a proper video doing that whole revealing bit on Monday.

I’m excited for this week’s Book Experience because it will be on Inferno by Dan Brown.  WARNING: There will be spoilers, more likely than not.

Inferno

First of all, I didn’t get into Dan Brown or any of his books right away; there was just so much hype/controversy over The Da Vinci Code when it came out in theaters that I just didn’t want to get into all that (I tend to avoid things because of hype).  When it came out on DVD, my father bought the DVD to watch, but it wasn’t until later that I too watched it and loved it.  I just really liked the entire… mystery aspect of solving puzzles to get to the next clue kind of storyline.  It’s probably why I liked National Treasure with Nicolas Cage a lot… just anything that has to do with solving things: Sherlock Holmes, Lie to Me, forensic shows, etc., seeing things get solved and how they get solved.  (Although, I must say the scene with Silas self-flogging was a bit much… and I liked Silas as a character.)

Anyway, so I read the book afterward and found out that Dan Brown had written others, so I wanted to check those out too.  I read Angels and Demons, which was actually the first book about Robert Langdon, then I read his two stand-alone novels: Deception Point and Digital Fortress, both that I really liked.  I just really loved his writing style, the mysteries, his plots and the twists he writes because I always get so caught off-guard, and I liked how it keeps me second-guessing myself.  I don’t know if all that he’s written is true, since it is fiction and all that, but I enjoy the very real world he portrayed.  I read The Lost Symbol when it was released, and now, Inferno.

Before getting into Inferno itself, I have read Dante’s Inferno during my undergrad for a comparative literature class, so I was familiar with it and was SO excited that Dan Brown’s newest book was based on it.  (I get a little geeky over literature, so yeah.)  I read the whole thing and did a lot with the professor on the “Nine Circles of Hell,” even wrote a paper on it, and it was just an enjoyable experience with it.  I hoped to read Purgatorio and Paradiso someday.

Having read all of Dan Brown’s books prior, I didn’t expect this one to start out with Robert Langdon injured so seriously, but yeah… that happened.  I mean, Langdon gets into a lot of sticky situations with a lot of risk and possible injury and death, but this book started out that way and didn’t let up at all.  It was so crazy.

I think it’s hard to keep up the action page after page, but it did, and I just love the fast-paced-ness of it all.  I finished the entire thing in two days, and it was like a movie.  I had a feeling that not everything or everyone is as they appear to be, since Dan Brown likes twists so much (and I have no idea how it does it every single time).  But every time I thought I figured out something, it turns out to be something else, and I literally went back to double-check the flashback scene with the character meeting Zobrist to see if Dan Brown had given any hint of who had that flashback because I thought for sure it was that guy.  For sure!  But, no, I was wrong and made a natural, hasty jump.  I think Dan Brown just knows how much hint to give and withhold in order for the reader to make the wrong jump in their mind, and then when he reveals it chapters later, you wonder, “Wait a minute…” and go back to check and find out, yep, you got it wrong after all.  I think it takes some talent as a writer.

From what I remember of Dan Brown’s past antagonists, they weren’t really inherently “evil.”  I mean sure they were the “bad guys,” but not all bad guys are bad or evil or anything like that, and that’s what I like.  People are complex, and good aren’t always good and bad aren’t always bad, so I like how Dan Brown portrayed Zobrist as a un-bad bad guy.  In the end, you realize that he could have done a whole lot worst, but he didn’t, and he was just trying to help humanity in this kind of way.  It may not be the “right” way or the “good” way, but then you have to think, what would be the “right” way, and how many people could do better?

I think it says a lot about humanity as a whole, that we can do simple things to make things better, but most of the time, we are just content to just being blind to everything.  How would we change as a whole unless someone forced us to adapt to a certain situation?  We don’t really change willingly; we just adapt as we need to.  Something to think about.

So, thanks for reading my Book Experience on Inferno, and if you have your own thoughts on the book, discuss it here!

Until next time, take care!

WordPress 024 – Book Experience 012 – The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe (Spoilers)

Hi everyone, and happy Monday!  I’ve been wondering if I can do something else on Mondays, something Book Experience related but from a different medium, but I’m not sure yet.  I feel like I’m putting these out way too often, and it would be fun to do something different, like I do on Thursdays with the tags.  We shall see.

This week’s Book Experience will be on The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe.  WARNING: There will be spoilers, more likely than not.

SmokeThief

So I had the paperback version of this book for a while on my bookshelf, and a couple of months ago, I found a nice hardcover version to replace it.  Normally that’s what I prefer anyway, and I pulled this title out of my Book Vase last month to read for this month.

What interested me about this book was that it said it was about a thief who was a woman, and there’s this guy trying to catch her.  There are also supernatural plots and themes mixed in with it, which is what I liked, and the woman seemed to be a strong female character, especially if she was able to elude capture for so long.  The thing was the romantic aspect of the novel made me unsure whether or not I would actually enjoy it because like I said in the “7 Deadly Sins of Reading” tag (post # 021), I didn’t want the romance to be the thing that ends up breaking the strength of the female character.  And I didn’t want the male character to be… so obviously attractive.  Prince Charmings are too easy.

Anyway, in short, this novel really surprised me.  I really enjoyed this and really loved the female character, Clarissa Rue Hawthorne.  She had a crush on the main guy Christoff “Kit” Langford when she was younger, and I was worried that when they met again when they were grown up, she would fall for him again, but nope. She made it difficult for him, and it was oh-so-good.  Kit almost felt like the typical privileged kid, son of the Marquess and Alpha to this clan of drakon, but when he grew up, he wasn’t… too annoyingly arrogant or anything.  He was sometimes the teasing kind of guy, but he was also serious when he needs to be, which was a plus.  Really enjoyed the characters.  Not too sure about Zane thought, only because he was rather young.

And the entire concept of the drakon, shapeshifters who can “Turn” from human to smoke to dragon and back again, was really interesting, and I thought it was executed rather well.  It became rather pivotal in different scenes, and they had to use it with concentration and care in order to escape or whatever, so I liked how that was incorporated into the story with some real use (instead of just having it be something “different” like “Oh look, they can turn into smoke,” and that’s it, nothing else). I really like the images I got from it.

Anyway, this first book prompted me to get the others in the series.  I got the second and third books, which I will show off in this month’s haul, and I hope to read them soon.  However, I don’t believe they follow Clarissa and Kit as much, so hmph.  Anyway, I look forward to them.

Thanks for reading my Book Experience. Until next time, take care!

WordPress 022 – Book Experience 011 – Anthem by Ayn Rand (Spoilers)

Hi everyone.  I hope you’ve all been able to relax with some great books so far.

Today is another Monday, and my Book Experience this week will be on Anthem by Ayn Rand.  WARNING: There will be spoilers, more likely than not.

Anthem

I recently found this really nice copy of Anthem, so it’s replacing the other one that I had.  I love the cover and how it looks like old, delicate paper, and it’s one of those paperback novels that randomly has flaps on the front and back covers.  Plus, deckle edge pages.  :)

Anyway, I didn’t know much about any of Ayn Rand’s works, even though I’ve heard so much about her as a person.  I think I had a chance to read one of her novels (The Fountainhead) back in middle school for a scholarship, but I ended up not doing so because… adult novels were intimidating back then.  Kevin did recommend this to me in one of his letters a while back, so thank you!  Also, this was one of the books I had chosen out of my Book Vase last month, so I’m glad to have read it.

First of all, I was surprised that it was much shorter than I realized, since they reprinted a facsimile of her first edition with all of her edits and rewriting for the American edition in the second half of the book.  So, it was really only about 100 pages long.

The themes in the story are definitely very familiar to me, very dystopian as I had guessed, so it reminds me a lot of dystopian books I had already read.  I love the progression of the story as well, the entire journey of self-discovery as Equality 7-2521 broke away from what he knew of the world.  I love the story between Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000 (a.k.a. the Golden one).  I don’t think I can properly or adequately convey what these 100 or so pages have laid out; it was a great experience when I read it.  The words, I don’t have enough to explain.

There was one part where the description of the sky just made me go, “Whoa…”  I wish I had such command of words:

“In five hours, the shadows are blue on the pavement, and the sky is blue with a deep brightness which is not bright.”

It’s the description of dusk, by the way.  It just gives me chills.  It’s so good.

This is a rather powerful 100 pages that I’ve read, and I wish I could say more about it, but I’m at a loss.  Feel free to discuss with me, definitely.

Thanks for reading. Until next time, take care!

WordPress 020 – Book Experience 010 – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (Spoilers)

Hi everyone, I hope you are all having a great summer.  I started classes already, which involves quite a bit of reading, but I’m definitely trying to make time to read for pleasure as well and still do this because… I love doing this.

This week, my Book Experience will be on One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.  WARNING: There will be spoilers, more likely than not.

OneFlewOvertheCuckoosNest

So, I don’t remember if I mentioned this somewhere before, but I picked this up to read because one of my coworkers was reading it, and he said he didn’t quite understand it.  So, I thought, “Well, why don’t I give it a try?”  I did have it in my collection, and it was one of those must-read books that I didn’t really know much about, so it was as good a time as any to get started on it.

For some reason, even though the back said that it was set in a mental hospital, and it was clearly about a mental hospital, and that was already in my mind, BUT I kept picturing a prison system because I was watching way too much OZ at the time, and the whole environment of both felt similar enough.  Very strict schedules/routines, what you were supposed to do; you were controlled by the authority and how things work in the system, and there is nothing you can do about it.

However, when McMurphy came in as a new “Admission” into the hospital, it was clear that he wasn’t part of and wasn’t going to be a part of the system.  Clearly a rebel, but I thought the way he rebelled was pretty priceless because he doesn’t go off and cause trouble and get in trouble (like pick fights and/or kill people like those people in OZ did in prison), but he does it more subtly just to mess with people’s heads, most especially Big Nurse (whose name is Ratched… which keeps reminding me of the word “wretched,” which isn’t too far off).  Just looked oh-so-innocent-like, but he’s clearly not.

Like how he made a ruckus about someone having stolen his clothing the night before, so he was standing there in just a towel, getting the Big Nurse and all her employees all flustered, and she demands that someone get him some clothes this instant!  And once they do, McMurphy just innocently drapes his towel over her shoulder and revealed that he had a pair of shorts under there all along.  So smug, and she was so mad, I’m sure.  I would be too, but on the other side, I thought it was brilliant, challenging authority in that way.

Of course, he starts to raise the bar again and again, trying to see just how far he can push authority before it snaps, and Big Nurse Ratched is trying to not snap under any circumstances because that would mean she’s the weaker one, that she can’t handle him, that he’s won, etc.  All that.  If she punishes him, then it is like a victory for him, regardless of anything else.  And slowly, McMurphy is winning everyone over, and Chief was a pretty interesting character as well.  A very quiet character who sort of wanted to blend in and not be bothered, but he’s clearly a big guy, from what I imagined him to be.  And it was McMurphy, who drew him out and eventually helped him get out.

The ending that sort of became the climax was definitely when Big Nurse Ratched was threatening the other patients (and I almost typed “inmates” there) to get them to submit and fold under her to show that she still has the power over them, but then McMurphy just tears through her clothes and revealed to everyone that no matter what, she was still “just” a woman, which probably made her “weaker” in their eyes just like that.  Like it was a realization to them… which is real sexist and everything but… that’s what I got out of it.

Also the ending killed me like the ending of George Orwell’s 1984 killed me.  Though not as much as 1984… more like the ending of season 1 of Game of Thrones (the TV series) with Khal Drogo.  In fact, it’s almost exactly like it— except I love Khal Drogo way way~~ more.  *tears*  Whyyy?

Alright, so that’s my Book Experience on One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  If you have your own Book Experience or thoughts on this, I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks for reading. Until next time, take care!

WordPress 018 – Book Experience 009 – Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk (Spoilers)

Hi everyone, it’s June!  Even though I am starting my summer classes (sidenote: where did the “break” go?), I think I will still have somewhat of a break and have lots more time to read, which is wonderful.  I have no idea how many books I’m going to end up reading this year in 2013, but it’ll definitely be more than what I read last year, which was a mere 15.  We shall see as always!

This week, my Book Experience will be on Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk.  WARNING: There will be spoilers, more likely than not.

InvisibleMonsters

So, another one of my penpals, Kevin, recommended me this book a while back, and I finally got around to reading and finishing it.  Prior to this book, the only other piece of work that I’ve read by Chuck Palahniuk was a short story called “Guts,” and I expected… something like that.  That kind of shock value.  I’m not one for intense/graphic gore in any sort of way (having a weak stomach and all), so I just steeled myself and see how it went.

In general, I think I got really lost the first half of the book.  I knew what was happening in a basic sense, but with how the narrator jumped around to different events and the changing of the names, and trying to keep everything straight in my head just lead to a lot of confusion on my part.  However, I think it’s good in a way because I think it will set up nicely should I decide to reread it again.  It’s like getting lost when you play a game for the first time, and the more you go through it, the easier it gets (I’m specifically reminded of myself getting lost in the Frostburn Canyon in Borderlands 2 the first time I went through it; now, I know my way around).  The second half of the book, it all came together, and despite the overall confusion, I was rather shocked at what was revealed in the end and went absolutely, “Wha– No way!”

I probably had a hard time imagining someone who… doesn’t have a jaw.  I suppose that is shocking in its own right, but you sort of get numb to it after hearing all kinds of dismemberment and such from the news and how people can hurt people in that way physically, and the mental and emotional strength to survive it is like… so beyond anything anyone can comprehend unless you’ve actually lived through it, I would imagine.  Anyway, it was very interesting to read how she was one this incredibly beautiful person and how a single event in her life completely shatters it, and how she would go about handling that drastic change in her life.  Like going from rich to completely poor in just one instance.  How can anyone manage? The part that stood out to me the most regarding her without a jaw (and why the title of the book was so meaningful) was when she was shopping at the grocery store, and everyone just ignored her.  She was a “monster,” as pointed out untactfully by a young kid, and she is invisible because no one would even look at her or pay her any attention.  How often do we do that?  When there is someone who is so different that we end up not looking at them?  And why?  To be polite?  To save yourself the embarrassment in case you are staring?  What is the best approach to it?

There were also some pretty thought-provoking things, at least to me, that were sort of here and there, seemingly insignificant conversations, but they certainly made me think: how televisions allows us to see into the lives of people (of course, this can be applied to books, movies, video games, etc.), being already a product of something that has already been established (language, law, religion, etc.), how… the biggest mistake can ultimately save you from a constant… life that you’ve been living that was inescapable until then.  And how much courage it can take to escape from it.  Pretty profound, I’d say.

There’s a lot of issues revolving around identity in this story, which could easily be a(n academic) paper in and of itself.  I’m sure people have written about it because holy moly.  Just going through my mind, how much identity matters and pops up with every single character, how they each deal with identity in their own way.  What was interesting to me was that there were transsexuals in the story, which adds in another level(s) of identity: sexual/gender identity, which is complex already.  Because from what I understand (in my limited knowledge of human sexuality), being a homosexual and a transsexual is completely different in a way that… even though they might be attracted to the same kind of person, it’s different on the inside.  So a homosexual male would be attracted to other males and feel quite comfortable being a male, but a transsexual male, he feels as if he is in the wrong body, and the body is supposed to be female.  And I would assume that he/she might feel the same kind of attraction to males as the homosexual male do.  Anyway, limited understanding, so I don’t want to pretend to be an authority on it.  However, it reminds me of a video I saw that sort of attempts to explain the complexity of human sexuality, and it was pretty thorough and can explain things much better than I can:

“Human Sexuality is Complicated…” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXAoG8vAyzI

ANYWAY!  Back to the story.  The ending that made me go, “Wha– No way!” was finding out that the narrator was the one who shot her own face.  And the explanation was like the most… beautiful and yet heartbreaking explanation ever because it’s so understandable and yet, it’s quite sad that you need something that drastic, and sometimes tragic to create enough change that will prevent you from ever going back to a normal life.  It’s just… SO good.  To break out of something so hard, and you basically don’t allow yourself to go back ever.  So good.  That takes a lot of courage, I’d say.  Admiration!

Oh, and the shock value?  Trying to reconstruct the jaw with living parts of yourself, and I thought… “Ookay, that’s a little much.  Thank you.”

Alright, so that’s my Book Experience on Invisible Monsters.  If you have your own Book Experience or thoughts on this, I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks for reading. Until next time, take care!

WordPress 016 – Book Experience 008 – UBIK by Philip K. Dick (Spoilers)

Hi everyone.  It’s Memorial Day over here, so hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend.  Other than that, I hope you’re having a wonderful Monday all the same.

This week, as promised, I’m going to be doing my Book Experience on UBIK by Philip K. Dick.  WARNING: There will be spoilers, more likely than not.

UBIK

I was recommended to read UBIK after I finished A Scanner Darkly by one of my penpals, Ken, so this would be rather familiar to him.  I wrote my entire experience to him already in a letter, so this will be like a repeat of that.  He mentioned to me that it might take a little bit to really get into any of PKD’s books, but for me, I think I was hooked by the second chapter when Runciter had to go visit his wife, who is suspended in half-life.  From there, it was like a rollercoaster of a ride.  Here’s my book experience that I’ve written out before (with like… really visceral reactions, so pardon the language in some places *will try to clean it up*):

First of all, I thought the entire concept of having psychic spies and anti-psychics to go after them was rather brilliant.  I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that PKD thought this up back then because it feels so modern, like such a modern concept you know?  How in the world did you do that, oh my god man.  It certainly feels like the next step when it comes to spying, that people aren’t just going to follow you around physically, but they will be able to get at you mentally as well.  Scary thought.

Then I got more into it with the concept of half-life, that burial is considered barbaric, and half-life is the way to go, prolonging the consciousness even after your body ceased working/living.  Then when do you actually die?  What did the concept of death changed to?  I had such a creepy feeling about Jory in the beginning because what the h—, the man is just trying to talk to his deceased wife, and suddenly this other guy pops up and wanting someone to talk to him?  Go away!  That was so creepy.

And Pat.  I thought the whole psychics/anti-psychics was impressive, and I remember the whole concept of precogs from Minority Report, those who can foresee something happening but can’t do anything about it, and then this woman Pat coming out and saying how she wasn’t really impressed by it, and I’m like, “Whaaat?  How can you not be impressed?”  Then she comes out to say that she CAN alter the past by just… not making something happen, and I think my mind got blown then.  It got even more chilling to me the first time Pat did something and Joe Chip and Runciter didn’t even realize at first, and oh my god, that’s so scary.  That someone can change the entire reality, and you wouldn’t even know it?  What the… jesus.

I must admit that the whole explosion on Luna wasn’t something I expected, but at the same time, it was something I was at least familiar with, so I didn’t think much on it.  Like, oh no, an ambush, and Runciter got killed with an explosion.  That kind of scenario is something that is “normal,” but of course, everything after that is anything but normal, and it was quite a rollercoaster ride just reading through it.  I didn’t sense anything wrong with the cream incident, but as more and more suspicious events started popping up everywhere, I think I was like Joe, just piecing it all together.  I was so hooked by then, just wondering, “What the h— is going on!?”

The whole regression and time going backwards was insane, so insane. It was really interesting when Joe wondered why the electronics reverted to something more antiquated, an earlier version of itself rather than back to their raw materials?  I liked that, which added to the whole mystery of it all.  Why indeed? And people dying here and there, and then you first think it was Pat causing all of this because she must be the one god d— it!, and nooo, Joe, oh my god, stay alive please!  Then you find out that Runciter was the one who was alive, while everyone else was in half-life, and my brain just popped.  (I am going to just be incoherent forever here.)

I was even suspicious over Runciter because everything is so suspicious, goodness, someone tell me what is going on!  Then, it was that little… b—— Jory. Oh my god, I don’t think I wanted to tear into a character more than him, and the whole remark about Pat “enjoying” what she was doing, like pulling wings of a fly like some sick maniacal child, and then you find out that Jory has been behind it all and sucking down half-lifers to prolong himself, especially when he needs more of them sooner, and then you find out that nothing can even be done on the outside because people pay money to keep him there, oh my god screw him and his family!  And that there are more out there because they’re all greedy b——s who want to prolong their life, even in half-life (reminds me of the movie In Time, THOSE SELFISH PEOPLE!)  I don’t know how I feel about Ella though because she was helping yes but also going to be passing on the torch to Joe Chip and was going to be reborn anyway… so she was on her way out of half-life, and therefore, away from Jory.  Sigh.

And it was so so so SO not fair that there was a final twist at the end, and ugh, it’s not over yet?  My mind can’t handle it.  I thought Inception was something you know, but this sort of blew Inception out of the water.  Here, just take all of my melted brain matter.  I didn’t need it anyhow.

I was also going to go back and try and see if the order of the people who got killed mattered or something but… that might be overthinking it.  That’s something I tend to do, oh well!

Alright, so that’s my very incoherent, yet visceral Book Experience on UBIK.  If you have your own Book Experience or thoughts on this, I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks for reading. Until next time, take care!

WordPress 014 – Book Experience 007 – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith (Spoilers)

Hi everyone.

I’m on my last week of the semester, so I’ll be excited to get a little extra time to read more once I’m done.  I’ll wait another week to put up my Book Experience on UBIK, so I thought I’ll put one up on something that I just finished: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith.  WARNING: There will be spoilers, more likely than not.

PrideandPrejudiceandZombies

When it comes to Pride and Prejudice, I’m pretty much a big fan of the story.  I actually didn’t read the book first; I saw the movie with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen (and I really like him as Mr. Darcy).  I really liked the time period when it set and the story and the characters, and funnily enough, my brother, who had read the book and saw the BBC series with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth for class, told me to get the BBC series because it was better than the movie.  So I got that and watched it and loved it some more.  Then finally I read the book and finished it last year.  There’s more to this regarding the original novel, but I’ll explain that in a future Book Experience when I do one on Pride and Prejudice.

Onto this novel instead.  I actually saw it in Barnes & Noble one day, possibly when it was released, but I didn’t pick it up at the time.  I just went back home and told my brother, and he just got this bewildered look on his face, like “That’s so completely random!”  I have to say that having zombies in classical literature is rather random because… zombies?  It just seems very out of place to have zombies there, no matter what the reason.  Anyway I found this copy for much cheaper, so I decided to buy it and give it a chance.

I found out that the story is almost exactly the same, word-for-word, just with some random zombies and zombie attacks thrown in.  The problem I have is that the zombies don’t even disrupt the flow of the story.  The zombies aren’t even seen or treated as a threat, as a major one at that, especially since they can eat and kill you and have done so right at the beginning.  The story remains linear and unbroken, and it would have been interesting to see the zombies have some kind of effect, but they are almost like a nuisance they have to deal with, like flies in the house.  Why even have them in if they aren’t going to contribute much to the story, change the characters, all that?

Plus the whole thing with them studying in China or Japan… hm… I don’t know about that.  I love Elizabeth Bennett as a character, a strong female character, but this sort of put her and the others over the top.  I especially found it ridiculous that she was able to kill off three of Lady Catherine’s “deadliest ninjas,” rip out the still beating heart of the last one, and actually took a bite out of it.  Wha…  I don’t even.  How does this make sense?  Also, some of the lines and dialogue were changed to suit the entire zombie plot, but it just feels so awkward and a bit funny to read it, like it was an actual “serious” conversation.

So um, yeah.  I think there are just too many contradictions to make this a serious kind of novel, but it could work as a parody I suppose?  The illustrations are rather nice though, I can appreciate that.

So, that is it for my Book Experience on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  If you have your own Book Experience or thoughts on this, I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks for reading. Until next time, take care!