Saturday, January 21, 2012

Book 4: The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen

If I had to classify this book in any way, I would classify it as a dystopian thriller because the main character, Zed, travels from the future (in which there is a "perfect present" similar to that found in 1984) to modern day Washington D.C. in order to make sure that the perfect present is maintained. His job is to make sure that every sort of cataclysmic event occurs, including the imminent Great Cataclysm, so that his future (where there is no war, hunger or anything like that) is maintained. He must protect it at all costs, even if it means killing other people. He specifically targets Hags - or historical agitators - during his mission. The Hags also journey to contemporary time from the future to alter the past so that hatred etc. doesn't lead to so many deaths.

Besides Zed, who views his job almost as a surgeon would, there are a few other main characters: Tasha, a Washington based corporate lawyer that is beginning to question the morality of what she does; Leo, a former CIA spy; and Sari, a 22 year old Indonesian woman and illegal immigrant who is working for the South Korean ambassador and his North Korean wife. All of these characters cross paths in various ways - ways that would be credible in our every day lives and each interaction seems to carry increasing levels of danger.

I really enjoyed this book, so much so that I couldn't put it down and the 400 + pages flew by. I stole moments during my day to read it - breaks from my children, from the work that I brought home. I also really enjoyed the issues that were raised by this novel: America obviously considers itself to be in the perfect present and this novel took advantage of that. There was also the 9/11 paranoia that was imminently and obviously present, which overshadowed everything else. This book is NOT science fiction - while there are elements of time travel, it is more of a dystopic/critical look at contemporary American society then anything else. Definitely a must read,

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book 3- Push by Sapphire

I picked up Push by the novelist Sapphire after, admittedly, seeing the movie that was based upon the novel. I usually go the opposite way, but the movie was so good that I opted to read the book afterwards.

The novel takes place in 1987 in New York City - mostly in Harlem - and is told from the viewpoint of Clareece "Precious" Jones, who is 16. We find out very soon into the novel that she is obese, illiterate (she's in middle school still) and pregnant with her second child (the product of her rape at the hands of her father - her first, also the product of rape at the hands of the same man, was born when Precious was 12 and has down syndrome). Precious lives with her mother, who supports Precious with food stamps and welfare. Precious' first child lives with her grandmother. As the novel opens, Precious is sitting in math class and is called to the guidance counselor's office because they have learned that she is pregnant. The school has opted to send her to an alternative school, which infuriates Precious. However, the pre-GED class taught by Ms. Blue Rain and featuring other girls from troubled backgrounds has a tremendous impact on Precious and leads to her confidence growing.

Sapphire uses BVE (aka Ebonics) in telling the story of Precious because we are, after all, hearing the story from Precious herself in the first person. While BVE is used, it is not being used to foster contempt or disdain for Precious or the other subjects of the novel; quite the opposite in fact. It's almost as if we are reading poetry. This is a difficult novel to read because everything that happens to Precious and the way that she experiences things are starkly colored by the abuse that she has experienced at the hands of her father and mother. She can't pay attention in class because she's daydreaming (coping mechanism). She curses (coping mechanism). But it brings it to the forefront of the consciousness and reveals the struggles that people like Precious must struggle with and overcome. It is a wondrous novel that is every bit as good as the movie.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book 2: Among the Truthers by Jonathan Kay

This is a book published in 2011 by Canadian journalist Jonathan Kay and which is a history of contemporary conspiracy movements, with a focus on the 9/11 conspiracies - their theories and their participants. His main theory is that the conspiracy movements in America have been gathering more and more momentum in the last 10 to 15 years, with more people joining them than ever before. He attempts to define the factors that cause people to believe in these conspiracies wholeheartedly and uncritically.

I found this book fascinating. Initially, I had no desire in reading it but then I picked it up and found it really interesting because Kay, in part, spent a good amount of time immersed in "Truther" culture researching the book and interviewing subjects, such as Alex Jones. This book is an alarm about an increasing paranoid that isn't really based in reality at all. What I found fascinating wasn't necessarily the historical aspect, although being provided the history of conspiracy movements was invaluable in providing me context for the current movements. The most fascinating part of the book were the oral histories given to him by some of the participants, the reasons that were given for their attraction to these theories and Kay's analysis as to why such seemingly intelligent people were subjected to such abject paranoia.

Definitely a must read. If you like it, Kay has a blog that gives more information about his book and his theories.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Book 1: Zone One by Colson Whitehead

So I'm participating in this challenge this year and I'm going to do DARNIT! This is my first read of the year:

This novel, by Colson Whitehead, is the story of three days in New York City in the life of a fictional character named Mark Spitz. He and two of his contemporaries are "sweepers" and are scouting through Downtown Manhattan in the aftermath of some sort of apocalyptic plague, cleaning the area out and ensuring that it can, at some point, be resettled by people that have not contracted this plague or who haven't gone utterly crazy. The majority of the people that have contracted the plague are now undead and are called "skels" because they look more like skeletons than normal human beings. The majority of the skels have already been taken care of by the Marines that took over the island but it falls to Mark and the rest of the sweepers to dispatch any stragglers that were overlooked by the Marines.

The best part of this novel was the writing, quite frankly. Colson Whitehead is nothing if not a good writer in that he has a masterful use of the language and a phenomenal word choice. However, the wonder of the book ends there. I mean, the book is about a guy whose best quality is his mediocrity? Really?! There is absolutely no plot and no point to this novel. I found myself asking, at various points: "Who CARES?! Get to the POINT!" and yet no point ever came. Things kind of happen in the last thirty pages or so, but not really and it's so brief and so vague that if you are sick or drunk when you read it or you blink, you would miss it. I did really like being immersed in the world, which Whitehead does masterfully. If you're looking for a truly good zombie novel, this is not it. Try World War Z instead!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Monday Musings

So, yay for first post of can also expect another post from me later on today about the top books that I have read this year. I would have posted it before, but life just got in the way.

Here's the question:

What is/are the first book(s) you’re reading for the new year?

I began my year with reading Zone One by Colson Whitehead. For those of you who have forgotten or didn't know, Mr. Whitehead also wrote the novel, Sag Harbor. I really enjoyed Sag Harbor and I enjoyed how Mr. Whitehead writes, so when I saw his latest at the library I snagged myself a copy. I was surprised to find it lying around because it was released in November and was written by a somewhat main stream author. Not that I'm complaining at all. I'm about halfway through so make sure to look for the review shortly.

You can find more Monday Musings questions at this link:

The Power by Naomi Alderman

If you liked The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, you will want to read this dystopian novel, which has won a number of awards in th...