Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Well, this book is a series of the adventures two unnatural allies finds on the face of Faerun, a dangerous assasin named Artemis Entreri and a cunning and unpredictable drow named Jarlaxle. This book here is set after Drizzt Do'Urden has brought the Crystal Shard, a sentient relic of unimaginable power with the goal for ultimate power, to the hands of one of Jarlaxles henchman pretending to be the priest Cadderly in order to steal the crystal shard from him. Artemis Entreri believed he had finally defeated his rival Drizzt in a battle and, seeing his quest finally over, joined Jarlaxle and his dangerous band of mercenaries Bregan Daer'thae in an attempt to make profit on the surface. The story is mainly about the assasin and the drow as they are betrayed by the generals of Jarlaxles own band and must struggle to survive and destroy the shard before it can corrupt anymore souls. R.A Salvatore combines both danger and humour together to make a wonderful story.
I give this a 4 out 5 ^^ My explanation may be a bit ... mrrruh... though. It's been 3 months since i read it.
at 12:35 PM
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
The magnum opus of this acclaimed writer; and some maintain, easily a work of staggering genius. This novel covers the length and breadth of the entire 20th century, easily encapsulating the formative events of the century. In the process, he also intertwines lives that would normally be passed on by under the penmanship of a less accomplished novelist, giving depth beyond compare to the postmodern era we reside in.
Don DeLillo employs imagery that would astound the ordinary reader; metaphors, analogies, similes are tossed around like nobody's business, creating a richly woven texture that is bound to excite even the most pedantic of literature lovers. In DeLillo's tale, two lives are followed; but so many other lives on the periphery are involved that, at times, the novel is in danger of spiralling out of control as a narrative, transmogrifying into a descriptive painting.
The average reader will be hardpressed to make any sense of this work; you have to seriously peer into the details to understand how rich the tapestry of Cold War America is. The many characters who flit in and out of the plot, symbolically represent the porous borders of Cold War America, an age where no one really knew which side was which, an age where enemies changed fluidly almost at the whim of whoever was in power.
If you like Murakami, you'll like him; there's enough wordplay to keep you up all night in the deciphering trade. He endowns characters with the oddest quirks; ranging from the deranged purveyor of the skin trade to the many scientists involved. As the camera pans from character to character, one realises that, in the confusion of a Cold War America struggling to find its feet, the characters and their lives are the best guide to that momentous era.
at 6:53 PM
Thursday, August 09, 2007
One of my most exciting reads all year, and certainly a worthy shot, no doubt, for Best Book of the Year (though, of course, this book has been in the market for a while now.)
I was initially very unimpressed by what I saw; a 230-page tome, with a cover reminiscent of trashy teen fiction, I was ready to fling it to the back of my reading list. But the utterly captivating opening chapter drew me in IMMEDIATELY. And I was hooked. It opens with a rather chilling anatomical description of how each facial muscle works in concert (or not) to form familiar facial expressions.
And how these facial expressions have simply stopped working for a certain Peter who has just committed attempted suicide. And is right now letting his wife Misty proceed with her waitressing job, as the people around her all die. Sort of.
Soon, the novel takes a nihilistic turn, and you realise that there is a shady force, unspoken yet evil, that works behind the scenes, threatening to kill everyone on the island. (Which it DOES eventually do.) The shady force slowly annihilates everyone on the island, as Misty concurrently rediscovers her artistic talent - something she shrugged off when Peter made her pregnant in art school, making her drop out.
As the momentum of the novel builds up to Misty's first art exhibition post-suicide, the killings begin getting more vehement, and for the reader, it takes all one's patience to prevent oneself from flipping to the end, to learn, exactly, who is behind the spate.
A fabulous, fabulous book, written in a style that is postmodern, but not vacuously story-devoid at the same time. One of those books that you cannot take your eyes off, be it due to plot, language, or style.
I give it a 10 out of 10, and I have NEVER done that before.
On a related note, CONGRATULATIONS to Bal, our co-writer, for his straight A achievement! Off to Newcastle he goes to join me.
at 6:34 PM
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
A take of the JFK murders from a unique viewpoint - that of the upbringing and motives of Lee Harvey Oswald, told from a CIA-conspiracy point of view. Those more familiar with DeLillo's more recent, more surreal works might be surprised at the relatively deep grounding this book possesses; nonetheless, the theme of nurture trumping over nature is relatively well articulated throughout.
Much is made of Oswald's crucially unhappy upbringing, and twisted development; he is portrayed as a character whose hand was forced by fate and circumstances to become the monster he would be. Still, his monstrosities are less diabolic, being the social construct that they are, when put in comparison with those of the people who ultimately kill him in prison.
This book is a rather mesmerising gem of a thriller; it captivates the reader's attention by flitting between two character perspectives, piquing reader interest. A word of warning, though - the book is NOT for those who do not have at least a basic grounding in the facts behind the JFK assassination. Without an appropriate historical context, the book can be a laborious read.
Don DeLillo himself is not for the faint of heart; some detractors have described his prose as "vacuous" and "devoid of anything beyond verbal sophistry". To a certain extent, that is true; DeLillo's fiction can sometimes seem bare on plotline and big on detail.
But above all, you need a rather focused outlook to read his work; concepts and words dash all over the place.
Still, a wonderful tome for a holiday, thought not my idea of a Concise Introduction to DeLillo. That title is best bestowed on Cosmopolis.
I give it a 7 out of 10.
at 10:33 PM
A more mature, more modern Don DeLillo work, firmly entrenched in postmodernism. Though a far slender work than his usual plodders, in a sense, it is also, thematically, more varied; it does not fit the mould of his traditional conspiracy theorising that is prevalent in Underworld and Libra; somehow, it strikes you as his attempt to write a coming-of-age tale as an author, one that will be his Norwegian Wood, giving DeLillo a more public audience.
It is the tale of Eric Packer, a 28-year-old multi-billionare asset manager who drives across Manhattan for a haircut. Like James Joyce's Ulysses, it takes place in a single day; the theme of father-son separation is also addressed, as is highly sexed women. Throughout, he has random chance encounters with his wife; he loses huge amounts of money by betting against the yen, which suffers a demise parallelling hiw own downfall.
The book is fast-paced, quirky, flitting from event to event; in that sense, it is less reminiscent of a traditional DeLillo work, where tight plots are eschewed in favour of a more detailed exposition of ambient conditions. The book toys with language in various exciting ways; many a time, words and playful imagery tumble over each other rapidly in an effort to outshine each other.
A brilliant DeLillo work, and easily, his easiest, for the novice.
It gets a 9/10; yes I have been reading a host of good books lately, I must admit.
at 10:19 PM
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Wondering why I'm updating this site so often? I'm in Sabah, that is. Where the Internet connection is slow to a fault. This Internet connection is, as I pointed out to a certain hikaraseru, worse than having no Internet at all; at least, without Internet at home, you are guranteed not to have it, and can hence move on with your real life at large. With slow Internet, you are doomed to a lifetime of watching pages load, or paint dry, and my suspicions inform me that the latter is, at this point in time, infinitely preferable.
Which is why I resort to blogging. At least you don't have to wait for anything else to load to start typing.
But enough about my Internet connection. This book certainly ranks amongst one of my favourites of all time, and considering it has an all-female cast - hardly a group I would generally feel empathy for - that confers upon it extra credibility.
It tracks the progress of the four Ya-Yas - Vivi, Teensy, Necie and Caro. Siddalee, Vivi's daughter, a budding playwright, irks her mother by expressing opinions of her unhappy childhood to a reporter, who, sensing paydirt, sensationalises it. Vivi immediately commences internecine warfare with Siddalee, tearing up tickets to her play and refusing invites to her wedding.
As Sidda strives to reconcile with her mother, she enlists the help of her mother's erstwhile partners in crime, the irrepressible Ya-Yas, who, through a series of vivid stories about their antics growing up in the boisterous South of the 60s, slowly explain why Vivi turned out the way she did.
The strength of this novel is less its plotline than its narrative; Wells incisively describes their numerous moments of mischief, ranging from being arrested by the local policeman to swimming in the lake in their yearly summer camp, with so much joie du vivre, that one almost longs to be transported back to that golden age, when technology was far from the overwhelming social binding force it was back then, and there was still good clean fun to be had on streets and pavements that were far from lawless.
Each caper is described in breathtaking grandiosity; no antic is too vanishingly small, no bit of gossip escapes below the radar. Still, weighty issues are also dealt with in the intervening chapters - Sidda learns of her mother Vivi's difficult childhood with a bitter mother and the loss of the first great love of her life; we also see Vivi's journey to deal with her painful issues and become the mother she always wanted to be.
A family fable, spanning three generations, yet never coming off as didactic or plodding, it presents four greying women in their heydays, and, paradoxically, gives them that extra flourish, that va-va-voom, their ostensibly younger grown kids will never muster through their overworked, stress-ridden adult life.
For anyone with more than a passing interest in the zany ways of the American South, this book gets my pick as more than a biopic; it is an examination of the generation gap through three pairs of perpetually dancing eyes.
A 10/10; nothing less. Ya-Yas in Bloom will be reviewed soon!
at 9:41 AM
Part Huck Finn coming-of-age story, part psycho-thriller, Donna Tartt justifies her decade-long break from the writing trade by unleashing another magnum opus on the world. If you felt The Secret History was a little too top-heavy on the Greek philosophy, too arcane to be accessible, then The Little Friend will no doubt appeal more from a lay perspective.
In lieu of a strong plotline (which is something that, arguably, favours The Secret History as a better representation of Tartt's work), The Little Friend has strong characterisations to offer. Harriet and Hely, the quasi-protagonists turned gunslingers, have a Mark Twain feel to them; they ooze with personality, anchoring the disparate lives of the other characters together, who, at times, seem to solely serve as plot filler.
Throughout, the story tracks two parallel families, as Harriet slowly inches closer to finding out who killed her brother Robin 11 years ago; as the tale of the other family, helmed by Farish, a reformed mental patient, slowly converges, we see the tragic toll income inequality exacts on its victims.
The tale begins as a simple retributive mission; it slowly worms its way into the minds of two equally ruthless individuals, who, at the end of the novel, are close to indistinguishable in the level of manipulation they exact on their followers. Just like Hely, Harriet's loyal sidekick, Farish is well-endowned with grovelling family members; just like Hely, who ultimately sells her out for a pittance - almost, Farish is ultimately felled by one of his own kind.
I give this a 8.5 out of 10 - at 620 pages, it's not my idea of a ravishing holiday read, but with time, a little patience, and unlike A Secret History, no specialist knowledge of obscure Greek rituals, you will make it. Again, one of those books that is a convincing argument AGAINST the yearly Grisham/Clancy/Patterson machine output.
at 9:14 AM