Discombobulated Evisceration

I just feel like typing. I have this urge to hear the sound the keyboard makes as I string words to make a coherent structure. I don’t need to write about something. I just have an urge to write something. It seems like a silly exercise, purposeless and a bit self-indulging, but I wonder how much I can write – writing about nothing.

Words are fun. Sentences are even more fun. I just want them see them appear on the screen as my fingers feverishly run over the keyboard. Just that. Nothing more. I just need random words.

The first one that comes to mind is discombobulate. I don’t like it much; I think it has too many bs which discombobulate its connotation. The bob part is just to ridiculous to confound anything. It makes me wonder what would bobulation be? If I was to bobulate something to someone would that mean I’ve made something clear and understandable? I was able to bobulate the meaning of discombobulation to Mark. Nah, it’d have to mean I did something silly.

Eviscerate – now that’s a good word. When something is eviscerated you can hear a hiss of air preceding annihilation. You feel the state of deprivation from the mere feel of the letters rolling off of your tongue. First, you part your lips, ever so gently. The first sound resembles a struggled moan, deep in your throat. Then your lower teeth meet your upper lip, only to breathe out before hissing slightly. You flatten then twist your tongue around the r until it lightly touches your palate and finishes with the slight brush at the back of your teeth. And then suddenly, it is finished. Cut off. Forgotten.

There are so many wonderful words. I just can seem to find an idea around which to weave them. Shit, I seem to be developing a topic. Time to end this.

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Burn baby, burn!

Karen Marie Moning: Burned (Fever Series #7)

What is worse than the first fourteen pages of Burned? The remaining 429 pages.

I should have given up after those fourteen pages.
But I didn’t.

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The first fourteen pages of this book ruined one of my favourite characters. The remaining couple of hundred pages mutilate Barrons’ corpse.

I think Moning has lost her interest in Mac and Barrons and chose to come back to them due to popular demand.  MacKayla Lane, her strongest and best character, is reduced to a commentator of things happening around her. Moning gives us excuses for this throughout the book, but it doesn’t make it any better, especially when she turns Mac into nothing more than a sex-obsessed voyeur.  Barrons is something of a comic relief, with only Mac reminding us of his former glory.

With severe dilution of characters, all the faults of the book shined ever so brightly. There’s actually no plot whatsoever. And excuses Moning uses for plot are so poorly executed you can mistake them for plot only if you’re looking for one. The pace is jumbled and you actually get to see when Moning decided that it was time for some character development. My ass. Also, seeing WTF in a book as a part of internal monologue (three times!!!) really pisses me off.

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While I was reading Burned I had my suspicions that Moning made her decisions while keeping in mind the public outcry following Iced and she decided to please the fans. Or try to. Having finished the book, I’m almost certain that most of her decisions were made in order to please the masses so that book sales would be massive.

Even if this is true (maybe more so?), Burned is still a bad book, and sadly I must say goodbye.

Bye

Who’ll ask the dark its name?

I’ve been reading Earthsea for a while now, and I must say I was a bit surprised by the maleness of it. Male strength, male power, male everything. I don’t mind, don’t get me wrong, but Ursula has always had a strong penchant for questioning that power.

He’s a bit from Tehanu.

“A man’s in his skin, see, like a nut in its shell. It’s hard and strong, that shell, and it’s all full of him. Full of grand man-meat, men-self. And that’s all. That’s all there is. It’s all him and nothing else inside. “

“And a woman then?”

“Oh, well, dearie, a woman’s a different thing entirely. Who knows where a woman begins and ends? Listen, mistress, I have roots, I have roots deeper than this island. Deeper that the sea, older than the raising of the lands, I go back into the dark.”

“I go back into the dark! Before the moon I was. No one knows, no one knows, no one can say what I am, what a woman is, a woman of power, a woman’s power, deeper that the roots of trees, deeper than the roots of island, older than the Making, older than the moon. Who dares ask question of the dark? Who’ll ask the dark its name?”

 

Beyond the Boundaries of Light

Believe it or not, there’s an actual plot in The Farthest Shore. Yay! for all those out there who care about plot. Not so much for all those who love suspense, catharsis, magnificent final fight and the clear-cut triumph of good over evil. Not so much for all of those who like to be shocked when they find out who the evil master mind is. Not so much for those who like action. Nope, not so much.

Yay! for all who love magnificent writing, ominous atmosphere, majestic scenes and meaningful messages. Yay! for all who love a book which makes them think about life, society and the human race. Not so much for those who like dragon-slaying, flamboyant coronations of brave and fearless kings and the use of amazing magic.

All in all, Yay! for me.

I’ve already reviewed two Earthsea books, so I decided to keep it light this time (there’s three more coming up, and I doubt I’ll be able to resist writing a line or two about them…). One interesting thing that keeps recurring during my reading of the Earthsea books, I keep hearing Freddie in my head:

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality.

Now, some quotes from The Farthest Shore.

“Try to chose carefully, Arren, when the great choices must be made. When I was young I had to choose between the life of being and the life of doing. And I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly. But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again. Then very seldom do you come upon a space, a time like this, between act and act, when you may stop and simply be. Or wonder who, after all, you are.”

On every act the balance of the whole depends. The winds and the seas, the powers of water and earth and light, all that these do, and all that the beasts and green things do, is well done, and rightly done. All these act within the Equilibrium…But we, in so far as we have power over the world and over one another, we must learn to do what the leaf and the whale and the wind do of their own nature. We must learn to keep the balance. Having intelligence, we must not act in ignorance. Having choice, we must not act without responsibility. Who am I – though I have the power to do it – to punish and reward, playing with men’s destinies?”

“In all this, and in its sure, ponderous movements, and in a deep frightening calmness that it had, he saw the sign of age: of great age, of years beyond remembering.”

I almost forgot.

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Proof of Reality

 

She Danced Across the Centuries, Barefoot

Title: The Tombs of Atuan  Author: Ursula Le Guin Published: 1970 Summary: The second part of the Earthsea Cycle focuses on Arha, the Priestes of the The Dark Ones. She feeds them with the souls and bodies of Godking’s prisoners and is the only one allowed to enter the Labyrinth in which the Nameless Ones rule. With nothing in her heart or mind but rules and regulations of worship, fed to her from an early age by other priestesses, she lives a sheltered and barren life until a man, a heathen, a wizard invades the Labyrinth in search for the ring of Erreth-Akbe.

When she breathed in the drug-fumes to dance at the dark of the moon, her head grew light and her body was no longer hers; then she danced across the centuries, barefoot in black robes, and knew that the dance had never ceased.

Print In The Tombs of Atuan  Ursula’s (yeah, we’re on a first name basis now) anthropological background comes to the fore in the creation of the belief system of the Kargad Lands. Once again, the reader is treated to her amazing ability to create an entire culture, without  going into over-explaining mode which leads to absurdity. This time we follow the story of Arha, or Tenar, ever-changing, but constant, just like Ged in A Wizard of Earthsea. I disliked Arha, then I liked her, but I could always find reason behind her behaviour. If there was ever any doubt about the affection I felt for Ged, The Tombs of Atuan dispersed it. He i s powerful, yet  strikingly human and vulnerable; his power is mentioned only once or twice and for a reason – never to show off.

If I can hold off an earhtquake, do you fear to meet one human soul with me?

I cannot resist to quote a passage which, for me, embodies Geds character :

His face in sleep was stern, almost frowning; but his left hand lay relaxed on the dirt, beside a small thistle that still bore its ragged clock of grey fluff and its tiny defence spikes and spines. The man and the small desert thistle; the thistle and the sleeping man…

After struggling with A Wizard of Earthsea, I was a bit surprised when I found myself effortlessly gliding from page to page of The Tombs of Atuan. I guess it took the first part of the Cycle for me to get accustomed to Earthsea. I really, really, really loved The Tombs of Atuan (in case you didn’t notice). I enjoyed the stark beauty of it, the way the black and the white are used to paint all the nuances of life and civilization, as is often the case in Ursula’s writing. The long narratives such as the story of the Ring of Erreth-Akbe, are written in a way that makes you want to know more; you want an entire book about it, not just several pages. Nothing is superfluous in this book; every word and sentence, each story told fit in. Only a few sentences are enough to fill you with a sense of calm or cold dread. The dark depths of the Labyrinth and the desolate desert are infused with such warmth and understanding, the source of which is possible to find only in the beauty of the language and the complexity of society and culture. Continue reading “She Danced Across the Centuries, Barefoot”

Fourteen Pages

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 pages to ruin one of my favourite characters.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 pages to make me question my opinions

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 pages to make me wish there was such a thing as an altar of Gods of Wasted Ink and Paper on which I could sacrifice them. And this is the worst. I don’t hate books. There are books I loathe, abhor and/or dislike. I don’t hate books. But the first fourteen pages of Karen Marie Moning’s Burned made me want to start a little fire with them. I cannot even explain how sad and disappointed I am, how wrong I was.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 little pages ruined the entire Fever Series.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 pages turned Jericho Barrons into an asshole. Into one of those male characters I detest.

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A Wizard of Earthsea

If anyone other than Ursula Le Guin wrote this book I wouldn’t have finished it. It’s slow-paced, thick with imagery and impressions. Perseverance paid off, because it’s precisely all that which made me think about moving on to something else turned out to be the most beautiful thing about A Wizard of Earthsea.

It’s unlike anything else I have read. There really isn’t any real plot to talk about, there’s scarcely any catharsis at the end. It’s just somehow there and it’s beautiful. It’s all about feelings and impressions, about fear and loneliness, about not belonging. There is only one comparison that springs to mind when I think about this book. Reading it felt like trying to run through water. It was difficult, but strangely rewarding.

What I love about Le Guin is the way she does not create new worlds. She just tells you a story which takes place in a world you didn’t know existed. She’s unassuming in her writing, careful with words; almost shy in her respect of the story she’s telling.

By far, one of the most interesting reading experiences I’ve had, and I’m looking forward to reading The Tombs of Atuan.

Interestingly, whenever I mention Le Guin to someone, if they’ve heard of her, they’ve heard of her as the author of “that fantasy novel…what its name?”. I’ve started with The Left Hand of Darkness, moved on to The Dispossessed and onwards to the Lathe of Heaven. I’ve decided to give this fantasy thing a go, and I was not disappointed. The future seems more bright knowing that there’s a lot more of her work out there, waiting to be read.

In the end, bear in mind, I’m not much of a fantasy reader, so this might not be the most representative review.

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Proof of Reality

New In – Unboxing

WARNING: Self-indulgent post ahead!

Shit. I haven’t been this excited about a book since 2010, when I got the news about the publication of CryoBurn. I’ve marked the 20th of January in my calendar to make sure I don’t forget to order Burned (Fever 7). I’ve reread Fever 1-5 recently, however Iced is a bit blurry so… what the hell, it’s only 5 pounds. I knew Real Books 2015 were going to cost me.

Thoughts on the  Fever Series can be seen here, here and here.

I’m currently reading The Earthsea Quartet and it’s going to take me a while before I get back to the Fever Series. But I cannot curb my enthusiasm so I’m gonna do what I’ve seen done on fashion, beauty and tech blogs.

I don’t think buying any thing can be as exciting as buying a new book. It doesn’t wear off. It’s not like a dress which becomes old after you’ve worn it a few times. It’s not a smartphone which is new and exciting for approximately three minutes. A book is the ultimate shopping thrill and, as such, deserves a New In/Unboxing post more than any other product.

I’m not unpacking a product here. I’m unpacking an entire world, a world of monsters and those who fight them. Hey, it’s Jericho Barrons I’m unpacking here! After four long years, Jericho is baaaack!!! How fucking awesome is that??? Yay!

The box itself was unimpressive and I must say that it’s general shabbiness was slightly alarming at first. It was, however, easy to open, which made the process a bit anticlimactic.

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Book extraction went smoothly, and as you can see below upon extraction I was assailed by the abundance of faceless male torsos with lame tattoos . While this is a problem with the paperback, it is less daunting with the hardcover.

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Hardcovers are difficult to carry around and are more pricey,  the before and after photos clearly show the benefits. The torso can be easily discarded, making the book appropriate for public reading.

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Moby Dick, In Space

The Martian has been compared to Robinson Crusoe. It has been compared to Cast Away and Apollo 13. Financial Times claims that “Gravity meets Robinson Crusoe” in The Martian. I think The Martian is more like Moby Dick – the Red Planet plays Captain Ahab, while our hero Mark Watney is the white whale.

In most of the book, Mark tells us his story of survival, in excruciating technical detail. This struck me Moby Dickesque. Bouts of sarcastic optimism emerge every now and then, amidst all Mark’s resourcefulness – reminiscent of humorous bouts amidst whale-o-phillia in Moby Dick.

Every twenty hours, I’ll have 10 litres of CO2, thanks to the MAV fuel plant. I’ll vent it into Hab via the highly scientific method of detaching the tank from the MAV landing struts, bringing it into the Hab, then opening the valve until it’s empty.
The oxygenator will turn it into oxygen in its own time. Then, I’ll release hydrazine, very slowly, over the iridium catalyst, to turn it into N2 and H2. I’ll direct the hydrogen to a small area and burn it. As you can see, this plan provides many opportunities for me to die in a fiery explosion.

I’m not crazy about comparisons, but if comparisons need be made, why make the most obvious one? The one that tells absolutely nothing about the book? “Robinson Crusoe on Mars, 21st century style.” Please!

In a way, Mark Watney is more like Deadpool then like Robinson:

Yes, of course duct tape works in near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.

deadpool duct tapeI have to “steal” a bit from WSJ, to quote Mr Weir (LOVE this quote):  “If you get down into the deep details, the science tells you the story,” he said.”  He spent “three years working out the details” which is very obvious in the book even to the uninformed.

Anyway, The Martian is an amazing book. It took about 10 or 20 pages for me to fall head over heels for Mark. It’s so damn easy to get invested into the importance of saving his life, that you can disregard the improbability of him surviving most of the shit he survives during the book.

Every lie has to have a kernel of truth, and the amount of scientific truth behind Andy Weir’s fiction makes The Martian feel real.

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If you read Moby Dick, I’m sure you can appreciate the amount of research and reading Melville had to do in order to write that masterpiece. Just taking out all the whale references (in the pre-Google era) must have been a monumental endeavour.

In Moby Dick, Melville’s insistence on every aspect of whaling (and more) makes the book feel eerily surreal, almost somnambulistic and a bit, well, crazy – reflecting the state of mind of our obsessed Captain. In The Martian, Andy Weir uses science to make Mark’s story feel realistic and plausible.  

But even this disparate treatment of detail brings two books closer together in a way that science serves to shake the foundation of the story – Moby Dick doesn’t feel like a book about whale hunting, and The Martian feels nothing like science fiction.

You can read the first chapter of The Martian here.

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Proof of Reality

Pink Floyd – The Endless River

When it comes to music, my appreciation for Pink Floyd is unparalleled. I experience their music on a primordial level – instinct and reflex. Yet at the same time the mind is restless, in a dreamlike state; old and new worlds coexist, dreary truths of our past coalesce with unruined future.

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Three things passed through my mind after having heard the new album for the first time:

  1. whale song
  2. elevator music
  3. was this song (Anisina) on the Lethal Weapon soundtrack?

Having listened to The Endless River a few more times I somewhat moved past those impressions. Somewhat. I scarcely ever have a feeling about an album, I normally enjoy music on a level of a single song. Except with Floyd. The Endless River lacks that unifying experience, and it lacks poetry.

All in all, it’s unispirational, bland and at times seems to be endless – and not in a good way.