Archives, Part 2012 (May 18, 2009 to June 23, 2009)

Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (May 18, 2009)

This title is available for purchase here.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (8.5)

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." What a Hell of a way to start off this book.

Now, having never read the original version before, I don't know how this adaptation would hold up for any fan of the original, but coming in fresh, I must say that I was genuinely captivated. While all semblance of the black plague from the original has been replaced with the zombie plague and is mentioned from the first line onward, however, the majority of the book is left as is, with the love-marriage-responsibility plot noticably present throughout the title. However, the first true zombie appearance--about twenty pages in or so--stepped up the ball and left me laughing wholeheartedly along with the brisk pace. Indeed, after that attack, with Elizabeth and her sisters undertaking a pendragon of death, beheading zombies left and right with only their knives, I was hooked.

But, while I fancy any fantastically written zombie narrative, I found I couldn't appreciate the original novel. I understand it is one of the most important novels in British history, but it wasn't of my taste. Nevertheless, Grahame-Smith does an admirable job of reworking the story to involve zombies and left me quite entertained throughout the many new passages, which, as a point of lively gaiety, never seemed to grow old or tiresome. Especially gruesome was the story of her friend who, having been bitten, slowly succumbs to the plague over the course of the title only to attempt to eat her husband. Oh, what drama, and coupled with ninjas throwing stars at the behest of her Ladyship, katanas aplenty, zombies munching on cauliflower they suspect is brains, and dazzling fight scenes throughout, this is one Hell of a book fit for any zombie enthusiast and good for a laugh any day.

If you like this book, you may also be interested in:

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard

Forgiveness (May 22, 2009)

Apparently, Andy Andrews' The Noticer has had more of an affect on me than I originally thought it possibly could have. I'd like to share an excerpt with you today from the book that remains on my book shelf to this day and which I plan on passing onto as many others as possible.

“If one makes a mistake,” Jones began, “then an apology is usually sufficient to get things back on an even keel. However—and this is a big ‘however’—most people do not ever know why their apology did not seem to have any effect. It is simply that they did not make a mistake; they made a choice… and never understood the difference between the two.”

….”Think of it this way: If you are lost, wandering through a forest in the dark, unable to see, unaware that a cliff is nearby, and you stumble off the cliff and break your neck, that,” Jones said, with a confident toss of his head, “is a mistake.

“But let’s say it’s broad daylight. You are meandering about in a forest you’ve been told never to enter. There are No Trespassing signs everywhere, but you think you can slip in and slip out and not get caught. No, again let’s say you fall of a cliff and break your neck… that, my friend, was not a mistake. It was a conscious choice.”

….”When one simply makes a mistake, an apology—‘I’m sorry’—will usually handle the situation. But when a choice has been identified, the only way to repair a relationship is by exhibiting true remorse and seeking forgiveness…. [S]howing real remorse and actually asking the question, ‘Will you please forgive me?’ is the only pathway to a new beginning in your business or personal life.”

Having read that, I would like to ask for your forgiveness. I have made many wrong choices in my life that have hurt people and, whether I cared about the reactions or not, I should never have made them. I should have done the right thing. I have been trying for years to make up for things, to confront the past and repair the damage, but it's not possible. I have made choices I have firmly believed to be right, that my heart contests are the best, and yet people are still hurt. And I am hurt in return.

So today, that is what I want to ask you. Will you forgive me? And please, if you know anyone that I have upset or made uncomfortable or simply bothered, ask them the same for me. Thank you.

Review: The Tesseract by Alex Garland (June 18, 2009)

This title is available for purchase here.

The Tesseract (8.4/10)

From Wikipedia: In geometry, the tesseract, also called an 8-cell or regular octachoron, is the four-dimensional analog of the cube. The tesseract is to the cube as the cube is to the square. Just as the surface of the cube consists of 6 square faces, the hypersurface of the tesseract consists of 8 cubical cells.

What does this have to do with Alex Garland's second novel? Little to nothing, at least at first. One of the main characters, or perhaps the narrator, discusses this curious hypercube, describing it as a "Take six cubes and arrange them into the shape of a crucifix. Take two more cubes and stick them on either side of the crucifix, at the point where the cross is made. Now you have a tesseract.... a hypercube.... In the same way that a one-dimensional boy could not visualize a two-dimensional square, a two-dimensional boy could not visualize a three-dimensional cube, you cannot visualize a hypercube. A hypercube is a thing you are not equipped to understand. You can understand only the tesseract. This means something.... We can see the thing unraveled, but not the thing itself." Apparently, this serves to describe the structure of the story, albeit in a convoluted and unnecessary manner.

As with The Beach, Garland's strength here is characterization. All of the characters jump off the pages and truly excite the reader. Unfortunately, Garland loses this at times due to the structure of the book itself and it can take time to adapt to the new storyline, which then changes almost as quickly in a short-story type manner wherein they all somehow connect to each other. Also, as in his former novel, lots of f*cked up things happen. It seems to be a recurring theme for the writer, actually.

While the story isn't nearly as exciting as The Beach, Garland's second work holds up and apparently did well enough to merit a film adaptation, though it appears to bare little resemblance to the book. I believe, though, that I will remember it the most for its interesting structure, one that feeds into the tesseract theory. Incredible.

If you like this book, you may also be interested in:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Vox by Nicholson Baker

World War Z by Max Brooks

Texting Rant (June 18, 2009)

In 2004, our senior class was asked to write an entry for the annual Barnum Essay Contest, of which a selected number of students would be finalists and asked to present their essay before the student body. It so happened that I was one of those students and though I can no longer locate my original essay or discover the initial prompt--the essay currently addresses "What the American Dream Means to Me"--I vividly remember standing before my student body and speaking of the one thing that truly concerned me as a maturing high school student: AOL Instant Messenger (AIM).

You may laugh now, but at the time AIM was as prominent for young socialites as text messaging is today. In fact, a majority of my conversation between sixth grade straight through senior year were conducted through the system, with my Buddy List--read "Friends List"--host to well over a hundred individuals at one point or another. Every day, I would log onto my computer to "chat" with my friends, make new ones, follow others and simply waste away the day in idle conversation.

Yet, therein lied a danger, which I attempted to fully explain during that presentation senior year: AIM was destroying students' abilities to properly socialize. At the time, I was scoffed and mocked by many. In fact, when I called out for an outright ban of the technology--yes, quite extreme, but my reasoning was quite sound--in the conclusion to my essay, I was met by a room of dropped jaws and cheerful jeers. Although I don't remember every argument I wrote, I will now attempt to paraphrase my main concern. Please, let me know if what I say is wrong.

Talking through AIM is not like having a regular conversation. There is no face-to-face contact and no physical cues to morph a discussion. Emotions cannot be easily conveyed. No sounds escapes your lips other than perhaps a remote laugh or something completely unrelated to the messages at hand. This distinction could lead to a multitude of unintended consequences: users do not equate AIM conversations to physical conversations, AIM conversation do not expressly represent a user's given public persona and much of the conversation is taken up by given AIM "expressions" that wouldn't otherwise pollute a normal discussion, such as lol, : ), lmao, stfu and others.

By relying so heavily on AIM and the different social cues required to conduct a proper conversation through the electronic space, users' abilities to participate socially in the real world actually deteriorate, making real life social interactions occur less frequently. This has already occurred over the years thanks to the telephone, but now makes it much harder, much less possible, to initiate a conversation with someone other than those already intimately known.

Texting bares many similarities to AIM, but, in several ways, is much worse. Too many times I have seen men and women out on the town, conversing with friends, only to take themselves away from the discussion to text some other person. This occurs everywhere; indeed, I nearly knocked over a woman who stopped mid-stair on the way to a train so she could read a text and respond accordingly. These individuals are tuning out of the real world and allowing themselves to be sucked into the world of the text.

Although, people are adapting to the usage, albeit slowly. At a bar last week, I observed a couple having dinner. The woman, about my age, held onto her phone the whole night and proceeded to text even during normal conversation. The man, much older, grew more frustrated throughout the night, though he accepted her use of the phone and allowed her to text as she wanted to (the poor guy--wonder if he realized what she was really doing there?).

Interestingly, however, I'm not as afraid of the ramifications of the texting age as I was once of the AIM age. In fact, there are so many active users of text messasing (1 trillion text message were sent in 2008, triple the number sent the previous year) that to be afraid of something already come to pass or that will affect the future, despite any misgivings, is simply futile. Instead, I'm curious what these effects will be, most importantly within the literature field. Some have already begun creating a novel utilizing the constraints of Twitter--how far down the road will a true novel, a true piece of literature emerge? I've said it for far too many years that the academic community needs a swift kick in the rear after focusing too heavily on the past and this generation, the one full of l8r's, mwah's, lol's and lymy's, just might be the ticket to getting it done.

I, for one, am not afraid of the future, whatever it may bring. I only wish I could see it today.

(Please be aware that much of this was sarcastic. I know that doesn't always fair well in cyberspace, but, while my point is true, my means are not).

Review: Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk (June 23, 2009)

This title is available for purchase here.

Pygmy (8.7/10)

So. As is likely with many others, I've wanted to read a Chuck Palahniuk novel since Fight Club debuted in theaters, but, being the first edition junkie I've become, I've never actually come across one to purchase (though I'll likely take a few trips to the library in months to come). Finally, after performing my weekly scan of the Sony Reader bestseller list, and having seen the book and its bright--and memorable--cover, I decided to run to my local Borders and pick up a copy while I awaited the final book for my Alex Garland marathon from eBay.

Honestly, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, although, based on what I saw in Fight Club--I didn't get to run to theaters to see Choke like I wanted to--I knew it would be something to screw with your head. Well, yes and no. Pygmy follows the exploits of an undercover agent, Pygmy, "planning an unspecified act of massive terrorism." Pygmy, a young boy, speaks in clipped English that, at times, will make you laugh rather authentically. For instance, to an elderly worker at Wal-Mart) "Venerate ancestor, much respected dying soon rotting corpse... where sell here Slovak SA Vz.58 assault rifle?" The entire novel is written as such, and though it is original and envelops the reader, it does a bit tiring and can cause slight confusion at times.

What the novel does do right is the story, which, although it has its f*cked up moments that any reader would expect, is actually fairly sweet. It takes somewhat unexpected turns, details the middle-America--at least the middle-America stereotyped since Columbine--in exquisitely crafted scenarios, moreso than I have ever seen or read before.

I've never read a novel by him before, but, after reading this one, I'll definitely be back for more.

If you liked this book, you may also be interested in:

The Beach by Alex Garland

The Noticer by Andy Andrews

The Stand by Stephen King