Spoiler Alert: The Humans did it.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from The Sixth Extinction, it’s that were one of the worst species on this planet, or at least worse than I initially thought and that’s saying a lot. I have a background in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (primarily in Atmospheric Sciences, aka meteorology), and anyone who’s anyone in this area knows about climate change and the kind of horrors it presents for our future. This book not only openly acknowledges who’s to blame for it, spoiler alert―it’s us, but goes on to describe some of the catastrophes as they relate to the biodiversity of this planet. And me being a natural-processes kind of girl, I wasn’t even aware the kind of changes we wrought on our animals, except for maybe the dodo bird. Thank you Ice Age: the movie.

Within the first chapter, Elizabeth Kolbert describes the Panamanian golden frog as a symbol of good luck in the town El Valle de Anton in central Panama, even if the frogs themselves are toxic, with enough “poison contained in the skin of just one animal [that it] could kill a thousand average-sized mice–hence the vivid color” (5). Although if I’ve learned over the years in the shadow of my herpetology-obsessed brother, it’s that anything that brightly colored is poisonous and is so colored to warn you. And at one point in time, these frogs were so common, they were often found sunning themselves on the bank of a creek in El Valle, appropriately named the Thousand Frog Stream. Then in the late 1990s, a blight began to spread, wiping out not just the Panamanian golden frog, but nearly all frogs, although the golden frog is said to now be extinct in the wild since 2007 (Wikipedia).

Then there’s the little brown bats, a dominant bat in the northeastern U.S., not more than five inches long, considered once “ubiquitous in Vermont, [it] is officially listed as an endangered species in the state” (216), and probably a million more other species facing the same kind of extinction. Even though we’re not the direct cause of these species extinction, since most of these deaths were due to some kind of fungus, most of these extinctions can be traced back to us. For the American Chestnut tree, it was wiped out due a fungus imported to the U.S., probably from Japan (Kolbert 204). For the bats, it’s probably from the introduction of a fungus at a commercial cave in upstate New York, and has since been traced to Europe, where Greater mouse-eared bats are found to carry the fungus and aren’t bothered by it (215). And for the frogs, it’s probably the same thing, since multiple theories suggest that the same chytrid fungus was probably carried over by shipments of African clawed frogs or North American bullfrogs, for either pregnancy tests or human consumption (18).

These are the secret ways we kill. They’re not as obvious as habitat removal through deforestation or construction, and they’re not as flamboyant as the poaching for elephants or rhinos, but it’s still a sort of murder. Kolbert writes scientists saying as many as a minimum of 9 to 13 percent of species disappearing by 2050 (in the hopeful ‘universal dispersion’ scenario) or a maximum of 38 to 52 percent of all species (in the pessimistic ‘no dispersal’ scenario). This still averages out to about a quarter of all species on the planet disappearing in 33 years, and I haven’t even mentioned what happens regarding our oceans’ waters yet.

If you haven’t picked up a copy of The Sixth Extinction, I highly recommend you do so. I am for one usually never to read a book of non-fiction, but not only is this book highly motivating and eye-opening, it’s also entertaining in a morbid sort of way. Elizabeth talks of facts and figures almost like a history professor, making this an informative read, but she also writes as a reporter, an entertainer, using her personal experiences in each of these information-acquiring endeavors as a unique and personal experience in the progress of the sixth extinction. Did I mention it’s won a Pulitzer Prize?

Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction. New York, NY: Picador, 2014. Print.

What are we without our memories?

If there was one thing I would say about our species, it’s that were highly vision-dependent. This is apparent when you read a book. The imagery is always very conducive of sight with descriptions like “the rotting bridge sagged under its own weight, leaning perilously to one side so that if I were to step onto it, it would collapse under my feet.” There is very little that conveys to our other senses such as hearing, feeling, or taste, and yet the novel I just read breaks many of these boundaries.

The Chimes by Anna Small.

The chord is death and sorrow and torture. Like millions of people all screaming at once. Just when I think I can’t stand any more, the harshness fades and crumbles. It doesn’t resolve. That is the wrong word. It doesn’t move into harmony, but it breaks, and as it breaks, it shows the possibility of change. It walks forward. It carries the pain into the next chord, but it softens there and there is sweetness again. (276)

Because it’s hard to translate sound into a book’s structure of visual text, this book makes a lot of comparisons between sound and images. It creates metaphors and similes, anything to translate music into something that we can comprehend because this is how the book’s whole world communicates: Through music, sound, and voice. And this is where I partly love the book. I’ve never been one who can understand music. I can’t play instruments. I can’t sing (well). So to ask me to comprehend music is a large jump for me to make especially since each character in this book is given an instrument to learn and master beginning at their childhood.

I love their language, how everyone communicates by song, tunes, and verses.

A plaintive three-note cry from a sweet-potato man who sings as he pedals a bellow wheel. A tune of golden meat pasties sung by a fat woman with a wink. There are tunes for sandwiches and potatoes fried in goosefat, and there is a seabrimmed song sun by a boy with dark hair and a shucking knife. A song with a gleam of pearl in it for the oysters he sells. The oysters are from Essex, the song says. Like me. (7)

I love how music is something that can’t be forgotten even when each person loses their memories each night, driven out by some unseen force. Almost like how modern music refuses to abandon our minds and digs in its own unrelenting claws. People use these tunes to hawk their wares, to give directions.

The boatpeople are already traveling downriver to trade from Richmond. They sing the sightlines of the river and the meter of the tide upstream and down. Their melodies follow each curve of the banks so if you listen close, you can almost see it. Voices low and wordless in the half-song of navigation, a sort of la la leia la that is almost the sound of the river itself. (27)

It speaks of how when an individual’s unique experiences are removed, we become nothing but labor, with no more purpose beyond baker, musician, pactrunner. Even the people within the novel recognize this, always giving out their best piece of advice: To find a prentisship. Their  second advice, more tradition than advice at this point–to hold your memories close–is to relish in the fact that it is only with the addition of our memories that we become individuals, who believe and feel whether that’s pain, happiness, love, tragedy.

This book is unique and original and lyrical, which makes it one-of-a-kind.

Small, Anna. The Chimes. New York, NY: Quercus, 2015. Print.

Edit: I will say as a side note, that it is very interesting to relive average days with the main character as he tries hard to remember, which is very difficult to do given the fact that nobody else within the city can. 

Victim of MIA Backstory

This book was alright. 

If you haven’t read it already, try The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden. It certainly is a refreshing read with a young, hip style that is all its own, throwing in so many elements I would expect from a weird-as-a-compliment Austin author.

I was semi-interested when I read its synopsis:

It’s up to a young Zulu girl powerful enough to destroy her entire township, a queer teen plagued with the ability to control minds, a pop diva with serious daddy issues, and a politician with even more serious mommy issues to band together to ensure there’s a future left to worry about.

And then I was even more interested when I peeked at the first page:

His birth certificate reads Muzikayise McCarthy, but nobody calls him that except his grandfather and anyone looking for a busted lip. Though right now, you could curse his name a million times, and he wouldn’t hear you.

He’s too busy mourning the fate of his dick. (3)

Certainly a liberal read if you’re already throwing dicks around on the first page. But, as I kept reading (and trust me, you will. This is a quick book), the conflicts kept building. I guess it’s safe to say this is a well-rounded book, but to me, it feels almost overwhelming to the point that each of these conflicts seem shallow. To the point by the end, I feel underwhelmed. I’m left with so many questions, from so many unresolved conflicts, asking myself why did all these things have to happen this way. Such as, SPOILERS:

  1. Syndey, for being a ‘young’ demigoddess, why do you have so much anger? Why must you prey on others fear? Just from reading, we can see that not all demigods behave in this manner.
  2. Nomvula, you were destroyed. And, I thank you for your bravery, but obviously you will be reborn. Sydney had told of when this happened to her once, so are you two fated to do this fighting again?
  3. Mr. Tau, which wife was this who had died? You originally had six tree-wives, each with the heart of a crab, an eagle, a dolphin, a peacock, a rat, and a serpent. Was the one who had died the serpent? Is that why Felicity has so much persuasion to command. If so, wouldn’t Felicity be the strongest? Isn’t Felicity your son/daughter? I wish I knew the full relationship going on here.
  4. And what happened to the drug that is ‘godsend’? Are we all going to ignore what happened at Riya’s concert? How a million people were loosed with the drug? And why did Rife ever think that was a good idea? It seems I would be concerned on the aftereffects, especially since it took Muzi and Elkin maybe one or two trips before these two teenagers experienced these permanent powers. So how come there aren’t more high-powered teens running around?

I have a lot of unfinished business with this book until I could call it good, but you know what, it looks like this is Nicky’s first book, so manybe round two, we’ll see what happens to all this material.

Just goes to show you backstory’s important because a lot of what was missed was how these characters had developed, and to not ever forget about resolution because there’s a more than a few conflicts we forgot to see the end for.

Drayden, Nicky. The Prey of Gods. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2017. Print.