Too many characters to count

I’m up to page 83, and there’s nearly 37 characters in this book so far. So, safe to say that there’s a lot of characters and that this is going to be a complex story, so let me try to keep track with a list—can you tell I’m hyper-organized? It’s especially bad with all the lines of command of the military, and I’ve never been good at keeping track of that.

less power–>Corporal–>Sergeant–>Lieutenant–>Captain–>Colonel–>more power

Kurt Stelling: German Lieutenant Colonel; gay; 6.5 ice Talent; hides Luckenwalde (name for Nazi government Talent facility) with his ice Talent?

Erich von Ritter: German Colonel; SD officer*; tall, dark, and handsome (most characters distracted by his looks); homophobic; an thirty-ish aristocrat from Munich, Germany; cover in England is Pharmaceuticals; SPOILER has a spill Talent; code name “The Chemist”

Kim Tavistock: spill Talent; 33-year old woman; restoring Tavistock estate, or Wrenfall in Uxley, England; journalist; member of Monkton Hall (or Historical Archives and Records Centre—the cover name of the top-secret government research on military uses of Talents); code name “Sparrow”

Mother Tavistock: fifty-nine-years old; remarried for four years; lives in Philadelphia in America

Robert Tavistock: Older brother of Kim; deceased; died at Ypres

Julian Tavistock: Kim’s sixty-two-year old father; SPOILER chief English spy at SIS, whose cover is that he works in the whisky trade; alias Claude Beven

Llewellyn Tavistock: grandparent of Kim

Jane Tavistock: grandparent of Kim

Walter Babbage: father of Rose

Mrs. Babbage: mother of Rose; the cook of Tavistock estate

Rose Babbage: Babbage’s nineteen-year old daughter; SPOILER a supposed ice talent;

Georgiana (Georgi) Aberdare: “a popular and poisonous London hostess” (19); code name “Sunflower”

Hugh Aberdare: Georgi’s brother; also named Lord Daventry

Alice Ward: Kim’s thirty-five-year old friend; owns Dropped Stitch—a knitting store; Trauma view Talent; might marry James?

James Hathway: middle-aged; dotes on Alice; priest of a chapel; also named Vicar (priest); owns used bookstore?

Miss Drummond: fiftyish office manager of Monkton Hall; controls logbook of people’s names and Talents and their correspond levels

Fitzroy Blum: Monkton Hall’s director; large man; natural defender Talent; possible spy for the Germans; used to be Georgi’s lover, but dumped her; confidant of King of England

Emma: Kim’ elementary friend; hyperempathy Talent

Owen Cherwell: caseworker for Hyperpersonal Talents at Monkton Hall, for Kim; previous professor at Cambridge’s Experimental Psychology Department

Stanley Yarrow: “bald and rotund director of Psychokinesis” at Monkton Hall (31);

Sam Reuben: Yarrow’s predecessor at Monkton Hall; small build; his son Michael died; was researching cold cell Talent

Constable Benny: Constable of Uxley

Constable Simkins: ?

Superintendent Oates: from constabulary in Coomsby; short

Dr. Angus Dunn: Doctor at mental hospital (or asylum), Prestwich Home

E (Richard Galbraith): head of the English Secret Intelligence Service (or SIS), also code-named Foxhound; wife has anorexia, who chose E over Drake; being investigated because there’s a information leak; sixty-two years old

Lydia: E’s wife

Wallis Simpson: woman; relationship with Edward VIII; believes in Hitler

Winston Churchill: First Lord of the Admiralty; conceptor Talent

Adolf Hitler: head of Nazi’s; conceptor Talent

Rory: another spy with Julian; code name “Rabbit”

Elsa: another spy with Julian; elderly lady; code name “Egret”

Harry Parslow: eighty-four year old man at Prestwich mental Home; maybe insight Talent?; used to own a Chemist shop

Lieutenant Hass: with Nazi military; Stelling’s adjutant

Field Marshal von Rundstedt: ?

Griffith: Hugh’s butler

Frank: Hugh’s footman?

Peter (Fin): Hugh’s part time footman; SPOILER Julian’s spy; runs two agents in Germany (one being Woodbird & the other Harp?)

Charlotte: Hugh’s maid; blond girl

Sir Edgar Thackeray: guest of Georgi’s

Lady Beatrice (Bea) Thackeray: Edgar’s wife

Sir Simon Harwell: Julian’s lunch companion; provides info for SIS

Heath Millington: Alistair Drake’s right hand man, or undersecretary; with CID (Committee for Imperial Defense); SPOILER replaces E

Alistair Drake: CID; has authority over E; started investigation on E; hates E; sides with the PM, or Prime Minister?

Coporal Breck: Doesn’t look like Stelling

Sergeant Dressler: Looks like Stelling; SPOILER driver for Stelling as he escapes Germany

Andre Francois-Poncet: French ambassador in Berlin; SPOILER help Stelling escape

Andre Marchand: Captain with ambassador

Philippe: Captain Andre’s friend

Dorset Withers: reads the scripture for Vicar James Hathway

Gunter Helmut: Stelling’s second driver during his escape; bland face

Olivia Hennessey: fortyish secretary for E; high security clearance; up-swept hair

Stanley Baldwin: Prime Minister of England; follows the direction of the British people

Woodbird: mole in Abwehr

Reginald Oldstrum: twenty-three years old; trauma view Talent of 3

Theodore Vaughn: Cold-cell Talent of 2

Grace Hull: Cold-cell talent of 4

King Edward: King of England

Theodora: Cousin of Kim

William: Uncle of Kim’s; brother of Julian

Sir Lionel Bowe: owns a house in Mayfair

Harp: British spy in Germany; has a woman mole (named Buttercup) in Luckenwalde

Gordon: Umbrella man; Von Ritter’s driver

Lena Mueller: thin, cross thirty-eight-year old woman; chauffeur; darkening talent at 9.4; accomplice of Von Ritter; alias Helga Osterman or Ines Reinhardt

Oskar: accomplice of Von Ritter

Idina Mae Henslow: ample woman; mistress of E

Mrs. Pengelley: shopper for yarn

Lowry: E’s deputy director

Martin Sempill: Barley and Mow pub owner

Ada: Barley and Mow pub’s cook

John Rennie: administrative officer at CID headquarters; Millington’s assistant

Mr. Vickers: SIS secretary for Millington

Henry Wollaston: admirer of Kim’s mother; gifted a Helbros watch to her mother

Carlisle: Julian’s longtime tobacconist; spy informant with Julian

Bert Doyle: director

Major General Hart: loves fine whisky

*SD: Hitler’s private intelligence service

What have I learned from reading this book? That you don’t have to name every character. I get that it definitely imparts a sense of realism, but it really confused me (as the reader) trying to keep up with who was whom, who was important, and who I had to remember. I would say be patient though. Some names are meant to be forgotten, and as such are only mentioned once. Others, come up frequently, so you get time to learn about them and their role in the story. Then there’s others who come up infrequently, but you should remember them. Like, E’s archenemy. Or, the name of the Prime Minister. The higher up’s that you don’t encounter but should know because they play an indirect role in the story.

That being said, as an after-the-fact, I did like the numerous characters. As a spy book, it makes it kind of cool having a character mentioned once or twice, and all the sudden you find out later in another chapter that the previously mentioned character is actually a spy working undercover with such-and-such agency. So, I think having so many characters actually helped hide some of them in the book.

Kenyon, Kay. At the Table of Wolves. New York, NY: Saga Press, 2017. Print.

PS. I should come back and re-organize this in a chart. It would make it a lot nicer and faster to figure out who’s related to who. First, I have to figure out all the secret organizations…

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Distracted Thoughts from Winter Vacation

This is totally unrelated to anything about writing, because, I feel like I should warn you. You being, any person that has unrealistic expectations for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand. So let me tell you, you’ve been warned…

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This is from Google, retrieved from YouTube user PsychoTraveller, back in 2016.
…I swear I was never this happy on the hike. Proud when I was done. But not happy. Impressed with the stunning views, but always praying that I survived.

Anyways, in case you have not heard of Tongariro Alpine Crossing, it’s supposed to be one of the best day hikes in the world. First off, it’s supposed to be an accessible hike. Second, it is a challenging hike, so good to mentally and physically stretch yourself. Third, it’s supposed to have beautiful scenery, passing active volcanoes and turquoise green lakes. But, even though their website quotes parts as moderate/difficult. I swear some of these may be under-stressed. (Partially because I think in some deep, deep part of myself, I am a drama queen, and I have to over-exaggerate. That, and I had extreme allergies at the time, and I don’t react well with elevation, and I don’t mix with heights and/or anything that requires balance and stability. So, there’s that.)

So, let me explain with an elevation map.

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I borrowed this from The Laws of Travel, and then edited it a little bit to add sections and letters. Mainly to show you what I thought of the hike.

SECTION A: As you can see in the picture below, part A is slightly uphill, in what I would consider relatively easy hiking. It’s paved, some parts are on steel walkways with anti-slip treds on them, and it’s barely uphill. You may feel slightly winded, but you’ll be fine.

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SECTION B: The Devil’s Staircase. This part is easy…if you’re good with elevation and staircases. I have to admit with the elevation and allergies, I had to stop like every ten steps to remember to breath. It was bad. There were a #%^$-ton of stairs. Remember that you’re gaining something like 300+ meters. It’s hard and annoying work.

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SECTION C: The Tease. This is where you think you’re done with the hard part. You’re walking across basically what looks like a flat desert to see Mt. Doom (from Lord of the Rings), and it looks pretty cool. People are taking a break, and then you look up to see your next series of elevation. Another at least 200+ meters gain. #%@&.

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SECTION D: The 200+ meters gain in elevation. By the way, there aren’t any steps. You’re walking up a series of dirt, loose rocks, and big rocks. Oh, and don’t forget there’s a severe drop-off on either side. At least the path is semi-wide. And there’s a rope to hold onto…for only a section of like 10 feet.

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The tippy-top—I didn’t include a picture. This is a nice place to stop for lunch, which most people did. But there’s not much to see. Imagine a lunar landscape that’s mainly flat without craters. That’s the very top. They did tell us to be careful. If it’s too windy, you can get blown into the Red Crater. Wanna see? Look below.

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SECTION E: Finally! Some downhill. Only, did someone forget to mention how loose the footing is? This section is all loose rocks, like pumice and sand/dirt. Seriously, I lost my footing and fell on my butt nearly 8 times. Not good when the right edge is a cliff into the Red Crater and the left edge is a cliff into a valley. And stupid me, I kept trying to grab onto anything for help, and there was this little ledge for a while, but it was smoking and hot and apparently had its own volcanic activity. AKA don’t touch smoking rocks.

Btw, try to dig in your heels when you walk. And look for the dirt. You have more grip there than on the loose rocks. And be careful, some parts are not as wide.

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SECTION F: By now my legs are tired, and thank god I finally get a break. There’s some more downhill, but it’s much easier. There’s a flat area, which I couldn’t be more thankful for. And, then there’s some uphill, which makes me want to hurt somebody, but it’s nowhere as steep, loose, or dangerous as before. So I grin and bear it.

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Warning: Around Blue Lake, the signage gets bad, so watch out for which path to take. Me and my husband (and multiple others visitors) took the path most traveled, but it ended up being the wrong path, and way more difficult of the two. Apparently, there was an easier path but the signage was missing, and most people did it wrong. Don’t be me.

SECTION G: By now, it’s around 12 kilometers of downhill, which isn’t hard. The paths are rather wide. There are some steep edges, but it’s not a cliff face. More like a gentle roll down a hill if you fell. And, you’d stop pretty quick. I will say though, when you don’t expect it, your knees will start to go. So be patient with your joints. I stopped for regular intervals to give my joints a break. But one of the men in our group of six, he tore his knee and had to be air-lifted out. Don’t over-extend yourself.

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What did I learn? This was one of the best hikes I had ever done. It was also one of the most difficult. My husband and I trained for maybe three months before the hike, running up to 3.5 miles, walking at least 12 miles on the weekend, and we thought we’d be prepared. It’s hilly here in Washington, and we thought we’d be ready for the mountains of New Zealand, at least on the north island.

We were wrong.

This is a difficult hike. I greatly appreciated plenty of snacks, especially my apples and granola bars covered in chocolate. We never had enough water (I blew through three out of the four water bottles we had—my husband was thirsty, and yet I was thirstier by the end. Blame my allergies. And the fact that I’m part fish.) Even though the weather was splendid, the hike was hard on my muscles and joints. Please take into consideration everything before you go on the hike. Don’t be the tourist that wears sandals.

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Btw, did I mention that I now have a permanent callous on my toe because of this hike?

Bannerless: Unresolved conflicts

It’s hard to rope in a reader by the first page, but Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn succeeded in pulling me in by the first paragraph.

Enid came downstairs into a kitchen bright with morning sun blazing through the one window and full of greasy smell of cooked sausage. Olive already had breakfast—sausage, toast, cream—set out on the table. In her dress and apron, her dark hair pulled back with a scrap of cloth, she was already at work—but she shouldn’t have been, in Enid’s opinion. (1)

This first paragraph reels you in with 1) an image of the main character’s movement, 2) imagery that expands just beyond the typical visuals, and 3) internal reflection on behalf of the main character. It doesn’t take much but that small hint of Olive doing too much work in Enid’s opinion already sets a small conflict in motion, which propels the reader forward, to want to keep reading, but with this book, because it has a tendency to leave its conflicts unresolved, the book doesn’t live up to the expectations of the beginning.

 CONFLICTS WITHIN BANNERLESS

  1. Olive trying to get pregnant (post miscarriage) (2, 8)
  2. MAIN: Enid discovering the source of the suspicious death in Pasadan (3)
  3. Enid wanting to leave, learning what she wants to do for her life (47)
  4. Enid discovering love (46)
  5. Enid learning whether she wants a banner (46)
  6. Enid discovering why the investigators are in Fintown (111)
  7. Enid discovering the source to Pasadan’s false happiness (160)
  8. Enid wondering if Tomas is too old to be an investigator (178)

Although the book has one main plot, of discovering the source of the suspicious death in Pasadan, it also has several minor conflicts, most of which are listed above, and at first glance, most of these conflicts don’t see interconnected except they are, connected by a single motif—banners. In this book, everyone wants a banner. A banner means the allowance to have children. A banner means that you have earned your place in the community, that you have worked hard to support another possible mouth to feed.

But while everyone else wants a banner, Enid is not sure she wants one. Someone first asks her about it when shes a kid (46), but at that point, in her young age, she doesn’t think she’ll ever want one, which to me is confusing, because while she denies it, she tears at Olive offering her the banner later in life and she seems constantly focused on babies and banners, insisting that most investigations seem to stem toward people wanting a banner. People would to any extent to earn that banner, even falsifying quotas or overextending their fields. She seems almost obsessive on the subject.

And yet, for how much this book seems to focus on babies, it doesn’t seem to offer any closure on the subject. It dances around the subject, similar to how Enid dances around the subject of love. When this conflict is first initially opened on page 46, with Enid jealous of how people her age are finding love and having sex, she doesn’t seem to understand the allure, although she wants to. And while the book continues with her hooking up with Dak, she doesn’t truly find love until Sam, which leaves me wondering, why is Sam better than Dak? Why do we see five seconds of Sam and half a book of Dak when the resolution to this conflict is her falling in love with Sam. She even admits to him being better in the end!

So while this book seems to wrap up most of its conflicts at first glance, it seems to offer very superficial closure, never completely resolving the heart of any conflict. We never see Enid find love. We never learn why or why not she doesn’t want kids. We never learn why the investigators are in Fintown. We never see her house earn their baby through Olive. This leaves at least half of the conflicts listed above open-ended and unresolved, which brings me to warningly say, always offer closure. At least unless you’re planning on a volume 2.

Over-arching theme: Are children a god-given right? Or are they a privilege that’s earned?

Vaughn, Carrie. Bannerless. New York, NY: Mariner, 2017. Print.

The Stone Sky

I’ve been waiting months for this book to release, and although I hate to admit it, I wasn’t one of those good people who re-reads through an entire series before reading the following (or in this case the final) book. It’s not as tragic as you may think because most  the memory of the characters comes back fairly quickly, and N.K. Jemisin always slips little reminders as to how the main character feels about everyone and what they remember from the previous ‘adventures’. But still, I made a huge faux pas. And, I’m going to have to read through the entire series again and then re-read this book because there are tons of little pieces to relish, which you can only truly understand if your knowledge of the series is thorough.

Still, here’s a few things I enjoyed about this book:

1. Multiple Perspectives

Jemisin loves experiencing other characters’ perspectives, and just as she did in her previous books, she does the same thing here—amazing as always. This time, it’s only* three people of choice: Essun (previously Syenite and then more previously Damaya), Nassun (Essun’s daughter), and Hoa (previously Houwha, pre-stone-eater era). I use the asterisks because she does dip into other POVs throughout other chapters. Watch out for the triple stars within a chapter. This signifies a POV shift. I enjoyed Essun’s chapters because I love to watch her character develop through the struggle of what she emotionally wanted and what she logically wanted. I enjoyed Nassun’s chapters as she struggled, again, to follow what she logically wanted and what she emotionally wanted. And, Hoa’s chapters duplicate these same struggles, except piecing together more information of how this Seasoned world came to be, which I find direly interesting because I need to know how this horrible Earth resulted. So while all three are different characters with different experiences, they all follow the same basic trials and struggles with the end result that they are a tool, and should they follow what’s expected of them, or should they follow their heart?

2. Footnotes within History

At the end of most every Nassun and Essun chapter are the three stars signifying a POV shift, and I enjoyed these a lot because they mostly followed the same basic pattern: disaster strikes, orogene (or the derogatory rogga) saves the day, and mob kills rogga in typical hate-crime fashion. But let me just point this out—I don’t like the people getting killed or the mobs hating on someone. I just like the fact that the theme of racism (or discrimination) is addressed. Because to be fair, even if this is a common theme, we still see it again and again, probably because humanity never learns.

We saw it with African-Americans pre-during-post Civil War.

We saw it with Jews in the Holocaust.

We see it with mutants in X-men.

And we see it now with something as silly as majors. I remember taking an internship with Caterpillar—industrial and waste marketing job—and I was invited to a general welcoming party with all the other interns for Caterpillar in Illinois. And what was I told? ‘Oh, you’re a marketing intern,’ the engineering interns said with a sneer. Their perspective changed when I told them I was an engineer but wanted something else besides that for a job, but this perspective still exists on campus. Why does it matter what you major in? What does it matter what you specialize in or what your skills are? We can’t all be good at everything. But still this discrimination or sneering at differences exists, which is why I think this is a good point to drive home. And these little snippets of how people retaliate against the roggas, even as they’re saviors, helps show that discrimination can be stupid.

3. Second Perspective

Very few authors use second perspective for their characters, so the only author that comes to mind who uses this is Jeff Vandermeer, and even he used it rarely. Only Jemisin is brave (or daring) enough to use the second person perspective for a third of the book, for Essun’s perspective. But between Essun’s second perspective and Hoa’s first perspective, it makes you think a little bitter deeper on who’s the true teller of the story.

SPOILER ALERT. 

Just as Alabaster lost his humanity to using his magic/orogene to create the Rift, we find out that when Essun dares to use sapphire Obelisk, she also aligns all the particles in her body, causing her to turn to stone every time she uses magic/orogene at that point in time and after. SPOILER. The twist is that while you turn to stone, you don’t necessarily die. When Alabaster turned completely to stone, the trick is that while you lose that sense of yourself, you’re also reborn as a stone-eater, where if your partner stone-eater cares for you, they can help transition your past memories to you. Here, Antimony tried and somewhat succeeded for Alabaster, although we see in the books that he struggles a bit with his mind and memories. But with Hoa, because he loves Essun, he tries his very best to help her be reborn with all of her past memories. All of these memories that we are reading now because the twist is, this book is actually of Hoa telling the story of Essun to herself, once she has been reborn as a stone-eater. I loved this reveal at the end. Nothing more than realizing what is the true perspective you’re reading.

4. Earth is alive

This is one of my favorite parts of the book and while this isn’t about writing style, I do think this is an interesting idea. On our Earth, we are ruining the planet in so many ways. We’re acidifying our oceans; we’re globally raising the temperatures; we’re creating the sixth mass extinction—if you haven’t heard of this yet, check out my previous blog post here, and similarly SPOILER ALERT, the people on this alternate Earth were found to be ruining their Earth by using a special six roggas to help capture the Earth’s life source as an eternal power source. So when they attempt to do this, they anger the Earth, which decides to fight back, creating guardians and stone-eaters. And it’s so cool to finally see the Earth take a stance to fight back, which it does throughout the whole novel. You can listen to it fight for control. Fight to live. And, maybe this is a surreal element, but I loved having a normal object turn into a personified character to have its own struggles.
This isn’t to say I loved this book. There were definitely a few quirks that left me feeling…not the greatest. For instance, Essun’s pregnancy? She was so willing to give up a possible child. Or the fact that Nassun gave up her dreams for Schaffa, who followed her to the other side of the world and gave up his sanity, instead for Essun, who had given her nothing but bad memories. It seems somewhat out-of-character. But, it could’ve been the strength of that singular moment. Overall, I still really enjoyed this book. This series has been one of my favorites.

Jemisin, N.K. The Stone Sky. New York, NY: Orbit, 2017. Print.

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.

The variable of time

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while: The Time Traveler’s Almanac, except to be honest, short stories don’t hold the same appeal to me as books. So forgive me if I update this continuously (at least until I finish the book), but as of right now, I think I’ve got the basics.

As I’ve mentioned before, if there’s one thing that every person wants in their life, it’s control. We all pine to control our own destines, if only for the reason that we don’t know what will happen next. There’s simply too many variables to consider. And this is the reason why I believe time travel is such a pined-for element. It’s impossible. It’s more fantasy than science fiction as Rian Johnson likes to write, which is why there’s so many theories on how it works. How it could work. Because without the science behind it, how many possible explanations are there? SPOILERS ALERT!

1. TIME IS RIGID

In Geoffrey A. Landis’ “Ripples in the Dirac Sea” the main character lives in the past, constantly changing and experiencing a myriad of different lives, unwilling to live in the present because the present means his death. And yet, no matter how many different iterations he lives, he learns one thing: You can never change the future, perhaps because your fate is already decided.

Perhaps the most unrealistic (and most depressing) approach, this belief shows readers that we have no control over our destiny because our fate has already been decided. My least favorite, it seems to make no sense. It’s like driving to California and finding out when you get there that you’ve been in NYC the whole time. 

TIMELOOP. In Michael Swanwick’s “Triceratops Summer” Imagine triceratops invading your neighborhood kind of like that one pack of deer that like to feed on your flower beds, and you’ll have this story. What I think is interesting about this story is that while the story occurs in linear fashion, because time is rigid and cannot stand to be interrupted, even by wandering dinosaurs, everything that has come to pass will eventually reset. And no one will remember a thing. 

2. LINEARITY

In “Needle in a Timestack” Silverberg writes of two men, Hambleton and Mikkelsen, who have both fallen in love with the same woman: Janine. Only Hambleton had divorced Janine, and Mikkelsen is currently married to her, going on around ten years. And while having another man in love with your wife wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, in this story, it is, especially when you can time travel just as easily as flying to Houston.

So far this story is my favorite. I love how time flows in a linear fashion, how what you do in the past affects the present, and how no matter what, fate finds a way. 

TIME AS A CHAIN. “Think of it as taking a link from a chain and inserting it earlier in the chain” (140). That’s how Ernest explains it to Ernie when he describes how his suit works, why they can put on the suit and live in a moment while everyone else lives frozen in time. What the two of them don’t expect are the consequences. This story is good cause it’s different, because it explores big themes like right and wrong or cause and effect. I love how it plays with the concept of ‘living on borrowed time.’

Other stories to note: “How the Future Got Better” by Eric Schaller, “A Sound of of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury

3. MULTI-UNIVERSES

In Black Courch’s Dark Matter the main character Jason is disappointed with his life. Sure he loves his wife and his son, but what if he had followed his dreams? Became something else other than a physics professor? And so follows the plot of Dark Matter, exploring every what-if scenario in the form of another alternate universe. This book’s strength was its excess of worlds, and while it’s fun to imagine the number of sheer possibilities, this structure hits me as an impossible thing. Time would not seem to follow the structure of a tree diagram. Wouldn’t it prefer more normal shapes?

4. DIMENSIONAL

The best example of time as another dimension would be Interstellar, the movie. Here pilot Cooper falls through a black hole, only to be rescued by another sentient species, where they visualize time as another dimension, if only so that Cooper can comprehend it. And this is the same moment when he manipulates time in order to save those still on a dying Earth.

To me, this seems the most realistic. Because we can’t comprehend the other elements of time, instead simplifying it to past, present, and future, where really we only experience the present, I think time is best portrayed as another dimension, one we can’t see. 

So if time-travel hasn’t been proven, then why are we so desperate to know how it works or what will it do? For simplicity’s sake, Rian Johnson phrases it best: “How much of our lives do we live in the past or future, looking forward or looking back, whether regretting or pining or fearing?” (XII)

VanderMeer, Ann and Jeff, editors. The Time Traveler’s Almanac. Tor Books, 2013. Print.

A book of memories

Let me just start out with saying this: although this book kept me disinterested for 3/4 of its content, I have to say that when everything came together in the end, it was fairly intriguing and noteworthy to think about. And really, I’m wondering if my disinterest was a symptom of confusion as to how all the characters related to each other. So in order to entice more possible readers, know this:

Richard: Son of Inga Beart (famous writer), raised by his Aunt Cat, father to Neil; retired middle school English teacher, currently in Paris doing research on his late mother

Neil: Son of Richard; historian in France doing research with his Professor

Magdalena: Friend of Lina; girl who sees people’s truths on their skin, who meets up with Neil to exchange their parents’ Christmas presents

One thing that I think is really noteworthy about this book is not necessarily the plot, because the characters themselves don’t really do too many noteworthy things, but the reflections that the characters partake in, particularly their musings. SPOILER ALERT.

As they hiked up hillsides covered with olive groves, Magdalena listened to Rachel talk about her days doing junk, sleeping in doorways and robbing her mum, and it occurred to Magdalena that the things she’d gotten used to reading as her mother reached for a pan or changed her skirt or stretched out her toes to let the polish dry had something in common. They were stories Magdalena had heard as a little girl, or they were hints of stories her mother might someday decide to tell her, and a number included phrases in the imperative tense-don’t pick the thin-stemmed mushrooms, check that the butcher’s scale is zero to begin with-as if her mother had made notes across her skin of the things that Magdalena ought to know. (206)

Two sentences, in which they ramble on and on about her internal musings, not necessarily about the route she was taking or how hard the road was on her feet or how everyone was avoiding or annoyed by Rachel, who must’ve repeated her story five times to each individual person. This story focuses so much more on memories, thoughts, and reflections, which I think is why this book has such strong, well-rounded characters. They definitely have wants. Fears. And I think for a first book, Adelia Saunders did a great job crafting her characters. Her style is certainly unique. One of my favorite stream-of-conscious in the story is shown below:

Starts with Ellameno, Neil said once when it was his turn to choose a letter, and his dad thought that was so funny that they started making up a whole world populated with made-up fantastical things: the ellemenopede who liked to eat ellamenoghetti twirled around forks held in each of its ellamillion hands. (214)

The trick to Saunders’ reflections is not only the fact that she writes this huge enormous sentences (which could attribute to the book feeling so slow and drawn out), but the fact that most of her reflections are descriptions of a memory. She could’ve stopped at ‘they started making up a whole world filled with things starting with ellameno,’ but she goes beyond that memory, describing the actual scene of the world itself. Saunders has so many fantastic visual descriptions, which develop the whole life of the character. Because even as she describes this single memory, it evolved into other times Neil and his dad would spend time together, what happened when they didn’t, and what happened when they grew apart. I love how these 2 pages defined how their relationship changed before and after certain significant events. It really helped strengthen the characters.

Other than that, I like how this book also addresses our memories – maybe that’s a motif for this book – because while this book examines Richard’s singular memory of his mother’s red shoes, convinced she had come back to see him, this memory evolves as we learn more and more about his mother’s situation, which in turn shows us how memories are subject to your own delusions or interpretations.

SPOILER: I’m specifically thinking of when Richard finds out how his mother gouged out her eyes. Initially he was mad at his Aunt, thinking sooner or later he would’ve learned the truth that she went crazy and had caused her own death. But later he realized that she had gouged out her eyes because she didn’t want to see him when he was flown back to Paris to meet her. See page 259. 

So I’m going to stand by my opinion that I liked this book. I think it’s hilarious it was marketed under Science Fiction because although Magdalena can see “truth” on people’s skin (and it’s revealed a number of additional people can as well), this played a minor part of the story. It may have been the driving force behind a few of the character’s actions, but it didn’t play an enormous visual role in the story, which is typically how science fiction or fantasy books work. It was very subliminal, which convinces me to argue this is more of a fiction than a sci-fi piece. And although it’s slow, I think it’s still well worth it to pick it up and read.

Saunders, Adelia. Indelible. New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2017. Print.

Pinocchio, your nose is growing

Do you know what truth is? Because I don’t anymore.

When it comes to politics, I don’t think there is a truth. And I’m not talking politics, like presidents and government, because that’s a whole other can of worms. I’m talking politics as in the balance of personal opinions as it weighs on everyone’s beliefs. This is coming from my side job of teaching for those of you at home. 

I’m sorry. Let me explain:

Essentially the truth as we know it does not exist. The common belief that fact equates truth isn’t real, just as opinion doesn’t equate fact. The reality is truth equates opinion. Because the bottom line is this: As soon as you believe in what you’re saying, to you, that is the truth, no matter whether it’s right or wrong.

And this is where I struggle at work. I like to consider myself a blunt person. Maybe it’s because I over analyze my own actions and those of others, but I prefer a blunt nature than one hidden and contrived. I prefer someone to tell me their truth, if so I can see things from their point of view, maybe understand where they’re coming from. Because, everyone has a reason. Even if they don’t consciously know it. But as soon as someone begins to hide their truth, this is where I get frustrated. I like to know what people think, and you hiding your thoughts from me…that’s frustrating.

I want opinions. I want your truth. And maybe this is a personal thing, maybe it’s an author thing. Maybe it’s human. But, I like to think that out of all the things it means to be human, your belief is the most important one of all.

One of my truths:

If you can’t be right, be confident.

People are going to hate me for that. But, I like to think that we’re all going to be wrong at some point in our life, due to probability and such, so why not be confidant? What’s wrong with being wrong? It’s an opportunity for growth and learning, whether you teach somebody or somebody teaches you. We should celebrate learning, and we do – in the odd Western way of graduation after completing your pathway or monetized learning. But seriously, we should celebrate being wrong. Why be shy about it? If it happens to everyone, what’s the big deal?

Why do we have to lie about it?