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.

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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 moment of illumination

I thought I loved this series, but then again, it’s been a while since I picked it back up. So when I did, I found my whole experience could be summed in the following paragraph:

I saw him.

And he saw me.

He stood at the end of the aisle in his true form, shining as bright as a diamond. He didn’t look any different than the rest of the Luxen, but every ounce of my being knew it was him. The very cells that made me who I was snapped alive and cried out for him. He still was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Tall and shining like a thousand suns, edges shimmering a faint red. (29)

He’s beautiful. I get it. He’s also your one true love, perfect for its general audience, meaning any teenager learning how to cope with their feelings. He’s a heroic, overly-protective male protagonist who will do anything for his girlfriend, and even though she’s not weak, this does fit the standard fairy tale with him saving her most of the time. This book continues along the lines of its previous rang, each character obsessed with the beauty of the other. Both barely out of high school. Both thinking only of sex, which surprisingly this book has a lot of. Not with an excess of details but with a copious number of appearances, more than I expected for a YA book. At least it does present the discussion of safe sex. Multiple times, the protagonists have pointed out the necessity of condoms. SPOILER. Don’t want to end up like Beth, do we?

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book, I did. But, I found it so less rounded than I have other books. The only other compliment I found, besides each other’s hotness, was the following paragraph here:

“You’ve got a big heart, Kitten.” His lips cruised over mine as he spoke. “That’s what I love about you most. Well, that and I am a really big fan of your sweet body, but your heart? Yeah, that completes the package of you, wraps it up with a nice little bow. It makes you perfect to me.” (281)

Well I’m glad she has a heart. At least now I’m no longer standing in a puddle; my feet are getting wet. But remember back at the beginning where she tried to save that little girl, getting herself captured and nearly killed? She hardly spends a moment mourning her passing, having a quick recollection that ‘the Luxen were probably too fast for her.’ I still don’t feel like she has a lot of compassion. More than she has morals. And is willing to go to any lengths to keep her husband happy. (Btw, they’re married.)

No. What I really enjoyed about this book, and what made this one stand out from all its siblings, was the following statement.

“We’re connected-all of us. From the moment they came, we’ve been inside one another’s heads. I’m not sure how it works. It’s never been like this before. Maybe it’s because there are so many of us here, but when I’m in my true form, there’s no hiding from it. It’s not too bad…now. There are things they don’t know, that we’ve been able to keep from them, but I’m not sure how much longer that’s going to work.” (75)

I thought this was the most interesting part of the series and this book. Jennifer Armentrout has not only created a unique species, one created from energy and light, but a species opposite of ours, having no individuality once their species has congregated on Earth. With so many present, they behave as a hive, sharing each other’s thoughts and feelings, not having any of their own. Which in itself is interesting. It would mean our instant destruction since they could coordinate attacks perfectly, and we would be too slow, humanity taking too long for consensus. I also thought it was cool that this weakness (or strength) could be combated by having a human-lover, since being attracted to our individuality meant they earned some of their own. I really appreciated this facet. It also would’ve been nice to explore this theme a little more, since the concept of individuality opens up the theme of choice, but alas, this book is for teenagers. But at least it discusses the topic of safe sex.

Armentrout, Jennifer L. Opposition. Fort Collins, CO: Entangled Publishing, 2014. Print.

Avoiding Nitty Gritty Details

There’s one book I want to talk about called Dark Matter, and right off the bat, I’m going to go ahead and point out the obvious. Yes. I agree with the general reviews on GoodReads. This book is a fast-paced science fiction thriller, and although it’s a science fiction, it doesn’t go into nitty gritty details and leaves out most of the fancy vernacular, making it accessible for most general audiences. That being said, it wasn’t my favorite book. I found it very dramatic, overly suspenseful, but although it didn’t appeal to me, I still liked it and read it in one go. But there’s one thing I want to focus on: the brilliantly constructed multi-universe theory.

This scientific theory says there’s basically an unlimited number of possible universes. Find more information here. And Dark Matter takes this idea and runs with it. SPOILER. When we meet the character Jason, he’s stuck on the idea that his life is ordinary. He’s not questioning on whether he made the right decision, because he loves his wife and son, but he’s wondering what it would’ve been like if he had followed his research. What if he had followed his dreams and become the celebrated genius that his friend had earned instead?

What if?

This book follows this idea, this theme you could say, and questions what if the multiverse theory was true? And, that is what Blake Crouch does well. We get to see a number of different universes that divert at different points on the timeline of creation, including what if humans hadn’t existed? What if the world had collapsed becoming unlivable to all of mankind? What if mankind had succeeded, creating the most technology-forward world yet? This is a brilliant exploration of originality, where Crouch shows that he has mastered the art of dreaming, where his dreams have led to the creation of a thousand worlds, even if they only exist inside his own head.

If you find yourself not a fan of science-fiction and want to give it a shot, here’s where to start. Pick up a copy of Dark Matter, and color yourself intrigued.

Courch, Blake. Dark Matter. New York, NY: Crown, 2016.

Greens are good for you

I have never been a fan of bitter greens, but then again, I have pretty sensitive taste buds. Even so, that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the book Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth. I just finished this one up a few days ago, and I have to say, while the story didn’t hit home at the end, there are two reasons for why I still strongly enjoyed this book: the inception story-telling and the character similarities between Selena Leonelli, Margherita, and Charlotte-Rose.

This story starts with Charlotte-Rose arriving at a covenant, depressed and wishing she was back at the Versailles palace with the king, unsure of how she had gotten herself kicked out of court to the nunnery. She struggles giving up her pleasures from the palace, like her dresses and quills, and progressively loses the strength of her personality to the constant onslaught of obedience and subservience. It isn’t until she finds Soeur Seraphina, untils she’s rejuvinated with the story of Margherita.

Margherita, a young seven-year old girl with hair like fire, is at first excited when a strange lady comes up and hands her a beautiful golden necklace, but it isn’t until she goes home to her mother that the true story is revealed.

Now two stories deep and going into a third, Margherita’s mother, Pascalina, tells of how she was orphaned and helped by a beautiful witch, one who had a beautiful garden, the first one Pascalina had seen since arriving into the Italian city. SPOILER. This is the same witch, who gives Pascalina a spell to make a beautiful, homely man fall in love with her; who steals her daughter Margherita from her family; who then forces Margherita into a tower, in order to keep herself young; and who is saved by Margherita due to the girl’s own serenity and forgiveness.

Overall, this book goes three layers deep. And although it certainly adds additional parallel stories,  it never once feels contrived. SPOILER. I think it helps that the main character telling the story, Soeur Seraphina, turns out to be the one and the same Selena Leonelli, the witch who had cursed Margherita and been saved by her as well. I also think it helps that she ends up being such a brilliant mirror for Charlotte-Rose as well.SPOILERS.

 Charlotte-Rose- the woman  Margherita – the girl  Selena – the witch
  •  Proud Huguenot, worshiped an illegal religion
  • Independent woman
  • Mother ‘stolen’ and sent to a nunnery, where she died
  • Locked away against her will by her guardian Marquis de Maulevrier at the age of twelve
  • Escaped being beaten through imagination
  • Embarrassed/shamed by first lover
  • Seduced second lover with black magic
  • Lost third lover to his father’s honor
  • The garden at the convent like her mother’s garden
  • Successfully born due to parsley, so parsley birthmark
  • Stolen away from her mother at 7-years old by the witch, then donated to a nunnery
  • Loves to sing
  • Locked away in a tower at the age of twelve
  • Cuts her wrists for the witch, donating blood for longevity
  • Attracted her rescuer through singing
  • Rescued by Lucio de Medici, nephew of the Grand Duke
  • Baptised Maria the Whore’s Brat
  • Renamed Selena Leonelli by the witch Sibillia, whom she served
  • Learned magic and played courtesan to cast vengence and to be independent from men
  • Worshipped the illegal religion of witchery
  • Rejected by Tiziano
  • Used red-headed girls to keep her longevity, but wanted the girls to love her
  • Became a nun at the convent to be good

Notice how the characters have so many things in common. Both Charlotte and Selena are independent women, both unwilling to be so reliant on men. Both have experienced men’s rejection a number of times, but while Selena used magic to earn her freedom and Margherita used her singing, Charlotte used her power of words.

And while I’m thinking about it, this book also has a lot of symbolism regarding time. When I define all the characters, I see the grandmother, the woman, and the girl. Each at a different stage in their life. While Margherita’s innocence saved her, something commonly associated with young children and girls, it was Charlotte’s and Selena’s corruption that doomed them. It wasn’t until Selena had grown older that her wisdom could be shared, in order to save others from their own corruption, the same corruption that had unwittingly stolen Charlotte-Rose to the nunnery in the first place.

Overall, by the end of this book, you won’t be overwhelmed by a strong ending, and you won’t be compelled to read it in one-sitting, but I’d like to argue it is just as good as all of Forsyth’s other books. It’s definitely worth the read.

PS. Another reason I like this book, and Forsyth’s books in general is that it’s a historical fiction piece that tells the story of how the real Mademoiselle Charlotte-Rose de la Force created the story of Rapunzel, how she might’ve heard/retold it from the first version Petrosinella, ‘Little Parsley.’

Forsyth, Kate. Bitter Greens. New York, NY: Thomas Dunne Books, 2012. Print.

Father Earth’s been missing it

“The path that the Moon naturally follows. Instead of letting it pass again, lost and wandering, bring it home. Father Earth’s been missing it. Bring it straight here and let them have a reunion.” (390)

In the previous book, The Fifth Season, I learned about orogenes—people who can manipulate the kinetic energy around them, usually in relation to dirt and rock. This means that they can fix the energy released during an earthquake, or can manipulate the rock around them. In the sequel, The Obelisk Gate, I learned something new. Besides there being a new kind of beings called Stone Eaters, called such since their skin and hair resemble stone, I find out that Father Earth is alive. And he’s fighting a war.

This book makes me excited because of the layers that Jemisin has again woven into its plot. While still focusing on Essun and her search for her daughter Jija, the book begins to weave the story of a war going on between Father Earth and the residents living on his surface. It tells the story of a two-sided war, those who would like to stabilize the Moon to bring it back into orbit, to end the seasons, and those would like to bring the Moon home and end all humanity. This plot line gets me excited mainly because it is similar to a book I want to write, one that contemplates how the Earth feels about people living on its surface, because surely if it was alive, it wouldn’t be happy with us.

One thing I didn’t like, which was more something I had to get used to was the unusual second-person perspective. I have seen authors use “you” before in order to insert the reader into a specific viewpoint, but this book is written using this POV for Essun’s perspective, and it’s very jarring starting out. Mainly because I think it breaks the norm. Once you get used to reading it, I think it’s very interesting. And it really separates the reader from Jija’s perspective since it flips back and forth, but I still don’t know how I feel about it. I might have to think about it a little more.

Jemisin, N.K. The Obelisk Gate. New York, NY: Orbit, 2016. Print.

Eureka! Talk about theme!

I finally figured it out why I liked this book, and it took me two days and nearly two nights, but before I reveal its secrets, let me give you all the spoilers first!

Starting from the beginning:

“You would have searched a long time for the sort of winding lane or tranquil meadow for which England later became celebrated…In one such area on the edge of a vast bog, in the shadow of some jagged hills, lived an elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice. Perhaps these were not their exact or full names, but for ease, this is how we will refer to them.” (3-4)

Notice how it starts with a wide lens, slowly narrowing focus until the reader is imagining the main characters for this novel: Axl and Beatrice, an elderly couple who had lived with each other for who knows how long as husband and wife.

As from my previous post, we know now that the couple were searching for their son and remember by the end of the novel that he had already died, so there was nothing to visit but his grave. But this is not how the story concludes.

This is the end:

“We’ll talk more on the island, princess,” he says.

“We’ll do that, Axl. And with the mist gone, we’ll have plenty to talk of. Does the boatman still stand in the water?”

“He does, princess. I’ll go now and make my peace with him.”

“Farewell then, Axl.”

“Farewell, my one true love.”

I hear him coming through the water. Does he intend a word for me? He spoke of mending our friendship. Yet when I turn he does not look my way, only to the land and the low sun on the cove. And neither do I search for his eye. He wades on past me, not glancing back. Wait for me on the shore, friend, I say quietly, but he does not hear and he wades on. (317)

I know that’s a lot to paste in here, but I wanted you to see that the end of the novel does not focus on any of the five conflicts I listed earlier, not on the son or the dragon or the boy, Edwin. It focuses on none of them.

The novel instead focuses on the same lens as the beginning – still zooming in on the couple, but not with their being together, but instead them breaking up. This means that by creating this perspective, by emphasizing their togetherness, that this novel is not about any of these previous conflicts but their elderly couple’s relationship.

Here is my argument…

 Conflict Effect on Couple’s Relationship 
 Visiting their son By finding out he died, we learn that the wife was unfaithful to the husband, pushing their son to leave, blaming herself for his death (due to the plague). In turn, it’s revealed that the husband banned her to visit their son’s grave, as some part of vengeance due to her infidelity.
Killing the vicious dragon Through the use of the dragon’s mist, it erased all memories, leaving only shallow relationships between people. This erased all the good and bad memories, and gave the illusion of faithfulness and a lack of problems, which we learn later was untrue with the couple. It’s one’s endurance in the face of these memories that can make a relationship true love.
Losing his identity as King Arthur’s knight Throughout this book, it’s revealed little by little how the husband had committed an atrocity by killing women and children under the order of King Arthur, and while he did not approve of it, he did commit it. By showing how Axl refused to come to terms with this memory, refused to reveal it to his wife, this shows he cannot come to terms with negative memories, cannot handle their weight, which supports Axl’s later decision of refusing to reveal that he banned Beatrice to visit their son’s grave due to petty vengeance. He cannot endure the hardships that come with a real relationship.

Note there is one more argument with how Beatrice is paranoid about the story of the boatman and the island, and if you read the novel, you can see her multiple experiences with this story, how multiple old maids who are always husband-less, which is echoed in the end of her story, but this is for another time. 

As you can see, the fact that this novel uses these multiple conflicts to stage this bigger truth is what makes this novel so strong. I know it can be random; I know it can be slow, but the fact that it takes the time it needs to show the reader that memories are what makes a relationship work. If you can endure the good as well as the bad, if you can communicate, than that’s true love…this novel combats all the fictional fairy tales of princess and prince, and I’ll definitely save this one for my book shelf!!

Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Buried Giant. New York, NY: Vintage International, 2015. Print.

Unexpected Resolution

This book is not what I expected! Not in a particularly good or bad way, but in a random-thoughts-translated-as-random-interwoven-plots kinda way, with each different conflict finishing in a subtle and unexpected fashion.

I guess I should explain. There’s a few conflicts within Ishiguro’s book, which I’ll list below:

  1. The married couple, Axl and Beatrice, were supposed to visit their son.
  2. There was a vicious dragon that warrior Winstan was supposed to kill.
  3. There was a vicious dragon that knight Gawain was also supposed to kill—no idea why the two men couldn’t help each other.
  4. Everyone kept recognizing husband Axl, no idea why—I secretly thought he was King Arthur lost among the people after the forgetful fog.
  5. There was the boy Edwin, whom was bit by some secret animal—I kept wondering if he was going to turn into a werewolf.

Any of those align with your expectations? No?

What do you expect to happen?

Now compare that to what actually happens:

  1. The married couple remember by the end of the book that their son had died earlier, and now they could only visit his grave, meaning all their travel was for nothing.
  2. Winstan killed the “vicious” dragon, who was actually really old and was going to die soon anyways, and he didn’t kill out out of the goodness of his heart (being that the dragon’s breath created a mist that made people forget) but because he wanted people to remember their vengeance in order to create disorder and chaos before the Saxons invade.
  3. Knight Gawain never wanted to kill the dragon; he was the dragon’s protector, protecting the beast so that Master Merlin’s spell of forgetfulness would make people heal and forget the past—the mass murder that King Arthur had commit.
  4. Axl turned out to be just some small peace-maker, one of the knights of Arthur’s round table.
  5. Edwin was bit by a dragon, whose pull could actually pull you toward it. No idea how this works considering the Dragon was so big it Should’ve just swallowed him, and was so old that it never left it’s nest. Feel like this plot was concluded since the Dragon died but was ultimately left unexplained.

Overall, even though this was a slow read, I thought this was a very interesting book. Because of its numerous conflicts, the way it interwove these numerous stories, it was very complex and it tied itself up at the end. I feel like it was so subtle that it was very thought provoking, and I like the fact it had no big reveal. I’ll have to think on this book some more.

Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Buried Giant. New York, NY: Vintage International, 2015. Print.