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. 

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.

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.

Stories inspire our future

Steele seems like a great last name for a science fiction writer. Just because it makes you think of metal, which is used to build star ships in space, which are a thing of the future, which for right now, we can only really dream about in books…See! We’ve come in a complete circle!

Steele is a full-time science fiction writer, originating from the south—Nashville, TN. And the fact that I find most interesting about him is this quote from his website: “In April, 2001, he testified before the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics of the U.S. House of Representatives, in hearings regarding space exploration in the 21st century” (Allen M. Steele). This makes sense considering the end of his book, which I’m going to spoil before you read it.

“I like to believe that his stories inspired the voyages that brought us to this world, but I know that his were only a few of many. There were countless other visionaries like him, and all had faith in the future.”

With this, he opened the book and began to read The Galaxy Patrol. (332)

From this understanding, it was Steele’s stance was clear—he’s of the belief that science fiction writers are the inspiration for the engineers of the future, which is why I highly enjoyed the ending of this book. The whole time I’m reading, I’m basically watching the birth of the Galactique, the star ship that began the first extraterrestrial birth of our species. And the whole time I’m reading, I’m watching history come alive, skipping generation after generation as Steele skips me through the timeline to watch the most significant moments in Galactique and Arkwright’s history.

And it is Steele’s belief, the same for every Arkwright, that propels the plot of this novel: that we can make it to space and we can travel beyond Earth, if only we set our sights on the stars. This belief, or theme, is what makes this novel so enjoyable for me. Even though the journey itself is only somewhat entertaining, lulling at times, because the theme was so strong, so inherent  from beginning to end, it left me with a feeling of awe.

I think the only thing I can take away from this is to write from experience, and then to take that further until the whole story blows out of proportion, until what you get at the end is a book.

Steele, A. Arkwright. New York, NY: Tor. Print.

And from the depths of the sea…the Kraken!

I like calamari. Of course, that has nothing to do with China Miéville’s book, Kraken, except maybe a distant relationship to his brother octopus. But thinking of both of them brings a warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach – probably the beginnings of heart burn, or something. Ha.

But seriously, I liked it. Just finished reading it, courtesy of one of my students. He was captivated by the ending. I was captivated by the details and a few other things.(Spoilers!)

+ I loved the critic on religious beliefs. It was entertaining to read about these different religions, whose gods took different forms. Kraken, sea, ferret…It was random. And entertaining. It puts religion in perspective, how silly it is to argue different beliefs because you can never prove one write, and why should you when it’s a belief and not a fact.

+ I liked the introduction. It was this hilarious deceit, showing you through a scene, oh – this is how all the tours go. And then it breaks the continuity, and says, oh – the tour didn’t go like this. It actually went like this. It was this funny contrast between usual and now. And I really enjoyed that comparison.

+ The random extra characters. Miéville has a great imagination, and he didn’t let me down in Kraken. He invented all these extra characters, who don’t really add anything to the novel, except to show more details behind this society. The one guy I liked in particular was this guy who went to a villain meet-up, and they were auctioning the job. Everyone got greedy hearing the prize, but there was one guy – he was allergic to greed. He had to run out of the room (184). How hilarious and random, is that?

There was also one other guy – Jason. Anyone who met him thought they knew him; his knack was familiarity, recognition. Everyone thought they recognized him, and it allowed him the ability to walk in to secure offices, to walk around without a badge, to take information without asking. It was cool until someone with powers recognized him for what he was and until the bad guys found him and killed him. Poor guy.

I don’t like Billy. This is where I feel like Miéville is definitely a plot-oriented author. For most of the book, Billy was in mourning for Leon, being dragged to and from events like a little kid. He didn’t contribute anything to the book until it was time for the conclusion, where he re-wrote the laws of nature with the strength of his belief. Billy was a flat character. At least in my opinion. I got more feeling from Marge.

I am…unsure about the ending. So in the end, they figure out the villain is Grisamentum, who has preserved his life in ink – that was cool. But then after the good guys beat bad guys, Billy’s all, oh no! Port me! Port me now! And all the sudden, it’s like, Nope! Vardy’s the bad guy, and has been all long. He’s the one setting the Earth on fire because he can’t deal with having no belief…I’m sorry. But this to me seems like atheism, and is a legitimate belief… I don’t know. I didn’t like the “twist” ending even though it is explainable with Vardy’s beliefs.

I’m not sure I liked the pace. This is something I have to go back and examine, but for the first half of the book, I’m struggling to read it. It’s interesting, and I want to learn more, but it’s not captivating. Then, a little more than halfway, it’s pulling me along. There’s action; characters are interacting; they finally have a plan. I really do want to look back because to me, the most interesting part to study is why do I feel this way? (My hypothesis is that the first part of the book was just setting up the story of the three character sets: Billy/Dane/Wati, FSRC, Marge.)

Miéville, C. Kraken. New York, NY: Del Rey, 2010. Print.

 

Theme

In my opinion, theme doesn’t have to be obvious.

It definitely can be, which is the case with books like 1984 or its twin, A Brave New World.

But it doesn’t have to be. It can meander and stroll, peppering small hints throughout a story, essentially touching upon the truth, until the reader gets enough hints that they eventually arrive to the answer. But you don’t even have to do that. It is my belief that every story has a purpose, and even though every author might not set out with a theme, it inadvertently makes one.

People begin singing the words there, and clapping in time, and they don’t make any sense either. The name “Christian” features in it repeatedly, but not in any context I understand. And the message of the sing-along is distinctly sinister, all about submission and conformity and reward feedback loops. (Stross 87)

It’s funny. Glasshouse is supposed to be about this poor main character who is stuck in a bubble society made to resemble the past, and all he can think about is how strange the past is, where the Bible focuses on submission, conformity, and weird loops. Because he’s commenting on his past but our present, I think it’s safe to say Stross thinks this of society, and I have to say, I agree completely. But that’s the essence of group think and popularity right? The essence of a extremely social species?

If I was me, if I was in my own self-selected body, I’d call him out on the spot-but I’m not. In the sick pit of my stomach I realize that they’re never going to forget that I’ve been singled out, and that this makes me a target. After all, that’s how peer pressure works, isn’t it? That’s what this is about. The experimenters can’t expect to generate a workable dark ages society in just three years by dumping a bunch of convalescents in orthohuman bodies into the polity and letting them wander around. They need a social mechanism to make us require conformity of one other, and the best way to do that is to provide a mechanism to make us punish our own deviants- (Stross 88)

Direct commentary on our life. How do we get everyone to conform? Through peer pressure. And through peer pressure, we lose the individuality that is so hard to attain in our society, which was so prevalent in the main character’s…until he was forced to live now/here.

I think that’s why I liked Glasshouse a lot. It’s because it was a relatively fun read – lots of adventure, action, confusion that forced you to think, while it was still mature enough to contemplate our society, why it exists. A book stands the test of time more readily when it lends an analysis to something…besides just what it means to have fun.

Stross, C. Glasshouse. New York, NY: Ace, 2014.

Huxley’s 1984

I submitted to peer pressure.

A lot of my friends had talked about the book, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, including how much they liked it and how traumatic an ending it had. They pressured me to read it, telling me again and again, it’s a classic. You should know the story.

So, I read it. I submitted to peer pressure and committed the deed. And fortunately, I didn’t feel contaminated afterwards, which tends to happen after I read a book I didn’t like. But this book was so interesting, and there are so many things I want to talk about! This book had a weird style; it was similar to 1984; the ending was weird? Forced? Rushed?

I’ll divide up my thoughts and try to make them quicker than usual, since I did a no-no and left a whole book for a post.

PREFACE

Within the first chapter, you get the setting of the book: future time period, a society where humans are artificially grown in a lab, set to undergo the Bokanovsky’s Process (where fertilized eggs undergo duplication until there are ninety-six duplicates), which the Director calls “one of the major instruments of social stability” since, as Huxley says, it produces “standard men and women; in uniform batches” (Huxley 7). Because everyone is a twin of the other; humanity can be standardized and cast into formal castes, based on intelligence. As one of the characters mentioned, “If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely” (137). Meaning, the more standard they look, the more easily they can conform and socialize, equating popularity and happiness.

This is a big component on which the society is built, and even though their civilization has changed in more than one manner, I think this component, for being such a small deviation from the norm, still resulted with a largely different plot, in which is discussed the importance of the individual versus society. Hint: All it takes is one deviation from the norm to create a good framework for a novel.

 TRANSITIONS IN CH 3

“Ending is better than mending, ending is better than mending.”

Green corduroy shorts and white viscose-woolen stockings turned down below the knee.

“Then came the famous British Museum Massacre. Two thousand culture fans gassed with dichlorethyl sulphide.”

A green-and-white jockey cap shaded Lenina’s eyes; her shoes were bright green and highly polished.

“In the end,” said Mustapha Mond, “the Controllers realized that force was no good. The slower but infinitely surer methods of ectogenesis, neo-Pavlovian conditioning and hypnopaedia…” (50)

Most of the chapter was this way, and it was crazy to read, because it was constantly changing scenes, switching back and forth between the repetitious nurses (who used hypnopaedia to sleep condition citizen’s ethics and morals), to the reflecting Controllers (who explained how society became this way), to the average Lenina, acting as the typical citizen in this society. Because it switched so often, my brain struggled to keep up. But one thing I liked was that it showed all that was going on at the moment, drawing direct comparisons between each of these situations.

While the Controller, Mustapha, explained why society acted this way, the nurses showed how we conditioned society to act in this manner, using Lenina to demonstrate the typical behavior. For example, the nurses repeated, “Ending is better than mending,” encouraging citizens to always buy new clothes while Huxley described all of Lenina’s clothes, showing how she conforms to these conditioning’s (50). Hint: These quick transitions draw direct comparisons between scenes or characters, making them relate to each other.

1984

Remember how 1984 was a direct contemplation of the politics and social criteria to make a totalitarian society? One of the criteria it required was a sex-less society, where sex became a chore, and the standard woman behavior (of the middle and high class) was abstinence. As a direct opposite, Brave New World is sex heavy. And although the two books share opposing views to create a submissive society, both of them encourage society members to never be alone, to always be in public, and to never ruminate in their thoughts. For example, while 1984 encourages doublethink to disable individual thinking, BNW encourages the use of soma, a drug that Lenina says to take “when you have these dreadful ideas of yours. You’d forget all about them. And instead of feeling miserable, you’d be jolly. So jolly” (92).

It’s interesting to compare the books side-by-side since they both study social behavior of their own fictional society, constantly examining what-if’s. Where 1984 took a ‘hate everything, be at war approach,’ Brave New World took a peaceful ‘everyone’s happy’ approach, which you can see is drilled into the mind of every citizen on page 75: “‘Yes, everybody’s happy now,’ echoed Lenina. They had heard the words repeated a hundred and fifty times every night for twelve years.” Overall, it’s funny how similar and different they are, considering they both had the purpose to have a stable society for forever. Note: Notice again how this book doesn’t have to be sneaky with its purpose, again having the characters reflect on the same theme throughout their thoughts and dialogue, just as obvious as 1984. This gives a good method on how to reveal your theme: Make the characters examine and reflect on your purpose.

SOMA

I really like the use of drugs in this book, the one named soma. In the case of this book, as previously mentioned, characters take these drugs whenever they’re feeling something other than happiness, using soma as an avoidance method for any strong negative emotions, in effect, never learning how to deal with them (examples seen on 171 and 176). This is a cool similarity with our society, even though drugs aren’t as heavily used as in BNW, where they’re used as currency. But I think the reason this drug made the book stronger is that it shows the degree of happiness that characters feel. They depend on this sort of artificial happiness, which is by no means a true substitute for real happiness. As the Controller says, “Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand” (221). What the Controller means, is the kind of happiness their society achieves is tiny compared to the kind you earn in the face of sadness. You cannot achieve true happiness without its opposite, and by eliminating the negatives, they’ve diminished the positives, but it’s okay! It’s all in the name of stability, and wouldn’t everyone rather safety? Leading us back to 1984’s statement. Would you be willing to give up your freedom for safety? How much are you willing to give up for survival? Hint: Running symbolism, as is the case of soma and the society’s dependence on artificial happiness, is a great way to exaggerate the theme of your book.

ENDING

This one I won’t include any references, but I will include plenty of SPOILERS. With the end of the book, came a general conclusion, where a few of the characters were banished from society, being too creative and intelligent for the general society. And then one character decides to banish himself, not being able to accept this artificial happiness that they have created, through the avoidance of all negative emotion.

After a sort, society tracks him down and continues to make fun of his culture’s tradition, where he learned to welcome pain and suffering as a sort of cleansing process, making him feel better. But the society warped this, making him go crazy until he rebels against the crowds, whipping people and eventually killing – what I believe to be – his ‘love’. In the face of this, his hangs himself.

This felt overall, too quick, rushed. This happened in the last 10 pages, and the pacing seemed quite strange. It slowed down quite a bit after the argument between the main characters, delving into a sort of epilogue before it re-entered the action, with the unhappy character moving away from society, flashing through quick moments of his life until we arrived at the moment of him going crazy, and killing himself in the face of murder. And because this felt forced for me, I don’t think it had the same sort of impact as it did on other readers. What about you?

Edit: I still want to say I’m not a huge fan of the ending, but I want to change part of my answer. While I was discussing the book with a friend, someone said, I know you didn’t like it, but was it effective? Causing me to consider it for the first time. Was it an effective ending? And in short, I want to say yes. It was effective.

The character who killed himself thought he couldn’t deal with the guilt at killing his love, so he ended up committing suicide. I thought this was funny – yes, funny – because he was in opposition of this consistently happy society because it was artificial through the constant use of soma. And yet, when he was faced with the situation of unhappiness, he couldn’t handle it and killed himself, showing, maybe the fake-happy society has it the right way. Because the only thing this ending showed us was that, no, people can’t handle the truth, so continue to feed them soma.

I liked that. Continuing the trek of the story by reinforcing the incorrect notion.

Huxley, A. Brave New World. New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1932. Print.

What makes a classic

Finished 1984!

And I think it’s simple to see what the story is about, showing that every good story does not have to have some hidden meaning, that it can be obvious and still have an impact.

1984 is primarily about politics. Actually, strike that. George Orwell is mainly about politics. 1984 explores the idea, consequences, and necessary criteria to enforce a totalitarian government. You know this because:

  1. The main character you identify with questions the government: why it exists, how it exists, why everyone plays along like ignorant sheep.
  2. Orwell spends time writing a book in a book – book inception! – about the history of their politics and why a totalitarian government is inevitable and preferred.
  3. The secondary character who forces the main character to conform, thereby explains and reiterates the ideas of what’s necessary of the people in order to fit into society.

Even though I do not enjoy learning about politics, never quite understanding why it exists, I still enjoyed this read. I have to admit, it did get slow within the portion of the book, mainly because it almost started to read like a textbook with the book inception. But this was still an interesting book, and I think it would be great if teachers pulled this into history classes during their discussion of politics.

My favorite part  – besides the creation of Newspeak – was the reversal, or hidden nature, of all the buildings, concealed behind the creation of doublethink, where you know something to exist as a fact one way but its contradiction is also true through belief.

The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture, and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in doublethink. (Orwell 222)

This whole society only exists because of ignorance, deliberate and forced ignorance. While society moves forward, history creates itself, but in order for Big Brother to always be right, history must be changed to reflect Big Brother’s perfection. This means that while the citizens experience the history, they must deliberately put it out of their minds and accept this new truth. Citizens are not allowed to live unless they do this.

It’s the job of the thought police to monitor all the citizens and keep them in line, making sure they always participate in this skill of doublethink. I think this is what bothered me about the book. For most of the time, I was lead to believe there are thought police, and the character was constantly under the fear of do they or don’t they exist? I think at some point, me and the character were convinced they don’t and then BOOM! He gets kidnapped, and we find out they do exist. But, it’s never explained how they exist. I don’t know if it’s because I’m scientific or what not, but it really bothers me not knowing how. Are they psychic? Is this some technology?

I don’t know, maybe I’ll never know.

TLDR: I think this book is a good example of how to incorporate theme and analysis, through the use of your character’s own examination of the thing in question, while also using them as a tool or victim within the theme as well.

Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. Centennial ed. New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2003. Print.