Something awful

So, I did something awful last week. I picked up a romance novel. (I blame Jim Butcher (for not being fast enough with Peace Talks and Mirror Mirror) for this slip.) Reading this novel proved why I’ve always avoided that genre like the plague. Fact that it was a poorly written novel to boot did not do much to help. I’m not averse to mush. I enjoy a good chick lit as much as the next person (off the top of my head – Remember Me, The Boy Next Door, I’ve Got Your Number) provided that the protagonists aren’t, well, unbelievably stupid! The lead characters are a tenured professor who believes that virginity equals innocence; scratch that, he believes that an unbroken hymen equals innocence and a twenty three year old who was able to get into Harvard yet has trouble accepting the fact that people who pass out after having one too many drinks might not be able to recollect all the events that occurred during their drinking binge. As a last resort, I tried giving voices to the characters in my head (with the ‘Professor’ being played by none other than Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr Strange) but even that couldn’t redeem the book for me.

Something curious

Isn’t it curious that Benedict Cumberbatch always gets to play the arrongant, snobbish character that excels in whatever it is that he does? Take Sherlock for example. Or Khan. Or Dr Strange. Or Alan Turing. Why are all his characters portrayed to be so haughty? Does it come with the territory, an undesirable side effect of genius? Does excelling at your field of choice automatically allow you to treat everyone else with disrespect.

Something sad

Speaking of Alan Turing, I always pictured him as this super genius who gave us the CAPTCHA (for the uninitiated, it is the box of squiggly letters/numbers that you are supposed to enter on webpages before doing certain actions to prove that you are an actual person and not a robot). Oh, on a side note, he also happens to be the one who cracked the Enigma during WW II ending the war at least a couple of years earlier than it would have lasted otherwise. So, I assumed that he was a celebrated war hero/brainiac who went on to do cutting edge undercover work on AI. Imagine my surprise when I found out that he was prosecuted for being a homosexual and finally committed suicide at the ripe old age of, wait for it, 41!!! Which made me wonder, why couldn’t we be a little more tolerant of people’s personal choices?


American Gods, and disappointments

This has been my filler book for the past two months.

In case you are wondering what a filler book is, wonder no more! It is a book used to fill the reading space between the books on your regular reading list.

Consider the scenario where you left the book you are currently reading in the hall but you are stuck in the bedroom. You cannot let this little spatial handicap put you out of the company of a book. Or maybe, your current book has become too dramatic (or mushy or put-downable) that you crave some release – bang comes the filler book to your rescue.

** Spoiler alert applies as usual. Read at your own peril **

I am a sucker for this genre (Tom Holt anyone?) but somehow, it did not work for me. I wanted to like this book, I really really did. But, in the end, it left me feeling meh. I am to blame though. I refused to learn from my previous experience (with Good Omens, which I have officially moved to my Limbo shelf. Even Sir Terry couldn’t redeem that book. Sigh!)

Nothing seems to happen till the book reaches the midway point, when suddenly a lot happen over a very short interval. So, here I am, telling myself, ‘Well, well, the story has finally taken off’, when the carpet is pulled from under my feet and everything stalls again! This was disappointing to say the least.

Mind you, I am very forgiving of unanswered questions but this book had so many that it felt more like I had appeared for my Maths exam after spending the whole night cramming up my geography texts. Maybe the author deals with them in a sequel (I personally don’t have much faith in this seeing how the sequel is about the sons of Anansi).

  • I don’t know if I like or hate Shadow. Painfully little is told about his past to understand any of his present decisions. (Now that i come to think of it, not much is told about any of the characters’ pasts). No explanation is given as to why everybody and his uncle is trying to do away with Shadow.
  • Even less is told about why exactly Shadow decides that he would be faithful to Wednesday after about two minutes of meeting him!
  • Did Wednesday and his ilk have a hand in the death of Laura?
  • Why was Bilquis introduced? And why was she killed?
  • Low Key Lyesmith – Seriously??????????
  • What’s with Wood and Road and Town and World?
  • What is the significance of the Gold/Sun coin (or the Moon coin). And how do you just ‘take it’?
  • Buffalo Man, Sam Crow, Eagle stone, Thunder bird – the questions are never ending!
  • Even I was able to guess that you can’t just kill a God like that, especially a powerful one like Mr. Wednesday. That he has enough power to influence a war means that enough people believe in him, which in turn means that he cannot be obliterated with a bullet. But Loki confirms that Wednesday did die physically but hints about a reincarnation.

These are just off the top of my head and I’m sure there will be plenty more if I sit down and thought about it. But, I’ve decided not to waste any more time on this book.

Next book (wherever you are), ready or not, here I come!

Parting advice – if you do decide to read this book, I’d recommend you have an internet connection (or an encyclopaedia) close at hand to cross reference all the myriad mythological references it throws at you without bothering for an explanation.

PS – I should add a note here saying that this post is a reminder to myself of what kind of misery this book put me through. I can clearly see myself in the not too distant future, picking up Anansi Boys (or Neverwhere or one of those other books) due to sheer temptation. And when that time comes, I will re-read this post, kick myself and pick up something else.

PPS – I am well aware that I haven’t reviewed Origin yet. I am unable to bring myself to draft a review because, honestly, it is too distressing. To think that Dan Brown and Professor Langdon let me down, oh the agony!


Death’s End, and why you should give it a try

So, I have completed the Remembrance of the Earth’s Past trilogy (by Cixin Liu) yesterday.

(I did also finish Origin, but more on that later. OK, I have to get it out. I thought it was disappointing, but maybe it was because I expected too much out of it. Let me save the rest of my rant for another post.)

I will try to keep the spoilers to the bare minimum, but proceed with caution if you are planning to read the trilogy.

The Three Body Problem was interesting but The Dark Forest did not really live up to the expectation set by its predecessor. But I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt as it was a translated work – things tend to get lost in translation. When I found out that Ken Liu (the translator of the first book) translated the third book as well, I made up my mind to give it a try.

Death’s End was an exhilarating read; exhilarating and mind blowing. I really mean it. My mind did melt a few times – Cheng Xin and Guan Yifan’s discussion about the ultimate weapon available to an infinitely advanced civilization, Yun Tianming’s tales and their hidden meaning, Singer and the vector foil he carelessly tosses towards the Solar System, the descriptions of dimensions being scaled up/down, the concept of black domains and curvature propulsion to name a few.

But to be honest, I did not like Cheng Xin. She was so predictable because she always ‘chose love.’ Bleah! Da Shi stood out in the first part and Luo Ji saved the second part. It was a good thing that the author chose to include Luo Ji in the third book as well. Yes, humanity chose Cheng Xin but sometimes, you have to admit that humanity can be stupid. For example, I could relate to the Hawks demanding that Trisolarans should be exiled to the moon but the Doves accusing Luo Ji of mundicide is comical to say the least. Excuse me, but he’s the actual reason that you are hale and healthy and have the ability to come up with this argument. Bottom line, she did not seem worthy of all that love everyone chose to shower on her, no questions asked.

One thing that troubles me is that there are no strong female characters in this series save Ye Wenjie (Sophon does not really count as a female). She acts as the tipping point in the first book (she seals the fate of humanity and Trisolarans together when see presses that button) and her theory about cosmic sociology lays the foundation for the second and (in a manner) third books. I wish the author had chosen to give Luo Ji’s wife and daughter a significant role in the third book. They merely acted as a couple of dolls by his side in the second book and were done away for good in the third book.

To conclude, the series had its high points and low but the former outweighed the latter by a considerable margin. I enjoyed this trilogy and I would strongly recommend this book if you are a fan of science fiction.


Origin, and some thoughts

Yes! I’ve finally got my hands on a copy of Origin *woot*

OK. I know that I am really late to the party but better late than never.

I’ve completed about a third of the book and here’s what I feel about it thus far.

* Fair warning – The following portion might contain spoilers, ‘might’ being the operative word here. So, proceed with caution *

  • The title of the book is pretty revealing. It could either mean (a) origin of life on earth or (b) origin of the universe. Judging from Dan Brown’s previous books, I was betting on the latter but after reading a few chapters, I’m not so sure.
  • Assuming that this book deals with the origin of life, maybe the grand reveal would be some concrete proof for Panspermia perhaps? Crazier still, maybe the earth ( or the solar system or the universe itself ) is the product of some super advanced AI’s imagination. I’m just stretching the point here.
  • Also, the trend of making the close ally/helping hand turn out to be the surprise villain is so common across Dan Brown books that is not a ‘surprise twist’ anymore. So, I’m fairly certain that Winston is the bad guy.
  • Which begs the question, why would Winston be the bad guy? Maybe he is the progenitor of the AI mentioned a couple of points above. Reality is caught in a loop and Edmond Kirsch’s announcement could break the loop thereby preventing the Super AI from coming into existence. But this borders on science fiction and is far away from Brown’s home territory (theological conspiracies)

To conclude, I am going to continue reading and see where it leads and how many of my predictions turn out right.

See you at the other end of the book! Cheerio =]


The curious case of the inefficient reader

I was going through my reading list of the past month and realised how poorly I fared when compared to the number of books I had completed reading same time last year. And then, I made this startling discovery – the better results last year were solely due to Harry Potter and my old ebook reader. No, no, that is not the title of some limited edition HP novel but two separate reasons for the increased numbers.

I still remember the long and endless nights I dedicated to reading ‘just one more chapter’ almost throughout the HP series. The last time I read with such passion, it was Dan Brown and his paperback Deception Point that kept me turning the pages until my fingers had the satisfaction of reaching that point where there were no more pages to turn. But now, thanks to backlit ebook readers, you only had to touch for the next page. Also, no more constant reminders to ‘switch off the darn lights, it’s almost sun up time’ warnings.

And by the way, if you still don’t get it, I am the titular inefficient reader, not the electronic gadget 🙂