Book Recommendation: Fahrenheit 451

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Ray Bradbury is one of the great American storytellers of the 20th and early 21st century.  I’m currently making my way through his “Zen in the art of writing,” and let me tell you…it does not disappoint.

This post is about Fahrenheit 451, a book that Ray Bradbury wrote with a certain message in mind; a book whose theme transcended Bradbury’s idea that television destroys interest in reading literature. Instead, it has become a quintessential dystopian tale about the dangers of censorship.

Why? Because in Fanhrenheit 451, firemen burn books. That’s right; gone are the good old days when firemen would extinguish fires. Now, their purview is somewhat different; burning books, since those contain dangerous ideas, ideas which one minority or another found offensive; which, it was decided, needed to be purged since they were too dangerous, too prone to cause in-fighting and whatever else nasty business you could imagine.

Gigantic TV sets that cover the walls, and ear shells, which blast entertainment into people’s heads are all that entertains people. They’re never off, not for a moment. Does that sound eerily familiar, perhaps?

One of the best things about books is that you can shut them when you need to think.

Well said, that. Fahrenheit 451 is filled with memorable quotes and haunting descriptions. Written in 1953, it never the less remains deeply relevant to this day.

It’s a short novel, some 200 pages–less, perhaps. Bradbury’s prose is beautiful, poignant and memorable. No surprise, if you’re at all familiar with the author you’re dealing with.

It’s well-worth your time. Go get it! Now!

 

 

 

Book Recommendation: Neuromancer

William Gibson created the “archetypal cyberpunk work,” even if he eventually grew to hate the term which now connotes an entire subgenre of sci-fi. It’s a wonderful, fascinating book, Neuromancer, and I will attempt to persuade you to read it!

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

What a fantastic way to open a book, don’t you think? First lines are important, and this one sets a very particular tone which runs throughout the entirety of Neuromancer. Gibson’s world is a dark place, ran by corporations and their interests, a world of increasingly less relevant national governments, where technological cowboys (hackers, basically) ride through cyberspace, breaking walls of virtual ice to get whatever their corporate overlords want.

What is cyberspace, you ask?

“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding…”

Quite the description, isn’t it? Reminiscent of something, perhaps?

Note that Neuromancer was published in 1984; Gibson, some will claim, predicted the internet, as well as virtual reality, before either was a thing. Perhaps he saw the blood in the sky, the writings on the wall; and he decided to share his vision.

Or perhaps Neuromancer was influential enough. Could it be that this struck a chord with the right people, the dreamers, those who could translate a vision into reality, and so brought it along?

The Matrix Gibson speaks of has enough differences to our Internet for now. But those continue to melt away. Perhaps they’ll dissipate entirely before too long. The concept fascinates me, and it scares me a little.

Such is the effect of the world of Neuromancer. It’s easy–so easy–to get lost in it.

I have to balance the scales, however. You might not enjoy this particular title if you dislike being thrown into a sea of unfamiliar vocabulary. Some words and concepts are downright alien, at times. For me, that created a greater sense of immersion, but–especially at the beginning–I got confused a few times too many.

It ends a bit too abruptly, perhaps…but it’s never the ending that matters to me; not that much. It’s the journey.

During that journey, you will traverse a different world, neither better nor worse than this one, and described with a watchmaker’s precision, with skill one could envy, if it didn’t summon a degree of awe instead.

Grab it. It’s worth your time.

 

Thank you for reading! See you again next time.

 

 

Sunday Comix – Defining the X-Men in a sentence, Vol. 01

Sundays are for…defining comic book characters in a single ridiculous sentence!

It seems only right to start off this incredible, mind-blowing series with the original five X-Men! But what kind of a monster would I be if I didn’t start off with the most overused and well- known Canadian runt in the entire multiverse?!

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James Howlett, aka ‘Wolverine’: Let’s face it… He is your favorite mutant murder-uncle.

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Scott Summers aka ‘Cyclops’: He was the major douche in the 90’s animated series and everybody hated him, except that now he’s super awesome and also dead.*

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Jean Grey, aka ‘Marvel Girl’, aka ‘the Phoenix’: She had no personality for a while there, other than being the token girl in the X-Team, and then she died; only it wasn’t her, it was her clone, and she turned out alive and alright, only she died; and then she left a phoenix egg and got revived in the future; only it never happened; and then someone *wiggles finger at Hank McCoy* decided to bring back young Jean Grey from the past into the present/future, and she finally exhibited what psychologists call… a ‘personality.’

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Hank McCoy, aka ‘Beast’: Big, furry man turned big furry man-thing, all too clever for his own good, and prone to venturing on morally-grey territory one time too many.

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Robert ‘Bobby’ Drake, aka ‘Iceman’: The cool younger kid-turned with cocky personality and retconned sexuality which served to anger some; to be fair, there have long been signs.

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Warren Worthington III, aka ‘Angel,’ aka ‘Archangel’: Thinks he’s a literal angel, except when he’s Archangel — then, he’s just a kind-of cool dick who’s also a Horseman of Apocalypse.
Y’know…the X-Men are weird. I love it! The absolute mess that’s their fifty-something year long continuity is such fun, and I ought to do a lot more comic-related content on this blog! If only time were to allow it…

*These two things don’t necessarily go together, but I understand why you’d think that they do, if you watched the 90’s TAS.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Recommendation: The Way of Kings

Brandon Sanderson is one talented sunuvabiscuit.

It’s impossible for me to think of a title that has Sanderson’s name on it, and is also bad. There’s no higher accolade I could give an author.

Sure, there’s always something to get annoyed about, if you’re looking for reasons to do so — Sanderson’s near-constant avoidance of actually using curse words is my personal pet peeve; he instead elects to make world-specific cussing which sometimes works and sometimes…doesn’t.

I could write a dozen essays on Brandon Sanderson’s style and works, but that detracts from today’s recommendation. So, have at it!

In case you’ve been living under a rock, or don’t follow the ‘epic fantasy’ scene at all, Sanderson’s most ambitious project yet goes by the name “Stormlight Archives.” It has been dubbed by some as the spiritual successor of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series — which Sanderson stepped up to complete after Jordan’s untimely death — and one could certainly make some parallels.

That said, where WoT seems to have aged in terms of characterization and theme, having drawn heavily from Tolkien in one aspect or another, the Way of Kings is its own beast — and a most impressive beast it is.

With multiple Point-of-View characters, the novel flashes out a beautiful — albeit hard to live in — world of stone and war. Roshar, as it’s called, is a world ravaged by highstorms, which are both blessing and a curse; destructive natural storms, which provide Stormlight — currency and magical resource, both.  Everything on the supercontinent on Roshar has developed protective shells of one sort or another in order to survive.

It’s an imaginative place, Roshar…even if it’s not the number one spot on my list of fictional worlds to visit during a storm.

If the worldbuilding alone doesn’t intrigue you enough to pick this title up, the characters most certainly will. There are many of them, and I found them all absolutely delightful to read about.

  • Kaladin, an ex-soldier made slave, is broken by the mistakes of the past. His journey to remaking his shattered self is fraught with pain and tragedy, and is absolutely brilliant.
  • Shallan Davar is desperate to save her family. So desperate that she would lie, cheat and risk making an enemy of one of the most powerful women of the land…
  • Dalinar Kholin, a High Prince of Alethkar, is going mad. Every time a highstorm comes, he is besieged by visions…or hallucinations. Do these have deeper meaning…or are they a sign of an old, once-mighty warrior slowly losing his mind?
  • Jasnah Kholin is a scholar of great renown, a brilliant thinker…and an atheist. One who does not compromise her beliefs, no matter what. She is also one of my absolute favorite characters in the world, which says something.

These are but a few of the main characters; rest easy, there are many more, all of them interesting in one way or another. There’s no shortage of action, political intrigue and mystery in this first chapter of Sanderson’s epic fantasy. I am currently listening to the second book and it’s fantastic. More’s to come about that over the next couple of weeks.

If you enjoy audiobooks,I would point you towards Graphic Audio’s version of the Way of Kings. It’s really good, with a full cast. It’s more expensive than the unabridged audiobook, but the production value more than makes up for it. (It’s not abridged either, for the record.)

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this piece, feel free to follow me for more! I love books and fiction, and I would love to discuss away!

And now, before I sign off for the day, a lightning round of awesome stuff in the Way of Kings:

  • Shardbearers!
  • Jasnah!
  • The Cosmere!
  • Betrayal!
  • Honor!
  • Flashbacks!
  • Interludes!
  • Crying assassins!
  • Wit!
  • Duplicitous people!
  • High Princes!
  • Bright-eyed people!
  • Dark-eyed people!
  • People whose eyes are bright even if they’re dark-eyed!
  • Bulletpoint lists!

Bye!

 

Thursday Spotlight: Martin Eden

I haven’t read many books about writers, but amongst the ones that I have…this one is my favorite. It tells the story of a simple young man who, having saved a member of the upper class’ live, is introduced to a young, well-educated lady. He, of course, falls in love with her immediately and realizes just how unworthy he is. Thus Martin Eden decides to learn to read, and to write; all so he can be closer to the lovely Ruth, that he can talk with her and be worthy of her. His mind is like a sponge — fertile land to the roots of knowledge and of ideas, complicated, conflicting ideas about man’s nature; and soon enough, he decides on becoming a writer.

But it isn’t an easy road, is it? No, it’s not, and no novel could show the hardships of that road–the dangers–better than Martin Eden could.

But what else is this book?

Martin Eden is, in some ways, an autobiographical work which incorporates a number of Jack London’s experiences, with Ruth Morse – Martin’s love interest – being modeled after the author’s first love, Mabel Applegarth. It also serves to illustrate London’s disillusionment with the publishing industry of his time.

Martin Eden illustrates the clash between individualism and collectivism, with the eponymous character being a firm believer in Spencer and Nietzche’s philosophical views. The novel is, nevertheless, a very stark criticism of just these views, which eventually lead Eden to losing his very ability to enjoy life, to feel alive.

Martin Eden is, also, a story of wrong and misguided perceptions, and the toll of consequent realizations – it’s a simple thing to chalk it off as a tale of failed romance, but I never read it like one.

Martin Eden is a tale of madness and sacrifice and of success, and of what comes after. A gripping narrative that will hold you fast and hold you tight until the very last page. It will be worth it.

Thursday Spotlight: Sins of Empire

Sins of Empire is one hell of a ride.

Never had I touched a Brian McCllelan book before this one, although his Powder Mage universe has received critical and fan acclaim alike–enough of both, anyway, even for someone like me, still too bloody busy reading classic works of fantasy (like the wonderful Black Company series.

I’m not certain how I ended up purchasing Sins of Empire for my Kindle; was it an AMA by the author, whose promise of gunpowder, blood magic and political intrigue caught my attention immediately? Or rather, was it simple word of mouth from the Fantasy community on Reddit?

Either way, I chose to take a risk and pick Sins of Empire up, electing to ignore the preceding trilogy; hoping that it wouldn’t cost me much in the way of entertainment and deeper meaning amongst characters and events to come.

I am happy to report that at no point in the book did I lack enough context to the events within Landfall (the city within and around which action takes place for the entirety of the novel), numerous as they were.

We follow four different points of view, excluding the prologue, and I can’t admit to anything but adoration for each of the major characters in the novel; we’ve got Michel, a spy in the employ of the Lady Chancellor’s Blackcoats — secret police of the nasty variety; Styke, a wrongly-imprisoned cavalryman, maimed and crippled by a failed execution; and Vlora Flint, my favorite character and the only returning major POV from the original trilogy. She’s a powder mage, and one hell of a badass — and a general of her own private company, the Riflejacks.

And we all know how I like mercenary companies…especially ones with certain principles guiding them.

The secondary characters are a fairly diverse cast of memorable arseholes, with the Lady Chancellor Lindet’s ruthless pragmatism and Fidelis Jes’…peculiarities. But if anyone takes the cake, that’d have to be Vallencian, the Ice Baron; a man with a silver tongue and a heart of liquid gold. Loved that guy.

But don’t take my word for it, have a quote or two!

On Lindet: “The Lady Chancellor was a thin woman of medium height with blond hair and a pair of spectacles that she removed every so often to rub on her sleeve. The newspapers often described Lindet’s eyes, and Vlora waited for some time for a good view before Lindet turned to face her. Vlora’s light powder trance allowed her to see Lindet as if they were standing nose to nose. Lindet’s eyes did not disappoint. Deep-set, darkened by makeup, Lindet’s gaze moved across the crowd again and again over the shoulders of her Blackhats. They were studious, critical, like a master craftsman checking her tools. Vlora remembered Taniel’s letters mentioning how Lindet might easily be mistaken for a librarian if not for those eyes, and how they had made his throat go dry every time they lit upon him.”

On Fidelis Jes, the commander of the Blackcoats:  “In Michel’s experience, everyone had at least one peculiarity. Powerful people tended to have more extreme peculiarities because of their wealth. Some of them were hidden, some out in the open. Fidelis Jes’s was extremely public; even advertised. He had a standing invitation for anyone to try to kill him in single combat. No sorcery, no guns, no quarter.”

McCllelan’s prose, as you might’ve noticed, is clean and easy to follow; his style is pleasant, and Brandon Sanderson-esque in those most wonderful ways, if you will, without shying away from cussing — as Sanderson is prone to do.

Gunpowder adds a very welcome feeling of swashbuckling and adventure and adds a uniqueness to the Powder mages’ universe, which is rightfully the reason for the cult status the first trilogy received.

It’s a great piece of fantasy literature, and I’ll be looking forward to going more in-depth with a review over the summer; for now, though — this is one 2017-published book that is certainly worth your attention, dear reader.

I just can’t wait for the sequel.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this book morsel, feel free to follow me for more in the realm of fantasy, comedy and all-around ridiculousness.

 

 

 

 

Spotlight Thursday: Uprooted

untitled.pngThere is something about the woods, some primordial fear that has been nagging away at all of us, at the entirety of humanity, long before we learned to create fires, long before we began making tools; a fear that’s been with us since our very inception, as evident in that most precious of folklore – fairy tales.

Uprooted blends fantasy and fairy tale seamlessly, in rich and imaginative ways. The young protagonist, Agniezska, is a completely charming protagonist, and above all else, she is completely, and absolutely real. The novel is written from her point of view, and it couldn’t be the better for it.

While I enjoyed the protagonist one other character stole the spotlight from Niezsa once or twice – The Dragon, Sarkan!  I’ve a penchant for characters who use a moniker, and being a powerful sorcerer doesn’t hurt. This one starts off a bit undignified and even cruel with the help, but there’s hope yet; and it is when the two main characters find synchronicity that Uprooted develops

There is so much to love in Uprooted, even if we disregard the main characters for a moment. Here’s a few bullet points:

  • Agniezska’s best friend Kasia, who goes through a shock when the Dragon doesn’t choose her for ten years worth’ of maid duty. In another book, Kasia would’ve been our point of view character. She is beautiful and smart, and entirely larger than life, and as soon as The Dragon’s choice is made, she is also a stranger in her own home.
  • Naomi Novik captures the essence of Slavic mythology well, and builds a world that is true in tone to Eastern European folklore.
  • The Woods are a terrifying force that slowly grows, overtaking all in its path. It’s seriously creepy.
  • There’s a fat wizard called the Hawk, or the Eagle, or the Fat Wizard. He’s fun.
  • If you’d like to read Naomi Novik, I suggest you don’t start with Uprooted. It’s just so much better than her first “Temeraire” book.
  • That last point isn’t a drawback—just keep it in mind.

The novel is, at times, far darker than you’d originally assume; that doesn’t stop it from being a delightfully amusing read. Uprooted is something of an emotional roller coaster, but I enjoyed every page of it.