Saturday, August 28, 2010

CBII Book 19: At The GAtes of Darkness - Raymond E. Feist

Written by Raymond E. Feist, At The Gates of Darkness is the second book in the Demonwar Saga. I reviewed book one entitled Rides a Dread Legion previously and if your interested you can check it out here. The Conclave of Shadows is continuing its investigation of a possible demon invasion. Both members of The Conclave and those only loosely affiliated with their mission begin to witness extremely disturbing events that lead them to believe that Midkemia is in even more danger than previously thought. Torture, slavery and sacrifices on many different worlds are only some of the atrocities that The Black Magician, Pug, and his retinue are forced to deal with in order save their planet. Unfortunately this impending doom is taking a terrible toll on Pug as he attempts to save the planet while dealing with his own terrible loss. When the invasion finally begins, Pug must place his trust in people whom he can’t in order to salvage a victory.

 With book two we get more of the same from Feist and I believe that’s a good thing. His style is easy and breezy but doesn’t sacrifice quality that makes the majority of his books enjoyable reads. Feist knows just how much to give you without prattling on about something you’re not really interested in anyways. The story remains engaging and brisk so that, before you know it, you’re done and waiting for the next tale. I usually end up reading Feist’s books in order to take a break from heavy Science Fiction as they’re a wonderful palate cleanser that are well written and tremendously enjoyable. While I’ve tired of other authors that write in a similar style and genre as Feist, he never talks down to the reader and, for being such a prolific author, reading his books never feels like he’s mailing it in. I suppose that’s why I own all of his work. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

CBII Book 18: Fahrenheidt 451 - Ray Bradbury

I count myself a Science Fiction nerd. I will freely admit that my reading list is veritably smothered in it and I’ve now become quite comfortable with the stigmatism that it may bring. That being said, I feel no small amount of shame that this is the first of Ray Bradbury’s books I’ve ever read. I throw myself upon the mercy of the bespectacled court; please make sure the phasers are set on stun.

Fahrenheit 451: the temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns. That’s the tagline of this 50th anniversary edition of the book and, of course, burning books is the central premise upon which the story unfolds. Guy Montag is a firefighter. However, in this day and age, firefighting has taken on a whole different meaning. Guy is charged with the socio-political responsibility of burning books wherever they may be found. There are still all the lights and sirens that we associate with being a firefighter - they even have a pole to slide down on – but now, when the fire engine pulls up outside your door, it is met with trepidation not relief. Whereas water used to be the fluid of salvation, kerosene has become the liquid of suppression. Guy goes about his duties with the typical verve that a firefighter must have and he never thought twice about lighting a match to save people from themselves. That is, until a new neighbour moved in.

Clarisse McLellan is seventeen and, as is typical of persons of that age, doesn’t care for how society requires her to think and behave. Guy and Clarisse happen to meet one day while he is returning home from work and they engage in a bit of idle banter. Guy is initially confused and a little disturbed by Clarisse’s questions and opinions however he chalks them up to youthful ignorance. But, Clarisse asks, “Have you ever read any of the books you burn?” Of course he hasn’t, reading books illegal. Guy continues about his normal routine and even manages to talk to the strange girl next door on occasion. Eventually, Clarisse’s views causes Guy to begin questioning what he once thought were societal norms which causes no small amount of stress at work and home. His boss begins interrogating him due to the inquiries Guy makes and his wife becomes concerned that he’s acting strangely. That is, when she can pull herself away from the people on the wall. Guy tries to hide his new unconventional feelings from everybody but he is also hiding something else: a book. When Guy’s indiscretion is finally uncovered, his own firefighting unit must pay him a visit which could cost Guy everything, including his life.

One of the reasons I love science fiction so much is that good authors base their writing in reality. It may not be today’s reality, but a writer with a modicum of skill can make you believe that a particular event or invention could easily happen by connecting it with the familiar. In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury has proven himself somewhat of a prognosticator of our own times. Originally published in a shorter form in Galaxy Science Fiction in 1951, we can easily form associations to our own regulated and addictive multimedia world. How much time do you spend on the internet? What’s your favourite reality TV program? Would you rather talk to real, meat-bag people, or would you prefer to type? Do you want your movies with or without full-frontal nudity?

I believe media consumption is an underlying message in the book, but what Bradbury was definitely alluding to, was the book burnings that various parties engaged in historically and the control of information. It doesn’t take a minute to correlate many present day crusaders that are doing the very same thing that is the fireman’s mantra. Consider certain religious groups that insisted the Harry Potter books be banned from school libraries for promoting witchcraft. Or perhaps the FCC dictating that a pastied boob was more offensive than a number of men trying to tear each other’s heads off. Perhaps one could question the MPAA and their dictation of what may or may not be shown in a movie theatre. It doesn’t matter that a person could just change the channel, not go to the movie or decide not to buy the book; there is someone who knows better what’s appropriate for you, and damned if you question them.

CBII: Book 17 - Hater- David Moody

“A head spinning thrill ride, a cautionary tale about the most salient emotion of the twenty-first century…Hater will haunt you long after you read the last page.”

That’s the glowing praise that Guillermo del Toro gave David Moody’s Hater and it’s what prompted me to buy the book. Guilli, you owe me $16.99 CDN, fucker. Hater is a poor attempt at telling the story of humanity turning on itself. It’s been done before and it’s been done far, far better than Moody’s unoriginal and vomitous prose.

The story begins with the protagonist’s (I think his name’s Danny) morning commute to work. On his way, he witnesses a man beat a woman to death for no apparent reason. The assailant just starts throttling the poor woman standing next to him. Traumatized (but not nearly enough to take the day off) he continues to work where the assault is the day’s topic of conversation. Aw fuck it! Look, you’ve all seen or read this before, it’s a disease, more people catch it, they call the infected people Haters, it’s the governments fault, anarchy, us against them, lather, rinse repeat.

Perhaps it’s just me (and it could be given the heaping manure pile of praise contained on it’s back cover) but it was just boring. There is only one surprise in the whole book and rest of it is painfully predictable. I found the writing to be simplistic and plodding but one must…fuck it. I’m not wasting any more time on this. Go watch, Doomsday. Same thing, but better, and with cleavage.