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Archive for September, 2011

The Name of the Wind

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I have started reading books from the fantasy genre. It is fascinating as they are usually written on an epic scale, have a dash of adventure, heroism, romance, magic and a slew of complex characters. It might not be very deep in a literary sense, but can be very enjoyable all the same.

One of the well acclaimed fantasy series is the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. This is a story of Kvothe, an enigmatic hero. The first book of the series is “The Name of the Wind” which describes his early childhood and his teenage years at the University. The author has tried to write it in a first person form, which is difficult in a fantasy genre known for a vast array of charactres and sweeping plots. However, reading the first book, it seems the author has been able to do a reasonable job inspite of imposing that constraint upon himself.

Some of the reviews for this book compared it to Tolkein. I think that is an overstatement – this is nowhere close to an epic that Lord of the Rings is. This seems to be more influenced by Harry Potter series as it describes the adventures of Kvothe at the University (which follows the death of his parents).  The book is interesting enough for me to want to read the second book in the series. But it doesnt blow you away as lot of the reviewers seem to claim or would want to make you believe.

Rating: 3.5

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Word-Alchemy

September 24, 2011 Leave a comment

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way or your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away”.

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

 

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A Tribute to Human Spirit

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment

From time to time one comes across books that redefine the depth and strength of human spirit and its ability to survive against overwhelming odds.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is one such true and powerful story of Louis Zamperini, an olympic runner (he ran at the Berlin Olympics) who joins the Air Force during World War II and get captured by the Japanese forces during the war. His experience during those times is a layer of one tragedy after another. After surviving more than 40 harrowing days at sea (in a life raft), he and his pilot, Phil fall in hands of the Japanese and suffer in  POW camps for around three years.

While being the story of Louis, this is in a way a testament to the courage of all the soldiers who fought in the war and suffered atrocities when captured as POWs. It is a sad story of the brutal Japanese forces who due to certain cultural indoctrination that they went through during training, became sub-human in their treatment of fellow human beings (albeit enemy soldiers). It lays bare the capacity of human beings to move across extremes with compassion, sacrifice and courage at one end and sadistic evil at the other.

I think its also a great book for today’s youngsters to read and understand what their predecessors went through and how shallow we can be in complaining about small issues in life against the suffering these guys went thru in the fight for freedom.

A deeply touching and a well written book. Highly recommended

Rating:4

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Fevre Dream

September 19, 2011 2 comments

I have recently been gravitating towards reading Fantasy genre and found it very refreshing. It might not be great literature in a traditional sense of the word, but do provide a lot of joy. I would compare it to desserts – not wholesome diet but satiating to say the least.

There are some fantasy genre books I have collected which I plan to read over the coming month. These include the Song of Fire and Ice Series, the Amber Chronicles and the Kingkiller chronicles etc. While I am at it, I picked up Fevre Dream, an acclaimed vampire novel by George Martin.

For me, the first 100 pages of the book are electric and keep you thirsting for more. Then the pace slows and the remaining 200 pages are a big let-down. I nearly gave up on the book, though did manage to finish it with some effort. This is a book you can pass if you have a backlog of good books to finish.

Rating: 2.5

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Brighton Rock

September 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Brighton Rock is my first Graham Greene book (and definitely not the last). I have heard good things about Greene and was curious about his writings. Usually with writers of Graham Greene’s repute, either the book blows your mind or gets so complicated and verbose, that it becomes way too dense to make any sense of it.

Well, this book turned out to be somewhere in between. This book has three central characters – Pinkie, the 17 year old mob leader with propensity for violence and manipulation; Rose, his girlfriend, who tries to remain true to Pinkie (inspite of his evil) given her intense love for him; Ida, a strong-willed lady, who gets caught up in a muder committed by Pinkie and sets out to bring justice inspite of the odds.

More than the plot, this book is about motivations and circumstances that drive people to do what they do. It probes the mind of people perpetrating evil, tries to unravel the mind of people who follow evil (and sometimes glorify it) and dwells on the strength of those who seek justice inspite of all odds. In the end, one realizes that man is a more complex being than simply what his actions signify.

Overall, a satisfying read

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Categories: Classic Literature

Word-Alchemy

September 14, 2011 Leave a comment

She had an immense store of trivial memories and when she wasn’t living in the future she was living in the past. As for the present – she got through that as quickly as she could, running away from things, running towards things, so that her voice was always a little breathless, her heart pounding at an escape or an expectation.

Brighton Rock – Graham Greene

(This is how most of us lead our life, don’t we?)

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2030 – What a waste of an idea!

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

I finished reading ‘2030’ by Albert Brooks. Whilst a quick and breezy read, I must admit that it didnt do much for me.

On the positive side, the author is clearly a person with ‘ideas’. He was able to take up topical issue of burgeoning debt in US and develop a likely hypothesis about the future. While that attempt is admirable and worth giving further thought by US citizens (I am not), it was no different that some crystal gazing that any strategist can do in any of the ‘pink’ papers.

What one expected from Albert Brooks was to take this hypothetical (albeit believable) scenario and create any interesting story with well-sketched characters. I think that is where he drastically fails.

a) The romance between the US president and his Treasury secretary is ‘school-boyish’ to say the least. The (married) president meets a woman candidate for post of Treasury Secretary, falls in love at first sight and depends on her ideas more than the Secretary of State. In all this, he jeopardizes his Presidency as well. Give me a break!!

b) The young man who has revolutionary ideas and wants to bring justice to young people and stop them from subsidizing the older populace goes and hijacks a ship. Cmon, doesnt he watch TV? How did he expect to survive that – take 4 friends along and threaten (empty threats) many abroad the ship that they will blow the ship unless he gets to speak to the President. What is this, a juvenile tea party? What do they expect the Navy Seals will do?

c) The books potrays a Chinese entrepreneur in good light and then with one electrifying speech from him, you suddenly get a new candidate for US presidency. The US is the cradle of entrepreneurship – why will it get enamoured by a Chinese entrepreneur so much that the congress changes the rules of the country to allow this guy to fight for presidency.

d) There is this sub-plot about a scientist who cures cancer. This just falls away at some point.

For me, while this was a book of ideas, it seemed like a hastily written plot (bad!) around some topical issues.

Rating: 2

Have a great Tuesday!

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