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review 2018-01-31 01:22
Meeting changes those that meet
The Word for World is Forest - Ursula K. Le Guin

This was gorgeous and bittersweet take on the clash of cultures, colonization, slavery. I get why it's some people's Le Guin's favorite. I actually finished it the same day I started, it so gripped me (just happened that my connection swallowed my first review and I've been sulking... I mean, one time, ONE, in about fifty, that I do not backup before hitting "post", and of course Murphy says it's the one that fails).


I guess it's the amount of win that is packed in so few pages:


Davidson being such an archetype of male, white supremacist. He calls himself a "conquistador" like an accolade. His every though chain is like a slap (he's got all the flavors: chauvinistic, racist, dismissive of scholars), and the part that makes it so grotesque is identifying actual, real people in them. Even this gung-ho attitude that he considers heroism, where I could see what passed for badass in westerns and Haggard's novels, and read in context turns into GI fanatism of the Napalm loving type *shudder* The less said about his mental juggling on not considering the natives "human", therefore not slaves, but good to rape the better (the part where it is pointed out that if he does not consider them human then he's indulging in bestialism was fucking awesome).


The friendship between Selver and Lyubov. This on-going theme of Le Guin of one single, personal tie across species that changes the tide, bridges culture. The first pebble of the avalanche. The hinting of irrevocable change while Lyubov is worried, right before the camp goes up in flames. The actual naming on the gift exchange scene between Selver and Davidson. The bittersweet knowledge of permanence when Selver says Lyuvob will stay, and so will Davidson. The good with the bad.


Real life parallels abound, but it's more than that. It has heart. It makes you think, but at the same time, it makes you feel, and question. I loved it. 

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review 2018-01-26 15:43
Marriage bargains across the sea
The Shuttle - Frances Hodgson Burnett

Like it happened to me with the two previous novels by this author, this book happened to me also. As in, there I was reading, and the gorgeous writing caught me and carried me through the pages.


The starting issue is difficult to read and heartbreaking. Mixing of cultures, a despicable man and a sweet, naive girl. Reading Nigel's though process was forever icky, and, like I mentioned in some progress update, an abridged manual for abusers. It is startling and scary how accurate many of his observations on human behavior are, and how he uses normal expectations and disbelief as a refuge in audacity (at one point he observes how he's being over-the-top in his villainy, and how it's to his advantage, because who would believe such a discourse happened in real life).


Once Betty enters the stage to stay, it becomes more like the standard Hodgson Burnett fare. Much like Sarah Crewe, she's a plucky, resourceful angel. It's one of those unbelievable characters that one still can't help but love and be charmed by.


It is a lovely book that tackles a thorny issue in a somewhat rosy but insightful way, and I liked it very much.

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review 2018-01-24 11:15
Framing the question
The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas - Ursula K. Le Guin

Having known nothing of this tale but rumors that it was striking coming in, I would have preferred that the introduction had been placed at the end. I entered instead forewarned, spoiled, because I could deduce it'd be some beautiful Le Guin version of The Lottery. Then again, this is less a story than a question or a parable, as the author herself says in the after-word. It certainly left me thinking (particularly, of the photograph of the vulture by the dying child, but also of third world country people producing luxury items for paltry food and roof).

I loved this quote:

"The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain."

As for my thoughts on it (disjointed still)

Part of the beauty of the set up is that being contained, the possibility of denying the bargain and the way is clear. In practical terms, leaving does nothing for the child; it only assuages the personal sense of morals. Doing something for the child, taking the child from misery, condemns all others to it; morals wounded by the misery of one would not perpetrate same on many. Freeing the child would be the equivalent of a violent revolution by a minority. Each that leaves takes responsibility for their own choice. The hope is that at some point, nobody takes the bargain.

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review 2018-01-19 14:34
Words fail me
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

Alright, there is a lot going on in this little piece of poison dripping, mind-fuck of a story, and I don't know that I'm up to the task.


First of all, because it's the immediate, I call bullshit on that end (I'm talking of the 21th chapter that was cut-out of the USA version; if you've not read it, this paragraph will make little sense). I read the author's introduction and explanation, and I more or less agree that our empathy and sympathy tends to grow as we mature (and we are more or less savages as kids and teens), but having read the book, I don't believe this level of inner cruelty and utter disregard for other people, or the length it was self-indulged and brought out onto the world can be called "a folly of youth" and hand-waived like that. I do not believe that level of monstrosity is something that can be redeemed, worked out, grow bored out of, and the person just go on to be some well adjusted adult.


I also do not know what is to be done with such a person to be honest, even if my knee-jerk reaction if I was the victim would be to kill them. Brain-washing into effectively loosing their free will does not seem to be the answer though.


Next: There is a very strong undercurrent of the battle of the generations going on here. The way money is treated, those articles in the diary, and the mention of day hour and night ours, and whom the street belongs to, and even, who has the power in the first part vs. the second, and what it consist on.


Actually, the three parts are distillate poison on abuse of power: young hooligans for first, then the police and other punishing/correctional institutions for second, politicians in the third. Everyone screws everyone over, and in the end I hated the lot, little Alex, and his little followers, and the police, and the jailers, and the priests, and the doctors, and the politicians, and the social fighters, and even his victims.


Shit, I wouldn't recommend this one, even if I found it oddly compelling *shudder*. It is interesting, and effective, but a vicious way to provoke thought, maybe unnecessarily.


Done. Onto "I am Pusheen the Cat", ice-cream and a helping of crack fics for the soul.

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review 2018-01-10 02:45
Coming of age sci-fi
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle

I'm rating this what I think my 12 years old me would have, because adult me has issues.


What was touched upon that I loved:


  • How structured education can grind on an, as Calvin calls it, uneven child.
  • That moment of realization where we find out that parents are not omnipotent, and the subsequent time were we resent them for not living up to that expectation.
  • Being equals and being the same are two different things.
  • Siblings love.


Talking generally, I really liked the descriptions. Very vivid.


My adult hang-up: More or less the same as with Narnia, though thankfully not as egregious. The religious undertones I could well have done without (hell, the three Mrs. could well be placeholders for the holy trinity, one not being corporeal, one good at communicating, one coming as quotes). I'd demote half a star for that today.

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