Oct 26 - Nov 6, 2011
William Peter Blatty
The daughter of a film star is afflicted with a monstrous change in personality that grows more terrifying with every passing day, a Jesuit priest struggles with his faith (and lack thereof), a homicide detective tries to solve the baffling murder of an accomplished director, a creepy foreign servant tries to hide a dark family secret, and a mysterious figure draws them all together and brings the story full circle...
I'll get this out of the way right now: I was expecting cheese. Lots of cheese. A torrential downpour of cheese on a dairy farm in Denmark during GoudaFest, even. I mean, this book was made into a movie, and Hollywood isn't renowned for seeking out thought-provoking ideas to turn into intellectually stimulating film fare - Hollywood is known for bringing Single White Female (which is one of the Single Worst Fictions I've ever had the misfortune of reading) to an even broader audience. So I'm sure you can understand my hesitation to read another book that Hollywood took a... Shining.... to. You see what I did there? Yeah, I'm here all night, folks.
But this book... is was actually decent. Better than decent. Great, even. Maybe I liked it so much because it totally blew my expectations of a garbage read right out of the water. There was still cheese, in that some of the characters were fairly cut and dried literary stereotypes (handsome, tormented priest; beautiful, helpless woman; bumbling, oafish detective - though he was smarter than he let on) but I didn't like them any less because of it. They were easy to understand and because of their simple nature, and I didn't have to spend excess time trying to figure them out, thus taking away from the badass creeping tension. And I appreciated that Blatty didn't toss in a tacked-on romance, just because there was a handsome priest and helpless woman.
The suspense was crafted in such a skillful way that it built slowly, without making the story drag ass, to a sudden, frenzied, completely unexpected conclusion that left me more than a little blindsided; and I loved that the main plot point in the book, the possession of Regan, was so ambiguous - Is she or isn't she? Only the Devil knows for sure! And the final culmination was so subtle that, really, it totally depends on your perception to take it or leave it and make the story into what it is. It's up to the reader to decide whether The Exorcist is a horror novel or a medical thriller, an example of demonic possession or a serious case of pre-teen angst.
The writing itself was very well done. I had to dig up my dictionary (well, the dictionary on my Kobo) a dozen or more times because I kept coming across words I wasn't familiar with. In my books (both literal and figurative) that's a good sign. It reminded me, actually, of A Wrinkle In Time - a throwback to the old days when an extensive vocabulary didn't make you unintelligible and people said "He told me..." instead of "He was all like...". Le sigh.
The Exorcist was a good book. Not horror in the traditional Vampires, psychopaths, choke-you-to-death-with-your-own-bloody-intestines sense, but more in the creeping, suspenseful, intricacies-of-human-nature sense.
Oct 10 - Oct 25, 2011
Oryx and Crake
A crusty weirdo recounts his recollection of the events leading up to the end of human civilization, while attempting to survive the current situation in which he is desperately trying to look after himself, as well as a beautiful race of super-humans. Who don't actually seem to need his help, but he seems to like to feel important.
It's a tough thing, when you like the setting of a story, but not the main player - our protagonist, Jimmy AKA Snowman, is kind of an insufferable asshat, and almost wholly unlovable, in my approximation. I say almost, because he loved his pet mutant rakunk and anyone who loves animals gets a point in my books, but that's it. A point. And really, that's all Jimmy gets from me. He's desperate for approval, willing to compromise his ethics, treats women badly... do I need to continue, or can you take me at my word that I really just don't like him?
As Snowman, he's somewhat changed, but not much for the better. Clearly, he's insane. He wears a bed sheet and sunglasses with one lens and sleeps in trees. He's decided to make himself a sort of demi-God or go-between or what-have-you to a new race (that might possibly be the only substantial human-like race left) and chooses to deprive himself of their company and possible services. OK, fine. You don't want to feel like a burden of a weirdo, and you don't want to take advantage of them. I can understand that. It's a totally reasonable human reaction. But since they seem to be doing just fine without him, why doesn't he go and make himself comfortable somewhere out in what seems to be THE ENTIRE ABANDONED PLANET. UGH. Maybe I'm just bitter and I daydream about the day that I'm the last person on the planet, and I can finally hole up in a Chapters and read for a hundred years until I'm a dried up sexy corpse. I just don't get why you'd deprive yourself like that. If he has such an affinity to these people, why doesn't he find a nice place nearby and visit them? Why doesn't he ask for their help in building a proper shelter? Why doesn't he do a billion things that I'm constantly asking him in my head (and sometimes out loud)? Why why WHY?
I think my problem is that I read The Year of the Flood, and was completely taken by Toby and Ren. Not only were they strong female characters from lower-middle class backgrounds that I could totally root for, and not only did they accept their hardships, move on with their lives, and try to make the best of it, they stories were set in the "pleeblands" which was basically the ghetto, and I find that setting infinitely more interesting than the fancy suburbs where Jimmy lived. I'll take fanatics, pimps, and grow-ops over... well, just about anything.
I try not to let other books or movies influence the book that I'm reading, but in this case, I just couldn't help it. Reading Oryx and Crake after reading The Year of the Flood is kind of like how I imagine watching Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark:
Followed by a viewing of the same movie, but told via correspondence through Indiana and his kindly grandfather, as they both sit in their nice houses in suburbia drinking lite beer.
But while I was somewhat turned off by the protagonist and the setting, and therefore spent a lot of time dicking around and studiously avoiding reading this book, when I did actually pick it up, I enjoyed it more so than a fair few books, because Margaret Atwood writes like a motherbitch. There's a certain flow that lets the reader just kind of zone out into the book, and I find her work an easy read; not because it's fluff (her stuff never is) but because you immediately sink in and find yourself totally enmeshed in the story. No shitty grammatical and spelling errors, no glaring continuity issues, and no garbage dialogue. She's pretty fuckin' dialed, that woman.
So it was a well written book, about an interesting subject, peopled with characters I didn't like, in a setting that bored me.
And still better than some of the bullshit I read.
Oct 3 - Oct 9, 2011
The Year of the Flood
The future has slowly but surely crept up upon us, and it is very bleak indeed. There are far fewer animals and greenspace, life has exponentially grown more regimented and desensitized, and the shit is about to hit the fan...
When I started reading this book, I was worried. VERY worried.
First off, there were two narratives. Two narratives means twice the amount of protagonists to remember, and half the time to bond with them - the risk runs high that I might just end up not giving a flying fuck about either one, unless expertly handled. Secondly, the timeline wasn't linear - we jumped back and forth from present to past all willy-nilly, like a time machine piloted by Calvin and Hobbes:
In cases such as these, there's a good possibility that I'll become confused and disoriented and, eventually, pissed off (not unlike crowds at sporting events in Vancouver *cough* Stanly Cup riots *cough*). So yeah, mighty worried on my end when I started reading The Year of the Flood.
Luckily, this is a Margaret Atwood book.
So while I initially suffered some unusually crafted book jitters, I quickly became accustomed to the style and dove in full force. And because it was slightly more complicated of a read, it felt all the more satisfying to read it.
I was invested in both protagonists: Toby, because she was so complicated; I loved that she put out the outward appearance of being a supreme hardass to the other characters, but underneath it all she was as banged up a human being as the rest of us. Ren, on the other hand, was naive and vulnerable and emotional; I could identify with her because she handled situations the same way I felt I would, and she was achingly human for all the world to see. And yet you could see a lot of Toby in Ren, and Ren in Toby. It was almost as though they were two different versions of the same character, which was really neat.
Even the beginning of the chapters, where we were given a glimpse of the indoctrination of the Gardeners, was crucial because it gave us insight into the critical shaping of these women, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. And again, because they both spent so much time with the Gardeners, it helps to draw us to their similarities as opposed to their differences.
The future that The Year of the Flood described was hardly outlandish. Gene splicing is growing by leaps and bounds as we speak, the gap between the rich and poor is becoming more and more pronounced (Gated communities and ghettos still exist) and I wouldn't be surprised if there was already a shady police force doling out justice as seen by the wealthy. Oh, that does already exist? I rest my case. This book just takes all those elements and makes them more pronounced, and adds neat futuristic elements that make the read a little more realistic, in a way. It IS the future, after all. Of course there's going to be liobams!
Did I mention there was a SeksMart? Clandestine grow-ops? Inward spiritual journeys fueled by magic mushrooms? Christ on a cracker, Margaret Atwood is a rad lady.
Honestly, I was dreading the end of this book, counting the dwindling pages and feeling kind of depressed that it was going to be over, because I liked it so much that I wanted more. Luckily, I caught many a reference to Oryx and Crake, and I do happen to have a copy of that book kicking around...