Finished: The Story of Hong Gildong (Korean Classic) translated by Minsoo Kang 5/5⭐️

I love reading folk classics. They’re simple yet so eloquent. This one was no different. There are some life lessons, some drama, some awesome supernatural elements. It even has a whole thing about filial piety and honoring your ancestors. I only saw this before in the Indian context, so it’s interesting that it’s actually a pan-Asian thing. We should resurrect this in societies where it doesn’t exist anymore.

There are one critique of this story. Largely to do with how repetitive it is. But can’t really blame the story for that. Folk stories have a way of saying the same thing in a hundred ways. After all, what happens when an awe-inspired Korean child asks Grandma, “and then what happened?” Grandma has to invent a whole new adventure for the little one to enjoy. So the story of Hong Gildong gets another chapter.

I found this repetitiveness in The Tale of Genji too, which I’ve tried to pick up twice, only to DNF it again and again. Luckily, the repetitions in thing Gildong’s story were fewer and more interesting.

Finished: Vita Nostra by the Dyachenkos

5/5⭐️

An awesome book! Dark academia, loads of twists and turns, and a page-turner to boot.

Some folks have called it the anti-Harry Potter, simply because in Harry Potter, you want to go to Hogwarts, but you do not want to go anywhere near the Institute of Special Technologies in the Vita Nostra universe. But this comparison is false. Vita Nostra is nothing like it. To get selected to study at the Institute is more about destiny than choice. That’s all I’ll say on that topic.

Also, a fair few reviewers have said that they were shocked or surprised at the ending. I don’t know why. The ending was almost foregone after the events of the book. I’m not saying it was predictable, but it was just the perfect ending. No surprises there.

Thoughts on Parisian Lives by Deidre Bair

I started listening to Parisian Lives on the third of July and only just finished it. That’s almost three full months of interrupted listening, mostly in my car. But also while doing the dishes and grocery shopping.

A couple of things struck me about this book.

Firstly, I didn’t know what I was expecting going in. I’ve never been much into reading biographies, let alone autobiographies. But due to my recent interest in feminist memoirs and the “women writing women” idea, I’ve been diving into a lot of non-fiction. It surprised me to see that this book is semi-autobiographical and semi-biographical of the two Subjects Deidre Bair wrote about in her first two biography books – Samuel Beckett and Simone De Beauvoir. It contained equal parts an examination of Deidre Bair’s own life and struggles and her writer jitters and apprehensions when meeting literary giants; and an equal part her interactions with her Subjects, their reactions, and reasons for allowing her into their lives, the doors they opened and closed for her, the way they wanted themselves to be remembered and not. So it was quite the satisfying read.

Second, I wanted to know more about the lives of these two people. They are philosophers and interesting ones. Absurdism and Feminism. Both interesting worlds. So it was a nice introduction to their lives. Something the author says struck me as the perfect reason to read a biography – her goal has always been to make it so that the reader of her biographies whets their appetite for the Subject’s work and after finishing the book, dives right into the published works of the Subject. That’s what this book did for me. Though I’m wont to meander my way through some other works before carrying on with the “original” strain of thought I was following (I’m listening to Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott now instead of digging into either of the Subjects’ works), I do see this book as an important milestone for me to dive into more philosophy and also into more “women writing women”.

Third, and this is something I noticed in Figuring by Maria Popova, I love and hate that the final chapter in such books is chock full of “homework”. No where does Deidre Bair mention so many names, so many influences and inspirations for her Subjects as she does in the Final Chapter. In Figuring too, the final chapter had me taking copious notes and marking multiple books as “to be read”.

Deidre Bair says at one point that she writes the introduction at the end of her book writing arc, because she wants to summarize why the reader should read the book. This explains so well as to why I despise reading introductions. Once I’ve picked up a book, I want to quickly get to the meat of it, not keep navel gazing upon why I should be reading it. So I skip the introduction. But the final chapter, oh I need to keep coming back to it. This is partly why I dislike audiobooks. For all their convenience, there’s no way for me to highlight passages and make good notes. Oh well. Trade offs.

Overall, loved this book. It was unexpected and yet exactly what I needed in my reading journey.

Onwards!

Finished “Rousseau and Revolution: The Story of Civilization” audiobook

For the last six months, I’ve been on a journey. A journey through time. Specifically, from 1715 to 1789 AD. This journey has chiefly focused on one man – Jean-Jacques Rousseau and one country – France, as they both hurl towards the French revolution of 1789. However, surprisingly, the journey also touched almost everything else – it covered hundreds of artists, writers, essayists, satirists, scientists, inventors, enterprises, kings, queens, books, pamphlets, lies, then-hidden truths, and ideas. It talked primarily of France, but framed its history by talking about every force outside of it, including Russia, the Turks, the many travails of Poland, and so many other factors that ultimately led to the revolution which shook the foundations of the Western World.

It also revealed to me how amazingly France participated in the formation of the United States of America, if only to spite the UK in doing so, and in the process destroyed it’s own wealth and legacy. But the silver lining shines through – that revolution led to so much democracy and pushed the ideas of the Rights of people to the fore.

France, it’s history, and consequently, this book, are not without faults. The widespread support for slavery both within and without, the absurd conflict between Catholics and Protestants, which still boggles me, the constant wars with England, are all part of the history of France. The somewhat uneven-handed remarks and accolades to everything European being the “best” and the “greatest in the world”, the unnecessary descriptions of the visages of the persons described, and the somewhat abrupt ending, with only allusions to the excesses of the revolution, are all the faults of the book.

But I cannot thank the authors enough for giving me a springboard to leap off of. I have some semblance of an idea of where to start my next reading from, even though it’ll be a while before I come back to anything regarding history. For now, I’ve got quite a lineup of audiobooks to work through, from Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary to a collection of short stories by amazing authors as Kate Chopin, Virginia Woolf, and Mary Shelley. I think I’ll stay in the fiction lane for some time, till the call of history, philosophy, and the story of our civilization rises again.

Regarding the titular man – Rousseau – well, first of all, this book taught me how to write his name! It also told me of how terrible the person was in his personal life – how cruel to his own children (none of whom he raised himself or welcomed into his home), how callous towards his long time lover and wife, how immature and suspicious of his friends. But also, how brilliant in his writing, how influential in thought, and how deeply rooted our current world is in his ideas. Apparently, he affected everything from both our major systems of early childhood education – kindergarten and montessori, to innumerable philosophers, writers (Tolstoy, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Thoreau, Kant, Schopenhauer), and the Romantic movement. He even made it fashionable to climb mountains and explore the great outdoors in Europe as well as to have gardens that look more natural than manicured perfections. In an upcoming blog post, I argue that the writings matter, not the writer. As much as I’ve come to despise the man, this is true for Rousseau – he was an influential writer and thinker, even though he was a horrible little man.

Book timeline – Jul 22nd 2022 -> Jan 24th 2023

Format – audiobook

Length – 57 hours 22 minutes

Tonight’s iPhone wallpaper is the Pale Blue Dot, where everyone ever has lived and died, mostly unnoticed by the rest of the solar system, let alone the galaxy or the universe.

Finished reading Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

shooting star on sky

One of the strangest books I’ve read in a while. Even as I was finishing it, I felt like there’s so much more the story can tell but the author knew when to close it so as to leave us with the purity and purpose of the story instead of the comprehensiveness of reality.

Excellent writing by another Japanese author I’m a fan of now.

BTW, the book is full of trigger warnings – paedophelia, child molestation, murder, cannibalism, to name a few.

Book review: Hadron #1 Dark Matter – 2/5 stars

I started reading Stephen Arseneault’s Hadron series #1, a book named “Dark Matter”. I got as a free eBook on Amazon and it’s been clogging up space in my Kindle library. So I decided to give it a try. At the time of writing, I had read a little over half of this book and there’s only one way I can describe it – frustrating.

There are a lot of reviews of this book out there that criticize it for being a ‘prepper’ book, glorifying doomsday preppers and pure redneck Americanism. But I’m OK with that. I’ve never read a novel about preppers and so this idea of a band of people surviving some sort of total system breakdown through the blatant use of guns is fresh to me. That’s one reason I started reading this book – the author makes no qualms about it in the beginning – this is not a book in and of itself. This is a prelude to all the sci-fi stuff that happens in the rest of the books. Read this book only to get context of what will happen next. Perhaps some of the same characters survive and go on to become central characters in the rest of the books?

If you think about it, any other combination of characters than the ones displayed in the book might not survive the events that happen. If they have guns but no one with a military background, or they have all that but no mechanical engineer with an agriculture degree who also brews alcohol, or have everything but no chopper flying father-son duo. Any of those missing characters and the story could turn out different. I found that to be a compelling idea. This is a somewhat Tolstoyan in vision – how can I explain what happens next, without explaining what happened before?

But that’s where I’ll end the comparisons with Tolstoy. The writing, the editing, the mollycoddling of the reader, are all a little too much on the nose. For each of those reasons, I’d like to take off one star out of the rating. Allow me to explain.

  1. The writing – There’s one rule, one simple rule of long form fiction writing. You must never break this one rule, no matter how innovative you’re trying to be, or how different you think your English to be from the English spoken around the world (i.e, even if you describe your language to be “American”, you still follow this rule) – always write in Active voice. I can’t say it more calmly. For years, I’ve written things, copy pasted them into hemingwayapp.com and had to rewrite the entire thing because I wrote it in passive voice. Now, when I paste things in, I get the gold standard of good writing – zero sentences in passive voice.
    • For a long time, I didn’t understand why this was such a problem. “Passive voice is so easy!” I would say to myself, grumbling. But now that I’ve read this book, I take it all back. Hemingwayapp is right. Passive voice is the worst thing you can inflict on your readers. Even spelling mistakes don’t hurt as much as passive voice. Most of the time, I can’t tell who in the story is performing a particular action or speaking a sentence.
    • Sentences like, “Tres was signaled” or “The neat stack of boxes was carried to the back of the trailer. ” are so frustrating and jarring that they completely throw the reader’s flow off. Till this point in my review, the only two uses of passive voice are the sentences above. It’s so stupid that the author decided to write the entire book in passive voice and that his editor let it slip, and the advanced readers let it slip, and the reviewers giving glowing reviews let it slip.
    • The author often forgets that in a conversation of a few people, a simple ‘she said’ would explain so much to the reader. This means that most of the dialogs are spoken by ghosts and the reader is left grappling for context. Sometimes, it’s obvious who said what, but compounded with the grammatical mistakes, this tends to get confusing and irritating fast!
    • At one point, I started questioning my own sanity. Had I received a bad copy of the eBook? Is this an ARC that slipped into production? Is there an update in Amazon that I can download to get an active voice, free-from-errors version? Nope. This book is in passive voice and that is torture. Why am I sitting through it? The idea is slightly novel to me and I’ve already spent my time on half the book, I aim to breeze through the rest.
  2. The editing – Was there an editor to the book? I went back and checked and couldn’t find any. I wrote an email to the author, being as polite as I could to ask if there was an editor, but ended up not sending it, because it sounded insensitive and attacking. But it’s clear that no one looked over the author’s shoulder while he hit publish. There are missing opening quotes throughout the book, so you’re never sure if it’s a dialog or narration. There are instances where the author mixes up ‘to’ and ‘too’ and forgets ‘of’ from phrases like “couple of homebodies”. There are many scenarios where actions are mixed up, so it’s unclear which character did what first.
    • These are all things that a good editor could find. Heck, even a mediocre editor could spot them and nag the author to eventually fix them. I noticed that the book is available in paper through an independent on-demand publisher on Amazon. Perhaps they could have done something to help the author out of this mess? The worst thing is that the book came out in 2015 and the author has had enough time to revise it a hundred times on Kindle, but has chosen not to.
  3. Lastly, I want to look at how author presents the book. This being the first book in the series, and perhaps the worst written one, the author has placed it on a perennial full discount. You can download it for free from Amazon and read it. That’s how I got into it. At the beginning of the book, the author explains that though it is the first book in a scifi series, it’s not a scifi story in itself, but a survival one. That’s all fine, but then the author goes into a long, two page explanation of what will happen in the book and what one should expect from it. Why? What is the point of the book if the author is going to give me the tl;dr version right at the beginning. This is not news or a buzzfeed article. I want to read the story, so why are you irritating me with an explanation of the story right before the story?
Stephen Arseneault, the author was thinking exactly this when he wrote the introduction to the novel, at the beginning of the first chapter!

All in all, it’s an irritating and frustrating book to read. I’ll still finish it though. Why? Just for the credit (on Goodreads). I’ve spent a good amount of time on the book and I’m not going away without some of the promised ending. In case I find the ending to be exciting and the cliffhanger to be intriguing, will I pick up the next book, or any other books written by Arseneault?

Not in a million years.

[Book Review][Book Notes] All Our Wrong Todays

I haven’t read a lot of time travel science fiction in my life. So I can’t judge this book in the context of other sci-fi stories. But if this is what time travel books are supposed to be like, well done Elan Mastai! You’ve blown me away and won me as a reader for all your future work!

This book starts out as a time travel science fiction novel, but so very quickly, this gorgeously funny story with a narrator who’s just as confused as we readers are, becomes a strange look at everything else time travel is about – people, their emotions, their lives and arcs and how time travel affects them. The author wraps all of the stories he writes in a wry humor that had me laughing like a maniac on the bus, with amazed people looking at this loony who still reads hardbound books and laughs at them!

There are many layers of philosophy, anti-war, pro-peace rhetoric all set within the dialogue of the story for you to discover, with absolutely zero (well, two pages total) theoretical discussion. Every thought you’ve had about time travel, every plot point you can imagine while reading the story, every joke the author could fit in well, everything is in there.

This is a great read. It took me about three weeks of on-and-off reading and the story moves at a great pace, though it does get a little convoluted in the final chapters. But there too, is a gem – the author takes the universal concepts of time travel – it happens instantly, it can be reversed if done carefully, a second version of you can observe a third version of you in the background to fulfill some convoluted narrative – and twists and turns them to suit his excellent ideas.

Best of all is that this is a story about people. The narrator is so scientifically dense that he doesn’t bother to explain much about the technology he encounters. It’s a blast to see him blunder through life not knowing how doors works! But when it comes to people, oh, this is a deep story. It shows how amazingly, brilliantly, wholly selfish people are. If you’ve ever worshiped a ‘hero’, seeing them as a singular dimension of “all that is good”, this is the read to dispel your doubts!

I cannot describe how beautiful this book is. To do that would be, to take a phrase from the book, sort of like cracking a creme brulee. Just go read it. Borrow it from me if you want!

Notes on All Our Wrong Todays

Page 60, God this is a funny book! Every few pages, I’m grabbing my sides rocking with laughter! The people on the bus look at me like I’m crazy for laughing at a paper book.

Page 62, all this guy talks about is women!!! It’s like his entire life story is about one woman to the next! Damn!

Page 62, I’ve noticed something about modern futuristic sci-fi novels – they all tend to assume that somehow Chinese folks will be marrying Mexican folk a lot and the offspring will inevitably have a Chinese first and Spanish second name, or vice versa. I suppose that flows from the two largest non-white minorities that white writers focus on.

Page 66, this and the first line of the second chapter are the only two places where the narrator’s name is used till now. In chapter 2, because there, the author tries to be cheeky and uses the third person from the narrator’s perspective and immediately hates it and reverts back to first person, which is funny! This is what is so interesting to me about first person novels. The narrator has to be extremely descriptive about things and emotions and feelings, without which the novel starts to feel dull. In third person, there’s the escape from emotions and mainly a flow based on actions is easier to create.

Page 67, the narrator talks about a global time synced system, an NTP server at scale, but talks about it being synced to the microsecond. Is this an oversight? What about the nanosecond?

Page 73, here is the typical line from a man in the wrong, “I don’t think that justifies my subsequent actions. But it explains them.”

Page 76, the book talks about pregnancy and avoiding it and once again, even though all this marvelous technological advancement surrounds the narrator, the onus of making sure pregnancy is avoided lies with the woman, with what the author calls a ‘gametic suppressant’. Brilliant oversight. Of course, it’s a plot point. It’s just part of the story and crafted in a way to put the blame squarely on the unwitting narrator, but still.

Page 82, “the liar, the genius, the ghost.” What a line! Whey a way to describe, to summarize almost all genius!

Page 151, the narrator’s description of books and reading here is repeated from before. The way the narrator describes that his mother is the only one who reads paper books is also repeated.

Page 175, oh boy. The exact words the narrator has been hoping to hear his entire life.

Page 182, this chapter feels like an ode to a bookstore owner

Page 186, what a pretty line – “This is the morning after the night before.”

Page 186, there is a certain awkwardness in Penny’s language and lines. Almost as if the author wrote the character as such and fought with the editors about it. Let’s see, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this aspect of the character is important in some way.

Page 200, excellent ending to the chapter! Wonderful last line!

Page 203, spelling mistake. Should be imminently instead of immanently. I think. What does immanent mean? The internet seems to think ‘inherent’ or ‘remaining within’. I suppose that’s right. So, not a spelling mistake. A new word for me!

Page 208, just one perfect line and I burst out laughing in a crowded bus stand on a rainy day.

Page 214, heh. “small-d depressed”

Page 215, dawn often tends to smear across the sky, doesn’t it?

Page 223, “events in…a family…Extinction-level events”
What a wonderful way of looking at ‘issues’. Indeed, some families and relationships have major events that cause deep scars. One other book I’ve read this year also had similar ‘events’ – Before the Wind by Jim Lynch.

Page 224, “I don’t believe in the truth. I’m a scientist. I believe in questions and the best answer we have right now.”
That’s great writing. Such diametrically opposite statements!

Page 249, “even the unlovable parts you hadn’t shown him yet”
This is a very strong page. Read it all, but also this part alone. It’s so poignant because everyone has this feeling that they have dark parts that no one can love and even the ones who love them may never accept them. Ever. That is true human frailty.

Page 295, “Your brain is very good at managing cognitive dissonance. Arguably, it’s your brain’s main purpose.” ?

Page 319, this is not a sci-fi story about time travel. This is a love and loss story which happens to be wrapped in some convoluted sci-fi chapters. That’s beautiful!

Page 324, “This is how you discover who someone is. Not success. Not the result. The struggle.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about people and blogging and the social aspect of the open web. This line here shows why it’s so interesting to follow people’s blogs more than anything else – their social media profiles, their newsletters, their podcasts. Blogs are where people try and fail. Blogs are where people record their silliest mistakes and worst ideas. That journey is much more worth it than the result – a working product, or a service, or a life well lived.

Page 325, “That’s all success feels like. It’s not triumphant. It’s not glorious. It’s just a relief. You finally stopped failing.”
Beautiful words!

Page 357, “Its tough to get worked up about what might have been when all you know is what already is.”

Page 367, “It was like our collective imagination stopped revising the idea of what civilization could be, fixed a definitive model in place, and set to work making it happen.”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – why do we have corruption, why do people know morals but don’t follow morals. After all, stagnation in politics and ethics is another kind of immorality. I think the author sums it up very nicely – when there is a fixed idea of what the world is supposed to be like, there can only be a sort of catching up to it. People don’t work to improve what they have or what they’re aiming for. They just want to get there and then hold on, without wondering whether the goal post has or should be moved.
This paragraph and this chapter is about the ideology the book is based on, or at least, a part of it. And it works well – it points out an inherent flaw in our thinking – when we accuse ideologues of misdirection and corruption, we don’t understand that even those who believe they are on a progressive path are in fact ideologues who are leading the world to a fixed point. Perhaps we need to check all our thought leaders and make sure they are constantly revising the end goal they are striving towards instead of limiting their vision to something lesser.

[Book Notes][Book Review] The Devourers

I started this book about a month ago. I was skeptical. It’s a first book, it’s by some unknown author, it’s set in India but not quite. There were many other reasons too, all of which fell away, shattered, burnt, and then stomped upon by this glorious, marvelous, alien, absurd, beautiful novel.

If I wanted to sensationalize this novel, I would say four words to you – “Cannibalistic European Werewolves in Calcutta!”

But this novel doesn’t need that (besides, that statement above is completely wrong). This story is wild and beautiful and violent and gory. It deifies murder and condemns humans. It questions some social mores and reinforces others. This novel is a fictional history and a tight ropewalk across time. This story is not in control of the narrator and sometimes, not even in control of the author. It flows, like all the blood that it spills, sometimes visibly and sometimes invisibly.

This story needs no sensationalization because it is already, inherently sensational. It goes to those dark places you do not want to go and which the writer did not know his own mind went. And it. is. blashphemous. Oh, it is blasphemous. It is ugly in its blasphemy and yet somehow pure and organic. This book should be burned in squares and read in colleges. This book should be debated and revered. This book should be shredded and yet should survive generations, to show a future civilization, that this too, was something a contemporary thought of.

Or, perhaps, it should not. The violence is without obligation. The rating should be nothing less than “for people who will not puke at every page”. This book should be read by everyone yet no one. There are passages I could not go through with a sane mind, which begs the question – what of the author? Well, I can only say that the author is a genius of another level. He is so vivid in the descriptions yet somehow, there’s always a fog over the entire story, perhaps because that is how we read our history – with a dim view of what must have happened. It is almost unbelievable that this story exists, that too from an Indian mind.

When I was, over the last month, in thrall of the story, I met with a friend and went into a reverie about the book. At some point, she looked me straight in the eye and woke me up from my stupor by asking me that one dreaded question that has destroyed many a career before making them – “tell me how it ends”. The implication is clear. I’ve read way too many first-time novels which were wonderful pieces of literature till they were not. A weak ending, an odd plot point, a stubborn author not willing to let editors do their job. There are many examples of such books which sat in my memory as I pondered over this question. Every time I read the book since that day, I was ever afraid of her question and what the answer would be. Would it be as terrible as I’d come to think it could? There certainly was a strain on the story. It reached a climax too late. It piled on too much towards the end. It tried to tie up too many loose ends.

But my prayers were answered. The novel walks that middle path quite well. It is a wholly original story (the irony of using that phrase, which itself is not wholly original!) and it elevates folklore to a new level. This. This is what Indian authors are capable of, if only they return to their own roots and take ownership of their stories.

Do not ask me if you should read this story. Ask yourself – are you ready to be jolted out of your seat and into the ugliness of this world that the writer so casually flips through, as if it were part of our real history? Human history is not free of bloodshed and meaningless violence, but I’ve never come across an example where it is just laid out, so simply, so absurdly, so purely, while still making it clear – this is fiction. Then why, oh why, is it so bloodcurdling?

There is a phrase in the book that aptly describes the story – “in revulsion and glory”. The story is deeply homosexual. True to its form, both scenes of utmost violence and of deep passion are vivid and colorful and this may very well not be for everyone.

Notes

Page 8, last para, it should be “the moonlight diffuses”

Page 52, last line, “I relieved” seems oddly worded.

Page 57, this is such a beautifully written book. It elevated even the most gruesome, the most banal, the most ugly. There’s a line here that says “her faced gemmed with flies.” That is not a phrase that I believe I’ve read anywhere, ever.

Page 152,

A leash, I didn’t say. “Thank you,” I said.

By Jove this book has such colorful language! The way it starts and stops, the way it leads the reader through the thought processes of the characters. The way it surprises and shocks the reader at the same time as it does so to the characters. Indra Das is truly a magnificent writer who will come up with many great stories in his lifetime!

Page 155, oh beautiful blasphemy.

Page 165, what the heck do onions rotting in honey smell like? This book confuses my senses more than anything I’ve ever read!

Page 177, what is the River of Paradise, a canal that flowed through Chandni chowk?

Page 190,

“little more than monkeys that forgot how to swing from the trees.”

Seattle has a lot of Christian missionaries who stand on the streets, smiling, trying to convince you that their religion is the best. If these people irritate you, simply get a printout of the cover of this book, with this paragraph on the flip side and hand it to them whenever they disturb you.

Page 199, this is a great book to wake up to. It jolts you. It burns through whatever sleep you had and whips you into thinking, ‘this also exists in the world?!’

Page 201, one of the things that always amazes me about great writers is how they can describe, in apparent detail and vivid imagery, things that have not happened (at least to me). Things such as death, unconsciousness, and being in a stuffed stupor. How amazingly the author describes one such event, making it so amazingly clear how it would happen. The more I think about it, the more this is my favorite para in this entire amazing book.

Page 204, there’s a line on this page, “all else was fled”. When I googled that phrase, it showed up exactly 3 times in old books. That shows the level of original thought by this author!

Page 235, “a glittering human scab on the water”, ugh, so beautiful! So ghastly!

Page 250, should this be “infinite moment” or “infinitesimal moment”?

Page 283, comedy appears in the strangest of places in this book!

Page 287,

“Lightning cracks the edge of the world, rewriting the vanishing sunlight.”

Note to the author – I hate you, dear author, for you have ruined me for a great many books now. The deep color you have shown me, the way you have wrenched my eyes open to this absurd world of yours, how will I come out of it? How will I dive headfirst into lighter novels? How will I read funny stories without feeling that they are all monochrome?

Update – But I have already moved on! I have picked up All our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai and it is a riot of a book! I am cracking up in the bus like I’ve not in a while! A perfect follow up to this gruesome novel. The Devourers will visit me over time, but for now, I’m gladly sated at how it ended and what wonderful visions it showed to me.

Photo by Internet Archive Book Images

A quick review of Dan Brown’s Origin

This is a typical Robert Langdon book, where the hero is the most well-connected, smartest-in-the-room, teacher-of-genius, yet-dumbest-when-it-comes-to-technology larger-than-life persona in the book, for whom women ache and doors open and helicopters fly at will. It was improved by the other two characters in the book, who, frankly, were in ways more important than Langdon himself.

Brown’s final explanation, that beautifully crafted, extremely vivid crux of the novel, which we read his books for, outdid itself this time. It was elegant, very well researched, and perhaps so coherent that Brown may well be a messiah of the times to come!

There was an expected thing that happens towards the end – the betrayal of technology – which you begin to expect almost as soon as you read about the technologies involved in this novel. Yet, in the cold light of the morning, I realize that while Brown had to make it trope-y, he managed to squeeze in an element of elegance there. The betrayal is typical of all science fiction, yet somehow away from it, as it resides in the world of Robert Langdon, and it is done and discovered in Langdon-style. The character’s response to it is also surprisingly Luddite.

All in all, it’s a good read. There were a point or two where it could have been tightened, where obvious spoilers could have been skipped to maintain the suspense. But those side-suspenses don’t matter. The main suspense was enough to whet our Dan Brown appetites!

Photo by quadralectics