The Wasp Factory: Our destination is the same in the end, but our journey – part chosen, part determined – is different for us all.

TIL I have a pretty low tolerance for written grossness.

After the excellent The Crow Road, I picked up another one of Iain Banks’ famous works: The Wasp Factory. I didn’t know what to expect. Well, that’s a lie. I expected it to be a science fiction piece (again) and I was wrong (again).

The Wasp Factory is a first person narrative by Frank Cauldhame – a 16-year old Scot who is quite… odd. Odd is a pretty underwhelming adjective to describe Frank. That boy is fucking sick. And his world, or at least how he sees and describes it, is so dirty and strange and, well, horrifying.

Despite the grossness, I had to give props to Mr. Iain Banks for such powerful prose. The writing was splendid (for the lack of a better adjective), and his deadpan humor for both TWF and TCR has propelled him on top of my list of favorite authors ever. What an excellent writer, and my god what a sick and twisted mind!

The way he wrote and the amount of animal cruelty and grossness in The Wasp Factory made me physically ill. It also didn’t help that we had lots of meat to eat the day I finished it, which is the day after I started it. Yep, I read the darn thing for less than 24 hours. The novel was quite short but that is still a feat for my tiny brain. It was very engaging and you never quite know what to expect. I gasped many times while reading the book and there are images in it that will, sadly, be etched in my mind forever. 😦

I know it might seem like I didn’t like the book but I did. Really. There aren’t a lot of novels so far that has affected me quite as strongly as The Wasp Factory did. It’s best to not know anything about the book before and while reading it, but if you love and are as involved with the written word Iain Banks wonderfully put down as much as I was, you will definitely want to know how everything ends.

Don’t eat while reading this though. It won’t end well for you.

P.S.

I found a gem of a review from the Irish Times when The Wasp Factory was first published:

It’s a sick, sick world when the confidence and investment of an astute firm of publishers is justified by a work of unparalleled depravity.

I laughed.

The Crow Road: What did any of it matter, in the end? You lived; you died.

IMG_2543

I’m fairly sure that I wouldn’t have liked this book as much as I do if I read it at a different time in my life. In Scotland, going away the Crow Road means to die, and death has not been as potent a theme in my reading years as it is right now; and I strongly blame this dark cloud of loss and despair for how much I loved this book. I’m not saying that The Crow Road isn’t good on its own (it is!), it’s just that current mental states often deeply affect how you experience a book.

The Crow Road famously, and quite beautifully, begins:

“It was the day my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium, listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snoring in harmony to Bach’s Mass in B minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach.”

The Crow Road is my first foray into the world of Iain Banks and I didn’t expect it to be mainstream fiction (I don’t like using that term but I don’t like using “non-genre” either). I know Mr. Banks from the Culture series and I expected some straight-up SF in this book but The Crow Road is a beautifully woven masterpiece about a family in Gallanach, Scotland written mostly in Prentice McHoan’s first person point of view. Prentice is your typical male protagonist who transitions from being an irresponsible teen to fledgling adult through booze, religious debates, failing grades and sarcasm. He is very relatable.

Being The Crow Road, the book is filled to the brim with themes of death – from an unsurprising death of an old loved one, to an unexpected and quite hilarious way for an atheist to go, to unrequited love, suicide, etc etc. The book was also wrapped beautifully with a charming piece about passing away, the non-existence of an afterlife, legacies and vanity through death and many other facets of loss that made me see the many ways to experience death and the passing of loved ones in a novel, and sort of refreshing way.

I’m not very good at reviewing books (and everything, in general) but The Crow Road flows beautifully and its prose, though at times verbose, is beautiful and full of witticisms. I highly recommend it.

IMG_2540

Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov

This is my first book from the Foundation series by the prolific Asimov. I’m reading the entire collection chronologically in terms of future history and not of publication date which a lot of Asimov fanboys might frown upon (whatevs). I know I’m missing the excitement by not reading the entire trilogy first but I think I already missed it by default for being born decades after the publication date of Foundation (1951).

Reading this book first also means I’ve skipped the entire Robot series (gasp) apart from the short stories collection, I, Robot, which served as my introduction to this world. I don’t think this hampered my reading though as I was still thrilled when the Three Laws of Robotics were mentioned and I still very much enjoyed not knowing anything about Trantor and of the Galaxy and its history prior to Prelude.

I’m not a very good critic of books apart from saying this one’s awesome and that one’s not, but I’d like to sincerely share how impressive Asimov’s world-building skillz are. Mycogen and Dahl are very memorable sectors and would probably translate well into film. The fight scenes in Prelude, though sparse, were also entertaining (knife fights!) and it’s always a delight to be pleasantly surprised with twists and unexpected revelations. All in all, this one’s a great introduction to a massive series and I can’t wait to read more.

Below are some of my favorite texts which I highlighted off my Kindle copy and not from the actual book. I don’t do that. 😛

Notes and Highlights:

“I would love to, Hummin, but the desire to do so doesn’t automatically manufacture the ability to do so.” – Hari Seldon

“Can’t you try? However useless the effort may seem to you to be, have you anything better to do with your life? Have you some worthier goal? Have you a purpose that will justify you in your own eyes to some greater extent?” – Chetter Hummin

“How harmful overspecialization is. It cuts knowledge at a million points and leaves it bleeding.” – Dors Venabili

“Anything you make forbidden gains sexual attractiveness. Would you be particularly interested in women’s breasts if you lived in a society in which they were displayed at all times?” – Dors Venabili

Why, he wondered, did so many people spend their lives not trying to find answers to questions – not even thinking of questions to begin with? Was there anything more exciting in life than seeking answers?”

The recording said, “This is a view, recently constructed, of the establishment of the famous Wendome estate of the third century. The robot you see near the center was, according to tradition, named Bendar and served twenty-two years, according to the ancient records, before being replaced. – Ugh sorry. But a robot named Bendar? I CANNOT HELP MYSELF.

Amaryl said, “Saying something is ‘too bad’ is easy. You say you disapprove, which makes you a nice person, and then you can go about your own business and not be interested anymore. It’s a lot worse than ‘too bad’. It’s against everything decent and natural. We’re all of us the same, yellow-hairs and black-hairs, tall and short, Easterners, Westerners, Southerners, and Outworlders. We’re all of us, you and I and even the Emperor, descended from the people of Earth, aren’t we?” – Yugo Amaryl

“If we are always to draw back from change with the thought that the change may be for the worse, then there is no hope at all of ever escaping injustice.” – Davan

“Emotions, my dear Seldon, are a powerful engine of human action, far more powerful than human beings themselves realize, and you cannot know how much can be done with the merest touch and how reluctant I am to do it.” – Chetter Hummin

Favorite cover:

This one’s simple and beautiful. I own the book with a more classic-looking cover which is still cool but Trantor looks glorious in that one above.

On my love affair with books

IMG_6091 copy

So someone from a local forum is planning to sell his entire Sandman collection. I’m very attached to my books and I always feel sorry to hear someone selling/giving away their books not because they want to, but because they need to.

Just last month, I had an incredibly ridiculous idea to stop buying books because I did not have the space for them and the time to read them all. Then I got really depressive with life in general. It may not be just the books that led me to this deep downward spiral, but I’m sure letting go of the basic things that have made you so happy for so long will really do a lot in dampening your spirits.

I’ve been reading for pleasure voraciously again. Life still sucks but it has become so much more bearable.

Do not judge a book by its genre.

IMG_0855

I’m currently reading Batman: Knightfall, a novelization written by Dennis O’Neil about the Knightfall/Knightquest/Knightsend arcs of the comic books. I was looking for scans of the actual comic but the novel was more accessible. I expected myself to trudge along with it but surprisingly, I’m done with the Knightfall arc and if that wasn’t mind-blowing, then I don’t know what is.

There is little that is so much more heartbreaking than seeing a hero incapacitated by a madman who kills to “silence a grating voice. To darken the light in eyes that dared to look at him.” Oh wow, Bane. Batman is a hero, and breaking him both physically and emotionally is bound to break hearts.
It’s odd “reviewing” a book long before finishing it, which is basically what I’m doing right now. So many things are  going on in my mind right now for me to do anything else, so I might just get this all out and get it over with. This novel is really good. I am pretty surprised to find a novelization of a comic book to be well-written considering Star Trek novels are mostly rubbish. But yeah,don’t judge a book by its genre, or by other books that it was patterned after. Dennis O’Neil knows his shit.
If you care about goodness in the world, you’d love superheroes and you’d love Batman and you’d love this book. PM me if you want a copy lol.

Have you read anything amazing this year?

In response to Jac’s question posted in her book blog, yes, I’ve read something amazing this year. (Shame to me if I haven’t!). Mostly blogs and articles and short stories that make their way through my RSS reader but if answers to this question are limited to books, I’d say it’d be A Clockwork Orange.


A Clockwork Orange gained notoriety through its movie. Well, at least that’s how it gained notoriety for me. Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation is a cult favorite and I’ve seen it several times many and many years ago but I wasn’t particularly into it. Not that it was bad; quite the contrary even. It was fancy and detailed and ridiculously creative and fresh but meh. It just wasn’t my type. The book on the other hand…

I read the Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange for Read Hard!, an online book club I’ve been following over at Tumblr. The theme chosen for that month was dystopian fiction and A Clockwork Orange bested other classics such as Lois Lowry’s The Giver, Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World and a couple more books I can’t remember right now.

Starting the book was slow and staggering. If you must already know, Anthony Burgess employs an experiment in language for the book. A “teenage slang of the not-too-distant future” called Nadsat which to me, is a singular English bastardization of the Russian language. It was annoying at first but once you get used to it, you’ll find that it makes everything more interesting. I don’t know if it’s appropriate to refer to Nadsat as a futuristic local color (any literature majors here?), but that’s how I’d like to see because that’s how I felt it to be while reading the book. Nadsat transports you to a whole new frikkin’ world that is unfamiliar and quite frankly, a bit scary too.

Reading the book didn’t make me feel like I just discovered a gem I’d go crazy for for the rest of my life. It wasn’t like Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, or Douglas Adams’ HGTTG. It wasn’t even like Planetary or Y: The Last Man. It was just…. a book, a good one, but still just a book nonetheless. I felt like nothing has changed, and I went on to finish another book, the same way I’ve been doing for the most part of my life. The only milestone I felt was finally reading that classic.

But then, a most curious thing happened. I still quote “Oh it was gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh” all the freaking time. I use Nadsat, love moloko on my coffee, still fancy letting my glazzies viddy real horrorshow novels of vicious bitvas, ultra-violence, a parade of keeshkas and a flood of kroovy among many other veshches.

After reading the book and re-watching the movie, I started listening to classical music and learned to appreciate the rise and fall of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. The book’s most beautifully crafted lines were of the anti-hero’s description of music. I’ve rediscovered interests that I’ve been so quick to dismiss before. I also realized that while I will forever hate fearsomely strange and disgusting people, I should give them time to grow up. If you don’t get why that’s so, read the book and stick with it.

Looking back, everything about the book changed me in a major way, without me even knowing. It’s a subtle kind of mindfuck really, kind of like an alien parasite that is gnawing at your brain without you feeling it, until BOOM! You realize how deep it’s been in you and you in it. I think this is what’s referred to (scientifically) as the Sleeper Effect. Regardless of what it’s called though, I have it for A Clockwork Orange, and I don’t mind.

Tagged by new online bookbuddy. 100 Books!

Ok, here’s a game (an unoriginal one).  Below is a list of Top 100 books I got from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/.  Mark those you’ve read any way you want (I’ll color mine differently) and then tally and place your total somewhere.  Once you’re done, tag your friends and make them do this too.
1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
 
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible:
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell 
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams :: one of my favorite books ever
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll :: a fave as well
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy :: it was long. 
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
 
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis :: eh? there’s a chronicles of narnia entry too. O.O
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
 
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
 
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
 
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
 
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
 
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon 
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
 
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Alborn
 
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare :: hehe. a graphic novel version. will that do? lol
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
Total = 34 books
eeh? that’s not so bad right? lol

Books: Kurt Vonnegut

I have read four novels by him through pirated e-books but this guy deserves to be rich even in death. He’s just too good. So, I went broke for four of his books.

Yay. 🙂 I’m a happy fangirl.

Classic Kurt Vonnegut quotes:

One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us.
– Kurt Vonnegut, “Cold Turkey”, In These Times, May 10, 2004

Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.
– Kurt Vonnegut, A Man without a Country

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.
-Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

NOTE: This post is not meant to be an advertisement for lending these books. I will not lend them – not yet anyway.