The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

The Monstrumologist (The Monstrumologist, #1)

…for only a madman believes what every child knows to be true: There are monsters that lie in wait under our beds.

Let me start by saying that if you’re easily disgusted this is not the book for you. At all. There’s some serious gore going on here guys and my stomach doesn’t turn itself easily (I’m studying to be a biologist, so really, that would be a bad thing), so believe when I say this. There’s lots of blood and Yancey describes death with careful precision, perhaps even too much precision. Kind of like this:

As he spoke, the doctor tapped thin strips of flesh from the forceps into the metal tray, dark and stringy, like half-cured jerky, a piece of white material clinging to one of two of the strands, and I realized he wasn’t peeling off pieces of the monsters flesh: The flesh belonged to the face and neck of the girl.

And it gets worse as it goes. This sounded like an early teen’s book (or even children’s lit) when I picked it up, but since it’s so gory and disgusting I’m not exactly sure. That being said I can now get on with the review.

The Monstrumologist takes place at the late 1800s and is the written account of Will Henry’s time as a monstrumologist’s assistant, a man called Pellinore Warthrop. This is the first installment in the series and it covers Will’s first three ‘journals’, in which he and the Dr. Warthrop encounter a headless monster, Anthropophagus, living in their hometown’s cemetery and feeding off the corpses buried there. But Anthropophagus normally feed on living flesh and soon corpses won’t be good enough for them.

I really liked this book, despite the kind of meh reviews I’ve seen on Goodreads, and can’t wait to read the other two books in the series. I thought it was cleaver, with a nicely woven plot. I’m happy with the character development (though it’s not really a character driven book, I think) and thoroughly enjoyed the action scenes (bloody as they were). I also loved the illustrations it has on every other page, all medical tools of some sort drawn on the edges of the pages, like scissor and needles and things. It gave the book an even creepier feel.

I liked Will, I felt like he was very mature for his age (which is 12 by the way), since he had to basically take care of himself and help the doctor with his work. We get the clear message that he doesn’t like it, but he doesn’t go around whining about it or feeling sorry for himself. He was just a quiet little boy with a strange mentor.

He turned the severity of his countenance fully upon me, startling me from my semi-stupor, for suddenly I existed again. I was dead; I was reborn. I was forgotten, and in the blink of an eye – his eye – the world remembered me.

Warthrop, though, is an entirely different story. I didn’t care for him through most of the book, I just wanted to shake him and point out that Will Henry was right there if he’d just care to look, thank you very much. I like that we get to see why he’s relationship with Will is the way it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay.

I did not think the doctor was a monster that hunted monsters, but I was about to meet a man who did – and was.

My favorite character was probably the worst of the lot, so I can’t really complain about Warthrop. John Kearns (or whatever his name actually is) is cunning, cold and a murderer. He doesn’t care for any one’s life (not even his own) and will do anything to achieve his goals. He called people out on their hypocrisy and twisted morals a lot. I really wished we could see some of his past, because it must have been gruesome. And the plot twist in the end? Brilliant, Mr. Yancey. I hope he’ll show up in the other books (though I was cursing him through half of this one).

“We are very much like them: indiscriminate killers, ruled by drives little acknowledged and less understood, mindlessly territorial and murderously jealous – the only significant difference being that they have yet to master our expertise in hypocrisy, the gift of our superior intellect that enables us to slaughter one another in droves, more often than not under the auspices of an approving god!”

The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy

Image

“There are two czars in Russia,” pronounced one liberal spokesman, “and the other is Tolstoy.”

That’s what Doris Lessing wrote in her introduction to The Kreutzer Sonata. She also says that the people expected him to “take a stand” on all subjects and so he did, writing about love, marriage, lust and betrayal. This is one strange book, full of contradictions and not at all like what I expected of Tolstoy, or what I heard of Anna Karenina and War and Peace. Lessing said that Tolstoy became a fanatic and this book proves it.

The Kreutzer Sonata is about a man, called Pozdnyshev, who in a fit of jealousy murders his wife. The story starts with the narrator, Pozdnyshev and some other people in a train. Somehow they start discussing divorces and how such things didn’t exist before, when Pozdnyshev tells them he killed his wife for cheating on him and proceeds to tell his tale to the narrator. It’s quite a short story even if you add the sequel to The Kreutzer Sonata which Tolstoy wrote some time later.

To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. I mean, in a fictional sense I liked Pozdnyshev tale and his attempt to explain his madness, but until then I was not taking his view on things as Tolstoy’s own or very seriously. Then came the sequel. Why, Tolstoy? Why did you write that sequel? Because, as you said, people did not seem to understand what exactly was your view on marriage, divorce and betrayal? Well, of course they didn’t! Pozdnyshev’s outlook on life was so bleak that we’re not sure what he means half the time.

“…If the aim of mankind is happiness, goodness, love – if you prefer; if the aim of mankind is what is said in the prophecies, that all men are to unite in universal love, that the spears are to be beaten into pruning hooks and the like, then what stands in the way of the attainment of the aim? Human passions do! Of all passions, the most powerful and vicious and obstinate is sexual, carnal love; and so, if passions are annihilated and with them the most powerful – carnal love – then the prophecy will be fulfilled.”

What? There is something terribly wrong with someone who says sex is evil. Also, this is apparently a new development with Tolstoy (thankfully), because according to Lessing none of this was present in his other books. And so my enjoyment of this book was hindered by the fact that by this point in his life Tolstoy did believe in this sex free life = happiness for all world thing and was quite aware of how impossible it was.

Don’t even get me started on the “women hate sex” and “sex is a vice of men” thing, because I’m not completely sure where he got that from (his wife can’t represent all the women in the world, please). I could quote half the book and put a question mark at the end of each, yes, but then there are some that, taken by themselves and out of context, are quite good and more like what I expected from his hype. Like this one:

It cannot be necessary to destroy some people, body and soul, for the health of others, any more than in can be necessary for some people to drink the blood of others in order to be healthy.

Edward Cullen would certainly agree with the end of the sentence, though I’m sure Count Dracula would be seriously disappointed in you Tolstoy. Still, the first part is quite true and can be taken as anti-slavery and anti some sort of greedy capitalism that only takes and never gives back. So by digging and disregarding some things we can get some truly great ideas out of this book. But that’s not enough to make me give it more than one star on Goodreads. Sorry Tolstoy, I hope your other books are better.

Last, but not least, let me leave you with this little gem (except not):

It is bad to use means to prevent the birth of children, both because so doing frees people from the cares and troubles caused by children, which should serve to redeem sexual love, and also because it comes very near to what is most revolting to our conscience – murder.

Tolstoy would be seriously disappointed in today’s society. Also: that description of what a night at Tolstoy’s house was probably like? Creepy as hell, no wonder his wife didn’t like sex.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

ImageI finished reading Shadow and Bone about a week ago and might be a little fuzzy on the details, but I needed to let this story rest for a while before I could talk about it. I absolutely devoured this book, I read it in basically one sitting and on the same night I bought it I was already looking for the next one. That’s not to say it was perfect, but I’ll definitively pick up the next one.

“It’s such an honor to finally meet the Sun Summoner.”

Shadow and Bone is about an orphan called Alina Starkov who, together with her best friend Mal, is a soldier at the First Army. While crossing what is known as the Shadow Fold, a dark and impenetrable place with creatures that eat human flesh, she unknowingly saves everyone by displaying Grisha abilities. Soon she’s swept away into this glamorous and mysterious world that is the Grisha world or, how they are also called, the Second Army. But this elite magical people hide many secrets and Alina has to deal with them all, including her dangerous attraction to their leader: the Darkling.

Let me start by saying that what first drew me to it was the cover, all that black and red and gray that becomes white; I just had to pick it up. But this book also has an impressive world building, and that it was always shown rather than told. It definitively gets points for that. I really liked the contrast between everyone else and the Grisha: we get to see the First Army (a more traditional army) which is disciplined and not at all luxurious and then the Grisha, who live on a palace beside the King’s and wear fine fabrics.

The hair rose on my arms. I had the same feeling I’d had as we were crossing the canal, the sense of crossing the boundary between two worlds.

I can’t say too much about the Darkling because that way lays some major spoilers, but while I never liked him much personality wise I have to admit I wavered between wanting him to be good and wanting him to be bad. Court life didn’t interest me very much, I preferred to hear about the army and fights, but there was some important plot development going on there that kept me reading.

One of the things I loved about this book was the names. Everything has beautiful Russian-like names and that’s one of my favorite languages. It gave Ravka, Alina’s fictional homeland, a foreign feel to me. Made everything more magical, since it’s not a language I hear much here in Brazil. Another was the different point of view she gave the prologue and the epilogue, going from first person to third, it set the ethereal feel of the whole book that much higher.

“Goed morgen, fentomen!” a deckhand shouts to them as he passes by, his arms full of rope.

All the ship’s crew call them fentomen. It is the Kerch word for ghosts.

That’s pretty much it from what I remember. One of the problems of letting a story steam too long is that I end up forgetting some of the details I wanted to talk about, but I think I covered most of what caught my attention.

Mini Review: Holes by Louis Sachar

I’m so sorry that I’ve let this blog gather dust, but it’s been crazy at uni and no book seemed to catch my attention. But here is my promised review of Holes (and yes, I know, it’s actually a mini review, but still). I also seem to be back on the reading track and will soon have some other reviews to post. Thanks for not giving up on me?

ImageHoles tells the story of Stanley Yelnats, a boy who is always at the wrong place at the wrong time. Stanley is convicted for a crime he did not commit, and when given a choice between jail and Camp Green Lake he took what seemed like the lesser of two evils. But digging holes every day is no holiday and soon he’ll discover that they may not be digging simply to ‘build character’.

“Well, let me tell you something, Caveman. You are here on account of one person. If it wasn’t for that person, you wouldn’t be here digging holes in the hot sun. You know who that person is?”

“My no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.”

When I picked this up I thought it would be a funny book about an unlucky boy. And it is funny, I spend the whole book being amused at what was going on. Like when Stanley would finally have some luck in his life and be granted a day off digging, he had to give his finding to X-Ray. Plus the whole great-great-grandfather thing, of course.

And the parallels, don’t even get me started on the parallels. The thumb, the onions, K. B., Stanley and Zero’s friendship, and even the Warren. They all coincided nicely with the flashbacks, connecting everything together. One thing I didn’t like was that I tended to forget Stanley didn’t know the same things I knew, which made me want to shout at him sometimes until I realized he had no way of knowing. So the flashbacks were a bit confusing.

I think Zero was my favourite character. He’s called dumb, nobody, nothing and a bunch of other demeaning things during the book, when in reality he was the complete opposite. So it might or might not have been really satisfactory when he hit Mom in the face with a shovel. And kept saying he loved digging holes when he actually hated it.

I’ll definitively check out the movie now. I mean, Sigourney Weaver and Shia LaBeouf? It has to be good.

His legs were sore from remaining rigid for so long. Standing still was more strenuous than walking. He slowly allowed himself to lean against the side of the hole.

The lizards didn’t seem to mind.

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

penumbraMr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a story narrated by Clay Jannon, an unemployed web-designer desperately needing a job. To keep himself focused in actually finding one, he prints out ads and goes out to walk around San Francisco while reading them. On one of this walks he stumbles upon a small bookstore and before he knew it he was Penumbra’s new night clerk.

The floor of the bookstore is far below me, the surface of a planet I’ve left behind.

At first glance this seems like a book for book lovers, but if you bother to read it you’ll realize that it’s about so much more. It’s about human curiosity, the human need to always know what comes next, what came before and how it all connects together to form history, which is actually someone’s description of life so far. It’s really hard to talk about all the things I loved in this book without giving anything away, so I’ll try my best to keep to the spoiler free zones.

Our friendship is a nebula.

First: the characters. This book had all the nerds in it, the computer nerd (many of those, in many different areas), the book nerd, the history nerd, the art nerd and a bunch of others I can’t remember now. Which is brilliant, they’re my kind of crowd after all. But there are also some lost people – people who don’t know what to do with their lives and try to tag along with others in hopes of finding out. If they do or not depends on how important you think Griffo Gerritszoon’s final message is.

The Unbroken Spine. It sounds like a band of assassins, not a bunch of book lovers.

Second: the plot. This is a very intricate plot and Clay’s not really in the know for half of the book (maybe more) so we figure out what he figures out. And solving the mystery beforehand is kind of impossible (and cheating, right Clay?), at least I didn’t guess. Well, I did guess a couple of things, but others just flew over my head. Although I have to admit, because I want to be completely honest here, that the reason this is not a five star book for me is that there were some parts that had me yawning, especially in the first part. The pace really picked up by the second part though, so hang in there people.

Books used to be pretty high-tech, back in the day. Not anymore.

Third: books. Because despite that gloomy quote this is a book about books. About the meaning of them and that in the end no matter how evolved our technology gets there are certain kinds of knowledge that only come from living human lives (they might also be cyborg or android or alien lives, but you get my point). Why else would there be bookstore in the title if this wasn’t going to involve some amazing books?

Penumbra says, and produces another e-reader – it’s a Nook. Then another one, a Sony. Another one, marked KOBO. Really? Who has a Kobo?

Fourth: I resent that Robin Sloan (or Clay, but whatever, he didn’t write the book). I own a Kobo and I’m proud of it. I actually read this e-book in it, so yes, people do have Kobos. And I realize this is not one of the reasons I loved the book, but it needed to be said.

Your life must be an open city, with all sorts of ways to wander in.

And Finally: Thanks Aldrag the Wyrm-Father. And Moffat (not Steven, no).

The Poe Project (1)

the-poe-project

Two Tales…

The Unparalleled Adventures of One Hans Pfaal

This was written in 1835 and intended by Poe to be a hoax. It tells the story of Hans Pfaal, who, to escape his creditors, builds a balloon and with it flies to the moon. The story starts with the people of Rotterdam watching while a weird balloon descends from the sky. The man upon it hands (or rather throws) a letter to the burgomaster (the mayor) Mynheer Superbus Von Underduk, which describes Hans Pfaal’s adventures in the moon. Well, not really in the moon, but of how he got there in the first place.

I had no idea what this tale was about when I started it, so it’s quite by accident that I chose a story so alike The First Men in the Moon. Although, it’s a lot less accurate. I’m not sure if it’s because it was written so long before or because Poe really did intend it to be a hoax. It also wasn’t exactly what I expected, considering I tend to expect gruesome tales of death by Poe. The most it did was leave me uncomfortable while he described the physical symptoms Hans Pfaal suffered when he reached the outer parts of our atmosphere.

I began to find great difficulty in drawing my breath. My head, too, was excessively painful; and, having felt for some time a moisture about my cheeks, I at length discovered it to be blood, which was oozing quite fast from the drums of my ears. My eyes, also, gave me great uneasiness. Upon passing a hand over them they seemed to have protruded in no inconsiderable degree; and all objects in the car, and even the balloon itself, appeared distorted to my vision.

I don’t think this will ever be one of my favorite of Poe’s tales, but I liked the fantastical nature of it, especially considering we now know very well that a journey like that is impossible. I’m not sure if H. G. Wells ever read this or Jules Verne (with his From the Earth to the Moon novel), but Poe most certainly wrote it first.

The Gold-Bug

This tale was written about 1842 and tells the story of Mr. William Legrand, who after losing all his family’s money moves from New Orleans to an island in South Carolina. During the story the narrator, a nameless person, and Legrand’s valet, Jupiter, join him in his mad quest. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but let’s just say he wasn’t so crazy after all.

The Gold-Bug is shorter than The Unparalleled Adventures of One Hans Pfaal and has a faster pace. It’s also more ‘Poe-ish’ than the other, although I’m starting to wonder if I haven’t been stereotyping Poe’s stories. They can’t all be horror and murder, right? Every writer walks through more than one genre I suppose. But still, it wasn’t the gruesome tale I keep expecting to see.

It’s more of a little adventure tale, about fluctuating luck and perseverance, even when no one believes you. And that following your instincts might reward you in the end. I may be making it sound profound, but it’s not really a layered story: there was a mystery and an intelligent man to solve it. With his sidekicks, of course, no sane adventurer leaves home without them.

Also, it’s one of those weird stories that start with a strange bug. In this case a gold one.

“Curse your stupidity! do you know your right hand from your left?”

and a poem by Edgar Allan Poe

Tamerlane

My Poe poem this month is Tamerlane, which is about a man who is corrupted by his ambition to rule the world. Or at least that’s what I got from it. I’m terrible with poems: I love them, but I never read them. So I’m very rusty at the whole interpreting poems thing and Poe isn’t exactly transparent. From what I can gather, Tamer is telling his story to his father, who sounds dead to me but who knows.

You call it hope – that fire of fire!
it is but agony of desire

Tamer describes to his father his greed in conquering all of earth and his love for a woman who he makes his queen. He talks about a storm, a fight between Heaven and Hell. Then in the end, when Death comes for him, he wonders about this never-ending ambition of his and what it did to him. I liked this poem, I thought it had beautiful images of love and sin. I won’t cast judgment on Poe’s style yet (be it good or bad), since this is my second poem by him (the first being The Raven). We shall wait and see.

We grew in age – and love – together –
Roaming the forest, and the wild;
My breast her shield in wintry weather –
And when the friendly sunshine smil’d
And she would mark the opening skies
I saw no Heaven – but in her eyes.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

ImageThere’s been a mad hype around this book (and the sequel) and it sounds like the kind of thing I’d love, I mean: fairytale retellings, aliens, cyborgs and a charming prince (or is it prince charming? I don’t know). Before I properly go into the review zone I apologize for the lack of quotes in this, it’s because I didn’t mark any. Which doesn’t mean it didn’t have some great ones, it’s just that after every single line I was already jumping to the next, I needed to know what happened. And now I have.

Cinder is about, well, Cinder. She’s a cyborg (which means she has mechanical parts inserted into her body, like prosthesis) and in the society she lives in that’s bad. Cyborgs aren’t considered human anymore, even though they are, and there’s a lot of prejudice against them. That’s one of the reasons her step mother hates her. So her only friends are her little sister, Peony, and an android called Iko. Cinder is a very well-known mechanic, but she’s surprised when Prince Kai comes to her to fix his android. That was the first of many events that turned her life upside down, twisting everything she thought she knew.

This is a very hard book to summarize, there’s just so much going on and it goes at a break-neck speed. I was honestly heeling at one point. And it was so good, I mean it’s not suddenly my favorite book of all time, but it’s worth the read. It absolutely is. Go pick it up RIGHT NOW. There’s just something magical about seeing those characters you’ve grown up with in a different way: Cinderella and her step family, the Prince and the fairy godmother (though I’m not entirely sure who that’s supposed to be, but I have a hunch).

In the topic of characters, I hated Cinder’s step mother, hated her. She was just plain mean; there was no excuse for what she did. None of it. I’m sure I’d have hated the bad sister too, Pearl, if she’d had a more active role in the story, because from what we can see of her she’s just like her mother. There was no pity in her and no empathy of any kind. I saw no redeemable qualities in her.

I really liked Cinder, she was a strong girl even after everything her step mother put her through. But we could still see the pain in her, the brokenness, just around the corner. And since the story is from her perspective we have a much better understanding of her than any other character. We get this unfair balance through her eyes and it only makes everything much more real.

There are also some chapters where we see things from Prince Kai’s perspective, but they aren’t many. Which is good, because I don’t really like those books that keep switching perspective’s every chapter. But we see enough of him to know his interest in the welfare of his country.

Now, the aliens. They are called Lunars and they used to be humans from an old moon colony, but have long since evolved into something very different. Lunars have what is called Glamour, or magic by some people, and with it they can make people see whatever they want them to see. Their queen, Levana, uses it to make herself beautiful and will do everything in her power to marry Prince Kai.

I’m starting Scarlet right after I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, but I’m kind of scared. What if it doesn’t live up to my very high expectations of it? Waiting for the third book is going to be horrible. So, has anyone read Cinder? What about Scarlet? Wouldn’t a movie of this book be amazing?

Tchau!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

ImageThere is an on-going trend with me and books: I mean to read them, but never get around to it. The Great Gatsby is one of those books, those famous classics that I’ve been meaning to read ever since I was old enough to want to. When I saw the trailer in the cinema I knew I had to read it before the movie came out, so I finally have.

For those who don’t know, The Great Gatsby is mainly about five people: Nick Carraway, Tom Buchanan, Daisy Buchanan, Jordan Backer (but not really) and (obviously) Jay Gatsby. When Nick comes to New York to work he ends up living next to Mr. Gatsby’s huge mansion, who is a mystery for all who attend his famous parties. Since this is an easy story to spoil I’ll stop here. Suffice to say Nick gets involved with Gatsby’s glamorous and strange life.

Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water, and the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans.

There is a great hype about this novel (see what I did there?), and I’m not completely sure it lives up to it. I liked it and thought there could be no better ending, but there were some things I could have done without. Like Daisy. To me she was a weak woman who wasn’t happy with her life, but when the chance came to change it she backed away. I honestly can’t sympathize with her much. I do pity her a bit though, but to me her problems are rich people’s problems and I find that rather hard to move me. Especially what she did in the end, I don’t think there’s any excuse for that.

I feel more or less the same about her husband, Tom. Except that in the end he didn’t really know what he was doing and ended up blaming an innocent man. Those are spoilers, so I’m not going into that, but if anyone has read it then come talk to me about it. But Nick (or F. Scott Fitzgerald, actually) rather describes both of the Buchanan’s really well here:

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…

I think I liked Nick the most, with his honest outlook on life and his honorable intentions and his loyal character. He was someone who didn’t belong in that abundant life, and so through him we see how deplorable some of these rich people are. He’s also quite funny at times and I think he’s the best narrator F. Scott Fitzgerald could have chosen between the available characters, like here:

To a certain temperament the situation might have seemed intriguing — my own instinct was to telephone immediately for the police.

I don’t have much of an opinion on Jordan Backer, except that she was integral to the story in her own way. Gatsby though, I have a lot of feelings about him. During most of the book it was curiosity and a sort of awe, then a kind of disappointment with who he actually turned out to be and finally pity. Lots and lots of pity. He was a man in love with an idea, and that kind of love is not meant to last. Gatsby lived on hope alone and he was lost when it was gone. And to complete these passages about characters, here’s one on him:

“The poor son-of-a-bitch,” he said.

I also loved F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing, he painted such a complete and thorough picture that there was almost no need to imagine it. The glittering parties, the drunken people and the overflowing abundance reeked from every word. I think that was my favorite part.

People disappeared, reappeared, made plans to go somewhere, and then lost each other, searched for each other, found each other a few feet away.

So these are my thoughts on The Great Gatsby. If you’ve read it too what do you think of it? If not, do you plan on seeing the movie anyway?

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

ImageI have been meaning to read this book for a long time, but I’ve always been afraid of tragic stories, of sad stories. And this was a sad story and so, so much more. I fell in love with this book, now it’s definitively one of my favorite books of all time. If you haven’t read it yet: go pick it up right NOW.

The Book Thief is the story about a girl who steals books in Nazi Germany, Liesel Meminger. Since her mother can’t afford to take care of her, and after the death of her brother, she is adopted by Hans and Rosa Hubermann and goes to live in Molching with them. There she steals books from Nazi book-burnings, from the mayor’s wife and hides a Jew in her basement. She learns that Hitler was wrong about the world and makes Death an old friend.

Liesel stood in the mayor’s library with greed in her fingers and book titles at her lips.

There are just no words to describe the beauty of this book. It’s so good I tried to hold off finishing it by reading slower than I usually do, and I’ve never done that before. Of course, I sobbed during it. Of course, I had to stop reading because I couldn’t make out the words through my tears. But it was worth it. It was so worth it. I’m so sad it’s over.

I’m going to try to write some of my thoughts on this book, so bear with me if this doesn’t make much sense.

To me, this is a book about what it means to be human. That even the most unpleasant of people can get hurt. But that the good people are the ones that suffer the most. And it’s about reality; it’s about what these people went through during the war: the uncertainty of living and the death of good people.

The world is an ugly stew, she thought.
It’s so ugly I can’t stand it.

The Book Thief shows us that there are bad people everywhere, that they can be of every age and gender. Like Viktor Chemmel. Like Franz Deutscher. Like Adolf Hitler. People who think they are better than everyone else for many reasons. None of them are right.

It’s about suffering without sugarcoating it, but it’s also about happiness and the beauty of small things. Like a snowman in a basement, a book in a river and a really big cloud. About the power of words and how much they affect us. Be it good or bad. And the loss, like many other things in wars, of the innocence of youth.

As she watched all of this, Liesel was certain that these were the poorest souls alive. That’s what she wrote about them. Their gaunt faces were stretched with torture. Hunger ate at them as they continued forward, some of them watching the ground to avoid the people on the side of the road. Some looked appealingly at those who had come observe their humiliation, this prelude to their deaths. Others pleaded for someone, anyone, step forward and catch them in their arms.
No one did.

Obviously, this post could not be complete without talking about the narrator. Markus Zusak is a genius, really. I think this is the best narrator I have even seen, because, like he himself admits, he knows us at our best and our worst. It’s Death itself, of course. Seeing the war through his eyes was brilliant. Not that the war was good, just that we got to see the tattered souls of the Jews and the terrified souls of the soldiers. And understand: nothing is worth so much suffering and murder.

I have hated the words and
I have loved them,
and I hope I have made them right.

The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells

ImageBeing a fan of sci-fi I knew I had to read some of Wells’ works, as they are considered science fiction classics. I wasn’t sure what to expect of his books, but since I find space travel and alien life really interesting I decided to start with this one. Now I can say I’ll, without a doubt, read more H. G. Wells.

We peered out upon the landscape of the moon.

The First Men in the Moon is Bedford’s account of his and Cavor’s adventures in the moon, how they began and how they ended. Cavor is more or less a mad scientist, who accidentally creates what he calls Cavorite, a gravity-defying substance, which he intends to use to build a spaceship. In comes the bankrupt and materialistic Bedford, who sees this as his chance of making a lot of money. These two completely opposite men reach the moon to find the Selenites, a genetically engeneered race living in an endless system of cavers inside the moon.

If you think this book might not be for you just because you’re not sci-fi fan: you’re wrong. This book is more than just space travel; it’s about how humans react when faced with the unknown, how we sometimes find normal things in other cultures horrifying. And how they, in turn, are equally horrified when hearing about us. In the end we still share this common characteristic: the instinct to protect our community from outside intervention.

The world outside the sphere, I knew, would be cold and inhospitable enough to me – for weeks I had been living on subsidies from Cavor – but after all would it be as cold as the infinite zero, as inhospitable as empty space?

I really liked this book. The way it poses both scientific and philosophical questions makes it less science heavy read than Jurassic Park (which, surprisingly, had less moral questions than this one). There weren’t many overly long explanations about Cavorite or the technicality of space travel, mostly because we were seeing things from Bedford’s perspective and he doesn’t know anything about that. The book is much more about how this first contact with a culture so different from ours could go.

By looking at this other beings that we cannot identify and that cannot identify us, we are able to study ourselves and how our society works. Are we better than this genetically manipulated moon-people? Are they morally superior in their lack of choice? These are questions we can’t answer without being at least a bit biased by our humanity. Also, who are we to judge them?

But it wasn’t all serious, no; it had its hilarious moments. Like when Cavor and Bedford, who are hiding from the Selenites and looking for their lost ship (which they call sphere), are so hungry they can’t help but eat this weird fungus thing (even against Cavor better judgment). Turns out the fungus is poisonous and has a sort of drunken effect on them. Their conversation at that time was so funny; they were speaking of completely different things to each other and not even realizing. There were some other parts, but since they’re spoilery I’m not going to talk about them.

That wretched-looking hand-tentacle sticking out of its jar seemed to have a sort of limp appeal for lost possibilities; it haunts me still, although of course, it is really in the end a far more humane proceeding than our earthly method of leaving children to grow into human beings, and then making machines of them.