Adventures in Reading


Fiction: Nation by Terry Pratchett

I’ve been trying to write on Terry Pratchett’s Nation for ages, so here are a handful of notes I wrote down while reading: story begins with a creation myth, looks at god superstitions, written by an atheist, some characters taught an unquestioning faith in belief, religion and/versus science.

Nation is Terry Pratchett’s most recent novel and the first in quite awhile not to occur within his fantastical Discworld series. In a bit of an alternate reality that is very similar to our own 19th Century, a tsunami strikes destroying much of the populations of this world’s equivocal South Pacific and also happens to shipwreck an English ship. The only immediate survivors are a man-child (with no soul (give me a moment on this)) MAu and a British girl going by the pseudonym Daphne.

I can think of three reasons why you would want to read this book, and the first most easily being that you love Terry Pratchett and as there is no new Discworld book this year what else are you going to read? Believe me, you won’t be disappointed!

Secondly, this is a wonderful book for young adults. Our protagonists are both at the coming-of-age period when the tsunami strikes – it’s The Lord of the Flies with much less madness and much more humor. Mau is returning home from his rite-of-passage during the disaster and his ceremony is never concluded, and thus he finds himself in limbo without his soul from childhood, but no way to enter manhood. Daphne is going to meet her father who is a member of the British Empire and one in a long queue to be the next king. Nation is interesting, thoughtful, funny, and has some brilliant speaking points: sex and gender, religion, colonization, beliefs, etc.

Three, you love atheism, hate atheism, or are interested in atheism. Pratchett, an atheist, has written a book on belief, why people believe, and perhaps even the need for some people to believe. The book concludes with a series of warnings including that the book might make you think. Unlike Pullman’s more in your face style, Pratchett is putting out the query of why do people believe and trying to present his answer.

The book concludes with Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins visiting the island. Really, what more do you need?

Conclusion: Keeper.

Other opinions: Book Addiction.



Revisted Reviews: Zombie Lover by Piers Anthony
July 28, 2008, 12:45 pm
Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I craved for a fantasy read and stumbled onto Piers Anthony (my first time reading him) and who could turn down a book titled Zombie Lover? Our 15-year-old, black wave hero Breanna takes the reader on a tour of Xanth (and other worlds) as she runs from a zombie king in a Snow White-kissed-awake tale gone wrong. Along the way she picks up many delightful characters and intrigue continues. I was a bit turned off as Anthony insists on explaining all of his puns to the reader and the end of the book was rather predictable (i.e. I mostly skimmed the last 40-pages or so). I was annoyed though at the never-ending smorgasbord of […] and bottoms and poorly done sexual quips. In addition, half of my love for fantasy tends to be the cover art and I was hugely disappointed that Breanna was depicted as a slightly tan white girl rather than the black girl she’s described as in the story. Additionally, Anthony’s commentary on race seemed very superficial and uninformed. Overall it was a fun “bad” read but one I definitely had political problems with.

What in the world was I doing with a book entitled Zombie Lover? Looking back at this, I have know idea what the “[…]” refers to. Was I annoyed at Anthony’s ellipsis usage? More likely I meant to look my annoyance up in the book before returning it to the library but promptly forgot. (Something that happens with a fairly high frequency.) After posting this review at a LiveJournal, I was informed by an Anthony fan that the author’s more recent books were not nearly as delightful as his earlier works. This gives me hope. I do find it interesting though how a reader’s personal politics affects interpretation of a book.

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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

“When we forget how close the wilderness is in the night, my grandpa said, someday it will come in and get us , for we will have forgotten how real and terrible it will be.”

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is one of many high school reading selections that I missed out on and combined with my clearing shelf challenge it was a perfect selection. Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel that provides an interesting twist away from books like A Brave New World, 1984, and We in that the main focus is the censorship of books. Guy Montag is a fireman and in this futuristic world firemen start fires and particularly fires pertaining to book burnings. Thanks to a girl living next door named Clarisse, Montag finds his beliefs challenged and his viewpoint altered.

The premise of the book is pretty interesting and it’s certainly worth a read. I can definitely see why it’s a popular high school read. It’s not quite as challenging as the previous dystopian novels I listed but it’s an engaging read with a direct correlation to the power that can be found in books. And of course the idea that you are reading a book about a world where all books are banished – it’s definitely intriguing.

I admit though I found myself with growing problems while reading the book and some of Bradbury’s comments in the afterward. This dystopian world of book bashing was supposedly started as the result of minority groups expressing frustration with literature. In the back of the book Bradbury goes into his own experience with criticisms that he should alter his books and plays to provide more roles for women or less racist representations of blacks. Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a world that is launched as a result of these expressed demands.

I found this somewhat problematic or at least naive. While indeed this is a form of censorship – though Katherine Mayo’s Mother India is indeed racist it does not mean we should burn it – it is very much a backlash from centuries of oppressing minority voices. Don’t believe me? Pick up a copy of Norton’s World Literature from the 1970s versus a more recent edition. It doesn’t mean the texts found in the earlier edition were bad, not at all, but throughout literary history there certainly has not been an equal representation of all voices.

So, I get what Bradbury is saying and I can appreciate it, but I do find it somewhat limited. It was an okay book, I can see why they assign it to high schoolers, but I’m not sure if I was really missing all that much.

And an additional review of Fahrenheit 451 from Cynical Optimism.

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