Adventures in Reading


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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