Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Solaris - #37

Image sourced from here 
I have issues. I really do. It's a known thing, and when Lexx recommends books to me, one such caveat that is usually given is "there's a long description of lore/politics/history/science in the middle of the book". Now usually, those are things I get off on. As if I need to tell you guys. Mythology is my not so secret weakness. I love understanding the history of a place/event/person. Politics helps everything make sense. And science is fundamental to understanding anything. Including the three subjects above.

But what I don't like is the author taking me on 50 or 100 pages of this at once. Interweave bits and pieces in to the story, and I am yours. But I realised this style was not my thing in 1984. At least I loved the book though, so I paid attention for 80% of it. Then Lexx made me read one of his all time favourites, Magician, with a good warning that if I wasn't that into that part of 1984 (I had warned him when I passed the book over) I may encounter again. I did. I was bored.

So, when I was reading Solaris, and then I hit page after page after page of "science" of the planet and the scientific social history of the scientists, I was ready to scratch my eyes out. Which was disappointing. Because the other half (yes, HALF) of the book, which was the actual story, was fascinating. I wanted to know more about the stationed scientists, Kris, Snow and Sartorius - who I still know almost nothing about and just had to google him to find out his name.

I want to know more about the appearance of the visitors, I want to know who or what Snow's and Sartorius' visitors were, I want to know what happened after with the sea, I want to know more about Kris' and Rheya's relationship in the past.

Instead, I know more about a fictional planets formation of plasma waves that act like a geological formations than I ever, ever need to. I know the differences of some made up, dead scientist's theory against another made up, dead scientist's theory. In fact, I know the differences between many of these, both theories and people.

You know why I think it annoys me? Because I will never be able to remember all the information I will learn about this world. Trying to remember all the fascinating bits of science about the real world is hard. Remembering all the relevant bits of history to understand our world is pretty impossible. I can hardly speak one language, let alone any others. I can't remember all the facts of the wonderful and beautiful stories I have already read.

And then to spend a novel filling my head with pages and pages of "science" that was drier than my Advanced Issues of Cognitive Neurobiology textbook I have somewhere (complete snoozefest), I feel cheated!! I could use that space in my brain better. You could use that space in your novel better!!!

I gave the book 2.5 stars. Mainly as the half of the book I enjoyed, I really enjoyed. It was just let down by the other half.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Invisible Monsters

Image sourced from here
I have spent a lot time recently reading how wonderful Chuck Palahniuk is on reddit. So when I didn't have a firm i option for my alphabet, I thought I'd pick up this book that has been on my shelves for years and years. I loved Fight Club, as most people did. My housemates swear some of his other books are great. This one, not so much.

This book is about a model who has been shot in the face, parts of her rehabilitation, mainly the woman she meets in there who is going under gender reassignment surgery, her life afterwards and her life before. They are all horrible people. I really need to stop reading books about horrible people I could not stand being in a room with. There was a plot, and I couldn't really care about it. I wasn't really bothered.

Bluntly, if I wasn't stuck on a plane, I wouldn't have finished it. I should have listened to Lexx who kept on pointing out while our plane got delayed in Sydney airport, that there was a bookshop next to our gate, and this was my last chance. He is a smart boy. Or he just got annoyed listening to me swear under my breath at the book in the first airport, on the first plane, and then in the second airport. Oops.

I gave it 1.5 stars, as it was well written for what it was, and it did have a couple of Palahniuk-esq twists in it, that I didn't see coming. And I knew a lot about gender reassignment surgery for when it randomly came up on the beach in Thailand by some of our friends. Which is where the book got left too. I can let you know which hotel if you're keen.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Happiest Refugee

Image sourced from here
I read this a while ago. Nearly a month ago. I was so grumpy at my country and it's petty politics when it comes to people coming to us seeking asylum, I couldn't write a review for a while. And then in the last 6 days, my country has completely lost the fucking plot. The two major parties are trying to complete to be the cruelest to the relatively small number of people who come to Australia each year (it's small as it's a hard place to get to. We limit the numbers of refugees already just by being geographically difficult), wanting a safe place to live. And I am disgusted. Repulsed. Absolutely and utterly ashamed. Which leads me to my point. This is not going to go away for a while (in fact, since I started writing this last night, the opposition has come out with another hideous policy), as the politicians feeds us lies and twisted weasel words of mistruths to the ignorant masses. There will not be a time for the foreseeable future I will not be too angry to write this review. So here we all are.

Anh Do is an Australian comedian. I'd link a video but a lot of them are locked down to Aus. So YouTube him on your own time. I've known of him for about 10 years or so now, mainly as he was a regular for the Canberran comedy competition for a few years, would come to our local comedy club every now and then, and then he and a few other comedians from other ethnic backgrounds started touring around together doing shows on growing up in Australia as an immigrant or from an immigrant family.

This book tells his experiences of growing up in Australia as a poor, Vietnamese refugee and the ridiculous things that happened to him and his family. He also details how his family escaped Vietnam in a boat dodging communists and pirates, sometimes not very successfully.

It's eye opening. Even as someone who spends a fair amount of time reading or listening about these issues. The reality is I'm always going to experience Australia as a white, middle class, educated Australian. There are parts I will never fully understand as it's not my experience of this country. I've always known of Vinnie's stores (St Vincent de Paul, a charity/thrift/op shop). They are nothing special. But if you have only owned one pair of clothes and then you walk into a store full of clothes going for $1 each, I can appreciate that this is almost magical. But it will never be an experience I will fully get I am sure.

The book is reasonably well written. It's written like a collection of comedy sketches, with a vague chronological order throughout the book. Because of this, it's really easy to read. I knocked it out in a couple of days. But the last part of the book was a little resume-y. A little too "look at at all the awesome things I have done". Which is great. For a kid who nearly didn't make it to Aus, and turned his life into a success story, that's fantastic! But when it's "then I was on this successful tv show, and then on this famous tv show, and then this one" I was sitting there thinking, "I know mate, I can look up your IMDB profile".

It's a good book. I recommend it highly, especially if you need to experience the world outside of your own world view like me. I would love to beat our general population and politicians over the head with it, pointing out that this is how we humanely deal with and settle refugees. How refugees spend so much time working so hard trying to "earn" the opportunities they have been given by being given a safe place to live.

It's an important book. And it's hilarious.