All posts tagged: Book Reviews

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

Book Review – The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Why? A harrowing subject. I believe this is a difficult novel to write for Flanagan considering that parts of it are borrowed from the experiences of his father as a POW in a Japanese labor camp. The middle of five parts details the harsh conditions that POWs had to survive while building the Burma Railway. Some parts are excruciating that I had to kick myself lest I vomit all over my book. Two scenes that got me reeling are the amputation of a limb rotting with gangrene using a kitchen saw in a makeshift operating room and the beating of an innocent POW in front of the other laborers. This beaten man later died by drowning in a pool of shit. The author writes these back-to-back events unflinchingly with no regard to the sensitivities of the reader. I like how the Japanese and Korean officers in the camps were not depicted as evil, that they, like the POWs, are merely pawns of pawns in the grand scale of the war. After the war, …

Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish

Book Review – Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. Why? The book is full of vitality. It appeals so much to the senses. You can see the graffiti in the ghettos, hear the noise of New York streets, smell the grease in Chinatowns, taste fast food burgers and pizza deliveries, and feel the sweat and sand and keloids and calluses on the characters’ skins. It’s like the lower class New York is packed within the book. The love story between Zou Lei, an illegal half-Chinese immigrant, and Skinner, a war vet suffering from PTSD, is written in a terse and engaging prose that made me keep going for long stretches of reading time. The novel traces, with such realism and unsentimentality, both the good times they have when they are drinking beer, working out, and making love, and the bad times when Zou Lei is ignored by Skinner during his bouts of depression and anxiety. It both made me smile-laugh and seethe-rage at the things that are going on, especially when Jimmy, the bad guy of the novel, intersected with the lives …

The Quiet American by Graham Greene

Book Club Book Review – The Quiet American by Graham Greene

The Quiet American is a quintessential book of the American involvement in the Vietnam War. It is seen by some as Greene’s anti-American sentiments. Americans should have known better than to get mixed with the affairs of Vietnam, and now look at what happened. That’s what it seems to be telling me, at least on the surface. But if you chip away that surface, there’s a tale of moral complexity that takes the form of a murder mystery. Alden Pyle, the eponymous American, is a well-meaning CIA agent who’s out there to put into practice the theory of his favorite political author. He keeps on preaching about York’s Third Force that will solve the problem that is Vietnam. He blindly follows this York fellow and doesn’t know that his ideologies are going to be murderous. These are going to make not only his pants and boots splattered with blood but his hands as well. He will pay for his rallying of the Third Force with his life. Which shouldn’t come as a spoiler because how else would …

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Book Review – The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Bone Clocks tells the story of Holly Sykes and it covers six decades of her life. It begins with a teenage Holly running away from her family and ends with a granny Holly trying to survive in a dystopian future where the world’s oil resource has run out. The novel is divided into six novella-length parts, the form that Mitchell is, I daresay, most comfortable with, and they represent a decade each of Holly’s life. Each part is narrated by a different character. There’s Holly herself in the first and last parts, a Cambridge undergraduate and a returning character from Black Swan Green (Mitchell’s fourth), a war journalist who may have become a war junkie, a writer who was once the Wild Child of British Letters, and another returnee from The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (Mitchell’s fifth) who is a doctor and an Horologist. What is an Horologist? It is a soul who, after its body dies, can’t help but be resurrected in another child’s nearly dying body. It’s a sort of a birthright, …

Inverted World by Christopher Priest

Book Review – Inverted World by Christopher Priest

Inverted World is a hard science fiction novel that was republished by NYRB Classics, which might be a surprise considering the impressive, and obscure, titles that the imprint carries. If you visit NYRB’s online store and click science fiction, you’d see that there are only less than ten books under this tag. This is an intriguing choice and it begs the question why Inverted World? Surely, there must be something in it. The novel opens with what I would posit as one of the most interesting opening lines: “I had reached the age of six hundred and fifty miles.” It has the tone of Ray Bradbury’s “It was a pleasure to burn.” Both immediately set the worlds that they present. In Priest’s, age is no longer measured in years. It would dawn on the reader that this makes perfect sense for a city whose survival depends on how far they have traveled away from a gravitational force that pulls and destroys everything. The citizens of the caged and walled city called Earth are unaware that their city …