Sunday, December 30, 2012

Great Reads this 2012

I'm not used to talking about books, really. Especially when they move me. I think my reviews or explanations are inadequate. My summaries are so clumsy compared to the elegant prose and plot of the actual text. I'm not good in recommending, since my taste often makes others roll their eyes. I'd like to shove books I think are awesome to others, but for now I'll content myself with just writing about them on the internet.

Alabaster: Wolves [comic] by Caitlín R. Kiernan (2012)
dancy flammarion, caitlin kiernan, comics, new, contemporary, dark, supernatural
I mostly read manga and not American comics, but I follow Kiernan's work and the first cover was great so I read it. Dancy Flammarion is a wandering monster-hunter, who may only be delusional, and fighting for (?) God. In this story, she's in an abandoned city overrun by werewolves. Her guiding angel leaves, and Dancy must rely on her wits and resources to fight creatures she encounters. She has always been travelling alone, but now has two unlikely travel companions: a talkative bird, and a ghost of a werewolf. As a review says:"Dancy’s not pretty. She’s not sweet. She’s wary and weary, determined and damaged; and she’s spent long enough fighting her way through darkness and weirdness that they’ve begun to cling around her like a lingering stench. She stares out from Greg Ruth’s covers, equal parts haunting and haunted."
werewolf, dancy flammarion, supernatural, comic strip, sample

The Drowning Girl: A Memoir by Caitlín R. Kiernan (2012)
This book has been described as "half mad artist's diary, half fairy tale". Imp is schizophrenic, and obsessed about paintings. Her memories are confusing to her, and tries to write a memoir to make sense of inexplicable events regarding a mysterious woman named Eva Canning.

Sphere by Michael Crichton (1987)
There's a spaceship. In the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Experts from different fields are brought down to investigate: a psychologist, mathematician, biologists, etc. They find a Sphere. Where, when, why, how, what, all these to answer. Some mysteries are best left as mystery. (I can't articulate how cool it is.)

The Passage by Justin Cronin (2010)
This is a different kind of post-apocalyptic vampire story. A research called Project NOAH wanted to find a cure for aging, but things go wrong and a virus turning people into "virals" spreads across America. Chaos ensues to the point where even government can't solve. Decades into the future, humans carve their own isolated communities. A girl from Project NOAH survives for a century without growing old, the research's sole successful experiment. She may hold the answer on how to save the world from the virals. This book has a lot of compelling characters, and impossible to put down once started. Highly recommended.

Song of Kali by Dan Simmons (1985)
Re-reading books gives one more perspective about the story than the first read. During first readings, I tend to go fast because of the suspense, and wanting to know what will happen next. In reading again, I focus on how the story is told, how the author achieved this effect, and I always discover something I haven't noticed before. This book gave me chills in first reading. I liked it even more the second time, and I'm looking forward to more readings. I bought it because I like Kali the goddess, the Hindu pantheon is much more interesting for me than Greek gods.

An American writer is given an assignment to Calcutta, India, to interview an Indian poet rumored to be dead years ago. Calcutta fascinates and intimidates him. The assignment doesn't seem simple anymore when said poet is rumored to be resurrected by the powers of the goddess Kali, involving complex rituals of human sacrifice by the  Kalipalika cult. This is labelled to be horror but it can be a tear-jerker, and even if how morbid it is, its also a funny book. I especially like the character Krishna (well, that will be for another post).

Here is the often-quoted introduction of the book (while searching, I found a complete copy online. Go read!):
Some places are too evil to be allowed to exist. Some cities are too wicked to be suffered. Calcutta is such a place. Before Calcutta I would have laughed at such an idea. Before Calcutta I did not believe in evil — certainly not as a force separate from the actions of men. Before Calcutta I was a fool.
          After the Romans had conquered the city of Carthage, they killed the men, sold the women and children into slavery, pulled down the great buildings, broke up the stones, burned the rubble, and salted the earth so that nothing would ever grow there again. That is not enough for Calcutta. Calcutta should be expunged.
         Before Calcutta I took part in marches against nuclear weapons. Now I dream of nuclear mushroom clouds rising above a city. I see buildings melting into lakes of glass. I see paved streets flowing like rivers of lava and real rivers boiling away in great gouts of steam. I see human figures dancing like burning insects, like obscene praying mantises sputtering and bursting against a fiery red background of total destruction.
     The city is Calcutta. The dreams are not unpleasant.
     Some places are too evil to be allowed to exist.

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