Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Dirty Streets of Heaven Review


Why is it that fantasy books like this, about the war between heaven and hell, always take a left turn and wind you up in some very existential territory? You would think it would all be cut and dried: demons are like orcs and its morally, emotionally, and socially ok to genocide them with extreme prejudice and not feel one iota of guilt, remorse or angst for doing so. But characters in the story cannot help but ask why? Why is it all set up like this? Why do we do this? Who or what really are we fighting for? What really are the rules? What really are the options?

Bobby Dollar is vividly brought to "life." This guy is so dark, he's jaded with the afterlife. He's sick of heaven and its golden city beauracracy. He's sick of hell and its sleazy horrors. He's sick of a world that is at endless war where there seems no end in sight, no resolution, no reasons for its existence other than those guys are bad, and we are good.

Bobby is going to ask some very dangerous questions and the people with halos are going to be extremely pissed off. The people with the horns aren't going to be all that happy either. I loved the fact that this guy is such a troublemaker that he gets on everyone's bad side: a vicious duke of hell hates him as much as the winged seraphs of heaven.

Like in the real world, when someone asks who benefits from this war, a hush falls across polite company like an untimely fart."Its just, you know, the way it is." Not good enough for Bobby who is sick of just taking orders. He takes a walk on the wild side, lands in some dangerous company with the queen of all bad girls, has a primeval horror chase him through the streets of LA dead set on eating his liver for dinner, and learns more than he wants to.

The characterizations are the book's main selling point. A complete set of side characters with their own arcs and motivations. The worldbuilding impressed me as well. Backstories abound about the eternal conflict and the author's inventiveness kept me hooked.

If Raymond Chandler wrote Paradise Lost, it might have looked like this.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Review of The King's Blood by Daniel Abraham


I suppose novel readers can be sometimes compared to heavily invested and knowledgeable sports fans. When a team they have been following for years suddenly changes tactics, say goes from a strong running game to a strong passing game, heads wag, talking heads analyze The savvy sports fan though sees farther and thinks through what the coach's goal, if he has any, is and makes analyses that encompass not only the seemingly minor changes but how the new dynamic affect the whole outlook and season in various subtle ways.

So too the constant novel reader sometimes comes across a formula that turns out to not be formulaic at all, a seemingly common type or setup is suddenly revealed to be subtle and different, the product of a conscious choice, not a random gimmick, and something which reveals a fundamental change in tactics for the novel, the characters and the series. Something that is, to continue with the sports analogy, a game changer.

In the epic fantasy series the types and tropes are well established. The hero, the villain, the saving of the kingdom, the threat of annihilation by an invading force have all been done and redone and remixed. All these are well established, as are their opposites. The anti cliché fantasy novels with the grimdark or satiric bite: A Song of Ice and Fire, The First Law Trilogy and stand alones that follow, the K.J. Parker Engineer trilogy and others. These novels deliberately skewer the accepted tropes with a bitter realism and worldliness.

But The King's Blood, the second installment in The Dagger and the Coin series, is doing something that seems to me to be a game changer. When I reviewed the first book in the series I spoke with admiration and appreciation , and still stick by my opinion. I made the statement that the characters, the situations and the setting, with bankers and outdated royalty with their eroding sense of honor, all made the book feel as though Balzac had written a fantasy novel. I still believe the comparison fits. The series is very much concerned with the problems of an outdated royalty and an emerging unfettered banking system. In the first book I was shocked by the mash up of money and fantasy. Im still captivated by what he is doing with it in this book.

What is changing the game in the series are the characters. There is a depth here that I am struck into silence by. Geder's portrayal, his initial uncomfortableness with being in the public, his awkwardness, his geekiness, his being thrust into 'greatness,' his thoughts, what he holds dear, and what he hopes for are all shown with a depth of understanding for the character himself. You are inside his motivation, inside his anxieties, inside his hopes. All of which are even more fascinating since you cannot help but wonder if what you are being shown is the development of a bloody tyrant and dictator who will kill hundreds of thousands in the name of security.

So too with Cithrin, the banker. An unusually sharp orphan with a talent for finance, she has progressed from pulling off her swindles in the beginning to working on larger acquisitions and holdings for the future. But here too, you wonder if what you are being shown is not so much a hero's development, as the development of a cold hearted calculating CEO type who cares only, in the end, about money.

Dawson, the noble from the beginning book, is still loyal to the throne. But here is shown to become even more bloody minded in the name of patriotism. He will risk the stability of the kingdom for what he believes is right.
Captain Marcus is the swaggering sergeant with a tragic past. He is perhaps the book's moral center but there are also subtle questions of his motivations. Does he really love Cithrin? Or is it a fatherly protection love? He ends up finding employment for the bank kicking people out of their homes and without giving too much away he is good at his job.

Clara, Dawson's wife is one of the most moving characters in the book. How she keeps the family together, the things she does, the losses she accrues and the effect they have on her is some of the most poignant writing I've ever read, not just in a fantasy series but ever. I found myself moved to a deep empathy when reading of her coming down in the world.

What makes this series a game changer for me is not just that these characters are all in a morally grey area, but that they are beng moved into this area completely conscious of what they are doing. I see this as a bit of a game changer for the fantasy novel because the characters are neither high minded nor are they fools either. They do not have the world weary cynicism of a Tyrion Lannister, or the despair of their own redemption of a Logan Ninefingers.

The game changing aspect of this is that this is something new in fantasy, at least to my experience of reading fantasy. He is working with familiar tropes and types and not writing anti fantasy as much as doing something different. And the something different in these books is the level of character building. There are subtleties here and they are deep. To portray a monstrosity in the making of a Geder takes great skill and ability.

What's rare for me in a fantasy novel series is to read one right after another but I immediately picked up The Tyrant's Law(book 3). Generally I need a break from the characters and the world and need to read something else. But I am intrigued to learn what is going to happen to these characters.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Review of Something Fierce, by Carmen Aguirre

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This was a difficult book to read. The style, the writing, the tone, the pace all were well done. The odd mix of the combination of a young girl's coming of age(complete with "boy crazy" nice clothes and music) matched with a revolutionary education and revolutionary parents(revolutionary, not activist, this book was clear on the difference) were intriguing, insightful and moving.


But the difficulty for me arose from the heartbreaking conditions the people of south america were subjected to back in the seventies and eighties. Aguirre deftly moves between a young girls eye opening experiences with poverty, injustice, state oppression, racism and the real price of neoliberalism. She does not turn her eyes away from what she sees. And what she sees is described unflinchingly: student protesters burned alive in the streets, the survivors of torture camps with twisted nails and limps, dragging their bodies to the local market, Indian senior citizens made to be "mules" carrying luggage weighing hundreds of pounds on their backs and laughed and jeered at in the streets.
And Aguirre writes of what she sees not through the lens of some political dogmatism, or some abstract plan to change the political structure, she writes of the outrage she feels as a human being, and then takes action as a result. She acts out of the need for change. Her revolutionary spirit, her ideas, her observations, her plans, she does not hide from what she sees as wrong. She refuses to look away, to pretend its something other than what it is. And the books strength rests with that.


In a strange sense this book reminded me a lot of Homage to Catalonia. Lionel Trilling wrote in his introduction to that book that Orwell was not a genius but a writer who accomplished a lot just by keeping his eyes open. I don't entirely agree with his definition, and there are parts of Aguirre's book that are genius, but the statement about keeping his eyes open applies very much to Aguirre.


While others in her set are getting stoned at parties and hanging out in malls Aguirre and her family are organizing, housing the fugitives and dissidents, working constantly through subversion and activism to make their world better. She looks around her and refuses to believe that things "have to be this way."


She is hardworking, diligent, intelligent, and inspired. But there comes a point in the book where she breaks down. Where the "terror," as she refers to her frightening experiences of being searched and mentally tortured, overtakes her still. These scenes are brutal, and painful, and made me squirm. But also, in an extended sense, made me understand that things such as this happen.


The end of the book was sudden, and won't spoil it. I do hope she writes a sequel about her life as an actor and writer of plays, and her work in the theater. Though she may have stopped being undercover, running goods and documents for the revolutionaries over mountain paths, her life is intriguing and I hope there is more to come of what happened after.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Review of The Tiger by John Vaillant



I really loved this book. I know this may not be politically correct but I have loved hunting stories since I first read Peter Hathaway Capstick's Death in the Long Grass. That book was full of ripping yarns told in a workmanlike style. This book though was more of a social document. The story of a part of Russia devastated by the end of communism, the impoverished and struggling populations who live in cobbled together homes, drive beater cars but literally need to hunt to survive; the alcoholism,the despair, the book shows each gritty uncomfortable detail. And alongside this story of the collapse of an entire nation's economy and morale are these people who live in such close proximity to the taiga. They have a strange symbiotic, mystical relation to the forest. The author is at pains to show this is not merely the product of superstition and lack of education. Quite the contrary. He shows a community that is actually eco aware in a way we westerners are not.


The most intriguing character is the tiger itself. The book chronicles its quest for revenge against a human who raided one of its kills, and its need to reestablish balance in the forest: "One does not take from the taiga without giving back." The images of fierce and tough Russian hunters, and the tiger who eerily stalks them, won't soon leave your mind. The author is an accomplished journalist and he knows well how to leave images that stick. The tiger, after having found its prey, literally squats on the porch outside the peasant's door and waits for him to emerge. They play a waiting game. This 500 plus pound killing machine not just hunts a human, but does so to reesatablish a balance.



This is a tight and thrilling narrative, but you wont forget the poor and impoverished peasants. The Russian game wardens who have to navigate hunting licenses, illegal weapons, starving people, poachers, and attempts on their own lives as well as the dangers of wolves, bears and of course tigers, are a new model of toughness for me. Their history, especially since the collapse of the soviet union, is moving and strange.

My favorite story is the forest and game official who raised a wild wolf in his Vladivostok high rise apartment. The neighbors knew but no one dared say anything and official couldn't bear to leave the animal to die. An example of the kind of circus post perestroika Russia has become.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Occupy



Might just be our generation's version of the Communist Manifesto. A spectre is haunting America...its called equality. Seems we've forgotten what it means.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Review of The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson



A thousand page novel needs a lot to keep a reader going. Sanderson delivers with this story. Mostly what hooked me and kept me reading were the world building and the characterizations. A unique setting for a fantasy novel that at first feels gimmicky but later reveals itself to be a product of the deep world building the author pours into his story.
The characterizations were among the best Ive read in any genre. Kaladin is a rare specimen in a fantasy novel: a character who comes close to true despair, and his agonizing climb back into life is detailed step by painful step. He emerges as a Spartacus figure, but also a human being trying to rectify the mistakes of his past.
Shallan, the female protagonist, starts out as a girl trying to save a family, and devoted to absolute deviousness to accomplish that. However, her arc of going from narrow minded adolescent to a true student is fascinating as well.
And the final revelations, after 900 pages or so, were well worth the effort to get there. I can only remember a few times of absolute take your head off, holy shit I did not see that coming, wow that changes everything, moments in fantasy novels over the years. Robert Jordan's The Shadow Rising was one such reading experience(you're going to make the Aiel do WHAT?).
Some things he excels at: battle and fight scenes. The duels are well done but more impressive are the battle scenes. He captures that feeling of being in the middle of the shit and the only way out is to fight. You can smell the leather and feel the bite of the steel. When he introduces fantastical figures with enhanced weapons they blend seamlessly into the narrative and the action.
Looking forward to the next installment.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Profit Over People Review



Reading Chomsky is informative, eye opening, and disturbing. Few writers challenge what you think you know better than he. And yet despite the insights, the analysis, the disturbing revelations (that are really a matter of public record and whose sources he quotes exhaustively), what comes through is his optimism and belief in the power of collective groups to work to the benefit of all. Noam Chomsky is brilliant, insightful, a first class mind, destined to be studied for generations, but he is also first and foremost a good human being, who refuses to lose his humanity, or his faith in human beings.

I understand the inherant danger of idolizing an author. They are human beings and as such probably well stocked with foibles, quirks and nasty humours as the rest of humanity. When tempted to idolize an author too much I remind myself that even the great writers and thinkers treated the people around them in ways they would sooner have us all forget. Faulkner used to cruelly remind his daughter that no one remembered Shakespeare's daughter. Count Tolstoy, my own personal hero, used to say horrible things to his wife daily. Even George Eliot, that most compassionate of human beings, probably said something like the following to her life partner George Henry Lewes "You know George, you can really be an asshole sometimes." So age and experience have taught me to be wary of idolizing any single member of our species. But with Chomsky, despite the probabilities that he might be difficult to live with and be around, most true intellectuals are, what moves me is his faith in people.

His optimism is not naive, it is not faith based, it does not even feel rational at times. But it is there, as real and palpable as his tireless efforts to discover the truth. His writings do several things but they do one thing well: make you question the way you think the world works. In this sense he has become a mental and cultural role model. He sees our current apathy and defeatism as ENGINEERED. It is put in place by our media, our corporate dominated systems to make us feel and think as if we cannot act in any way other than to be fearful and our only act of free will consists in consumerism. He lays bare the sources for this influence and as such reminds the reader that sometimes, those things you suspect in your bones of being true, that growing up is not really synonymous with being cynical, or that wanting to help the rest of humanity is not naive but truly human, and in so doing allows you to become the better human being you hoped to be. Or at least to learn how to think like one.

The arguments here reveal the agendas of corporations who seek transnational trade agreements, but attempt to do so behind closed doors, between heads of state and heads of corporations, without the consent or knowledge of the constituents they supposedly represent. The truly disturbing aspect of the book is the collusion between the two groups to effectively rule out the opinion of the masses, whose lives are affected by the deals brokered in glass towers. Chomsky warns we must be wary of those in the business world and in government who claim to act in our best interest without wanting to inform us of how are lives are to be affected by the deals brokered there.

Monday, March 4, 2013

What to read next...



Below is an email I wrote for a friend who has finished all the Song of Ice and Fire books and wants something to "read in the meantime." She was never a reader of fantasy and is now fascinated by the genre and its possiblities.

Hey C...,

Here is the list I promised you. If its too long and wordy…oh well. Don't ask me to speak on a subject I love so much.


A good place to start is the first law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie: The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, and The Last Argument of Kings. Since you seem to like the darker aspects of the Martin books: the violence, the backstabbings, betrayals, affairs etc. you should really dig these. On his blog Abercrombie writes that in his teens and twenties he had been a devourer of fantasy but then grew out of them. That changed in 1996 when he picked up A Game of Thrones. Fantasy, he wrote, could do some very adult things.


After the Trilogy you can read Best Served Cold, The Heroes, and Red Country. These are all stand alones but set in the same fantasy world. He gets better with each book. I think of these the strongest was probably The Heroes but read em for yourself and decide.


He writes on the blog that one of the highlights of his career as a writer was when Martin himself wrote positive reviews of his books. Abercrombie is seen, at least in England, as the natural successor to Martin.


Once you get through them the next place to turn would be The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. Book 1: The Name of the Wind, and Book 2: The Wise Man's Fear. (Book 3 is unpublished and he's still working on it: tentatively titled The Doors of Stone). These are my current favorites in the fantasy genre and are a storyteller's feast. His books are intelligent, literate, action packed but very subtle as well. They have nasty scenes like the murder of a boy's parents in front of his eyes but also some powerful poetry and some of the best world building I've ever encountered. Whereas Martin's characters tend to be a little outrageous in their behavior Rothfuss's are more subtle and more deadly. Kvothe, the protagonist goes against type in the books by being literally one of the most intelligent characters ever created. He's like a red haired tyrion who also happens to be a musician. Not exactly your usual sword swinging protagonist.


After this my next favorite and a real charmer of a series is The Gentleman Bastard Sequence by Scott Lynch. The first book is The Lies of Locke Lamora and the second is Red Seas Under Red Skies. If people describe Game of Thrones as the Sopranos with swords then this series is best described as Ocean's Eleven with Swords. It follows the adventures and screw ups and heists and general con man Locke Lamora who is Camoor's best thief and his crew. What surprises about this series is the way it starts out as a bit light hearted (the opening chapter is titled "The Boy Who Stole Too Much") and it gets dark. Like the parts of Game of Thrones where the series gets into the old gods and melisandre and you realize you in a deep and dangerous place in human consciousness, he throws into the mix of organized crime all these mythic religious overtones. This series is probably going to some day be made into movie or tv show. Its that good.


Speaking of the HBO brand: the network signed a contract to make a series based on Neil Gaiman's American Gods which is the best work of fantasy in the world(IMH). Its what is known as urban fantasy, by which I mean there are magical elements such a magic and gods old and new battling. But the character of Shadow and what happens to him is a real page turner. I've actually seen this book in a collection of american literature.


Speaking of Urban Fantasy: a good series to read is The Magicans by Lev Grossman. It’s the one I described to you as "What would really happen if teenagers were given magical powers.."


After that it might be good to get some female perspective: There are several women writers who have a good reputation, but I've only read two of them. The first is Robin Hobb and a good place to start with her books is Assassin's Apprentice. Her books have adult themes like adultery and illegitimate births but for me were a little too formulaic. Its as though she knew she were writing a specific style of book that had certain expectations from readers. Even though the books didn't blow me away I still enjoyed them.


The other female I've read is K.J.Parker. She is bitingly sarcastic and you sometimes get the sense she hates her characters. But these books are brilliant in their analysis of human behavior and the ways we delude ourselves. Her characters fall in love and destroy everything in their lives as a result. But she is also charming. Reading her you will have a wry smile on your face the entire time.


Another female who by reputation is among the best is Jaquiline Carey. Her book Kushiel's Dart is the beginning of a long and complicated fantasy with adult themes that a lot of reader praise. Some day I'll get around to them.


But back to the dudes: Martin himself once wrote that one of the inspirations for A Song of Ice and Fire came from a series by the American writer Tad Williams called Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. There are four books: The Dragonbone Chair(notice any resemblences?), Stone of Farewell, and To Green Angel Tower which is split into two books parts 1 and 2. Williams takes fantasy and does some adult things with it at a time when it was not allowed. It was reading these betrayals and adulteries and dark characters(among which you will see the inspiration for Jaimie, as well as Cersei, and Varus) that Martin realized he could "get away" with the things he wanted to do.


Ive read these but it was more out of curiosity to see what ideas if any Martin stole. I don’t think he really took too much except the idea that fantasy could be much more relevent and speak to people's sense of the world.


After that you can check out the novels of Guy Gavriel Kay: Tigana, Sailing to Sarantium, Lord of Emporers, The Lions of Al-Rassan, A Song for Arbonne, Last Light of the Sun, and Under Heaven. He writes fantasy novels that are more like a historical novel but very poetic.


There are more but hopefully by this time GRRM will have finished The Winds of Winter.


Peace and Enjoy,

Carm

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Best of 2012

I thought about making this a long, detailed list with categories and subcategories but then realized it would be far too tedious to read as well as artificial. I don’t think in terms of best YA novel, best Drama TV series, or best nonfiction history. I tend to think in ways like what story is most engaging, what essays and arguments are the most thought provoking, what arc went to new places in characterization, and as always, what piece of writing, in whatever medium, impressed me with its invention.

To make this simpler I'm going to focus on the top three things of this year: 3 in text, 3 not in text. 3 things I read, and 3 things I watched or played.

So though it is a bit late in the year for lists of this sort here goes:

Top 3 Books:


#3 The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch. For several reasons: 1) Crime has never been so much fun. 2) A fantasy novel that isn't trying to save the world is a relief. 3) The book sucker punch's you with its astute and contemporary social commentary. Locke is, as I've written before, a twisty little bastard, but the ingeniousness of the plot, the effective characterizations, and the structure of the novel all combine to make it not only a page turner but thought provoking. If fantasy is escapism this is escapism that leads you right back to real world problems. And the dialogue cracks with great, endlessly quotable lines: "And that's why I paid for you my boy, though you lack the good sense the gods gave a carrot. You lie like a floor tapestry. You're more crooked than an acrobat's spine."


#2 Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution, by Derrick Jensen. A book on the teaching of writing by one of the most radical writers ever. Derrick Jensen states flatly "Some days I wake up and don't know whether to write or blow up a dam." His cardinal rule is don't bore the reader and after I read the above sentence you definitely had my attention sir. A long meditation on the collective social programming that we call education, but also a true searching for what constitutes freeing the inner writer, without all the new age bullshit. He describes his experiences as an instructor both on college campuses and in state prisons, as well as his formative experiences in school where he learned to hate formal education.

Despite sometimes disagreeing with his eco-political stance I was often moved and challenged by the book. And most importantly his advice on writing ranks among the best I've ever read. "There are a hundred people inside each of us who can write. There's the bitter old man, and the lonely old woman. The happy old woman or man tired but satisfied with life. The ecstatic young man, the gleeful little girl, the angry woman. They all have strong opinions…Unfortunately, the only who can't write is the one we wear on our faces all the time. The polite one. The bland one. The one who wants approval. The on who wants a grade. The one who hedges every strong opinion, every strong impulse. That one can't write worth a damn."


#1 Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain. Everything that is wrong with American Culture, everything you suspect is true about the people who decide who belongs in America and who doesn't, it is all terribly and hilariously revealed in this spiritual successor to Catch 22. The novel details and lists all the flaws and foibles of American politics, but also becomes a moving vision of one soldier's trajectory of loss. Probably the closest thing to a true American Tragedy we have as a culture. Lines like this are meant to echo "No matter their age or station in life, Billy can't help but regard his fellow Americans as children. They are bold and proud and certain in the way of clever children blessed with too much self-esteem, and no amount of lecturing will enlighten them as to the state of pure sin toward which war inclines."

Top 3 Non Books:


#3 Hell on Wheels, Season 2. If you think America is in trouble now, wait til you see how bad life was back in the day. Racism, corruption, labor exploitation, all the things that made America great. Brilliantly acted. Beautifully shot.


#2 The Walking Dead, Season 2. Reasserted it horror roots. I still cannot get my mind around how this stuff is all allowed on TV. The arcs of each individual character were meticulously explored, and painfully delineated. Every time I turned the show on the presence of death and menace and danger was palpable. Yeah I know it’s a TV show but it feels like our national pastime. It reflects something deep about us, but that's a blog post for another day.


#1 The Corporation, directed by Mark Achbar, featuring Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Howard Zinn, Michael Moore, and many others. It was released in 2004 from a book of the same title. This film made me angrier, and more outraged, than anything I have seen in the past 5 years. It step by step takes as its starting premise the idea that a corporation is a person in the eyes of the law, due to a famous supreme court case in the 1890s where a corporation was legally ruled to be a person. The film then takes what traits best describe the multi national corporation as a person. It lists each and explores through interviews and back ground footage with voice over narration why the personality trait fits the corporation in a way that shows its sociopathic personality. For example, lack of concern for the well being of others. The film then shows through insider and outsider interviews as well as court cases and matters of public record some examples of the way corporations routinely place profit over human interests. It continues to do this for an impressive list. Watch this. It will change the way you think about the real powers in Washington.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Homage to Catalonia Review


The book really feels like two books. The first section where he talks about the initial phases of the war, the confusion, the midnight attacks where no one has any idea where the enemy is, or the trenches and positions that are on mountainsides way beyond range of any rifle yet where the "combatants" still shoot at each other, seems Monty Python esque. Orwell is honest in the opening portraits of how no one really had any order, structure or discipline and no one really knew what they were doing. The political ideals that led men there to fight are not forgotten, but how one actually fights a war where there are no hierarchies is detailed. Surprisingly he makes it clear that an army composed of socialists and anarchists becomes a tight fighting unit after the initial phases because of the willingness of the men to be there, and not to have been forced to fight for political ideals they don't understand.

Then about midway through the book gets deadly. Orwell describes in detail the brutality of the mechanized war: charging machine gun nests, capturing enemy positions and being unable to hold them, chasing an enemy soldier through the trenches and in one brief existential flash wondering how he came to be doing this, and the dreadful confusion of a battle where no one is sure who is winning.

He puts the reader in the mix with details a novelist would notice: running across open ground and under enemy fire his reflex is to shield his face with his hand. He knows his hand wont stop a high caliber bullet but he has a terrible fear of getting wounded there.

When he is wounded he describes the experience unforgettably: the sense of detatchment, the numbness, the fear of death rushing in on him,and the pain that arrives after the shock wears off.

Later, when he is recovering in hospital he describes in detail the propaganda campaigns that discredit opposing political parties. This is all the more poignant because the division occurs with the troops fighting on the same side: the socialists, the communists, the anarchists are all allies against the fascists yet the communists conduct smear campaigns and regularly arrest people who they suspect of being "trotskyist." Orwell writes about the arrests, the imprisonments, the executions, and disappearances of men he served with all because of differing political ideals, and he does so with a clarity rare in light of todays corporate owned political machine.

And yet what comes across is not "the folly of politics." Rather it is the need for politics to be deadly serious because of the dangers of excess in the name of a political ideal. For Orwell the political lies and propaganda do as much damage as a grenade in a market square. What really intrigued me about the book was how it contrasted with the narratives of political wars we see today. Rather than lose his sense of purpose Orwell seems to quite deliberately remain strong in his convictions. He fought for a political goal and he is proud of it. He does not abandon his politics because his side lost.

In the end I found that the most remarkable, and praiseworthy part of the book

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Mayans had it wrong.

The world is actually going to end. Unfortunately, it was subject to a far more powerful force than a cosmic calendar: a publishing schedule.

I can't freaking wait.

How many books have a 20+ year waiting period? How many books could we still care about after so many years?