Novel Reactions: Radicalized

Wow, never has science fiction felt so real to me. Cory Doctorow’s Radicalized is a collection of four stories—all “what if?” scenarios people have probably thought to themselves at some point:

  • What if we take the internet of things too far?
  • What if our favorite superhero clashes with our justice system?
  • What if regular people finally crack?
  • What if the world goes into turmoil?

Of course, all of the stories stretch things (a little) too far, but, to be fair, they’re not too far from what we can imagine. All of the themes are current and familiar, and the social commentary is spot on: if these situations actually happened today, the stories in Radicalize portray potential reactions pretty well. How unfortunate.

The stories are longer than the typical short story, but each one can still be read in one sitting. I limited myself to one story each time I picked up this book because …well, it is a little chilling. Also, Cory Doctorow wrote the characters so well that, even if I didn’t love them, I understood them. Society can be crazy sometimes.

Radicalized is a very timely and worthwhile read, and I have super glad I picked it up at the bookstore. I would definitely recommend this to anyone, even to my friends who don’t really venture into sci-fi.

Novel Reactions: The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories

When I was in high school, my best friend lent me her copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which I absolutely loved. I enjoyed the story, the writing, and the footnotes (!!!). I never quite found or read another book that I had enjoyed in the same way.

Fast forward to (approximately) ten years later: I found an e-book copy of The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories and borrowed it from the library. Initially, I had only planned to read one story for my Short Bites segment (see entry here), but I enjoyed the first story so much that I decided to read on. And then I decided to finish the collection, reading a story every now and then.

There are eight stories in the collection. While I liked all of them, my favorites are the first (“The Ladies of Grace Adieu”) and the last (“John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner”) stories.

The writing style is similar to that of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which shouldn’t be surprising as the short stories are set in the same world. The writing reminded me of reading the classics (the stories are set in 19th century England): the vibe is formal, the humor is not as forward, and the words are spelled differently than they are today. Given these, I feel the stories require more patience from the reader.

The stories read like fairy tales, and not all of the stories include characters from the book. The collection is a nice companion to the novel (but Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is one heck of a read with ~900 pages, so no pressure to read the book), and it talks about other forms of magic that weren’t really covered in the novel.

It’s a charming escape from reality.

HP TGR 2: Deathly Hallows

This is the final installment to Harry Potter: The Grand Reunion and to Harry Potter: The Grand Reunion (Part 2).

Fittingly, I have just moved out of my apartment and have commenced my couch-surfing life. (My friends are letting me stay in their living rooms during my last week in San Francisco and they set me up with a Harry Potter themed airbed. They are amazing.) Leading up to the final steps of my move, I read Book 7 as fast as I could and successfully included it in the box that I was sending home. Phew.

Book 7 has a lot of things going on: the search for horcruxes; the legend of the Deathly Hallows; the mystery that is Albus Dumbledore; the truth about Severus Snape; the Battle of Hogwarts; and so on. What stood out to me were the expressions of familial love throughout the book. I think these moments were quite important, as it was this love that ultimately brought down Voldemort.

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HP TGR 2: Half-Blood Prince

This is the sixth installment to Harry Potter: The Grand Reunion (or the second to Harry Potter: The Grand Reunion (Part 2).

Another ginormous book (but thinner than Book 5, which almost makes this book look quite thin), Book 6 was yet another great travel companion, which I took with me to coffee shops in San Francisco and Palo Alto. I actually breezed through this book—except when I took a break when I was 3/4 through because I didn’t want to relive the experience of reading about Dumbledore’s death, which I have never really recovered from.

Given that the Half-Blood Prince is a Slytherin, this (post) is a tribute to my Hogwarts house, Slytherin. I am not going to make excuses for the evil deeds of The Dark Lord here—nothing can ever justify his actions—however, I am going to talk about Slytherin-istic characteristics that I was not able to fully appreciate when I first read the series (and this book in high school) but that I do now.

There is a common misconception that all Slytherins are evil, especially because Voldemort came from this house. It also doesn’t help that Slytherins are snobby and tend to stick to their own. Whatever. Not everyone in the house is a blood-thirsty evil person, but people in this house are not known to be brave either. (Slytherin wasn’t known for his courage as Gryffindor was anyway.)

So I bring to light some Slytherins and their strengths. While not all of them are good, not all of them are entirely evil either. May we all appropriately appreciate the characteristics that makes one a Slytherin.

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HP TGR 2: Order of the Phoenix

This is the fifth installment to Harry Potter: The Grand Reunion (or the first to Harry Potter: The Grand Reunion (Part 2).

Despite being the largest book I have ever held (an exaggeration, but you know what I mean), Book 5 has been a great travel companion. Over the last two weeks, I would lug this ginormous book with me to the Caltrain and read a hundred pages or so on my way to work. I had forgotten how funny JK Rowling was until I found myself laughing alone while reading this book. This book is supposed to be dark, too, but I love that the characters were allowed to be teenagers still.

I have to admit: I’ve always found this to be my least favorite book in the series. I remember the first time I read this. I had borrowed it from the library absolutely sure I could return it in a week max, but I couldn’t get myself to pick up the book and to read it for longer periods that I had to rush reading through the book to return it by the time it was due. (Or maybe I didn’t finish and had to borrow another copy? Ok, maybe I don’t remember that well.) Fast forward to 15 (WOW, IT’S BEEN THAT LONG?) years later, and I definitely looked forward to reading on each morning. I didn’t mind lugging the gigantic book around, and I even brought it with me on days I knew I was going out with friends.

What’s changed? Good question. Obviously it’s not the book that’s changed but myself that has. I guess I have learned the meaning of maturity and empathy and other things as time went by. It also helped that I knew how things were going to end anyway, so I was able to focus more on the fun fun fun details that I didn’t focus on the first time around.

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