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: 99 Percent Mine

I am more or less a mood reader. I switch off to lighter romantic reads when I’m on vacation or when I’m too pooped from numerous sad endings. So this is where 99 Percent Mine comes in: I needed a source of entertainment during a time when Netflix wasn’t a good option.

The story is simple, and it was enough to keep me entertained. So… it served its purpose, but will I recommend it to anyone? Nah. I’m not a fan.

The story isn’t that special. The main girl (Darcy) is in love with her childhood friend (Tom), who is also her brother’s (Jamie’s) best friend. Additionally, the childhood friend is pretty much family and is doing the siblings a favor. (Said favor is renovating their grandmother’s cottage.)

Darcy and Tom are obviously going to get together, and it’s not the predictability that put me off. (My guilty pleasure is reading/watching romantic comedies; I always know they end well.)

Here, in more detail than people who hate spoilers will like, are my reasons for feeling meh:

  1. The main characters are not likable. Darcy is incredibly selfish. She has zero self-control and cannot accept responsibility for her actions. She thinks she’s all that (not in the way that she would brag about her work but in the way that she would always try to protect Tom). Also, Tom is not even that great. He’s placed on too high a pedestal, but he’s really just there as a brooding, juicy piece of meat.
  2. It seems like the writer needed an excuse to bring the two in extremely close quarters, so for some reason, Tom (childhood friend/contractor) camps out at the project site while Darcy lives somewhere there. Excuse me? How ridiculous is that? I get that it’s fiction, and writers can invent things, but at least let these things make sense! A lot of safety precautions have to be taken at construction sites. People cannot just come and go as they please, and contractors do not just let their inexperienced clients do manual labor on their sites. I am baffled.
  3. How can a new business owner with so much to prove skip town for two months and then take credit for all of the work done in their absence? Yes, everyone needs to take a personal day or two (been there) at some point, but to take two months without consequences? Given Tom’s background, I expected more hustle from him. I get that this is supposed to be for dramatic effect, but it would have given off the same effect and still have been more acceptable if this disappearance was cut short.

I’ve read better romantic novels. I came in looking for a fun read—to be entertained without having to think too much (basically, I needed an alternative to tv shows). It was just ok, I guess. Actually, no, it wasn’t very satisfying. Perhaps I should have read something else.

Short Bites: A Visit

In Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine, Kevin Wilson’s “A Visit” is a homecoming kind of story in which a dutiful daughter rushes to her mother’s aid. You guessed it—the circumstances of their reunion aren’t so great, but what can you expect when there’s a sudden need for any child to come home?

I felt like the story gave me a sneak peek of what it would have been like to grow up in the US South. I like the strong community feeling—growing up having so-and-so’s kid around or knowing you can easily ask neighbors for a cup of sugar when you’ve run out. Also, there’s nothing like a good parent-child story to make you feel like the world isn’t so bad.

So, I liked it just fine.

Novel Reactions: How to Stop Time

In Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time, we meet Tom Hazard, who is a really old man but just doesn’t look it. He’s lived through a lot of tough times over the centuries and consequently carries a lot of weight on his shoulders. He’s a pretty broken man. I didn’t love Tom, but I did find myself rooting for him as he struggled to survive.

Nothing is truly surprising with the plot. As the story unfolded, I found myself thinking “yes, this makes sense” and never “wow, what a plot twist!!!” Despite this, the story is still quite gripping, and I enjoyed reading all the way through. What made it particularly interesting for me was how Matt Haig portrayed Tom’s past lives. No, Tom was not a big deal in any time period; he always kept to the background, but he was there witnessing key points of history. (And I do love history.)

Overall, it was a pleasant read. There is some comfort that this was a somewhat predictable story because then it felt simple and familiar and not at all intimidating. But that’s not all there is to this book. The writing was great. There was never a dull moment in How to Stop Time, and the story moved at a manageable pace. To me, this is one of the books in which the incorporation of clichés was well executed. In case anyone’s wondering: yes, I’d recommend this to anyone looking for an easy read. And to history enthusiasts.

Celebrating All Fathers

Happy Father’s Day to all of the fathers and father figures out there! Today I thought it would be interesting to talk about fathers in some of my favorite books. Fatherhood comes in different shapes and sizes, and no father (or parent for that matter) is perfect, but we live and we learn.

Here are three books I really liked that also made me think a little differently about fathers:

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

In The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, Samuel Hawley is dedicated to his child, Loo. The father and daughter have a charming relationship; they move around from place to place that all they have is each other. But Hawley isn’t the type to talk much, and Loo is flabbergasted when, at some point, Hawley decides that it’s time to settle down.

This is a story in which father and daughter are putting down roots despite a mysterious past that is finally catching up to them.

Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel

In Last Night in Montreal, the father takes a kind of a backseat because the plot is all about Lillia. She spent much of her childhood moving from place to place with her father without really knowing why, but it seems she has taken their lifestyle to heart. Fast forward to adulthood: Lillia has gotten so used to moving around with her father that she cannot stay in one place for too long. She leaves hurt ex-lovers behind as she creates new beginnings with each move.

There are more characters involved in this story, and it’s made all the more interesting because Lillia cannot remember her life before she and her father began their life on the road. This is a great story about obsessing over things and uncovering the truth.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

In Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, we find that Oskar’s father has passed away tragically. The story is set a year after the incident, and Oskar must come to terms with grief and loss. (He and his father were very close, and we get glimpses of Oskar’s father through recollections.) This is a story about family—how its members cope and move forward. Although the father is no longer present, Oskar’s remaining family will make it through the rain work.

(This is the book that officially made me a fan of Jonathan Safran Foer, so I made it a mission to grab Here I Am when it was released.)