I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

This book is one of the few which I knew the plot twist before picking it up. I tried my best to selectively forget what my coworker once told me a long time ago during a discussion on zombies and zombie movies.
This friend revealed to me that yet another Hollywood movie secretly adapted itself from a book. Only they took extreme liberties on the storyline.

Despite knowing the twist ahead of time, I still enjoyed it. The writing allowed me to understand the struggle of solitude and loneliness Robert Neville struggled with. It also gave much color to his experience of loss, both with his daughter and his wife.

I feel as if the shock of coming in contact with another human being is very abrupt and everything that unfolds in his encounter with Ruth passes by in a frenzy. I love how the connection is about companionship, not about lust.

I greatly appreciate the alternating areas of focus as Neville tries to survive — first it is the daily practicals of housing upkeep, then the study of the bacteria, all while battling his inner demons of survival. The fact that he is constantly self medicating with liquor paints his picture of solitude and suffering more real.

These are interesting internal struggles to me as in many concerns with people on how they would react to the end of the world yielded an explicit acknowledgment they don’t have the will to live and would not put in the effort needed to continue on. Robert Neville is an excellent example of human persistence.

Now to my rant on the movie adaptation. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed watching the movie. I’m pretty sure I saw it in the theater with friends and I found the portrayal of “modified rabies to treat cancer” gone wrong so plausible that I dreamed hidden zombies underneath my bed that night. But that’s just it. Hollywood turned it into a zombie movie, but this book is a very clear vampire book. Will Smith plays this badass who is determined and collected. He doesn’t have the internal struggle that is so clearly what Matheson wanted to expose with this post apocalyptic setting.

I now work in the movie world, and still have a great appreciation for the art of film making. With the recent announcement of Oscar nominations, I’m excited to say I’ve watched many of the films up for the big prizes. It is so critical to have a good script because it is the heart of it all. It is glaringly painful when you don’t, and no amount of directing or producing can cover that up. However, books and films are not judged in the same criteria, thank God.

I don’t have an eloquent end to this post and my time on BART is coming to a close. Until next time. A Canticle for Leibowitz is still on its way, but that’s what you get for borrowing books from the library šŸ˜¬

Ringworld by Larry Niven

Not bad for my first book of 2017. Funny thing was, I was meant to read this in a science fiction grad class and it seems I never quite got around to it. I loved it. It’s very classic science fiction– a great exploration story reminiscent of my experience reading Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke.

The focus is on the features of the discovery itself, Ringworld. There are some speculations of its origins but the pieces are slowly gathered as the exploration continues. It has the perfect balance of suspense and satisfaction in this way.

Niven does a great job of drawing the reader into the story that at some points, I forgot the delicately crafted backstory that led the motley crew onto Ringworld to begin with, the collapse of the Core. When it is mentioned in the last moments of the book, there is a perceptible “oh yeah!” that runs through my mind.

The one thing I don’t like is the development of the Teela Brown plot line. I think it’s fine that she is explained with the genetic breeding the puppeteers engage in for humanity, but really dislike the use of Teela Brown as some sort of Murphy’s law. The explanation that the entire exploration serves the purpose of her individual benefit seemed… anticlimactic. But now that I think about it, makes sense from a human condition standpoint. Humans do take actions in their own best interest the majority of the time. It is human nature. For Teela and her bred genetic “power,” she does so unconsciously. Imagine that! One could go down a rabbit hole with this particular idea.

I will inevitably want to read the entire series. I’ve already begun the search for book 2, Ringworld’s Engineers. I am sad that the county library does not carry it. Great way to start off my new reading year!

Stay tuned for my next review. I’ll be picking up A Canticle for LeibowitzĀ 

Pearl of China by Anchee Min

I’m not sure how I chose to buy this book except for the fact that there was a kindle sale on Amazon and I purchased this along with the Julie Andrews biography, Home, and a post apocalyptic fiction piece.

My love for stories of China extend past The Joy Luck Club (though great) as I grew up with tales of my grandmother’s childhood and youth. I also grew to love China Men in grad school but this aspect of the novel did not stand out to me until later. Maybe it was why I chose it to begin with, who knows!

My first reaction was to the fact that this is a story about a woman whose father was a Presbyterian missionary in China who converted many. It almost seemed coincidental that this is part of Pearl Buck’s story. I didn’t even know who Pearl Buck was until mention of her Pulitzer partway through the novel spurred me to read about her on Wikipedia. What an amazing, fateful find.

The second aspect of the novel that really resonated with me is the fact that the characters lived through the communist regime. This political change in China’s history personally affected my grandparents on both sides. In fact, my paternal grandfather served in Chiang Kai sheks army and fought the Japanese. All four grandparents fled to Taiwan and years later my parents somehow met in the land of opportunities — America.

The turmoil of the Chinese people during the Chinese civil war seemed to be presented so differently in this book. It was harsh to read that the Nationalists were responsible for much Chinese brutality against their own people as well as foreigners. I suppose Min helps illustrate how and why Mao Tze Teng was so widely received by the “proletarians” until he could no longer hide his hunger for power.

In a way, she sought to share the same perspective Pearl S Buck did in her books. Politics aside, the Chinese people suffered under both parties quest for power and control.

It was interesting to read her version of what happened at Tiananmen Square. It was also very sad to hear about the torturous conditions and the stripping of dignity that prison camps had to offer. Not many novels can go into such true detail. It is something we must not avoid or run away from if we are to understand and learn.

Though historical fiction, Anchee Min does a great job of telling the story through Chinese eyes as she seeks out to do per her author’s note. I am thankful to have come across this book so fatefully and cannot wait to read Pearl S. Buck’s “The Good Earth.”