1984 Once More: A Poem

Again, the clock strikes thirteen
And I’m reminded just who is watching.
The sky is gray. The ground is gray.
And even the trees are gray not green.
Yet the cameras and eyes behind them watching
fixedly, on the dreary gloom they stay.

I’m not a writer (nor have I ever been).
Not in this land o’ vigilant watching.
In this land of few words I hesitate to say
stuff that might make sense to more than teens;
Stifling thoughts that might be worth thinking;
Actions that might be more than whiling time away.

So, as the clock strikes thirteen once more
and I’m inundated in a lack of speech,
drowning in an overwhelming wave of txtspk,
I turn away from cameras, windows, door
-to the blind spot just barely out of reach-
from the chaotic commotion of simplistic txtspk.

Because I write, I am now a writer.
The only one who writes in desperate screech.
For no one else writes- doesn’t that sound bleak?
You’re typing away on tinky keyboards and you mutter.
Something unintelligible- definitely not speech
because you have drownt in a sea of txtspk

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Gathering Frost: A Book Review

I wish I could say I was the hero of the story. A resister.A rebel. Someone who lived to bring an end to the queen who stole my childhood – my mother, my life, my very world.
But I’m not.
I’m not the good guy.
I’m the one who puts the good guys in their graves.”

Book: Gathering Frost (Once Upon a Curse #1)
Author: Katilyn Davis

Gathering Frost (Once Upon A Curse #1)

Blurb:

Jade was only a little girl when the earthquake struck. Before her eyes, half of New York City disappeared, replaced by a village that seemed torn out of a storybook. Horses and carriages. Cobblestone streets. A towering castle. And, above all, a queen with the magical ability to strip emotions away.

Ten years later and Jade has forgotten what it is to feel, to care…even to love. Working as a member of the queen’s guard, she spends most of her time on the city wall staring at the crumbling skyscrapers of old New York. But everything changes when the queen’s runaway son, Prince Asher, returns. Jade is tasked with an unusual mission–to let the Prince capture her, to make him trust her, and then to betray his secrets to the crown. In return, she’ll earn her freedom. But life outside the queen’s realm is more than Jade bargained for. Under Asher’s relentless taunts, her blood begins to boil. Under his piercing gaze, her heart begins to flutter. And the more her icy soul begins to thaw, the more Jade comes to question everything she’s ever known–and, more importantly, whose side she’s really on.

My thoughts:

it’s a rare case when the cover actually reflects the rest of the book. Gathering Frost by Katilyn Davis is one of those few mythical things; the cover’s gorgeous. Really…but somehow it feels insubstantial and cliched.

Throughout the book, this theme seems to express itself over and over again…
That makes this book seem bad, somehow. But that’s not exactly what I meant.

There’s one reason I’m morbidly terrified of writing a full length novel. It only partially has something to do with the amount of time and dedication it would require. My ideas, my inspiration-so if you will- come in the form of images. Scenes like two people angrily arguing, triumphant scenes with someone performing, sad scenes in which someone’s crying or action-packed scenes where there’s a one on one fight. These scenes are the big scenes, the dramatic ones. They are the pivot points around which the events of the book and the characters revolve. This works great when it’s a short-story or a poem; I have to connect two or three scenes,max. But, Oh My God,  it’s a whole different story (no pun intended) when I’m trying to write out a full length novel. Instead of one scene, I have 20, 30, 50. I find myself writing these scenes first and then doing my best to connect them as logically as possible. Obviously as logical as possible isn’t always logical enough. So, my longer pieces sound choppy and are full of inconsistencies and logical fallacies. Individually, they’re beautiful (In my opinion, of course) but when I try to thread them together, they seem like a cheap and tacky soap.

So is there a point to all my rambling? Hold on for a second-I’m getting there. I think Katilyn Davis writes in a way similar to me. I don’t know if all writers write this way but it’s just more obvious in some works or even if Ms. Davis actually writes that way; It only feels this way to me.

Individually the scenes and the characters are beautiful and perfect (I love the way Ms. Davis uses her words so gorgeously and effectively) but together they just seem over-dramatic and cheap. Considering she’s kind of a Wattpad celebrity,  I can see how this style of writing developed but in a book published professionally it looks (and feels) very, very tacky.

I’m not about to accuse without giving examples. Our MC Jade, is a girl who’s been cut off from emotions her whole life (this is kind of sketchy, but I’ll come to this later). As such, I can imagine that feeling new emotions would be…overwheming. But I think Jade takes it a little too far; In about 3/4th the book, she’s either crying, dramatically running away from something or screaming angrily. I found this in turns pathetic and annoying because Jade is marketed as a ice-cold, calculating and skilled bitch. Way to lose the hype, people.

Staying on the topic of main characters, let’s talk love interest. Personally, I don’t get him. Sure he’s cute when he’s making fight club references and joking about the ending of sleeping beauty. But I just don’t get the attraction. He busted the self-sacrificing, self-pitying hero trope going past Harry Potter and even Bella Swan- and I don’t mean this in a good way. Perhaps it’s my character flaw that I can’t understand him, but I prefer to think of it as an elemental flaw in his.

I’m getting lazy now, but I promised to come back to the whole ‘having no feelings is sketchy again’. For someone who’s supposedly a mechanical robot who ‘puts the good-guys in the grave’, she shows a surprising amount of fear, desire, lust, curiosity and remorse.  Without these human qualities in our narrator, I would have left this book after a couple of chapters. I can’t help but quibble- it’s a huge, gaping plothole in front of me.

This makes it sound like the book was bad. It wasn’t. It wasn’t good either but the beautifully metaphoric writing and interesting background made it a decent read instead of a DNF. I think Katilyn Davis has a lot of potential (this is only the first time she’s published something that’s never been  posted on Wattpad or Smashwords before) so she’s practically a debut author. Now that sentence probably looked as pretentious and preachy as hell (Who am I to comment? I’m just a blogger who’s never written a full book in her life) but I don’t mean to be patronizing. Consider that sentence more hopeful than anything else: If Katilyn Davis can improve her writing, I have a pretty good chance too.

Overall Rating: 2/5

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: A Fanfiction Review

Name of Fanfiction: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
Penname: Less Wrong

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
If you know me personally, you know what I think of fanfiction: Ew! Ew! Ew! Get it away from me.
Part of it is the horrible grammar. Part of it is the total lack of common sense. And part of it is the total lack of orginality.
But there was a time when I was obsessed with fanficion (OBSESSED, I tell you). The fact is embarrassing and regretful but undeniably true. I’ve given up reading most fanfiction, but I’ve been pretty loyal to one: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

The writer, Eliezer Yudkowsky is an AI researcher and decision theorist. Maybe that’s why he puts forward this question: What if Harry Potter was actually smart? He then proceeds to write a masterful epic based on the question.  I don’t mean to offend any Potterheads here; I’m one myself actually. But even I can admit that Harry Potter does a lot of things which can be considered downright irrational and stupid in the course of the seven books. Eliezer writes under the penname ‘Less Wrong’. I believe he chose the pseudonym because he’s doing his best to create a version of Harry Potter that is less wrong, a version that has less inconsistencies, logical fallacies and plotholes.

What’s Different In the Fanfiction:

  1. Petunia married a biochemist instead of Vernon Dursley.
  2. As such, Harry Potter grew up exposed to science-fiction and logical reasoning.
  3. Maybe that’s why, he’s a prodigy.
  4. Hermione and Harry end up in Ravenclaw
  5. Ron plays almost no part in the story.
  6. Harry does his best to manipulate Draco into being good. He comes surprisingly close.
  7. Harry dislikes Quidditch; he thinks the Snitch is an arbitrary part of the game which nullifies the importance of most of the players (What? He’s right.)
  8. Harry has a time-turner.
  9. Hermione’s not content to be the sidekick; she does her best to be a heroine too. (Yes, there’s feminism involved)
  10. Professor Quirell is a good teacher. No- he’s a great one.

I can’t say much more without totally giving away the plot. But please be reassured, the fan-fiction’s an intricate and twisting epic filled with sub-plots which all wrap up neatly at the end. Trust me, it’s a work of art. It was finally completed on March 14th. So if you decide to read it now , you won’t be forced to agonize over the long intervals of time between updates.

You should read this, even if you weren’t a fan of the original Harry Potter Series.
Although, be prepared to open a Wikipedia tab every chapter; Eliezer Yudkowsky knows his science and is unhesitant in using it in his writing. This isn’t a light read; You need to focus to make sure that you’ve gotten the intricacies  of what’s going on.

Pre-requisites:

  1. Read at least Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone
  2. Have a very, very basic understanding of science (No matter how good you think you are with science, you’re likely to come across a few references to theories, experiments and papers that’ll make you scratch your head a bit)

Links:

You can read the fanfiction (obviously free) here:

Some Pearls of Wisdom from the Book:

“I only want power so I can get books.”

“World domination is such an ugly phrase. I prefer to call it world optimisation.”

“I’m lazy! I hate work! Hate hard work in all its forms! Clever shortcuts, that’s all I’m about!”

“To worship a sacred mystery was just to worship your own ignorance.”

“What people really believe doesn’t feel like a BELIEF, it feels like the way the world IS.”

Vicious: A Book Review

…because having superpowers doesn’t make you a great hero.
Or even good.

Vicious

‘Vicious’ by V. E. Schwab (the pseudonym Victoria Schwab writes under when the book is less young adult and more gritty, dark and intense) is one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read.To be honest, I’m nervous about doing justice to the book in this book review.
My problem: How do you capture about 500+ words of sheer awesomeness in about 500 words?

Story in short

Two pre-med students. Best friends and room mates. Brilliant, arrogant, ambitious.
Hidden jealousies. Rivalry.
Then- a thesis.
A theory that works.
An experiment that works too well.
And now, they both have super-powers.
But there’s something vitally human missing in them too.

Ten years an d a jailbreak later-
Two sociopaths- each convinced they’re less evil.
Two sociopaths and their superpwers.
Two sociopaths determined to see each other end.

The question is: How does it all end?
The more important question is: Who are you rooting for?

The Cast:

The whole cast of this production is certifiable…If the certificate was for the asylum, of course.
Right from the villain to the ‘protagonist’ to the supporting characters (read: sidekicks or lackeys) all of them are deeply and intensely insane.
Eli who goes by the name Eli Ever (he likes alliteration, folks) is firmly convinced that God gave him the task of killing  removing ( sorry, killing just sounds so messy)  all the other extraordinary people (people with superpowers) because they’re plain WRONG.
His sidekick/love interest/ manipulator (God only knows who or what she is), Serena hates the thought of  her little sister being ‘wrong’ so much, she’s willing to have her boyfriend murder her (the sister that is).
The aforementioned sister’s name is Sydney. She’s a necromancer who looks up to Victor with almost puppy-like devotion. The hero-worship (haha, no pun intended) is seriously unhealthy.
Our protagonist Victor (riiiight… the guy who has no compunctions about killing, torturing and lying to achieve his goals) is out to ‘get’ the villain. The two had a serious bromance going on, but becoming EO’s totally killed that.
Matt, Victor’s friend (not his bodyguard) is a buff,non-violent, criminal hacker (trust me, he really is). He’s the closest to normal but come on, if he’s hanging out with this group he can’t totally be right in the head.

The Writing:

Vicious is hands down the creepies book I’ve read in the last 365 days. It surpassed the Madman’s Daughter and even Unwind on the Shivers-Down-My-Spine Scale. And I loved every single second of it. Maybe even every fucking word.

Part of what makes this book so compellingly creepy is the fact that it’s written in 3rd person POV with several flashbacks. Normally, I shun these things like I would shun the plague or a misogynist.  But not only did Mrs. Schwab make it work-  she actually made me admire the writing style ( I am so jealous. I wish I could write like her).
The third person POV and the flashbacks gave us just enough information for us to get a good idea of the background and thoughts of the characters while allowing us to be detached enough to identify with ALL the characters; I’m  a bit horrified actually that I could relate to people so mentally disturbed.

No young adult author (although I would hesitate to call this book young adult since there’s all of one character who’s below the age of 20 and she’s 12) is as good as Victoria Schwab in hitting that perfect balance between lyrical and efficient. Take this quote for example:

…something about Eli was decidedly wrong. He was like one of those pictures full of small errors, the kind you could only pick out by searching the image from every angle, and even then, a few always slipped by. On the surface, Eli seemed perfectly normal, but now and then Victor would catch a crack, a sideways glance, a moment when his roommate’s face and his words, his look and his meaning, would not line up. Those fleeting slices fascinated Victor. It was like watching two people, one hiding in the other’s skin. And their skin was always too dry, on the verge of cracking and showing the color of the thing beneath.

Holy crap, right?

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of anyone else who’s so supremely good with the plot twist. Mrs. Schwab has a tendency to write out a huge build up which has you on the edge of your seat and forces you to draw some pretty obvious conclusions.  Then, she suddenly yanks you out of your seat by refuting everything you thought was true with a plot-twist. It’s brilliant and kind of sadistic (trust me, I don’t use these words lightly after reading this book) .

Vicious is Megamind (the movie), Steelheart and American Psycho on stereoids. It creeped me out totally and absolutely.
But then, I loved it totally and absolutely too.

Ratings:

Plot: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Ending:5/5
Plotholes: I’d have liked a more hashed out backstory for Eli but other than that, this story was flawless.
Would I read another book by this author: Are you kidding me? Yes!

Overall Rating: 5/5

Pearls of Wisdom from the Book:

“When no one understands, that’s usually a good sign that you’re wrong.”

“The moments that define lives aren’t always obvious. They don’t scream LEDGE, and nine times out of ten there’s no rope to duck under, no line to cross, no blood pact, no official letter on fancy paper. They aren’t always protracted, heavy with meaning.”

“―We could be dead- said Eli.
―That‘s a risk everyone takes by living.”

“Anger flared through him, but anger was unproductive so he twisted it into pragmatism while he searched for a flaw.”

“I don’t want to be forgotten.”