Monday, May 7, 2012

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies
I picked this book up with little expectation. All I previously knew about this was the fact that a group of boys are unleashed into a wilderness, and are made to fend for themselves. Little-little-LITTLE! did I figure that there's more to this than a simple story. [Don't judge a book by its cover, DC... Don't!]

(Oh, and this may not the survivalist book you'd want, I think. You'd get more tips from Robinson Crusoe :D)

This started out rather slow for me. Too random, too detailed, too matter-of-fact. The history of what happened to them, the boys playing and lounging about, the seemingly nonsensical talk between mates. Don't let this fool you, though. Each and every movement here has an underlying meaning-- even an innocent-looking shell.

The boys here all have their own personalities, though some, of course, tend to be more pronounced than the others. We see in here leaders (civilized and savage), unleashed terror (mental and real) and intellect (pretend and actual). We see in here the thin line that divides fantasy and reality. We see in here the game that we think we play, as opposed to the game that we actually play.

In short: we see here our purest forms, without the touch of social convention.

By using young bodies to play this gruesome tale, Golding shows us that it *may* take very little for humans to shed their inhibitions once the heavy eye and arm of society has removed their attention from them. After all, wouldn't you just want to stop everything you're doing, and live free and unbound around close chums? Golding also shows us how very easy it is to deceive ourselves (and others) if we have pride, if we have skill, if we have determination. If we want power over others.

(Thinking about it, we may actually see a little piece of us in each of the boys here.)

This is not a survivalist book. This is, however, about the survival of the fittest. Note that having a fit body may be different from having a fit mind.

Final thoughts:
- I've always felt something for Piggy, although he annoys me, like a little grain of conscience.
- Simon's a favorite with me.
- Jack is terrifying, but Roger more so.
- Ralph = "greatness thrust upon us"
- This is a deep, dark book.

This book isn't meant to be read lightly. This is a discourse on our passions, on our darkness, on our hate. While the events in this book are haunting in themselves, the ideas that revolve around it are so much food for thought - if you're willing to chew on it. Don't expect a fairytale ending, because though it seems resolved in your eyes, there is - and probably will be - an ongoing turmoil past the end of this book's pages.

Read on, but tread carefully. Someone behind you may be calling for blood.

Other update(s):
-The first few pages really turned me off... But then the events started making weird (non)sense, and I ended up liking this. A lot.

Lord of the Flies
 by William Golding
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)
Note: This is not Twilight, so don't you go looking for romance here (although it DOES "happen").

Note 2: I haven't checked out Battle Royale yet, so I'll review this book on its own. I also haven't yet read the other books in the trilogy. I'll try hard to keep myself from referencing other books.

This is Panem. This is a world past the years of today, a world that's seen the best and worst humans like us have to offer... And where humans like us consequently decided to re-explore and re-confirm the worst possible scenario, then cruelly bestow such situations to their fellow brethren. Dystopia.

(Note that this is a young adult book. This would probably not compare to the likes of 1984, but we must consider its target market. However, the book, in its own way, was able to portray and give life to a cruel society, with interesting personalities to match.)

This book is not about characters who wear rose-colored glasses. This is a gritty book, talking about the lowest of us, and how they survive behind the glittery, cosmopolitan life of the noted rich. This is about how they struggle to live, while doomed to die. This is about the Hunger Games.

The concept of the (actual) Hunger Games is simple: it's a grandoise display of power by the region's most powerful government. The very thought of the name shows this- the winner of the Hunger Games will be given a bounty to keep their *starving* district from hunger for a year.

This book, however, is not necessarily about the Games. The story zooms in on a young girl, who, by some chance or other, is meant to join the Hunger Games, and, consequently, does things that makes the Capitol change the rules of the game, sometimes in her favor (as opposed to the book's popular quote "May the odds be ever in your favor").

In essence, then, we have here:
-A society (complete with lore!) that controls and is controlled
-A strong *young* female lead character (who is a huntress in all sense of the word, and is not very emotional - though not unfeeling)
-Very real, very human characters (I don't think you'd find a "perfect" person here. The characters have very genuine feelings, and each seem to have a touching past - even the most brutal of them all)
-Lore! Lore! Lore!
-An action-packed story, with stray tidbits of comedy, tragedy and drama

A pretty good read, although my kid sister (11 y.o.) thinks that some parts are too "boring" (i.e. wordy). The movie adaptation was pretty good, too. For some reason, I can't label this a 5... Maybe a 4.5. 4 it is, then.

{What I struggled to understand, at first, is why a lot of people (read: young adults) love it. I mean, I hate-hate-hate the Capitol with a passion, and I think it's so horribly cruel for them to allow such barbaric play to happen. I asked a few people I know why they liked it- they struggled at first, and thought long and hard about it... But then told me things about the huntress in Katniss, the action, and the disparity between rich and poor.}


Other previous updates:

{Apparently, status updates are only for people with a few words to say :P}

Status update for pg. 182:
Disgusting. How can people (readers) utterly enjoy this? (I'm only halfway though, so maybe my viewpoint will still change?) While I admire the huntress in Katniss, this book irritates me. The Hunger Games, the stupid Capitol, the obliviousness. Kudos to the author for making a world (very detailed, deep, complete with its own lore!) that moves me to annoyance. (This affects me - a clear sign that its storytelling, plot, characters, etc. are moving enough to make me want to care.)

Status update for book-end:
Poor Peeta. Poor, poor Peeta.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot

Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life
Ah, Middlemarch. Truly, it looks imposing at first glance. I was having second thoughts reading this at first, just as I did when I first looked at The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling or Vanity Fair. I'm glad I didn't though, lest I would have never met with the lovely Dorothea Brooke. {It is, indeed, Dorothea that stays with me long after I've read this. I adore her so, with all her defects and "simple-mindedness".}

Aptly subtitled "A Study in Provincial Life", Middlemarch gives us a good (very good!) look into the lives of a host of characters living in a little fictional town in rural England in the 1800s. Among them, 6 seem to shine through: Dorothea, Will Ladislaw, Lydgate, Rosamond, Fred and Mary. Each of these (as well as their acquaintances in the town) have their unique traits and personalities- we see here the beautiful, the persevering, the pleasure-loving, the hard-working, the artist, the generous, the proud, the delusional. Personalities that, though antiquated in dress, still live among us in these modern times.

((By the way- the storytelling is, I must say, brilliant (sometimes sarcastic, sometimes romantic, but really very adept in suiting the needs of the reader).))

Overall: You've got the elements of a great story of intermingled stories, a bunch of very human characters, a lovely setting, an 1800 society, and a crowd of thoughts just waiting for you to think about them. Oh, it's got A LOT of pages, all right - but I could almost call it a complete work. Essentially, it's a lovely journey with a very proficient guide into the waiting countryside. Come, sit in the coach with me, and let's allow Ms. George Eliot to show us the way.

What I saw here:
- Women empowerment (Dodo is just too adorable. She's strong, she has her own will, she is smart and can think for herself. Of course, she has her rough edges, but she's well-meaning and independent - something quite difficult to understand in those days... And perhaps even today)
- Societal relations, both of the 1800s and of today (man-wife, sibling-sibling, parent-children, mother-son, mother-daughter, sister-sister, brother-sister, etc.)
- Conservative VS "New Age" notions (politics, society, cholera, medicine - Lydgate, I believe, was amazing to have that kind of constitution and principle!)
- Social classes (provincial doctor vs well-endowed widow vs peasant, etc)
- Religion (note Farebrother's active participation with his laity's problems)
- Other topics of interest (debt, auctions, elections, LOVE - and how it may or may not be significant in whatever relationships, death, farming, management, gossip - there's a chapter here that made me laugh because all it seemed to show was how easily and how fast gossip spreads in a town like Middlemarch!, charity, trains, Rome, art, newspaper, jewelry, clothes, babies, horses, gambling, pamphlets, cameos of Fielding!,...)

Other updates:
-The finale beautifully brings the epic to a close, mirroring some of the author's words in the prologue.
-What makes this a great read (I'm merely currently in Chapter 15) is the fact that its details are all too real-- from the people in their humanity, to the pervading notions of the time. Really very good.

Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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