Review: Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (SPOILERS)

Hello readers!

So I very recently finished reading through my copy of Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, and let me tell you this is one heck of a book.

oryx_and_crake

I bought the book going purely off of Atwood’s name, having read The Handmaid’s Tale and adoring it. Oryx and Crake certainly lives up to Atwood’s reputation as a stellar writer, and the longer I read the book the more I was drawn into her world.

It’s set in present-day Earth, perhaps a few years from now. Human society has been separated into the haves and the have-nots, and is starting to crumble despite our best attempts at rescuing it with technology and medicines, and more exciting and different ways to pass the time. Companies have begun to try and find new ways of existing, as resources run out and diseases become widespread.

The story itself focuses on a young boy named Jimmy, and tells the story of the decline of human civilisation through his eyes as he grows up. He’s an old man when the story begins, living in a desolate world with nothing and no-one to keep him company but other strange humanoid people. People he calls Crakers. We slowly find out the story of how these people came to be, and how one of Jimmy’s childhood friends – Crake  – was involved in their creation, and in the subsequent destruction of civilisation as we know it.

Crake himself was a boy genius, who became Jimmy’s closest friend through circumstance. Over time the two grew close, and -though it escaped Jimmy’s notice – Crake came up with his grand plan to help ‘fix’ humanity. He became a genetic scientist of sorts and created the Crakers, genetically modifying them for efficiency and to avoid wars, diseases, and hatred. He befriended a woman Jimmy had fallen for whilst still young, and she became close with both men. It wasn’t until Crake came up with a pill which was advertised to ‘increase sexual activity and repress the need for maladaptive expressions of energy’ that things started to go horribly wrong.

I won’t say any more on the plot, it’s much more intricate than what I’ve described here and well worth the read.

Atwood’s writing clearly shows her mastery of storytelling, especially in the way she describes her characters as if they’re real. As if you could look up and find that person standing in front of you. Jimmy is a figment when the book begins, but slowly he becomes real. Crake and Oryx, too, become real, and you see them as Jimmy does. They reveal themselves slowly and with import, as they are remembered, and you remember them, too, after the book is said and done.

The grasp on setting here follows the ‘less is more’ rule with strict adherence. A genetically modified pig on a rampage here, a destroyed building there, an apocalyptic vision against a majestic sunrise in the distance. You don’t need much to show what a disaster looks like, or to give it the gravity and feeling it deserves.

Anyway go read it! It’s a very poignant tale about what could be a possibility in the near future, and for me it was a solid reminder to always keep your perspective straight.

That’s all from me for now, until next time!

-AdmiralCarter

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Character Interview: P. D. Tovh’s Jeremiah

Character interview with Jeremiah for Pirates of Time! Check it out!

Meeting With The Muse

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Jeremiah was written by P. D. Tovh.)

Jeremiah had finally finished dressing himself after fussing over his outfit for a good hour or so, finding the cleanest gear to go with his favourite jacket. That was a difficult task in and of itself, never mind making sure his ever-rampant red hair actually sat straight for once. He was using the chipped and cracked mirror installed in his quarters aboard his ship, the Excalibur, having been unable to replace it since their last raid. He spent the next hour or so clearing up his quarters and cabin, clearing the desk of old ale bottles and various other trinkets which he had a habit of leaving lying about. He was even clean-shaven and sober this morning, rare for him, but one never met with a fine lady whilst drunk or unpresentable. If his bastard of a…

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Author Interview: P. D. Tovh

Here’s an author interview I recently carried out with the wonderful Kelly Blanchard!

Meeting With The Muse

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Tovh was written by P. D. Tovh.)

A blast of wintery wind raked through the medieval village streets, and Kelly hugged her cloak close to her as she made her way across the street to the pub there. She let out a sigh of relief when she felt the warmth of the room, and she lowered her hood, ignoring the looks the men gave her when she stepped in. The keeper caught her gaze, tipped his head in recognize then shifted his eyes to the back corner. Kelly followed his gaze and saw an empty table set aside there. Good, they had made preparations for her.

Kelly nodded her thanks and made her way to the table, walking past the fire in the heath, letting the heat wear off some of the numbness to the cold. She took a seat at the table facing…

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Review: The Road to Dune

Hello everyone!

I know it’s been far too long. I should really get to updating this more regularly. Anyway, the past few weeks (months?) have seen me take a trip to Melbourne, where I picked up a few more books and spent my days blissfully immersed in the culture and amazing culinary delights of the capital city. It was also freezing and very wet, so it was almost a reprieve to return to the warm climes of Brisbane (although my immediate need for air conditioning when I got off the plane would tell you otherwise).

Work has been keeping me suitably busy too, and as a result I’ve had very little time to write since the conclusion of July’s Camp NaNo in which I managed to smash a goal of 15,000 words on Dreamchaser, the second book in the ‘Verse Chronicles (working titles). I’ve since grabbed a copy of the ever lauded Scrivener software, and it’s been surprisingly helpful in my efforts to rekindle my daily writing habits. Sometimes a change of pace really is all you need.

To the review! The Road to Dune, written by Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson, is a collaborative companion to the Dune series (the first book, Dune, published in 1965 and written by Frank Herbert). This treasure trove of information speaks of many things, including Herbert’s worldbuilding process for the Dune series, many short stories and spinoffs, character information and inspiration, and even excerpt from letters between Herbert and his editors on the concepts driving the Dune series. As someone who has only read the first novel in the six-book sci-fi series, I did encounter a few spoilers about the following books. That didn’t bother me too much, though, because the series itself is so complex that it needs a guide.

What did I really like about this? It’s attention to detail. I’ve read a few companion books in the past, but none of them really give you an insight into the author’s mind like The Road to Dune did. It mirrors the detail given to the world construction in the Dune series, and even clears up some of the more confounded ideas. Since Dune focuses heavily on political manoeuvres, its easy to get lost and forget who’s doing what. That’s a quality which originally drew me into the series, but eventually I began wondering if I needed to keep a timeline. The companion clears that up, and points out how some of the characters were meant to serve different roles than what they ended up doing.

What else stood out? In particular, the longevity of the Dune series. One thing I’ve heard many readers say is that although they liked the book/series, it felt too long and drawn out. It reminds me in some ways of the “too many sequels” problem that some perfectly good movies suffer from, where over time some of the original content becomes mired in too many layers of meaning and it loses its charm. The first book of Dune still holds its attraction for me, but after reading the development within the companion, it seems that the whole cult following that Paul Atriedes creates is… perhaps taken too far. Then again, maybe that’s a reflection on how humanity deals with things like that. Take something and run with it, until it loses steam, then pick up something else. It’s a perpetual cycle, and its definitely reflected well in Dune and in the following works spotlighted in The Road to Dune.

There’s not much more to say on that point. I was reading this book in between reading Dune and a bunch of other novels, including Skeins Unfurled by K.M. Vanderbilt, so progress has been very slow. Next on my review list will be Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, which I picked up some time ago from a secondhand book sale and am already enamoured with. Along with that, I’ll be working on some language details for the ‘Verse Chronicles, so stay tuned for conlang developments!

That’s all from me. Don’t stop reading!

AdmiralCarter

 

 

Dreamstealer, and Blog Updates

Hello readers!

So as I capped off my last post with indecision about what to read next, I thought I’d update you all on what’s happening.

I may have gone on a book buying spree and picked up a copy of KM Vanderbilt’s Skeins Unfurled: Prequel to the Breadth Key Cycle, as well as the very talented RR Virdi’s books Grave Beginnings and Grave Measures. I’ve been informed that these are stellar novels, so I thought I’d give them a go. I still have to get through Dream Stalker by Amy Hopkins too, so from these selections I doubt I’ll be in need of any new reading material for quite some times.

As for my own work, as some of you may know progress on the Dreamstealer books ground to a halt recently thanks to the dreaded writer’s block, which despite my best efforts I hadn’t been able to shake. Until about two days ago, when out of nowhere I managed a few hundred words for the draft of Book 2. It’s been a steady progress since then, which is encouraging, and so long as I keep it up I should be back on track to have it finished so I can get to editing Book One. Which needs… rather a lot of work. I’ve also had a few revelations about characters, and decided that my plot could do with some shaping up too.

Anyway, back to work for me. I’ll keep you all updated.

Don’t stop reading!

AdmiralCarter.

Review: Rebecca Makkai’s The Borrower

Good afternoon readers and welcome to my review of Rebecca Makkai’s debut novel, The Borrower.

The first thing I want to say about this novel is that I picked it up off a bookshelf at a small bookstore, curious about its contents after seeing the cover and the blurb. It sat on my shelf untouched for a year or two, until I picked it up a few weeks ago and decided to sate my curiosity. The Borrower, published in 2011, is a novel about self-discovery, and about coming to terms with one’s own past. It’s not my usual fare, as some of you may know, so I was mildly surprised when I found myself enthralled by its characters and wanting to know more about their lives. The main character, Lucy Hull, finds herself getting deeper and deeper in the life of young Ian Drake. So deep, in fact, that Ian demands to be ‘kidnapped’ by her in a journey which takes them across America and almost into Canada, in order to find Ian’s dead ‘grandmother’. The reason Lucy is so attached? She believes that Ian is gay, and that his heavily religious parents are attempting to have his ‘illness’ taken away by the grace of God, and Pastor Bob of Glad Heart Ministries. The ever anxious Ian is attempting to run away from his parents, but not all is as dire as it seems. The two protagonists go on a journey in which they both learn some things, and Lucy is reminded of her Russian family and their history as runaways, leaving a hardened country to come to the land where there’s nothing to run from. Nothing, of course, except yourself.

Like I said earlier, this isn’t the type of book I would usually read. And yet, I found myself enjoying it for its witty content and very solid character portrayal. The only issue I had was  the sometimes slightly out-of-character depictions of the ten- and eleven- year- old Ian, who constantly threw tantrums like a five year old and seemed to be making decisions of increasingly questionable basis. Though I suspect it was out of a desperation to escape his own demons, it still seemed a little strange to me.

The thing that stuck with me the most about The Borrower was the way Lucy began to discover things about herself and her family, in ways that perhaps took her by surprise. It really spoke to the meaning of the word family, and how its different for everyone. Sometimes in ways you never even dreamed possible.

That’s it for me for the moment. I haven’t yet decided what I’ll read next, but stay tuned for the usual updates!

-AdmiralCarter

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island: A Review

Ok hello again readers and welcome to the review of Treasure Island!

First off, Treasure Island is one of those classic “young-kid-turns-dashing-hero’ novels which were pretty prolific during the late 1800s. Its well written, if a little dry, but lacks nothing in the interest department. Every action is thought out and meticulously catalogued, to the point where some basic levels of seafaring knowledge are almost required to get the full enjoyment out of the book. Besides that, for a seafaring nerd like me it’s a good read and a grand tale of adventure to boot.

My only qualm with this book was how much the characters rambled. Then again, that was a common feature of writing styles of the time period and in some ways it did give the book its own kind of flavour, one which isn’t often seen these days. I’d liken it to the way Moby Dick was written, with complete attention to detail. Sometimes a little too much, perhaps. I did find, though, that the more I read of the book the easier it was to overlook these niggling details and enjoy the plot for what it was. I became so absorbed in it that I nearly missed my bus stop.

By far, the most colourful characters in Treasure Island were the pirates themselves. Each action was a drama-filled festivity, a stroke of a paintbrush of a million colours. One might even think that Stevenson had spent time with the pirates he wrote about. To some degree this has given me more inspiration for working on Pirates of Time, which I haven’t touched in a while thanks to work commitments.

That said, I think Treasure Island is a keeper for me. Its a novel you want to reread, one that gives you a warm sense of home whenever you crack it open. For me, that’s the most important thing.

That’s it from me for now, but please stay tuned for my next review of Rebecca Makkai’s The Borrower.

AdmiralCarter