April Reviews

Another month, another batch of literature. Mostly comics ahead since April was Infinity War month and my brother is also on a crusade to make comics a staple of my literary diet.

First up, Clint Barton’s Hawekeye.

Hawkeye Volume 1: My Life as a Weapon written by Matt Fraction, art by David Aja and others [4/5 stars]

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Everybody’s least favourite Avenger is an interesting guy. Good at heart but a bit of a mess. Sometimes he just wanders around aimlessly, not even pouring the coffee in his mug correctly. But he can’t stand injustice, and that will make him jump headfirst into action. This is what makes him a hero. Captain America is clearly an influence for this:

“Cap … he makes you want to be better”

I rated it 3 stars initially but an extra star for Aja’s brilliant art that adds to an ultimately very human tale. What it lacks in the hyper detail common in comics, it makes up in incredible structure: from the colours to the panels. It invites the eyes to follow its lurid journey. Seriously, the characterisation is interesting enough but the art is truly brilliant. It’s hard to describe but there are few times when Hawkeye nocks and then shoots an arrow and the flow of these motions is great. It’s very difficult to describe and is emblematic of optimised artistry that you need to see it in action.

A good thing for individual books over the crossover comics: you get better characterisation. Clint and his partner Kate Bishop have great (non-sexual!) chemistry and there are some real laughs to be had at their sort of dysfunctional family sort of relationship. If you’re looking for a character-led superhero story, look no further.

 

The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan [4/5 stars]

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Gotta read The Wheel of Time, baby! A worthy sequel to the brilliant The Great Hunt and I’ll give you one reason: Matrim Cauthon. Mat spent the first two books ill (for Plot reasons) so it’s not until this episode that we get a glimpse into his character. The loudmouthed, gambling, hero the cast don’t deserve is a treat. It leads me to wonder why he waited two books to have Mat properly introduced, y’know? But Jordan is the master of “Things That Don’t Seem Important But Definitely Are” so we’ll see.

Jordan made an interesting step in this book: have the main character have a goal that is specific to him but not have him as a featured perspective. Rand has very little “screen time” and that gives room for other characters like Mat, Perrin, and Egwene to develop, to the book’s credit. Rand’s absence drives the plot and adds a much-needed dynamism to the book, if the plot points are bit clumsily handled. Rand is absent until essentially the end, seen only in the occasional glimpse and dream. For me, this reads like the twin of the former book, The Great Hunt which begins quite slowly but speeds up to explore various different avenues leading to an explosive finale. There were some nice twists along the way and the worldbuilding remains stellar if there are some character missteps (I was always on the fence with Egewene but she is definitely worse in this book).

With this, I will be taking a short reprieve from The Wheel of Time. Baby.

Infinity Vols. I & II: written by Jonathan Hickman, art by various [4/5 stars in total]

 

So of course in the week leading up to my viewing of Infinity War, I read the comics! (I was basically told they were mandatory reading by my brother in his continual efforts to make me read more comics.)

So Jonathan Hickman has the impossible task of uniting Marvel’s mightiest heroes against their (so far) mightiest threat: the Mad Titan Thanos. This is done to mixed degree. The first volume felt very fragmentary and the sweeping scope was interesting but frustrated clarity and made continuing almost not worthwhile. I would rate it raw a 2.5-3 stars (out of 5), with a bump of a star for the gorgeous art. The second volume ties the threads together much more satisfyingly in some genuinely moving scenes to a pretty shaky but deserved 4 out of 5 stars.

The Thanos in these comics is the Thanos that has been teased and shown in snippets across the MCU but wholly differs from the film version, which is the better presentation, for me personally.

As a relative noob to comics, I wouldn’t recommend this either. A lot of this relies on pretty deep knowledge of the comic universe. Hickman in general does a good job but there’s so much lore that it requires a good search to understand if one is unfamiliar with the wider continuity. Some people are fine to do that but I am not, in general.

Note on reading habits: I’m going to need to curate my reading habits more. My comic habits are being largely shaped by my brother who hands me what he’s read but I think I need to look into stuff for myself. He has an income so that is part of the reason why this is, so this will serve as a sort of note for when I start having one too. I want to read non-superhero stuff. I think that’s what I need to reignite my passion for the medium.

 

 

 

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#AcresofInk Writing Challenge: Week 20

Full list of questions here; previous question here.

Week 20: Tell us about … religion in your book

Okay, so I thought long and hard about this because the religion of the book ties intimately with the meta-story of all the books set on my fictional world of Delka but it’s also linked deeply with the setting of this book, Umbra, and its sequel. To understand religion’s spread you have to zoom out a bit.

There are two goddesses, Venus and Artelia, that effectively govern the world of Delka. They were assigned a task by their father to look out after it in his absence. Since the dawn of time, the goddesses and their ilk have battled with their opposites, entities now known as Zekk. The goddesses dealt with the creation energy Mana while the Zekk dealt with an energy that at its heart is deconstruction of existing stuff, Umbra. Neither the goddesses nor the Zekk can dominate as it would cause chaos for the universe, but the Zekk don’t care and want to rule. A finely tuned balance between the two is mitigated by dragons which are celestial beings in this universe. They curb either’s powers with the third and final energy Balance, or sometimes Spirit. The short version of this story is that the goddesses make a deal with the dragons to help them stop the destruction-loving Zekk and seal them away. The result of this comes at a price: Venus must give up her eyes and Artelia must have dominion over the Umbra to maintain the balance of the universe.

In the Three Kingdoms, the story goes that essentially Artelia ate the Zekk to gain their power and overthrow her sister Venus and become the dominant force in the universe. In the process, Venus lost her eyes. Artelia was thwarted and cast down to service the “impure” Umbra as a result. This feeds into the culture of the Three Kingdoms from idioms/curses “Artelia take your eyes” for expression of extreme distaste, right the way up to their perception of other cultures. The subtitle of Umbra is “The War of the Twins”, which refers to the twin goddesses. The Three Kingdoms (colloquially known as “Volgorian” because that is the language they speak, though they have no official demonym) worship Venus, while the Anzori Empire to the south worship Artelia. Both view the other as “savage” because of their worship of the opposite goddess. The most abundant energy type there is Mana, while Anzor’s most abundant energy source is Umbra.

In Anzori faith, Artelia is the wronged heroine of the tale who was banished by her sister who was jealous of her gifts, claiming that Artelia was conspiring with the Zekk for dominion. So shamed was Venus of her crimes, she could not bear to see it and her eyes failed as a result. Dominion over the Umbra means responsibility of dead things and the afterlife. Anzori culture almost uniformly has a deep respect for the dead and the ritual for the dead. Life is suffering, Artelia suffers to see people suffer, but to maintain balance she must not interfere directly. But that does not mean she can do nothing. The way they see it, their restless souls need to be guided to the Undying Lands where Artelia resides who will watch over them eternally.

A priest of Artelia’s religion believes that because of our souls were part made by Venus, the “Tyrant Goddess”, they know restlessness and wickedness. They must devote themselves to guiding their souls to the Undying Lands peacefully without the turmoil, else they cannot be admitted and will wander forever. Many different cultures across the Empire represent faith differently but many express it through hair and ornamentation: men and women both tend to grow their hair long, wear beads, and feathers. Death rites are commonplace services a priest would offer as well as to follow the precept of seeing good in all. They see their mission in putting people on a righteous path. Some might need more help than others. Unfortunately, I have done a great disservice to the Anzori Empire and this religion as of yet is unnamed. You can mark this down as something to flesh out in the redraft. I was speaking with my friend about how underdeveloped religion is and I mean to do it justice, especially with future books.

The Three Kingdoms’ dominant religion is Seinism. Its origin is not commonly known to the average denizen there. The names of most of the countries derive from the major tribe/clan/ethnicity/delete as necessary that lived in the landmass to the north, Volgoria. So Onzarians are descended from the clan of Onza, Tymbroians from the Tymbros, etc., etc. Seinism derives its name similarly. Their clan was a minority and often looked down upon.

A cruel queen, Veena the Unjust, did not like their traditions and banished them to the lands south of Volgoria. The lands south (modern day Three Kingdoms) were supposed to be barren and uninhabited so her ambition was to ship them away and let the emptiness of that land do the job of ridding them of the Seins once and for all. She gave them little food and many starved or jumped overboard to give the others a chance. The few survivors were shipwrecked on the northern shore of modern day Delaria in the northeast of the Three Kingdoms, and brought to their capital at the foot of a mountain. It turns out a flourishing culture already existed, one of abundance. The prominent members of the clan were asked about their home but they decided not to speak of it, calling it a foul and ungrateful land* instead electing to speak only of their own traditions and teachings. These were well-received by the locals and the Seins, these strangers from the north, were viewed as very special, prophets from heaven. Their message spread orally but soon people began to scribe down these teachings and Seinism was formed. That’s about as far as I’ll go as this is getting on a bit. Seinism actually has a much darker underbelly to it that I won’t go into. But yeah. The theme of the series is about perspective and how culture shapes your beliefs. Building a robust religion and culture will be integral in selling this idea.

 

*Their desire for vengeance would see this foreign nation, known as Erebia, stretch out to the southern tip of Volgoria, but not much further than that.

#AcresofInk Writing Challenge: Week 19

Previous question here, while the full list of questions is here.

Week 19: Which character is most likely to survive an apocalypse?

Hmm. Many of my characters are quite powerful so I think they’d do alright in terms of survival. There would be a lot of caveats to think about how to test them in an apocalypse setting.

I know who would be interesting, but best is not very applicable. Maybe Lady Jane Syrill, the mentor and mother figure for a good few of the cast. Her gentleness belies a great strength. While not as mobile as many others in the cast, her abilities are quite versatile and allow her protection so she can plan her next move or traverse spaces that would be blocked by the ordinary person.

She’d definitely be a matriarch of some new community in the apocalypse for her warmth and pragmatism, unified by her strength as well. In fact, this is an interesting idea that I might write up. No promises on if I’ll show it, though.

Next question.

#AcresofInk Writing Challenge: Week 18

Full list of questions is here.

Last week’s is here.

Week 18: Your writing habits

Hahahaha like I have actual habits!

Jokes aside, this a good question to think about cultivating habits if they don’t already exist, not just explicating the pre-existing habits. Good habits are the backbone of creativity, especially when it comes to finishing things.

I don’t have a schedule because my days aren’t filled with much but I should probably do so. I think they can be useful if your days are shaped around going to work for set amount of time but I like thinking in time debts.

I am aiming to do what I did last month which was Camp NaNoWriMo where instead of the typical word count goal, I set myself the task of 30 hours of writing last month. April is 30 days long, so an hour a day. That is what I want to do for myself.

I completed this task (very quietly I should add) and I thought that it’s a fairly good thing for habit-forming—regularity. See, outside of intense months of 50,000 words, I struggle to write regularly. It’s sort of like the cost of being able to complete the challenge. There’s something about the forced structure that helps me to get the words down but then I spend long periods of time “recharging” which can be translated to: I get complacent.

Every month can’t be that intense, however, which is part of why this complacency occurs. But what if I had a different kind of goal instead?

See, an hour of work is a gentler daily goal than 1,667 words per day. It’s also an interesting block of time: I could either get 600 words done or 2000, depending on the day. It’s good because I’m not constrained with the goal of writing a specific amount of words during the day and therefore opening myself up to disappointment and doubt, saving that intensity for those months. It’s gentle enough to fit around busier times but not too gentle that I will make slow progress with my larger stuff. In general, I enjoyed doing the task and think it was beneficial for me.

Okay, now I actually have to follow through. I’m itching to finish Umbra‘s sequel, Lux and move on to other things. I wonder about your habits, if you have any.

AcresofInk Writing Challenge: Week 17

Previous question here.

Full list of questions here.

Week 17: Unseen Footage: Write a short scene that fits into your book but won’t make the final cut

So I agonised over this as I am wont to do, and I decided to craft a scene from scratch after initially pitching the idea of putting in already cut scene. In this scene, Kaiyrah “Kai” Halewood and Varmeryus “Varim” Attlewill have just been knighted after dealing a swift blow to a contingent of rebels to the throne. Varim’s girlfriend Roxanne arranged a piss-up with their childhood friends to celebrate after the initial knighting ceremony.

***

Roxanne sat with a nervous excitement she hid by telling various embarrassing stories starring Varim. With friends old and new—Rixa, Max, Ayene, and Issoll—from their childhood and the Academy sat in a booth isolated from the booming and the chanting in the rest of the pub. You could put all the marble and statues you wanted, even a water feature, but you couldn’t make the people less Onzarian.

“So what was she saying exactly?” Ayene asked. Two pints stood empty in front of her.

“That he was a disgrace to the country, that he had no place in the army. Stuff like that.” She took a swallow of her ale, but not before letting the bitterness settle in her mouth a while. That was what her father loved to do.

“Wonder what she’d think now,” she scoffed.

“Right! So this goes on for like five minutes straight—yeah, that long—and Vim* just looked at her with a straight face, saying, ‘Ma’am, with all due respect: go fuck yourself.’ I’ve never been more in love with him.”

Ayene tossed back her head with laughter and her fiery mane of hair went straight into pale-faced Issoll who pushed her back. Rixa, to her left, was halfway through sipping her wine when she got some on her clothes; Max to her left in the corner was already handing her napkins to mop it up.

“Good to know we peaked a year ago.” They all turned to the voice. “And stop calling me that!” Varim and Kai both had white cloaks pinned with the lion and crown broach on either shoulder. They still had on their Academy coat, trousers, and boots in royal red. Varim was poking a tongue to that overlong canine of his. Hit a nerve have I? You silly fool. 

She grinned. “I’m not bored of you yet.” She jumped up and planted a wet kiss on his cheek as he approached. He pretended to be repel it. She frowned, considering. “Actually I think that was it just then. We’re done now.”

He gave a sarcastic glare and the table erupted in laughter.

“Sir, dame!” She gave a mock bow. When he stiffened, she coiled her arms around him. He was tense still but softened.

Unprompted, both Kai and Varim sighed.

“What is wrong with you both?” Max asked. “Mother Goddess, you can’t be sad of such honours at your age.” His accent went faux-posh as he placed a hand to his chest. “Oh my good friends, we simply could not accept being called sir and dame! It would not be right. Meanwhile they’re clad in their ceremony gear still.”

Kai gave a self-conscious glance down.

“Hey Max, fuck you,” Varim said. The table laughed as Varim slid in next to Roxanne and Kai opposite next to Max.

“Max is just bad at saying that he’s proud of you,” Rixa said. She was smiling at them both.

“Thank you,” Kai said.

“Yeah, good to see that we’re appreciated by at least one person.”

There was an unease about them. Varim would half-mockingly be egoistic about this and Kai would be serious about how “her duties were only beginning” but there was none of that characteristic humour or seriousness. Just graveness.

Ayene sighed “Boring. This was supposed to be a lark. You two need a drink.”

“Wait, wait,” Varim intercut with his arms extended. “First, a drink for the fallen.”

A polite silence fell over the table as Roxanne pulled a bottle from under her seat. He’d asked her to bring along for this very reason. There was about half the bottle left. She poured two shots, sliding one to Kai, who raised her glass with a nod.

“To Gekiel,” Varim said.

“To Gek. May he be proud in the Lands Beyond.”

They clinked their glasses together, coiled an arm around one another’s and sunk the shot. Uncoiling, they smacked their mouths, exhaling like they drunk flame.

“Never get used to that,” Kai muttered. She wiped excess liquid from her chin with the back of her hand.

“Nor I. No idea how he kept this shit down.”

“Mm.”

“Now … how about we get our drinks on, eh?”

Ayene slammed the table making both pale-faced Issoll and mild Rixa jump. “There he is. Now that we’re here, I was thinking of a bottle of Elefian gold.”

“Each?”

“Each!  It’s a special day.”

“Weren’t you legless after one cup?” Max asked with a frown.

“Yeah, how are you managing a bottle?” Rixa looked like she regretted it when Ayene stared back, wide-mouthed.

“Fuck off am I as light as you or Issoll.”

“Iz I’ll give you,” Kai conceded, “but Rixa? She’d surprise you.” Issoll didn’t even protest as he sipped his beer in silence.

“Sounds fake but okay.” She was unimpressed; Rixa blushed and sipped her wine. “So what do you say, Vim? Or does my lord want a modest water instead?”

“Fuck your water. Bring me wine.”

***

And so on an so forth. I enjoy writing the banter of this group and especially with a couple of extratextual references (see if you spot them—they’re not huge secrets). You’ll have to excuse me cutting it short lest I just make a whole segment out of it.

Next question.

*Vim is a diminutive of Varim. See Week 12‘s footnote for more information.

#AcresofInk Writing Challenge: Week 16

Full list of questions here.

Last question here.

Week 16: [Your thoughts on] how to get the words down

 

So I’ve written in extended form of what we writers can do to get the words down. My friend has a much more succinct list and I would recommend familiarising yourself with it. It’s not personalised but it’s a useful guide in identifying what will work for you.

I want to add to/amend to the stuff I wrote. The through-line of that essay is essentially to change your thinking about writing in order to produce the words. The core of it is twofold: 1.) give yourself a break but also 2.) start sooner than later.

The first one should be straightforward: don’t be too hard on yourself. This works for both people who want to start writing and who write and struggle to get those words down. Writing is tricky. The one thing you can anticipate is that no two days will be the same so it stands to reason that some days will be better or worse than others. Enjoy the better days and endure the worse ones. If the words won’t come, if you’re stressed/tired/ill, etc. maybe it’s time to step away. Go and doing something pleasant, away from the writing. Move away from guilt. This is necessary for you so that when you do return you will be able to write.

Next, if you’re thinking about what other people are doing—publishing books way before you, writing faster in the same time you take to write slowly, etc.—you are not giving yourself a break and you ultimately will suffer for it. The only thing you should view other people through in relation to your work is to inspire you to keep going forward with your own. There’s stuff that many writers I’ve read, published and unpublished, that awe me and I use that as fuel for my own writing. There is a way to productively consume other people’s work.

The second point addresses this week’s topic of how to get the words down: just write. It might seem trite but honestly I don’t think there’s anything elaborate or particularly profound that I can say.

Okay, again, in my post that’s linked above, I talk about how to conceptualise larger goals (like writing a book or a complete story in general) and how one needs to be able to segment them into a series of smaller tasks. I stand by that. That’s all a finished piece is: consecutive goes that contributed to an end point.

You’ll notice this is nice and broad because you can account for days where things are either going well or terribly. So long as you’re working towards something then it’s meaningful. But you have to start. Even if it’s just a sentence. Hell, especially a sentence. A sentence can be the genesis of a larger whole. What is completed prose if not an extended series of sentences? Are seeing what I’m saying?

Any spare time, jot down a sentence, at least once a week. That’s not a laborious task and you have phone apps to have if you don’t carry pen and paper around (although I do recommend them). You’ll find that a sentence easily starts to flourish. Hell you could record audio of thoughts to stitch together. If you’re not bursting with ideas, as an experiment, consider describing what’s around you: what do you see, smell, hear? Follow your senses and go from there. Who’s there? Who’s experiencing stuff? Is it you or a narrator?

Consistency is key but finding out what type of consistency you require is your task*. There’s a lot to writing that is pretty personal but I believe there is an underlying unity in some of what it takes to do it. Whenever people talk to be about wanting to write I think they envision someone sat at a desk suffering for hours over their art. Sorry to break the illusion but 1.) I don’t have a desk and 2.) while I suffer, that is not the totality of the experience as it’s much more easygoing. I mostly just try to make use of the time that I have. Writing in its own way becomes a habit because it occupies your mind and you chase it on your own. But you have to start chasing it.

A further point is: don’t worry about the art of it all. What I mean is that when you think about your favourite writing (books, TV, comics, all that jazz), they’re quite beautiful. A finished product is the stuff we interact with so we don’t see all the work that went into it. The origin of every great writing is a really shitty first draft. But that’s fine! When you first starting working on a project, the first ever version of it is crap. Don’t let that distract you. Keep doing that. It’s only in being crap do we ever get better because when you’re finished, you can add all the delicious flourishes. But remember: later.

*A note on my personal things. I don’t have any routines as in place, dress, time of day, etc. but I do enjoy imposed structure. I do NaNoWriMo and the camp variants in April and July which is a task one sets themselves to complete 50,000 words in November which sounds scary and is if you’re not experienced but this is where segmentation comes in once again: 50,000 words in 30 days is a series of 1667 words (rounded up) per day, which, while nothing to scoff at, is much more manageable. This isn’t the be all and end all as some writers are quite slow so don’t benefit from this sort of thing. The Camp NaNoWriMo events in April and July have varied types of goals that fit around a different set of writers. This month I am doing Camp NaNo and I set myself an hourly goal of 30 hours to complete for the month instead of a word count goal to be a bit gentler on myself. I’ve enjoyed it because I’m not pushing myself to the upper limits. An hour’s word could yield 500 words or it could yield 2000. It really depends but so long as I am committed to that hour (and I don’t have to do it all at once) then I am working towards the completion of my novel.

This is quite impassioned, huh?

To summarise: take it easy; write when you can; try to finish things; edit later. I don’t think it’ll be useful but here is the breadth of my thoughts.

Next question.

Reflections at Dusk

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A city at dusk seems like a wonder
sunk underwater,
the lights glittering jewels,
threaded together and
placed perfectly
in rows and columns
for all to see—
untapped treasures from a lost age.

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Dusk always seem to carry with it
the illusion of clarity—
ponderous conclusions
falsely made,
cruel comfort in crueller times,
beauty in the mundane.
The possibility of hope;
lives not our own;
prosperity in the capital.

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We’ve forged out by ourselves too long
to forget that we’re cynics
but it’s not by chance that we’ve met here.
We were a pair, once.
Us like a tributary,
two rivers meandering through far-off
lands that will
twine once again
under bands of light
when the city stills to
sleep.

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#AcresofInk Writing Challenge: Week 15

Full list of questions here.

Last question this way.

Week 15: Recipes in your book

*Klaxon sound* How deep your worldbuilding goes is displayed in how well thought-out your food is. Heavy breathing into a paper bag.

Food is low in my priority list so it got to about the sequel Lux until I thought about properly integrating food into the narrative. So expect a short post. And by integrating, I mean there are about three mentions of recipes without exploring the constituent ingredients in detail.

Look, I love food but I generally don’t care for excessive descriptions of food—feasts and stuff—so I don’t really add them but they might add sensory information that people might enjoy.

My foodie is Ayene and she tastes many of the world’s delicacies. Where she is situated in Lux, she has some wings of a bird called a needlebeak, with flecks of gold from chilli peppers and a sweet sauce. But that’s Lux not Umbra. Something to work out, I suppose.

Next question.

March Reviews

I thought I was behind in my reviews but I’m about on time, roughly.

The amount of books I read per month is really fluctuating, huh?

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas [4/5 stars]

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It’s hard to articulate the complexity of my thoughts and reactions to this so if you want a fuller picture of that then I suggest you read the complete review over on my Goodreads. In short, the book follows Starr a sixteen-year-old black girl who is witness to police brutality—worse yet to someone she knows and cares for.

The book’s themes are of the difficulties and nuances of being black—how one must be on their “best behaviour” around white people in order to not illicit rejection from them—that while are specific to Amercian neighbourhoods are also universal (I was pleased and refreshed when I recognised some of what Starr had to go through was similar to my experiences), as well as the importance of family and trust. There’s some very robust social commentary which is made all the impressive for being a debut novel.

The prose is spare and the dialogue realistic and energetic and the world and characters are well realised if potentially straying into the cliché.

While it’s an excellent read I have two major quibbles:

1.) It’s a touch too long. There’s special focus on family being very important so normalising black families being lovingly together is important for dismantling harmful stereotypes about them (like the absentee father, for example). Be that as it may, it does explore some of the family activities in exhaustive detail which bogs down some story elements. I understand that it’s supposed to be the case that while our protagonist Starr has been witness to, and continues to experience, pretty bad things, she ultimately is part of a normal loving family. I just think if Thomas spent a little more time with the plot elements, it would have landed better. Which leads me to my second quibble.

2.) Not enough plot elements. There are some excellent and poignant scenes (the initial police interview come to mind). About mid-to-late book, there is an important event that Starr has to partake in but the majority of it happens “off-screen” so to speak and I felt it cheapened the experience, to be honest. If you could redistribute elements of the book—rather than embellish or diminish—then I would say take away from the family hangout stuff and divert it to these crucial bits that play well into the thematic ambitions. It’s inconsistent because there is an excellent part towards the very end that does play into those but it feels a tad wasted.

So while it misses top marks, it’s still a brilliant and important read. A frayed masterpiece.

Speak by Louisa Hall [3/5 stars]

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I’m at a bit of a loss with this one. I liked this book quite a bit. Kaleidoscopic narrative set across multiple centuries? Check. Great unpretentious prose? Check. AI and various philosophical implications of  building it to sophistication? Check and check. Interesting cast? Eh …

The characters are by no means bad but neither do their journeys interest or excite. The book is just over three-hundred pages and it took me about to the halfway point to figure out why it was taking me so long to get through it. The answer: I’m very indifferent to the characters.

The book is about the various lives that are connected, including Alan Turing, as they contribute to the build of a sentient robot called a babybot (which are eventually outlawed—not a spoiler). On a different level, it’s also about interpersonal relationships, and how perceptions and the language we use can both weaken and enhance relationships. Turing’s parts were a consistent high point for me. I suppose there were a few ways in which I identified with him.

This book is victim to a not uncommon problem in sci-fi: giving up on the character beats in order to serve the thematic aims. That might be fine for some, and again they aren’t bad but they weren’t the best, but I couldn’t get on board with it. The book is interesting but hasn’t left me with a great deal which is a damn shame. Ah well, on to the next stuff!

 

#AcresofInk Writing Challenge: Week 14

Full list of questions this way.

Last question is here.

Week 14: What (if anything) would you like to express through your writing?

My ability to tell stories? I don’t know if I have anything that I want to express through the writing. Maybe it’s many things instead of one. Likely it’s nothing. Some writers have noble goals like understanding capital t Truth or to find what it means to be a good person. But I can’t promise that because I’ve no idea if I’m doing a good job of it myself. Now this is not to say I’m the stuff of evil but what I’m getting at is that I am in no elevated position of quote unquote “goodness” to be able to tell other people what that means. The purpose of this blog worked under the premise of “knowledge is power”. I often found that people were surprisingly disparaging of themselves and their abilities and perhaps I could help them help themselves with the right sort of information. That in turn ought to have had positive knock-on effects with people that they interact with. Now this is not to say that I have a deeper knowledge-base—or that I’ve meaningfully enriched others’ lives—because all I’m doing is collecting disparate information into a narrative—to do my little bit with my little bit of knowledge. That was the aim but it’s since become an extension of my mind and my various interests. Not all, but a good deal.

As for my writing, the “speculative” (sci-fi, fantasy, etc.) fiction could be broadly understood as expressing human fragility and fickleness; the “literary” stuff that I do could broadly understood as expressing human strength and resilience. That’s if someone put a gun to my head. My individual books tend have their own individual leanings which is why this post is so hand-wavey.

I have nothing inherent that I want to express but my goal as a writer is to entertain and perhaps have others find meaning in my words as I did with writers before me.

Ponderous. This is something I might expand upon if something else hits me. I doubt it, but …

Help me out, then: if you write, what do you want to express through your writing?

Next question.