The Wednesday Four

Last week was something else. Wednesday was A Day Without Women, our President released his health care “plan” and so many things happened. I missed a lot of it due to being out of town because Southeast Michigan, where I live, was hit with a huge windstorm and myself, along with around a million others, lost power. I have power again and it’s very nice. It was a sharp reminder how quickly our world can change. Stay safe, everyone. Stay warm (or cool, depending where you are).

Here is week 17.

Due to the above mentioned issues, I haven’t read many articles recently, so here are more old ones. Including one about one of my most favorite movies, Chungking Express. If you haven’t seen it, please do, it’s fantastic.

  • In Dreams: 20 Years of ‘Chungking Express’ (mxdwn)
  • William Gibson Sees the Future: But he’s not trying to predict it. (Slate) Note: Gibson is my favorite author and I loved The Peripheral, which is what this article is partially about. 
  • Did My Best Friend Really Know Me? For 27 years, the writer had a dutiful relationship with her most devoted friend. Only later did she question who needed who more. (Dame)
fullwidth.982cfbd5

Tony Leung Chiu Wai in Chungking Express

chungkingexp1024

Faye Wong in Chungking Express

Book Review: Reykjavík Nights by Arnaldur Indriðason

bn0t-square-orig

I am a huge fan of Indriðason’s Inspector Erlendur series. There’s something compelling about his writing style and the characters in the series. Not just Erlendur, but the the people who surround him. In fact, Indriðason has written two books who are tangentially about Erlendur, but are in truth about the two detectives he works with. In Reykjavík Nights we are treated not to a story about Erlendur the inspector but instead Erlendur the 20something (I think he’s 26) traffic cop.

Note: Don’t read this book unless you’ve the rest of the series. If you want to read Erlendur’s series, start with Jar City, the earliest book in the series to have been translated into English.

Reykjavík Nights follows the beginning of Erlendur’s path toward the detective we’re familiar with. This Erlendur is has no true experience solving crimes, he’s young and without a family of his own. While he has no wife or daughter, the baggage he does carry is the same that haunts him throughout the whole series.

Spoilers: The disappearance and probable death of Erlendur’s brother in a snowstorm, when they were both young, follows him, haunting him in at age 26. We learn that this loss has truly shaped him as a detective, in fact, the main case of Reykjavík Nights is only solved because of Erlendur’s obsession with missing people. End Spoilers

The novel is differs from the usual style of Indriðason’s Inspector Erlendur series. Instead of following Erlendur and his team as they try to solve a murder of some kind, we’re treated to two stories without. Reykjavík Nights has two halves: a procedural Law & Order type story line and an overarching crime that Erlendur must solve. The title of the novel itself is really only half the story, but this is not a bad thing

As a big fan of Law & Order, this novel read a bit like the Reykjavik version of that show — except that the characters (and Erlendur especially) were very well developed. We are treated to Erlendur’s experiences as a traffic/beat cop on the streets of Reykjavik. He works the night shift, hence the title, and Indriðason fills chapters with the exploits of Erlendur and his two partners. That sounds boring, but instead it’s the opposite. As much as I wanted to know what was happening in the other half of the story, these tales of the night shift serve a larger purpose, showing how ordinary people can sometimes become entangled in larger stories without even realizing it.

674a867a74ae92cb4f94dd57ee606451As always, I enjoyed the way Indriðason ties everything together. The larger crime is twofold — the death of a homeless man Erlendur met on the night shift and a woman who went missing around the same time the homeless man died. These two seemingly independent stories draw Erlendur in and we watch as he slowly begins to unravel them and eventually figure out what happened and how they’re connected. While the night shift stories are good, it is this second plot where the novel truly shines. We are treated to Erlendur, the budding inspector. But unlike the later series, this Erlendur doesn’t know what he’s doing, he messes things up, and he has to work alone. And yet, just as we expect, he does solve the mysteries he’s stumbled upon.

Reykjavík Nights is a treat for Erlendur fans and I am so happy it’s been translated into English. If you’ve read the rest of the series, definitely pick up Reykjavík Nights. While it’d still be a good read if you’re not familiar with the series, I would still recommend starting with Jar City. Regardless, I truly enjoyed this book and I cannot wait to read Into Oblivion, the follow up book to Reykjavík Nights.

Self-Care Friday (Week 5)

Sorry, this one is late due to many things.

Last week I talked about watching some musicals and one of those was Annie Get Your Gun. I knew, going in, that this musical was not a great one. I also expected it to be racist and sexist, but I honestly didn’t really know what I was in for. You can read my full review over on Letterboxd, but suffice to say that I pretty much only gave it one star because I like some of the songs.

Anyway, onto the actual, fun things.

What I’ve Been Reading:

  • Reader Harder:
    • Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel: The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles
  • Completed:
    • Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indriðason (audio book on CD)
  • Reading:
    • Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
    • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (audio book – on hold)
    • Chapelwood: the Borden dispatches by Cherie Priest
    • Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino
    • Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews
    • One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire (audio book)

What I’m watching:

The most recent two episodes of Voice have gotten really intense. There are only two more left. I can’t wait to find out what happens.

  • Voice (Korean drama)
  • Tokyo Tarareba Musume (Japanese drama)
  • Totsuzen Desu ga, Ashita Kekkon Shimasu (Japanese drama)
  • Cabaret
  • Camelot

What I’m listening to:

  • Women of Fresh Finds (Spotify Playlist)
  • Blade Runner OST
  • Arrival OST
  • Perfume – Tokyo Girl (theme to Tokyo Tarareba Musume)

  • Subin

And her new song:

 

C6jwPndXAAAggT4

This is Kihyun, of the boy group Monsta X. They are one of my favorite groups and coming back soon. I’m going to try to include pictures of some kind, from now on, that make me happy. This teaser photo of Kihyun is one of those images! Look forward (maybe … you may not be doing that, actually, but shhh) to more (probably kpop related) photos. 

Self-Care Friday (Week 2)

A lot has happened this week, not all of it great for the country, but some of it great for me. I bought tickets to see a kpop group, B.A.P, in Chicago in April. My friend N ended up getting a ticket, too, so we’ll go together. We’re also planning to go see SHINee in Toronto — hopefully we can get tickets! They go on sale next Sunday. And today, Friday, we’re headed out of town for another kpop concert (B1A4, for those of you playing at home).

What I’ve been reading:

  • Read Harder:
    • Read an all-ages comic: Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
  • Completed:
    • A Midsummer’s Equation by Keigo Higashino
  • Reading:
    • Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
    • Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
    • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (audio book)

What I’m watching:

  • Voice (Korean drama)
  • Squad 38 (Korean drama)
  • Kaitou Tantei Yamaneko (Japanese drama)
  • The Great Wall (Chinese film)
  • Young and Dangerous 1 & 2 (Hong Kong movies from 1996)
  • Twin Peaks (original series)

What I’m listening to:

  • SECHSKIES
  • GUGUDAN
  • SPEED
  • K.A.R.D (they have to singles: Oh Na Na and Don’t Recall)

Book Review: Boy Nobody (I Am The Weapon) by Allen Zadoff

069c352b1ffb84910a68043c82a1d84dIf you know me, you know that I love thrillers. And, if you know me really well, you might know that I love The Winter Soldier (aka Bucky Barnes). I like assassins who turn out to have a heart, who end up questioning their orders. These stories are intense and fun, but they’re not usually something that you find in teen books. Or at least, not to the level that you find in Boy Nobody/I Am The Weapon.

Boy Nobody is the story about an unnamed (until near the end of the novel) teenage boy who is also an assassin. When he was twelve, his family was killed and he was basically kidnapped and turned into an assassin who can get places adults cannot. He has been doing this for a long time and he’s very good at his job.

We follow our unnamed teenage assassin as he finishes one assignment and is then given a second — this time he must kill a mayor. Of course, the mission isn’t as easy as our assassin expects it to be — his timeline is a week and then there’s a girl involved. But unlike so many other novels, Boy Nobody does something very different with it’s anti-hero.

Very explicit spoilers for Boy Nobody ahead.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord

best01While looking up similar books to Monica Byrne’s The Girl in the Road (LibraryThing), I stumbled across Karen Lord’s novel The Best of All Possible Worlds. The summary sounded promising: “Now Lord returns with a second novel that exceeds the promise of her first. The Best of All Possible Worlds is a stunning science fiction epic that is also a beautifully wrought, deeply moving love story.” Thus I picked I up (one of the libraries I work at happens to own a copy, which was even better). That review was, in fact, correct (in spite of my not having read her first novel). The Best of All Possible Worlds is fantastic for many, many reasons.

There are lots of books about space and aliens and the future of the human race. There are lots of books that combine these elements together, some good, some not so much. But The Best of All Possible Worlds does something different, something better. Karen Lord’s novel is centered around a woman, Grace — while she is not our only character to have a voice, she is in mabest02ny ways the main character of the novel. She lives on a planet that is home to refugees from all across the galaxy, most (if not all) of them are some form of human, but they are also very different, very alien. But what Lord does is find a way to tie them all together, to make them find their similarities, instead of their differences.

Grace is works for the government and can speak many languages, which is how she ends up befriending Dllenahkh, who is Sadiri and from a planet that no longer exists. Grace is tasked with helping Dllenahkh and his fellow Sadiris find genetic matches to keep their people from extinction (think of it as similar to when Vulcan is destroyed in the new Star Trek reboot and how the elder Spock, at the end of movie, has decided to devote to helping the popular rebuild). In a way, The Best of All Possible Worlds is a very long road trip, as Dllenahkh, Grace and the rest of their assigned crew travel across Grace’s planet.

In way, Lord combines some of the more interesting aspects of Stragate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis into her novel. Grace and Dllenahkh’s travels remind me, in a way, of the Stargate teams traveling to different planets and learning about the people (and discovering that, in many cases, that are not that differbest03ent from themselves). Not only do Grace, Dllenahkh, and their crew find compatible people, they also find out more about the different cultures of the planet and, more significantly, about each other.

The Best of All Possible Worlds is a story about people more than anything else. It is about Grace’s relationship with her coworkers, with the people of her planet, and with her family. Grace learns things about herself, about the people in her life, and about the history of her people and all peoples in her galaxy. In many ways The Best of All Possible Worlds is akin to a space opera, but I’ve never read one quite as beautifully written as Lord’s novel.

There is a love story within the novel as well. Grace and Dllenahkh find in each other something they didn’t even know they were looking for. The love story is subtle, it’s gentle, and it’s also really, really satisfying. Which sums up the novel as a whole, actually.

I really loved The Best of All Possible Worlds and I highly recommend it.

Book Review: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

9780385680141_0This book caused me quite a bit of trouble, ironically (I discovered upon reading it) because I kept misremembering and misreading the title as world exchange instead of word. I finally figured it out (actually, I went through the process of trying to remember the title a couple of times, two of them involving other librarians) and set about reading it.

The Word Exchange is a novel about the future, it’s a dystopia set in a world not far off from our own. In that world, devices reminiscent of today’s smartphones basically run people’s lives (predominately Americans, but other countries as well). These devices, called Memes, do everything smartphones do for us today — and then some. They can basically figure out what it is we need at any given moment, from directions to music to clothing. But, at the same time, they’re slowly replacing that which makes us who we are — our brains.

Of course, the majority of the characters in Graedon’s novel don’t realize this. How can they? They’re so attached (addicted) to their Memes that they don’t realize something’s gone wrong until it’s too late. The Word Exchange takes place right before the word flu strikes and society (at least temporarily) collapses.

The novel is told in the format of a transcript, complete with letters. Anana is writing her recollections of the events surrounding the word flu pandemic. Her chapters are separated by journal entries from a friend of her and her father, Bart. There’s some romance, Anana’s ex-boyfriend Max is partially responsible for the word flu’s spread, if not it’s creation. Bart himself is tangled up in the mess of the word flu and Max (they were friends, of a sort).

the_word_exchange_1024x1024Each chapter is a letter and below the letter is a word beginning with that’s letter, followed by a definition. Anana, her father Doug, and Bart all work for something called The Dictionary. This is something similar to the OED, but in North America. Anana’s father is in charge of the rewrites for the 3rd edition. One day, not long after Max leaves Anana, she and her father are set to have dinner when he fails to show up. This sets in motion events that will change Anana’s life, at that of her family, friends and the whole of the globe.

Of course, Anana, like the readers, is unaware of what’s happening. But, of course, because the story we’re reading is Anana’s recollections, we also get the benefit of her hindsight. She  intersperses her story with insight (explaining things that she won’t know until later, among other things) that moves the story along in a very interesting way.

Both Bart and Anana catch the word flu, though the severity of their diseases vary. It’s through the disease, the word flu, that Graedon’s story is most effective. Anana recalls a moment on the train with her father when he uses what she calls an ‘obscure’ word and she pulls out her Meme (discretely, as her father doesn’t like them) which supplies her with the definition. And thus begins what I find to be quite terrifying.

You see, one of the ways the Memes worm their ways into the lives of the characters is by remembering things, remembering words, for us. You’ve been there. You’re staring at something (in the novel, it’s a fork, in real life it’s an armchair, a pen, a notebook, a lamp, anything ordinary) and suddenly you can’t remember the word for it. You know what it is, but you can’t come up with it. It’s happened to all of us. I blame our reliance on technology, the same way that Doug (Anana’s father) does with the Meme.

resizeIt’s through these devices, the Memes and others, that the virus spreads. The details of the virus, the impact it has on people and the delivery mechanisms, those are all  for you to discover when you read the book. There are, of course, bigger things at plan that just addiction to Memes and the fears of Doug and eventually Anana, too. But, really, at the heart of the novel is the importance of communication — what happens when we’re cut off? — and the written word — how do we communicate when you cannot speak?

Books, magazines, reading and writing, conversation and debate, all of these are important to the characters in the novel. But, really, I think that Graedon is trying to get across the idea that these are also important to us, today. Others may disagree, but I never really felt like she was trying to hit us over the head with the idea that these “ancient” technologies are any less important today than they were when, say, printing was invented. Perhaps some thing she’s being heavy handed, but I felt that wasn’t the case. If anything, it made me want to put down my phone and read more books.

So, if you’re looking for something that’s not quite science fiction, but not quite fiction, either. This straddles that boundary in an excellent fashion. It might slow to start, but it’s well worth the effort. And while the conclusion is rather open ended (I could see a sequel), I rather liked it’s conclusions (or lackthereof).