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Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

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The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this book because Book Depository offered where-have-you-been-10%-discount and this book is a classic and they have made this into a TV series with a pretty good rating.

Date Read: 21 – 31 December 2017

My notes (full of spoilers ahead):

  • I love how this book limits how we perceive a dystopian system, only through the handmaid’s eyes and later by the “colder” perception of historians.
  • I wish to know the timeline of when the Gilead was formed. Offred was only 35 years old at the time and the “normal” days were like a very distant past. How did it happen so fast?
  • When Offred felt terrified and realized how powerful the government was, I can’t help but remember 1984 by George Orwell. I didn’t intend to compare but there’s an instant thought that Big Brother is scarier, maybe because there’s horrifying torture happened before the character accepted the Big Brother.
  • When the historian presented who they thought was Offred’s Commander, I was quite surprised that the options are one of Gilead architects. When Offred described him in her story, he didn’t seem that “evil”, just someone who did their job very well. And how the Commander treated Offred, with the Scrabble, magazines, and taking her to the club, what was that? Did he not know his idea helped build a horrible system which he himself did not like its implementation? Or did he just miss parts of the past and since he had power, he might as well enjoy it? Did the historian guess incorrectly? Maybe they were not Offred’s Commander.
  • The sentences are so well written that makes me want to read more Atwood’s books.

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Written by Elfira Y S

January 1st, 2018 at 7:09 am

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Review: The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling

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The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling by Ted Chiang My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sci-Fi Indonesia group in Goodreads chose Ted Chiang’s works for buddy read this month. So far Ted Chiang has only written short stories or novelettes. The group chose 3 of them and this one here is not in the list. Those 3 are The Merchant and The Alchemist’s Gates, The Lifecycle of Software Objects, and Stories of Your Life and Others (which will be coming to theater soon). I only have read Merchant and Lifecycle so far because both are available in the wonderful world of internet. Stories is still on the way to my shelf.

And I can’t help it, I’m hooked, I’m thirsty for more Ted Chiang’s works so I find anything I can find fast. The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling is available on Subterranean Online.

This story is about how how human keep history, the truth of their story. It takes place in two periods with quite some years between them.

One in far (?) future where mankind have managed to invent a device to wear and capture every seconds of our life with feature to search and view past digital memories, called Remem (me: because you will always “remember” everything). One in the opposite direction of time, where a young man named Jijingi from an African tribe, the Tiv tribe, learned to read and write for the first time from their fellow human from Europe.

Things I remember from The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling:

    • Ted Chiang’s works reminds me of Isaac Asimov a bit. That bit is that both of them have one clear topic/idea and then present it from various points of view in such a satisfying way.
    • I never thought about how it is to learn to read. I understand the frustration of not being able to read in other languages but I don’t really remember the transition from being illiterate to being able to recognize the alphabets and later understand words, sentences, and stories. My childhood amnesia robs me of the chance to hold dear that memory. But Ted Chiang offers it in the story of a Tiv young man who got curious in the paper and the “drawing” in it and had the missionary teach him to read and write.
    • What makes me really want to remember how it was like when learning to read/write is when reading about Jijingi slowly understanding about the usage of space. How he at first didn’t get why we separate words with space because we surely don’t stop speaking for each words when speaking.
    • Also, when he first wondered why Moseby, the missionary, needed to write down his preach, why not just talk? I never question that. As far as I can remember, writing down what we want to say before we say it (especially in important events like presentation and such) is clearly useful.
    • But that brings me to the other story. If I have a chance to use Remem and play the video of my younger years, will I find different truth? Will I actually see myself ever ask a friend or a teacher about why it’s good to write before speaking? I say most certainly not! I’m quite sure.
    • The Dad in the other story also has that same level of certainty. It is a fact for him that her daughter once accused him as the reason the Mom left. Guess what he found when he played with Remem? The truth, of course.
    • By the time I read that part, I feel like I’m forced to stop and notice the title. Well, of course. Then, comes this quote:
On the one side are the truths of fact, on the other the truth of the writer’s feeling, and where the two coincide cannot be decided by any outside authority in advance.
  • And when I start admiring the usefulness of Remem and, exactly like the Dad, push down my skepticism and favor one truth over the other, the Tiv way surfaces and argues differently. And I can’t, I can’t say that they are wrong.
Our language has two words for what in your language is called ‘true.’ There is what’s right, mimi, and what’s precise, vough. In a dispute the principals say what they consider right; they speak mimi. The witnesses, however, are sworn to say precisely what happened; they speak vough. When Sabe has heard what happened can he decide what action is mimi for everyone.
  • I don’t believe that this is a novella! It’s so rich! I read others commented that Ted Chiang’s ideas are so awesome that they don’t care about plot or character and that’s also the reason he hasn’t produced any writing longer than novella (yet). Yes, I guess that’s true.
  • I enjoy the Merchant, I enjoy Lifecycle but this one is my favorite so far.

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Written by Elfira Y S

September 23rd, 2016 at 5:00 pm

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Review: Railsea

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Railsea Railsea by China Miéville My rating: 4 of 5 stars

List of things that I remember from Railsea:

  • Lesson learned: I should choose the ebook version for my next Mieville book so that the dictionary is just one or two click away.
  • It was not until the fifth chapter that I could adapt to Mieville’s writing style. The out-of-my-range vocabulary is one of the reason but I’m not sure it’s the only reason.
  • What kept me going is that somehow even with that limitation, the words translate into a beautiful 2D Japanese anime style in my mind. The world is portrayed in mostly brown colour (even if it doesn’t fit the actual description in the book because I misunderstand it or something :P). So I kept on following Sham’s mind & journey.
  • & I’m glad I did. The sixth chapter is my favorite. I can understand why he had the urge to save the bird & then cause his train mates to chase him. The dull & lost feeling Sam had leads into this one scene where he just felt enough & submitted to his instinct. Grab the bird & run! Oh, it was beautiful.
  • The word “philosophy” in this book makes me wonder. I never see the word used this way and I like it. The captains of the train usually have a philosophy and it most likely means a certain creature, an archenemy, that they will hunt earnestly.
  • I very much enjoy the “rest” chapters, the one page chapters placed between longer ones. They are usually written slightly out of story but still related, like a little footnote but in form of a short chapter & they complete the story, you know, like why there is only ampersand (&) sign in the story.
  • I didn’t expect the story at the end, the one isolated town at the end of the railsea, with their own myth. I’m not sure why after how long it is, years, centuries, epochs, the factory-town people do not venture outside. I don’t understand why they keep believing outside people will pay their debt. I imagine their area is quite small, nobody ever want to see what’s out there? Even if there’s angel guarding the bridge. Wait, did any of them even have the chance to see the bridge? Poor people.

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Written by Elfira Y S

September 22nd, 2016 at 12:03 pm

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Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was in a reading slump, had been for several months, when I picked this book. This latest English translation Murakami novel was not my first attempt to get me back to finishing this year reading challenge. I had tried several books but only this one I could finish.

My review may contain spoilers.

Colorless

I still enjoy Murakami’s work. Although Colorless (the whole title is just too long :P) is not on my top 3 Murakami books, his fiction and non-fiction (I’m halfway reading — have been for more than a year — his autobiography, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running) have always this peaceful nuance, at least to my mind. Does anybody else feel this way too?

When I started turning on page one, I knew only part of the big story. Tsukuru Tazaki is the main character who has four close friends from high school who all have color as part of their name. You know, like having friends called Danny Blue or Jack Black.

They were black, blue, red, white and Tsukuru Tazaki. The only one without color, the colorless Tsukuru Tazaki.

I tend to shut out any information about books that I might have interest to read so I missed the next part of the synopsis which is that when they are in college, those “color” friends of Tsukuru Tazaki suddenly cut their relationships with him. Without explanation.

Black

If I took time to read the whole synopsis, I think I’d read this book. sooner. But that part of ther story became apparent quite early and that was actually the reason I got hooked and could not stop reading. Because I wanted to know how he would deal with losing big part of his life.

Ok, I don’t really remember how exactly Murakami paints how painful it is for Tsukuru Tazaki but I remember that I got it and it’s heart wrenching.

When he couldn’t stand the pain, he distanced himself from his body and, from a nearby, painless spot, observed Tsukuru Tazaki enduring the agony. If he concentrated really hard, it wasn’t impossible.

Blue

And after months, Tsukuru Tazaki survived. He could move on and continue with his life. He’s getting better. But the baggage remained heavy and with him until he was thirty something.

Honestly around this part, the more pages I turned, the less I could relate myself to this introvert main character and finally I disengaged and just enjoyed the story.

Perhaps I actually still put myself in his shoes, became numb just like him. He lived but not really lived.

Red

And I guess many people live that way, with unresolved issues that they  thought they had put behind them. Until for some, at one point they just couldn’t run away anymore. For Tsukuru Tazaki, it took about almost 20 years to arrive at that point.

It was because of a woman. I am not sure I approve (who am I?). It’s just that I could not feel what makes this woman so special. Sure, he liked her more than any of her previous girls (which not even have their names mentioned), but I just could not grasp the reason.

Is it a translation issue? If I knew Japanese, would I appreciate more how Murakami grant this woman her right to push Tsukuru Tazaki out of his misery?

White

And as it is with almost all Murakami works that I have read, most of the characters are well off. Financially they seem never to have problem. They almost always are all good in their job. Or they do not possess desire for worldly things, they are content with what they get (but still able to travel around the world or locally but for a very long time).

Can you smell envy? Ha.

Anyway, when the past started to unravel itself, Tsukuru Tazaki (and I) found that it’s not only him that has been hurting. The reason behind his alienation was horrifying and I’d understand why it had to happen.

If only they care to explain to Tazaki sooner. Can you imagine for almost twenty years you thought that you were being treated unfairly and not knowing that it was for the greater good? I mean Tazaki would definitely feel better if he knew! Maybe not right away, but twenty years is a very long time.

I know, I know. To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;  time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Ok, I’ll stop quoting Ecclesiastes 3.

Grey

There’s the fifth “color” friend of Tsukuru Tazaki. He appeared in Tazaki’s college years, I think, as a filler. Appropriately named as grey, mixture of black and white.

For me this character serves as an emphasis that all color person will eventually leave Tazaki. He just (at that time felt that he) did not deserve them. Although he’s a filler, I think his story was craftily put by Murakami-sensei.

All Good Things Come To An End

Reading this novel makes me think growing up suck. Somewhere along the way, terrible things happen and it gets harder and harder to be happy (or maybe it’s just me? Ungrateful spoiled human being).

What might come across as being happy could actually be acceptance of how life has broken us all. Be that as it may, I’m glad that Murakami chose a happy ending.

Tsukuru Tazaki, hesitant at first, started giving his past another look. Though it’s not a comfortable journey, the closure is enabling him to free his soul and change him.

He was one who believed he was as colorless as his name, one who just accepted whatever life had thrown him, who just went with the flow. In the end he started to have a will to fight, to not just let go what could be a precious thing to him, to once again, really live.

In the end, all is good.

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Written by Elfira Y S

October 4th, 2014 at 9:08 pm

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Review: Cloud Atlas

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Cloud Atlas Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

It’s beautifully written and if it was a map, a treasure map, to my eyes it would have so many X letters in it.

Though I’ve been avoiding spoilers from the movie and reviews, I knew there was going to be multiple characters with different stories from different period of time. And I think (Sir) David Mitchell has taken it as an opportunity to show his mastership of a true wordsmith through his characters, plots, and the weave and thread that make it as one whole story.

List of things that I remember from Cloud Atlas:

  • This sentence from the first page of the book: “If there be any eyrie so desolate, or isle so remote, that one may there resort unchallenged by an Englishman, ’tis not down on any map I ever saw.”
  • Robert Frobisher character. I watched the movie, right after finishing the book. They change him and his story in the movie (that’s understandable though) but I will always prefer the book version of this young composer. I’m having difficulties to explain why I like this character but if I can take a guess maybe it’s because I want to be like him. I want to write letters (or email/blog ) like the way he did. I want to deal with life like the way he viewed and dealt with whatever life had thrown him. But uhm not that one particular preference of his, mind you. And not definitely that one decision of his.
  • It’s rich. Well, given that it has 6 mini story lines in it, we might expect that. But things can go wrong with author having too many stories in his head. It could be delicious of course, like one of those desserts or meals that has all our favorite stuffs in it. So delicious but unhealthy. Cloud Atlas is delicious and healthy, perfect portion.
  • David Mitchell slips explanation about what this book is about.  He did a remarkable job at showing part of “show, don’t tell” but he also had an amazing “tell”, a very neat one. Someday if I reread this book I hope I would find another tell. From this first reading I remember a part when Frobisher told Sixsmith about the Cloud Atlas sextet that he was working on.
Spent the fortnight gone in the music room, reworking my year’s fragments into a “sextet for overlapping soloists”: piano, clarinet, ‘cello, flute, oboe, and violin, each in its own language of key, scale, and color.
  • I adore different language styles each main character uses in Cloud Atlas with exception of Timothy Cavendish. Reading his first part revoked me a headache. Even Zachry’s overly-abundant usage of single quote did not offend me as much as Cavendish’s narration haha, don’t know why.

Aaah, it’s one satisfying read. I borrow this book from a friend and will certainly get myself a copy for a reread.

 

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Written by Elfira Y S

February 23rd, 2014 at 6:24 pm

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Review: Tears of the Giraffe

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Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #2)Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book of the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I borrowed it from Adhit. I chose this book from his list because I wanted something light and fresh. Fresh means that I haven’t read the synopsis or anything that can lead me to knowing what the book is all about.

I got something fresh indeed. The book introduces me to Botswana through the eyes of Mma Ramotswe, Mr. J.L.B Matekoni and several other characters. It is not a pure detective story because it mixes the case with personal life of the lady detective and people around her. That, I think, is one of the difference with the other novel books in which the detective does not seem to have a life outside solving cases after cases.

Though that point makes this book closer to reality, I still don’t know where I stand on the pure heart of good people of Botswana. The good people seem flawless, kind-hearted, and polite even in their mind. It could be that I am one who’s corrupted, can easily get selfish thoughts creeping in my mind. It could be that the Botswana’s good values are deeply rooted in the heart of her people. Of that, I’d like to know more.

I actually wanted to go to the Book Depository and ordered all thirteen books in this series after reading about 20 pages. But I am aware I can be impulsive so I decided to wait until I have finished reading. And now that I have, I’m happily waiting for four books of these series flying home to my shelve. :D

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Written by Elfira Y S

September 29th, 2012 at 4:46 pm

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Gone With The Wind, Part 2

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I actually read the 9 chapters in part 2 faster than part 1 and this post has been sitting as a draft for a week! But first, thanks again to mbak Fanda at Fanda Classiclit blog for hosting this read along. I’ve enjoyed reading the update posts of other participants and I’m guessing this read along will not be the last on my reading life.

 

Spoiler alert~

Written by Elfira Y S

September 29th, 2012 at 11:30 am

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Gone With The Wind, Part 1

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This is my first fiction read along and I’m glad I found this event at Fanda Classiclit blog (thank you for hosting this, mbak Fanda!).  Gone With The Wind is famous, famous for what I honestly didn’t know haha. I have never tried to find the movie or the book or even the synopsis of the story. I guess it’s time to find out why and good thing there’s this reading along because this novel is 993 pages long (e-book version from Green Light publisher, only 0.99 USD at Kobo! xD)

Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler

A lot of them. Because I just want to note my impression of the first 7 chapters of the novel. Check out fellow readers’ updates here. :D

 

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Written by Elfira Y S

September 15th, 2012 at 11:14 am

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Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Halfway through this book I was thinking that this book got a bit of Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. Both books allow the readers to get to know one special boy through his stories and his thoughts. In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie, the main character, writes letters to a stranger during his first year of high school.

I love it that the story is built so smoothly that I didn’t even realize that Charlie was special until I had read about 4 or 5 of his letters? I don’t know the exact number because the subtlety worked so well for me.

Charlie’s letters are beautifully written and they show what kind of person Charlie is. If I can choose 3 adjectives, they would be pure, selfless, and humble. While from the outside he could be perceived as weird or freak, but knowing him little by little, I can’t help but symphatize and feel ache when he on one of his breakdowns wished someone to tell him what’s wrong with him.

Just tell me how to be different in a way that makes sense. To make this all go away.

The book is divided into 4 parts, one for each season I guess, and an epilogue. I got carried away with my speculation and comparison with Haddon novel so the epilogue left me a bit surprised. I can’t wait to see the movie adaptation that will come out around September this year. Hope it will be as sweet as the book! Oh, one more thing, I’m glad I chose this book as my first ebook purchase for my Sonel, a Sony PRS-T1~

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Written by Elfira Y S

August 11th, 2012 at 11:21 pm

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Review: Laika

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Laika Laika by Nick Abadzis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the story of a Russian dog sent to the earth orbit in Sputnik II, Laika (lit. the barker). The story was sad but that’s what happened in a real life. I feel like it’s a story of helpless, trapped characters.

There was a chief designer who was forced to answer his leader wish to launch something into space in a month time, the team who had to make adjustments here and there and decided to not include the return-to-earth plan, the dogs carer/instructor who knew a little too late about the whole plan and had nothing on her hand to stop it, and of course Laika who could not do anything but to submit to whatever mankind had decided to do with her life.

Throughout the story, I also gradually became helpless, I found it hard to blame anybody. The nearest person I’d like to curse might be the chief designer. The leader? I stay away from him, they’re Russian. But then again the chief designer was just doing what he had been told to. And it was not just that, before he was a chief designer, he was wrongly accused and got prisoned. He struggled through hard times but he didn’t give up. I like how he kept reminding himself by saying: “I will not die. I am destined to be somebody big. I will not die” (pardon my sentences, I read the Indonesian translation and have not checked the original edition). That’s how the opening goes, him walking in a stormy night trying to get to Moscow with a hope to get his name cleared.

Laika’s life before Sputnik II is also portrayed in a way that I root for the dog because of her patience. She was loved of course, she was told to be one special dog. But she also managed to keep running into people who wanted to hurt her (can I count the Sputnik team in?). What mesmerized me was Laika seemed to keep her faith in kindness and in human. Is it because she is a dog? But I’ve seen dogs in Dog Whisperer TV shows that got traumatized. Or maybe because it’s just a graphic novel and the author got to decide? I don’t know, I haven’t yet to find out how deep the author’s research for this novel.

More heartwrentching point? There’s a quote from the chief designer at the end of the novel. He said that the information gathered from the Sputnik II launch was not significant. It didn’t have contribution to the first human trip to space that happened 4 years after Sputnik II. At this point, the for-science excuse immediately faded away and the unforgiving thought in my mind wondered if Laika died to only fulfill the leader’s wish.

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Written by Elfira Y S

July 8th, 2012 at 11:56 am

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