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The 2012 Reading List Part-II June 2, 2012

Posted by Afrozy Ara in Book Reviews, Fantasy Fiction, Mumbo Jumbo.
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The last 5 months have been an adventurous journey across a palette of landscapes and colours. I have wandered the landscapes of ancient India while reading Amish Tripathy’s Shiva Trilogy, witnessed the horrors of death in the Hunger Games Arena and scouted the far corners of the Universe in Douglas Adams’ whacky Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And while this was a guided tour (Yes, I had made my list of to-read Books at the beginning of the year!), I did stray out of the plan in some places (reading random books here and there).

Nevertheless, going on with that spirit – here is my list for this quarter again.. Please don’t groan. I know this should have come more than a month ago, but like all appraisals and salary hikes; this one is running late too! ;)

The Song of Ice and Fire:

Starting with the one I am reading now. The Song of Ice and Fire is a series on on-going epic Fantasy novels by George R R Martin. There are 6 novels in the series; the last one has not been released yet.  The saga of epic proportions takes place in 2 fictional continents, spanning thousands of years. It has more than 100 major protagonists, and the books slowly interlink the lives of these characters, weaving a massive tale which has many elements of J R R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. That’s what got me interested in the series in the first place.

Two days ago, I was randomly flipping through “The Game of Thrones”.  I read the first page and then I tread on; it was so alluring that I just couldn’t stop after that, reading 150 pages in one sitting itself!  And the weird part is that the content was neither very cheerful or “feel good”.  It reeked of violence and death right from the start; eerie scenes of murder, prisoners getting beheaded, recollections of a violent past. Everything about the book spooked me, and yet I was so irresistibly drawn towards it; like the moth to a flame!

What amazed me most about the book (from what I have read till now) is how GRRM preys on the human psychology, arousing curiosity in the most macabre sort of way. I mean, I have a fairly low tolerance for violence in movies (I avoid the ones with bloodshed like the plague), and yet the pages repelled and intrigued me in equal measure. A writer has to be a real wizard for that!

Love in the times of Cholera:

 Having read raving reviews about Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s works, this book got added in my to-read list. And since one of my friends had a hard copy, I borrowed it and began right away. Almost halfway through the book, I made a huge mistake – I put it down to do something else. And when I came back, it was like the pages had banished me for my fickleness – I just couldn’t follow the story again! It’s not that the book was not interesting (I was hooked to the tale from the beginning) but the descriptions are so long winding that you actual get lost in them! Like a stream winding through copious Amazon forests with no idea how long it will take to get to the sea!

And so, I have a renewed resolve to start reading it again. Without any breaks, ofcourse. :)

Gone with the Wind:   

Okay. This might seem strange, but “Gone with the Wind” had been on my reading list since the last 7 years. And the queer thing is, a copy of it has been sitting on my bookshelf all these years too!. I had borrowed this book from a friend of mine, but couldn’t return it for some reason. Had been meaning to read it all this while but never got around to doing it. Perhaps for the forbidding size (it has 700+ pages in size 8 font) which is odd because lengthy books never deterred me before. Maybe it was because of the time this book was set in; some queer Victorian era which I could not relate to. Nevertheless, nothing is as powerful as a book whose time has come to be read. So “Gone with the Wind” it is!

The Book Thief:

I have heard rave reviews about this one from my friends, and that’s what inspires me to read it. Set in the war ravaged times in Nazi Germany, the story is narrated by Death as it travels around the world. And the main protagonist is this little girl he calls “the Book thief”.

History always fascinates me, and I was appalled when I read details of Nazi Fundamentalism and the Holocaust. Just reading the Wikipedia entries was so harrowing, and it painted my imagination with such morbid details. I know this book is not of the gruesome types (thankfully!), but am curious to know how the author Markus Zusak has captured the psyche of the common man trapped in a confrontation of such catastrophic proportions!

So this completes my reading list for this Quarter. It’s a small list, considering I have only 1 month more to go.Will try to post reviews when I can!.

See you around then.. Adios!

5 Unforgettable Characters I have read about! May 6, 2012

Posted by Afrozy Ara in Classics, Mumbo Jumbo, Non Fiction, Sci-Fi.
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Yes, I love reading fiction!. And what makes it awesome are people I meet as I journey through these novels. Breathing life into stories are protagonists woven out of their authors’ imaginations, characters with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies. They capture your attention, invite you to live their lives, and amaze you with the surprises they hold!

So this post is dedicated to the 5 most unforgettable characters I have read about.  I guess books you read in your childhood impress you much more, so this list is slightly favoured towards fiction I read long long ago. You would also have a list of favourite characters right ? Let’s see how much my list matches yours!!! :)

 

Catherine Earnshaw

Yeah, topping this list is Catherine Earnshaw from “Wuthering Heights” by Emile Bronte. I first read Wuthering Heights when I was thirteen (and I’ve read it over and over again!). It is an amazing story of unfulfilled love, an all-consuming romantic passion, alarming you with the violence of emotions and the scary dark shades of the characters. No wonder, the scenes of the novel struck in my mind forever. The desolate moors, the ghostly visage of Heathcliff and Catherine. If there was one book that made the most vivid impression on me in my childhood, then it was this one. And I can never forget the introduction to Catherine in the movie, where she wails on the window as a ghost, pleading to come in.  And as you read further, her character gets even more unforgettable. My memory of her is still fresh: her cruel yet loving nature, her tempestuous character with a ferocity and depth of passion which will singe you. And the haunting description of Catherine in rage- her hair flying over her shoulders, her eyes flashing.. She has some passion within her that drives the whole story forward, and even after her death, Catherine is an overpowering presence in the events that follow.

Lisbeth Salander

I have obsessed about Salander over and over again after having read The Millenium Trilogy. You can read that here.  What makes her awesome is the combination of brains and brawn with a nasty – “I’m-not-going-to-apologize-for-the-way-I’ve-led-my-life attitude.A self-confessed freak and weirdo, she needn’t  say much to alarm you. The simple – “Keep in mind that I’m crazy, won’t you?” would suffice. She is perhaps the few characters from modern fiction that has impressed me so much (most of my favourites are from age old classics!)

Severus Snape

Can you imagine how life would have been if there were no Harry Potter books to read? I can’t, and no list would be complete if it didn’t have the Potter element in it! So my unforgettable character from this series is Severus Snape. Don’t wince; I know he made your skin crawl – with his crooked nose; greasy hair and twirling black robe as he glides down the corridors at Hogwarts. But I loved his brilliant wit and sarcasm, with ingenious methods to punish students out of favour with him. Remember the first portion making class – “I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death — if you aren’t as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach”!!!. His face offs with Harry potter were le-gen-dary; “What would your head have been doing in Hogsmeade, Potter? Your head is not allowed in Hogsmeade. No part of your body has permission to be in Hogsmeade.”

Yet, beneath the meanness and tragedy, there was a certain grace about his character. The grace with which he went around making Potter’s life miserable ( while saving his life), taking sides with the Death Eaters, getting killed by Voldemort, and finally redeeming himself with his memory. Snape was indeed the most heroic and misunderstood character of J K Rowling’s master creation. His presence made the whole story volatile and interesting, and I have to give him full marks for that!

Howard Roark

Fountainhead was the first Ayn Rand book that I had read, sometime while pursuing graduation. And it sort of zapped me, in some magic spell. Howard Roark was like some weird perfect human being from another planet. Out of the world, he could as well have been an alien from Proxima Centauri!!. And the way Rand crafted her character made him an unforgettable hero in my memory. Not that I am a big fan of the one-sided capitalistic abracadabra that Rand propagated in all her books, yet she made a grand entry and left a gaping impression with Roark. The first scene of Fountainhead completely defines him. Standing at the edge of the cliff, confident in his skin – Howard Roark laughed. Like some sort of God mocking at the trivialities of humankind. Like an insubordinate spirit walking the earth. “High cheekbones over gaunt, hollow cheeks; gray eyes, cold and steady; a contemptuous mouth, shut tight, the mouth of an executioner or a saint.”!!  Howard Roark is the mouthpiece of Ayn Rand philosophies, which actually inspire a cult-like devotion because they are so powerful (Remember the long speech in the last chapter!). And like all impressionable minds awed by her dazzling philosophy, I was also swept away. It took me 3-4 years to real life to be pushed out of the haze of Rand’s Objectivist propaganda!

Hercule Poirot

Oh, how can I forget this one – the English TV series so vividly colours my imagination of him!  Hercule Poirot is the moustache obsessed Belgian detective with an egg shaped head and a sensitive stomach. I loved the way he tapped his forehead beckoning his grey cells  – “This affair must all be unravelled from within. These little grey cells. It is ‘up to them’ — as you say over here”.  And he has style. Unlike Sherlock Holmes, the mystery didn’t  unravel itself by magic in the end. Poirot will throw clues here and there (  master of deception that he is)  keeping you guessing on an entirely different track. And with a flourish,  exclaim “I did not deceive you, mon ami. At most, I permitted you to deceive yourself.” !!

There was a time in my life when I lived off Agatha Christie Novels. There were around 30 in the school library, and I devoured every one of them, by hook or by crook. And it all seemed so real, so striking at that age; the drama and flourish with which he uncovered mysteries, removing his pince-nez glasses for impact. Well, Christie was a ruthless story teller ; she didn’t even  spare her star detective- Poirot was forced to become a murderer himself in “Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case”, and was killed off by her  at the end of the novel.

Times have changed. We hardly have the patience to read these long winded Agatha Christie style stories now – I don’t have the patience to read one again myself. But they were wonderful companions at that age when we didn’t have many options, and the school library stocked loads of them!

Ending with a thought : “Imagination and fiction make up more than three-quarters of our real life”. Maybe that’s why these characters keep coming back to me, and that’s what makes them unforgettable!

The Hunger Games Trilogy April 29, 2012

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So now that I am on a book reading spree, the theme of this week was the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Frankly, I would have never stumbled on these books if it was not for the  recently released movie with the same name. And, when there is an option for watching the movie or reading the book, I usually go for the latter because the movie somehow never seems capable of capturing the depth of emotions that a book usually does!..

Set in the fictional world of Panem, the hunger games is a twisted tale of struggle, war, love and government control; spanning across 3 books “The Hunger Games”, “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay”. Panem is a post-apocalyptic war ravaged world where the districts are impoverished; food is scarce and the Capitol, a seat of power rules the 12 districts with a firm hand. Every year, the Capitol conducts the Hunger games as a show of its power and superiority. One boy and girl will be chosen in a reaping ceremony from every district, for a fight unto death in the Hunger Games Arena. There can only be one survivor0, and the rewards for his/ her victory will be shared by the whole district. The Games are the Capitol’s way of entertaining its residents, and showcasing it’s superiority over the districts. An unabashed parade to remind the districts how powerless they are if they ever revolt against the Capitol!.

The story revolves around Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen year old girl who volunteers to take the place of her younger sister in the reaping ceremony of District 12. It is a chronicle of her anger, defiance, fears and apprehensions. A tale of how she incites a revolution in the repressed country of Panem. How she eventually brings it out of the shackles of mindless dictatorship. It has all the elements of teenage heroism which is characteristic of this genre.- a barefaced disregard for authority, a low self-esteem, a fierce loyalty towards loved ones, the self-sacrificing spirit. Katniss Everdeen is all that!

There is bit of a love triangle in the story, but that is overshadowed by much bigger themes. Though a bit too dark for this genre; nevertheless an interesting book. The story is sometimes too simplistic and naive for grown up readers, but makes up for it with its fast moving plot and the ability to capture the attention of readers throughout the 3 books of the series. It is an easy read, and a good way to wind up on your weekend.

I think I’ve read a bit too many of these dystopic world books. Need something cheerful for the next weekend. Any suggestions?

1984 April 23, 2012

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I am writing the review for this book 1984 I read a while ago and the words that ring in my head are: “Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come.” I know this is totally incongruous to the subject, but no amount of shooing drives these words out of my head. They keep buzzing around like flies on a hot summer afternoon, and I console myself with the thought; perhaps there is a link somewhere, which will eventually dawn upon me!.

Now coming back to the Novel… When you think of dystopian worlds, George Orwell’s book is a classic. I had always seen this name in the list of top books of all times; and it lingered in the back of my mind, gnawing at my to-read list for a long time now. For what reason – I am not exactly sure; maybe because it has this power, a captivating aura around it.  Made famous by allusions to “Big Brother” and “Room 101” in countless articles and publications.. And of course, the iconic 1984 Apple commercial that heralded the release of the first Mac!

Before beginning the book, I already had these subliminal negative vibes about it.. This book is about power, about total loss of individualism, about an nightmarish world where everything has gone wrong.. A universe of totalitarian oligarchic control.. A book about the madness which dwells in humanity…suppression of justice.. About the mutation of happiness.. war crimes and rants against a changing common enemy.. A book about humans pushed to their worst. And how hell can be raised purely from the potency of our thoughts!

Okay, 1984 is definitely not a happy book. It is not a sad book. It isn’t even a scary book. I felt it to be a very thoughtful book, showing what depraved limits we can push mankind to, and man’s vulnerability to thought control.. Exposing the chinks in the fabric of our psychology. Baring our worst nightmares….. It warns us against this extreme form of civilization…and that a dystopic world like this is no impossibility because “Nothing is so unbelievable that oratory cannot make it acceptable”!

And I have to admit, this totally zapped me…

You know, what’s most impressive about 1984 is the completeness with which its dystopian world has been portrayed. Thoughts, words, language, expressions- everything is government controlled.. It is scary, but fascinating – the depth to which the author has explored the psyche of the totalitarian state. It also makes you wonder.. What is it that defines who we are? Our ability to think?.. The language that allows us to express ourselves.. Our family ties?

This book also made me understand the importance of knowing history. If you think of it now, the past is what defines you. You are moulded into a certain structure, you have certain beliefs. It is by looking at your past that you gain assurance about your identity. Now imagine a world where you have no past. Or no definite past. The past is fluid, malleable, modified by what the ruling powers believe in. You are expected to blindly believe in the state. Even thinking against the state is a “thoughtcrime”. When powers beyond your control try to redefine everything that you have always known and believed:

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

How is that kind of a world going to be??

The ideas portrayed in this book are mind-boggling. And the importance of individualism is so starkly expressed in a world totally devoid of it. One of my favourite lines from this book poignantly expresses this – “Being in a minority, even a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad”.

This one is a must read book if you are curious about History, Politics, Economics and Human Psychology. Not all the ideas are radical or unique – we have learnt lots of it in history lessons and newspaper columns. But then – the best books, are those that tell you what you know already!..

The Millennium Trilogy Series February 25, 2012

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What are the 3 most important factors that would entice you to begin reading a 600+ page novel in the midst of a mindlessly packed office schedule?

Hmmmm..You might have your own opinion; my list goes like this:
• The first impression (name, look and feel)
• Personality and characterization of the protagonists
• The eccentric wisdom of the crowds

With these factors lingering in my subliminal consciousness, the Millennium trilogy by Steig Larsson figured at the top of my reading list for this year! This is a series of 3 books with the most riveting titles – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest”. And, as the names suggest, the stories spin around this girl Lisbeth Salander who is the main protagonist of the series.

So, in the 2nd week of Jan, I embarked on mission Millennium. Reading these novels was like a 10 day phase. I used to shuffle to office every morning, worried and wondering what would happen next in the story and come back home longing to dig my hands into the book again. And the author ensured to keep the adrenaline pumping!  The books had the intrigue of an Agatha Christie novel, and the brashness of Sidney Sheldon. And Lisbeth Salander is the Lara Croft of Crime fiction!.

Quite predictably, the moment Salander was introduced, the plot got me hooked. My naïve first impressions had expected her to be a Charlie’s angels sort of diva. But man, that is not even close!

Shockingly different, she is a strong, ruthless yet tragic character. A bizarre anti social anti hero with a crooked smile.. a genius hacker with an eidetic memory.. a fiercely loyal and private weirdo..  You will worry about her, you will want to protect her, but she wont let you feel sorry for her.  Wandering the corridors like a stray cat, brazenly spooky, she sometimes seems more of a wiry character from anime series, than a real person! And the way she rises from the dead ( in the 2nd novel ) is … Well, I don’t have the words to describe it!!..

The other major character in the series in Mikael Blomkvist. A finance journalist, he is dedicated to revealing frauds in banking and business. He is a quite opposite Slander’s fiery personality; their queer relationship is what drives most of the story forward. A man of a somehow mild constitution, the way he is treated by his ladies (IMO, like an intelligent puppy : P ) is quite amusing!

The underlying theme of all the 3 novels is violence against women. The first novel is intriguing.. The second one is nail biting. The last one is a bit long drawn – with the secret service hocus pocus. But the climax is intensely satisfying. The story is touching, thrilling, shocking and scandalous. .. You will experience the most volatile waves of emotions..Love, hate, loyalty, disgust. All in one go. No guns, no hi tech drama.  Just raw emotions.

You might not like the books if you are disturbed by immorality and violence (some scenes might be described as grotesque). But from the point of crime fiction, it’s an awesome series; and the character of Lisbeth Salander is mind-blowing! The most outrageous and flabbergasting heroine I have ever read (or seen), you have no idea what she is going to do next!

What more can I say, this one is indeed a gripping read. A book that will be difficult to forget,  long after you have read it!!..

In Time February 8, 2012

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It was a vacant Sunday evening foreboding a whole work week ahead. With nothing much to do (it’s pathetic to start a book on Sunday evening, unless it’s a thriller and you can get into the groove right from page 1! ) , I stumbled upon the sci-fi thriller – In Time .

The movie is set in a dystopian future when the human race is genetically modified to live only 25 years, after which everyone has to earn Time to survive. And like the ultimate scarce resource, Time cannot be created – it can only be transferred from one person to another. So as the cost of living continues to rise, the poor will die (or “time out” early) while the rich can live on till immortality.

Apart from this ingenious sci-fi theme, In Time has a very simple story. Realizing the inequity caused by the rich hoarding time, while the poor live by the hour, Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) along with Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried) goes on a Robin Hood style mission to steal Time from the rich and distribute it to the poor. Armed with a gun, these 2 guys just walk in, robbing bank after bank. That’s it!

The idea to use Time as a currency is novel, giving a fresh dimension to the Hollywood fraternity’s obsession with different ways to destroy the earth (Aliens, Dinosaurs,  Godzilla and 2012! ) But then, for a story to be compelling it’s not just the idea or the scenes. It has to touch some emotional chord, and somehow I missed that soul in the movie. So, while it does remarkably well on the concept and setting, it is quite weak in plot. And the characters simply don’t stand out.

Amanda Seyfried looks stunning; with all her stunts in designer party dresses and high heels (you can hardly recognize her as one of the Mean girls in the 2004 movie). Cillian Murphy has unforgettable haunting (and sometimes mean) blue eyes! He plays a foil to the hero as a Time keeper, the cop out to catch the Time stealers. The performance by Justin Timberlake is OK, his stint in The Social Network, IMO was much more impressive.

But then, it’s not the actor’s fault. The character simply did not have enough meat! It’s like an awesome concept which was developed in a hurry. The writers just didn’t want to put more effort into it, or add complexity to the plot. The producers wanted to package something and send it out fast. And that’s quite sad for a movie that had a potential to become great (like Inception) but turned out to be “just good”.

Will agree with the IMDB rating on this, it’s 6.6 out of 10.

P.S. I don’t know why, but this movie sort of inspired me to read 1984 by George Orwell. That’s now added to my reading list.

The 2012 Reading List Part-I January 8, 2012

Posted by Afrozy Ara in Book Reviews, Classics, Fantasy Fiction, Mumbo Jumbo, Sci-Fi.
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2012 is in. It is a unique year; heralded by doomsday predictions and bucket-list resolutions.

Well, I am not the usual new-year-resolutions maker. But a one week vacation from office on New Years Eve gave me a lot of free time to dabble with. And, I managed to scribble my TO-DO list for this year.

The resolution topping the list was; Read… Read.. READ!

So, I’ve prepared my reading list for this Quarter ( In line with another resolution of mine! ). No specific preferences, but a mishmash of genres which I had been hoping to experiment with, but had never really got down to.

I have chosen the series form of books because it has always impressed me. IMO, this is one of the most challenging forms of writing. Being able to capture the attention of a reader through thousand and thousands of book pages, and a delicate web of entwined plots is a commendable (and tough) job!

A Disclaimer:

I haven’t read all these books yet, so don’t blame me if you don’t like them. But they have this quality of beckoning you, like some sort of literary seduction, making you want to read them. I am not sure how they will turn out to be, but here is my list.

So without wasting any more time, lets go..

Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting the definitive “Reading List Q1 2012.”!!

The Millennium Trilogy:

There are some books that catch your imagination – simply by an intriguing name or the imagery of a character which flashes before your eyes. When I first heard of the name – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, my first reaction was – “What?”

The trilogy is a series of the books with the most riveting names -“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl who kicked a Hornet’s Nest” and “The Girl who played with Fire”. It is written by Stieg Larsson, a journalist who came from nowhere and attained iconic status in the crime fiction world with this series of books.

I have not read much of Crime fiction earlier. The most I had read were the Agatha Christie novels, and the occasional classics like “The God Father” . And of late, had been bit too preoccupied with Wizards and Vampires.

So this is my first detour into crime fiction in a long long time.

I have just orders a Box set of the trilogy from Flipkart, and the books seem to be pretty long (600+ pages each ). Yet, every review I have read has called these books a page turner, so it is No 1 on my reading list.

And the biggest motivation of course is the character of Lisbeth Salander. Weird, enigmatic, brilliant, dangerous security specialist; she simply cannot be missed!.

The Shiva Trilogy:

This is a series of books by an Indian author Amish Tripathi. The first 2 books – “The Immortals of Meluha” and “The Secret of the Nagas” are bestsellers. The third book of the series has not been released yet.

It is an unusual genre – Mythology, and I don’t remember having read any books of that genre yet.

OK, you may count Lord of the Rings as Mythology, but Indian mythology is unique – it is such a dense and spiritual subject. And taking a culturally sensitive subject like mythology and converting it to believable fiction is an awesome feat !.

I have spent most of my childhood reading books by great English authors. The characters in my mind, the novel settings.. Everything is foreign. The last great book that I read set in Indian settings was the “White tiger” by Arvind Adiga. So I am really looking forward to how the author has pulled it off.

Another thing that attracted me to this book is this haunting quote from “The Secret of the Nagas” – “The opposite of love is not hate, its apathy”.

Well..Age old thoughts spun into a tale relevant in the modern context. This is a must-read book!.

The Hitch hiker’s guide to the Galaxy Series:

The Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy is a crazy book.

It tickles you out of your senses. Gives the absurdist, stupidest, most bizarre ideas in the most matter of fact way, expecting it to be funny and it actually is!!

This is the first in a series of 5 books by Douglas Adams. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” , “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe”, “Life, the Universe and Everything” ,”So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish “, “Mostly Harmless” and “And Another Thing…”. The last book was written by 2 other authors after Doulas Adams’ death.

The author’s line of thinking, the way the arguments are constructed, the anecdotes will make you ROFL, BWL, LMFAO.. ( OK, I am running out of expressions now! )

Wickedly funny and geeky, it is an absolute must read for any SF or Humor enthusiast. Douglas Adams actually has a cult status among Science Fiction enthusiasts – Just Google “Meaning of life 42”

Taking the most ordinary mundane daily happenings, and spinning it into the weirdest anecdotes, this book has intellectual gems thrown in the most the most unassuming way!..

Want a peek? Well, this is one of my favorite passages (out of the countless others) in the first book.

“People of Earth, your attention, please. This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council. As you will no doubt be aware, the plans for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require the building of a hyperspatial express route through your star system. And regrettably, your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition. The process will take slightly less than two of your Earth minutes. Thank you.

There’s no point in acting surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for 50 of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now. … What do you mean you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven’s sake, mankind, it’s only four light years away, you know. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that’s your own lookout. Energize the demolition beams.

I don’t know, apathetic bloody planet, I’ve no sympathy at all.

There was a terribly ghastly silence.
There was a terribly ghastly noise.
There was a terribly ghastly silence.”

The Bourne Trilogy:

Oh, I know. Don’t give me that pitiful look. I know this series is ancient. I should have read it like 10 years ago! But then, it’s better late than never. And what best way to start a New Year than make up for all the good things you missed in the past!. So, the Bourne series makes it to my list.

There are 9 books in the series; out of which the first 3 are “The Bourne Identity”, “the Bourne Ultimatum” and the “The Bourne Supremacy” written by Robert Ludlum. The rest 6 have been written by some other author. Don’t know how long the series will be able to hold my attention, but at least the first 3 are a must!

There is something very touching about a man who is constantly trying to understand who he is. And, when he is painfully deducting his past by analyzing his instant reactions to situations and things. It is sort of scary yet tragic in a very poignant way.

The book is an absolute edge of the seat thriller. I have read the first one halfway through and it is quite promising. Am determined to make the rest this Quarter.

Let’s see!

The Vampire Diaries:

What is life without any romance?. So here is my last entry – a dash of romance to the reading list. And what is the best form of romance other than Vampire love stories – it’s the hot flavor of the day!

I have read the first 2 books of the series – The Awakening, and The Struggle, and there are 7 more to read. Since the novels are only 100+ pages each, it isn’t much of a challenge really..

The books are not much of a literary genius (is sort of Mills and Boons sometimes), but the plot somehow got me hooked. It has all the elements which will make you want to read it more – romance, suspense, drama.

Actually the motivation for me to read this book came from the Vampire Diaries TV series. The series is awesome, with impossibly handsome vampires and equally ravishing vampire-victims stuck in a world with witches and werewolves. Gosh!

I don’t know, but there is something very enticing about these Vampire love stories . Perhaps it is the idea of an impossible romance – a relationship so volatile that it cannot exist naturally.. Hunter loves the hunted.. Guy thirsting for the blood of the woman he loves. The conflict between extreme emotions.. Lion falling in love with the lamb.

But then, writers are crazy people – the readers even more!

So, here is my list for Q1 of 2012.

Hope I’ll be able to keep up my New Year resolution and post my reviews as I read along!

See you later, Alligator! :P

The Stranger January 6, 2012

Posted by Afrozy Ara in Book Reviews, Classics, Mumbo Jumbo.
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For quite some time now, I have been pondering over The Ultimate Question.

What is the meaning of my life? What do we achieve by rushing round in the humdrum and mundane-ness of our daily chores? What do we have to gain from this melodrama?…

Is it something to do with our surroundings? Is it significant because of our experiences? Does this life have meaning in itself, or is it valuable only when lived amongst people we love?

In short, you can call it momentary pangs of self existential dilemma!..

Of course, I’m not the first one to ask these questions. For centuries, men have pondered over the same. So, it is an eerie coincidence that at a moment when I was stung by these questions, this book by Albert Camus seems to have “accidentally” strolled into my life.

“The Stranger” is a personification of the self existential dilemma. It is a queer book. Starting abruptly, you are introduced to a character who seems to be totally apathetic to his surroundings. He has this uncomfortable air of careless indifference which makes you wonder – What’s wrong with this guy? Is he a sociopath?

Meursault is a man out of touch with things on an emotional plane – who considers everything around him with an objective mindset. He gets along well with people, but they hardly touch an emotional chord in him.  He either finds people interesting or boring, and  usually agrees with them to avoid confrontation.

And then a freak incident happens when he accidentally kills another man and is sent to jail. The case is brought in court, and Meursault’s indifferent attitude towards the murdered man horrifies the judge. He is served a death sentence.

The last few chapters deal with how he deals with this sentence, contemplating on what really matters to him. Why should he look forward to living his life? Is it a relation with his girlfriend? Is it about experiences with the world outside the walls of the prison?.. Is it the pleasure of seeing the sky and watching the stars?.. Moments of freedom?

What is it that makes his life worthwhile?!

The book is a French translation. Seems to be very simple but holds a lot of symbolism – the concept of death brought in to contrast with the value of life. Not much of a leisure read, it would pass off more as dense stuff for an advanced literature class.  The book does not tell you much, but makes you think a lot.

So… What exactly is  the purpose of our lives??

A plausible solution to this questions came from an unlikely source.

Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist had said:

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming!.

The Adventures of Tintin December 5, 2011

Posted by Afrozy Ara in Classics, Movie Reviews.
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It was the summer of 1995, fifteen years ago. I had just taken membership in a library called the “German club library”. For a small sleepy town like Rourkela, the library was pretty good. Contained around 15-20 racks of fiction books. As a youngster fascinated with fiction, you could read along to all your heart’s desire!

It also had a small sofa, a sort of reading room. And that day, I saw a thirty something uncle (yeah, we called thirty year olds uncle then :P ) reading this big, thin book, chuckling and guffawing away in every 2 minute intervals. Curious, I peeked into what was making this person so happy. Aha!!..No wonder..Uncle-ji was reading a Tintin comic. :D

So that’s Tintin for you. A hilarious, thrilling and engrossing series set in a perfect world where good always triumphs and the villain always ends up behind the bars. The expensive comic, with beautiful glossy print unfolding pages and pages of delightful merriment was a prized possession in my childhood days. Every kid loved them!

Obviously, when the much awaited cinematic version arrived, it was looked forward to with breathless anticipation.

We were not disappointed.

Spielberg has done it again! The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is a dazzling adaptation of the comic series. And in 3D, it seems so real, so remarkably Herge, with the adorable captain Haddock, spunky Snowy and Tintin of course!. The movie actually made me feel lucky – it was like the characters have come alive; walking out of my imagination right in front of my eyes!

Every bit of it keeps you engaged – either you are laughing or you are gaping at what would happen next. With mind numbing stunts, albeit in animation, the Tintin movie is total awesomeness packaged in one deal. Spielberg waited 30 years to make a movie of his favorite character, and every bit of it is worth the wait.

The story involves an inquisitive detective with an extraordinary flair for uncovering mysteries. Tintin gets caught up in curious happenings involving a long lost ship, which begins a roller coaster ride leading to a hidden treasure. For a generation that began its brush with English literature in stories of lost and hidden treasures ( remember Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, Nancy Drew, Hardy boys, and our very own Treasure Island by R.L.Stevenson!), it is the perfect cinematic and visual treat.

The racket goes on and on and on, almost making your head reel. And even towards the end, you feel that there is so much more to go. After so much action, the climax seems to be a bit abrupt – not the director’s mistake; the character of Tintin had so much up his sleeve.

107 minutes of absolute entertainment. It is 9 out of 10 on the awesomeness scale!

Super 8 October 18, 2011

Posted by Afrozy Ara in Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi.
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It was just another one of those Friday evenings when you are confronted with Life ‘s epic dramas. What to do? Where to go? Which movie to see ?

A search on BookMyShow (That’s the only Movie booking site not blocked in my Office) provided 2 options – “Real Steel” and “Super 8”. An IMDB’s rating of 7.4 and the star power of Steven Spielberg clinched the choice for us. “Super 8″ it was!

Now coming to the movie:

Have you ever spent the whole 90 minutes of a movie wondering what the title was all about?. This time I did. Somehow the story didn’t make it very clear and throughout the show, we kept counting for 8 things which would make a Super 8. Missing the first 2 minutes in the start made all the difference, I assume. :|

Anyways, the whole movie seemed to be a manifestation of Steven Spielberg’s fixation with aliens, and JJ Abrahams’ with cameras (I guess!). It’s like two geniuses put their heads together. Spielberg said “Aliens”. Abrahams nodded ..” Cameras”.. And Whoaaa..We have a movie!!..But unlike Spielberg’s masterpieces of the past, the result here turned out neither very unique nor believable. So it sadly failed to sweep you off your feet.

Set in the fictional town of Lillian, Ohio the story revolves around the lives of 6 kids amidst glimpses of suburban life , parental melodrama and teenage wisecracks.

The beginning set a good tempo for the action to follow. Fast paced, building up tension towards a cinematic climax that simple falls PLOP on the face!

While watching the movie, I somehow had the eerie feeling that the treatment was so Cloverfield like. The invisible unseen alien monster, the camera angles and shooting as a major theme in the story, the characters’ reactions when they realize that their friend Alice(Elle Fanning) has been abducted by the god-knows-what creature stalking the town. It was a Cloverfield “Deja vu”!..

The story leaves many unfinished threads, and as it progresses, becomes lesser and lesser believable . It is almost like once the hidden-for-suspense alien is revealed, the director has set auto-complete on. The audience is simply expected to put two and two together, letting the alien happily fly off back to space. And it’s a happy ending (and lots of question marks) for everyone left behind.

Americans who were kids in 80s and 90s might watch it with a twinge of nostalgia. And it could be a treat for an alien obsessed ET adoring crowd.

But we were disappointed.. :(

And somehow, the biggest let-down was the IMDB rating. Something between 5 and 6 would have worked just fine.

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