Saturday, June 28, 2008

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

Moloka'i turned out to be better than I ever anticipated. I began reading quite a few month's ago, but the library demanded it back before I could finish. Which led to me buying it and not getting back to it immediately. I picked it up last week and started in from the beginning.

Moloka'i is about Rachel, who contracts leprosy while living in Hawaii in the late 1800's. According to the historical part of this historical fiction, the Chinese brought the leprosy bacteria with them when they came to Hawaii. Americans, of course, brought smallpox and mumps. I think that's our standard gift to give to folks. Rachel was only 6 or 7 years old when it's discovered that the lesions on her leg and foot were leprosy. Her Uncle Pono had just been "arrested" and sent away for leprosy as well.

All lepers are treated as criminals. They are forced into isolation, torn away from their families and eventually end up at Moloka'i. The writing in this book was exceptional, the pain of a little girl being forced away from her family was heartbreaking.

Without giving anything away, which is hard to do, the book follows Rachel through the rest of her life at Moloka'i. She has her Uncle Pono there, she makes friends, she marries and has a child.

Leprosy appears to be a disease somewhat like AIDS, in that leprosy doesn't kill people. It weakens the immune system so much that even a common cold is fatal. As the book follows Rachel, it's just staggering the amount of deaths she witnesses, all loved ones. And it's very inspirational in how she handles every death and setback.

Moloka'i was really a fantastic book. Well worth reading.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Right is Wrong - Arianna Huffington

I saw Ms. Huffington interviewed on The Colbert Report and she was wearing an evening gown and speaking in a great Greek accent. I decided I need to read her book.

For Arianna Huffington, the problem with the Republican Party is not that it is at odds with the views of progressives, but that its lunatic fringe has taken over the party and is at odds with the views of the American people. By significant majorities, Americans believe in the science of evolution, don’t want Roe v. Wade overturned, don’t want to ignore global warming, want good health care for their kids, and want to bring our troops home from Iraq.

And yet, to Huffington, the representatives of the Right seem to be competing over who among them can be the biggest Neanderthal and are having the time of their lives supporting torture, standing by the behavior of the Blackwater thugs, and backing the White House’s delusions on everything from war to stem cell research. Flashing back to the Reagan era is one thing, but flashing back to the Dark Ages is quite another. And this is what Right Is Wrong will expose.

I am a Liberal. I have Liberal ideas. Very few of my morals, ethics, ideas are conservative. However, I almost want to say that this book is the lunatic Liberal. Some of the arguments were well documented and well put. Others seem to be taunts that you hear on playgrounds and were completely unnecessary.

I agree with her about the war, highly unnecessary. She did have a lot of documentation backing up her points on how Bush was planning for a war before he was even President. (The Sources section of the book is massive). For the most part, I disagreed almost entirely with the immigration section and the health section. Yes, we have problems with both, but the Democrat solution isn't the best one either, I don't believe.

Politics is a bloody game and this book shows how much of a game it really is.

Obama '08!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane

Another librivox recording.

I've been doing a lot of yard work so my trusty ipod is filled with librivox books. I hate yard work. This is the only way I can get through it.

I'm not a fan of war anything: books,movies, stories. But my friend just finished listening to The Red Badge of Courage and suggested I try it. I'm still not a fan of war books. This one wasn't bad, but the descriptions of the war, of the injuries was really more than I wanted.

The person we're supposed to root for is Henry aka The Youth. I found myself despising this kid. Maybe I'm not surrounded by normal folk, maybe I'm holding people up to loftier ideals but I can't believe that someone would act the way he did. Running away from battle, I can understand. But justifying by claiming he's smarter than everyone else, trying to find ways to be superior to friends, etc. was just something I can't believe a human being would do.

Until I remember that this is a 19 year old boy. This, right here, is my problem with wars. Especially unnecessary ones (like the one we're in now...ahem). They have kids, just KIDS, fighting these battles. Kids who, like Henry, have never seen death before, let alone killed someone or something. We're sending kids off, mentally unprepared, and they face down the possibility of death and see their friends blown to bits and when they come back home, oops, we're done with you. Have a nice post-traumatic stress disorder. This boy wasn't prepared. He was still believing that corpses might get up and come after him.

The ending shooed away some of my dislike of Henry. Thankfully, he redeemed himself. But I'm still upset that that is how kids grew up. Seeing corpses, seeing friends shot to death, shooting other people to death is not how kids should become men.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Anthem - Ayn Rand

Another Librivox recording.

This is my first taste, so to speak, of Rand's work. And it was interesting, unnerving and better than I thought.

Official summary:

Anthem is a dystopic science fiction story taking place at some unspecified future date. Mankind has entered another dark age as a result of what Rand saw as the weaknesses of socialistic thinking and economics. Technological advancement is now carefully planned (when it is allowed to occur, if at all) and the concept of individuality has been eliminated (for example, the word “I” has disappeared from the language). As is common in her work, Rand draws a clear distinction between the “socialist/communal” values of equality and brotherhood and the “productive/capitalist” values of achievement and individuality. The story also parallels Stalinist Russia, which was currently going on at the time as the story was published. (Summary from Wikipedia)

This book is written as the diary of Equality 7-2521, a young man who is just one of the hundreds of folks churned out by the new "mankind". No one is an individual, people refer to themselves as "We" since everything they do or think should encompass everyone. People are punished for merely thinking or acting in an individual way. A frightening future that takes an incredible step backwards. No electricity, only candles. No books, unless you are deemed a Scholar. Folks are given their vocation that they will keep for the rest of their lives, provided they live past 40. Once a person hits 40, they are regulated to the home of the useless to die or become an ancient (if you made it to 45).

The reading of Anthem was very good with some unexpected pauses.

Summary of Anthem
Project Gutenberg

It is a sin to write this.  It is a sin to think words no others think and to put them down upon a paper no others are to see.
It is base and evil. It is as if we were speaking alone to no ears but our own.
And we know well that there is no transgression blacker than to do or think alone.
We have broken the laws. The laws say that men may not write unless the Council of Vocations bid them so. May we be forgiven!"

Monday, June 2, 2008

Blood Noir - Laurell K Hamilton

I've read every Anita Blake book but have never purchased one. This wasn't an exception. I've honestly been getting a little tired of the porn aspect of this series, and while Blood Noir is steeped in sex, I enjoyed this book better than most.

Blood Noir essentially centers around Anita and Jason, the werewolf. Jason's estranged dad is dying of cancer and he wants to return home before he passes on. Apparently, Jason's dad thinks Jason is gay and Anita comes along to prove otherwise.

Chaos ensues as Jason is mistaken for Keith Summerland, who is wanted by some nasty people. Sex ensues no matter what. And Marmee Noir, the oldest vampire who is catnapping, pays Anita a pretty intense visit at the wrong time.

Like I said, better than the last few Anita Blake books. But she could stand to tone down the porn aspect just a little.

OH! I forgot. Richard is a pussy. I cannot stand that character and the sooner he's killed off, the better.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Club of Queer Trades - GK Chesterton

Another Librivox recording.

The Librivox volunteer was fabulous! The same volunteer did all chapters and was just one of the best I've listened to.

Here's the official summary:

A collection of six wonderfully quirky detective stories, featuring the ‘mystic’ former judge Basil Grant. Each story reveals a practitioner of an entirely new profession, and member of the Club of Queer Trades. (Summary by David Barnes)

The book starts off with the tremendous adventures of Major Brown that leads us to the first queer trade. Each chapter thereafter is a little story on it's own, detailing another queer trade.

The club of queer trades itself is an exclusive club where the members must have their own trade that is unusual and has not been thought of before. Also, they must make their living at this trade in order to join the club.

I listened to this while driving and doing chores. I loved it!

Librivox recording
Gutenberg Text