Friday, December 27, 2013

Adventures with Langdon!

Inferno by Dan Brown

Robert Langdon has woken up in a hospital room and doesn’t remember the last two days of his life. He has  stitches on his head from a gun shot wound and just escaped from the hospital with Dr. Sienna Brooks. Bertrand Zobrist is an extremely smart geneticist and transhumanist who believes that humans are on the verge of extinction due to overpopulation. He has recently committed suicide after going into hiding for a year. His goal is to come up with a solution to our problem of overpopulation in the most extreme way possible: a plague that will wipe out half of humanity. Robert has been given the clues to stop this from happening but he must dive into the mind of Zobrist and its obsession with Dante Alighieri’s poem The Inferno and between his amnesia and the people trying to kill him, he isn’t having an easy time with it. Robert takes us on a journey through many countries and as always we are able to experience different European countries as he tries to save the world.
                I enjoyed this novel and it is exactly the type of writing I expected from Dan Brown, in a good way. The Robert Langdon adventures, as I like to call them, are very good at capturing our imaginations, mixed with a lot of history and imagery and of course suspense. Robert Langdon , inadvertently, is always a tour guide in these novels because he has to describe to you the imagery and explain in detail its history. Dan Brown is just very good at doing this without slamming it down your throat or beating you over the head with it. I have never been to Europe and I get excited when reading Dan Brown novels because this imagery is so beautiful and entrancing. Dan Brown is very adept at creating interesting story lines. Here we have the issue of overpopulation, which is an issue that I believe many try to ignore. He takes this issue, engages the reader and uses it to not only horrify you with the realities but to make you reexamine the issue humans pose as a whole.

                I found that this novel was much better than The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown’s previous novel. It might be because I am so interested by the topic or that the cast of characters around Dan Brown were better. If you are a Dan Brown enthusiast or simply want to try a new suspense novel I would suggest this novel. The mix of history in our real world is breath taking. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Adult Goosebumps

Red Rain by R.L. Stine

Lea was in Cape Le Chat Noir when Hurricane Ernesto swept through the island killing many of the islanders and destroying the landscape. Daniel and Samuel’s parents died during the storm and their home washed away. Lea, who feels an unnatural pull to the boys, adopts the twins and brings them home with her to Sag Harbor. Her husband, Mark, is a child psychologist and author, who doesn't agree with the two new additions to the family and only agrees to their presence to help his wife get over the tragedy she suffered. Elena and Ira, Mark and Lea’s son and daughter, are ambivalent to the presence of two new brothers. But the atmosphere in the home begins to change. The twins have their own plans for Sag Harbor and they see their “new pa” as a threat, a threat that needs to be eliminated.
                Let’s face it, kids are creepy. When you take two abandoned 12 year old, blonde hair, blue eyed boys, who look like innocent dolls and turn them into the antagonists of your story then you have created a creepy novel. There are a few facts about the island that are introduced in the very beginning of the novel that set the tone. Well, for starters, there was a hurricane that happened in 1935 that also devastated the islands and included a considerable body count. Also there is a ritual done on the island known as Revenir where priests raise the dead. So, two kids without identification of any kind, with no parents or family on the island are taken to a new place to be with a new family. This spells trouble! Little odd things start to happen. The twins aren't fitting in at school or with their other siblings. Mark doesn't trust them and finds their easy confidence unnerving. Mark and Lea are at odds because she fills like the twins are meant to be in Sag Harbor with her as part of their family. It’s all a setup. You feel the pot boiling and you, as the reader, are just waiting for the top to blow off.

                R.L. Stine did not disappoint with this his second adult horror novel. He opens the book with death and despair and keeps the book very raw throughout. My jaw dropped more than once with some of the revelations throughout the book. I found it extremely enjoyable and horror at its finest. I know a lot of people didn’t enjoy this book. It felt like what it is, Goosebumps grown up! It’s not a book that is meant to intellectually stimulate at all, it is pure unadulterated fear put into words.  There were a few points that were predictable but with this book it was easy roll with the punches and enjoy the story as it unfolded. If you are in the mood for a page turner, and you like a good fright (or you were a fan of Goosebumps) then I would definitely suggest this book. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Love In War

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Lieutenant Henry has fallen in love with Catherine Barkley. He is an American ambulance driver for the Italian Army. She is an English nurse. This is World War I. Love in itself is complicated but to be in love during the war is a fight within itself. The war pulls them apart and brings them back together after Henry is injured during an attack from the Austrian Army. During his recovery their love and passion intensifies. They discover she is with child, but he must return to the front. Things take a turn for the worst during a retreat when Henry must run for his life and somehow find the woman he longs to be his wife.
                A Farewell to Arms was an honest interpretation of new love. Catherine at times can be annoying with her proclamations of love but she was raw with her emotions. Henry was much more reserved with how he relayed his information but was still very willing to convey his feelings to her. Henry was the narrator of the story so we were exposed to his every day activities, his friends and his duties as Lieutenant in the Italian Army. I commend Hemingway on creating such a unique situation where we have an American in an Italian Army during the first World War. It made for an interesting landscape for this story to play out. People would encounter Henry and in many situations were not sure exactly how to react to his presence. Some thought he was a traitor, others a spy. He was easily recognizable as the American “Tenente” which did not always work towards his advantage.

                I’m not sure how I feel about this novel. Was it interesting? Yes. Was the writing enjoyable? Yes and extremely detailed and filling. Would I recommend it? Yes, but it was very bleak. There was a lot going on in this novel. There were parts that I enjoyed, like conversations between Henry and his friends and the relationship as a whole between him and Catherine. But I personally would have loved to see more of Henry as the Lieutenant in the war. The war was almost played as a filler between Henry’s interaction with Catherine. I have to take into consideration that this book was released in 1929 so I don’t know how much information was available for him to elaborate on the Italian front. What this novel did make me do though, was root for the couple. I wanted them to be together, be married and be happy because I felt how honest the relationship was and how much they were willing to go through to be together. For that reason alone I would suggest you give a try.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Burn Baby Burn

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

We are now in a time and place where books are forbidden and burned if found by Firemen. Now the job of a Fireman isn’t to put out flames, but to set houses found with books on fire. The world has moved on from books and those found harboring them risk losing their home and being arrested. Guy Montag, who has been a Fireman for ten years, knows the joy that comes from watching the burn. His father and his grandfather were both Fireman before him and he willingly enough has followed in their footsteps. He has a wife, Millie, who takes part in everyday activities like watching TV and taking part in some of the TV shows.  And this is society. But there are those that still read, that still converse, that still question, that still wonder but they are outcast. There are those that will sacrifice there lives before letting these choices to be taken away from them. These outcast affect Guy in a way that he would never imagine. It sets off a fire in him of imagination that causes him to make decisions that will forever change his life and the lives of those around him.
                The first time I read this book I was in high school and instantly intrigued. How can a society without books exist? How ignorant would that society be? Bradbury doesn’t show a society of ignorance, instead he shows a society of complacence where people are happy not having to question or wonder or care about anything except for what is presented to them. Throughout the book you are given glimmers of hope through those citizens who rebel against the norm. This is, for me at least, a desperate and depressing situation but extremely fascinating.

               Bradbury did an amazing job at presenting a world beyond our imagining. A world where people chose to be complacent, uniformed individuals.  A world where entertainment has taken the place of education and a higher education no longer exists. Menial task have taken over the day to day life and the majority of people are ok with the situation, in fact they enjoy having no responsibilities and no knowledge. I could never imagine a world where that is okay and applauded. I recommend this book to everyone for all these reasons. Never become complacent. Never allow your mind to be so involved in entertaining society that it forgets to challenge itself. Enjoy this book but let it serve as a warning to what can happen when everyone decides that knowledge is no longer necessary.