Nolite te bastardes carborundorum

Better never means better for everyone… It always means worse, for some. / Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. It was first published in 1985. It’s a terrifying, truly dystopian book. The United States of America no longer exists. It has been replaced by the Republic of Gilead. This has been achieved through a nuclear destruction. And in Gilead, they follow the bible… or their own version of it.

The narrator of the book is Offred. She’s a Handmaid and her only function is to breed. This is achieved by something called ‘The Ceremony’ … Welcome to the patriarchal society of Gilead. Women are no longer free. They have no jobs, they cannot leave their houses, they cannot choose what to wear and they cannot read or write. among many other forbidden things. To put it simply, they have no rights. And if they rebel, they will either be hanged at the wall as an example for others or sent to deal with the aftermath of nuclear destruction.

“There is more than one kind of freedom,” said Aunt Lydia. “Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.” / Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

I first read Handmaid’s Tale over 10 years ago out of a recommendation from my teacher. I’m ashamed to say I did not like it or understand it very well back then. I think it was largely due to the translation (In Finland, the title translates as ‘Your Slavestress).  Well, blessed be  Hulu’s tv adaptation and the end of 2nd season that finally inspired me to dive back into this book.

Arwood’s novel is horrifyingly amazing.  It toys with many interesting ideas. Nuclear accident or weaponized nuclear power will always be a threat and then combining that with a religion gone wrong. You have some excellent ingredients for a dystopian there. Creepiness was on its own level. It was a matter of small things that could very well happen tomorrow. Freezing all the bank accounts with letter F on them. Saying women can’t go to work or own property. Moreover, it’s also spooky how Offred describes these things as something weird and absurd. She jokes about doing a jobbie and can’t imagine things like paper money anymore.  I think Handmaid’s Tale acts as a warning, of how easily things could go wrong especially if you don’t pick a side and let things slide. Personally, I did not enjoy the vagueness and the open ending so that cuts one star out of my rating.
4/5 stars

“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.” 
/Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

How-To Read Handmaid’s Tale

1. If you’ve watched it then you really ought to have read it by now. If not, go read it now.
2.  It’s kind of vague and I know it will bother some readers because it bothers me. We don’t learn how Gilead was created, we don’t know who our main character is, we only get the smallest glimpse of Offred’s life.
3. Not a lot of suspense, mainly just observations. Think of it as a biography that was only partly uncovered.
4. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Have you read this? Thoughts? Do you watch the show?

 

A Wrinkle in Time

“Qui plussait, plus se tait. French, you know. The more a man knows, the less he talks.”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet, #1)

A Wrinkle in Time is a science fantasy novel written by American writer Madeleine L’Engle, first published in 1962. It is also a first book of a Time Quintet.

Book follows the lives of the Murray family. Father of Meg and Charles Wallace has disappeared mysteriously a long time ago. One day the kids meet a new friend Calvin and three strange women named: Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Which. These ladies tell children that their father is in danger and that they have to travel through time to find him.

“We can’t take any credit for our talents. It’s how we use them that counts.”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time: With Related Readings

I had a hard time getting into this novel. I guess it had been on my TBR list for a long time because but I truly learned about the existence of this book when the movie adaptation hit the theatres. I have mixed feeling about Wrinkle in Time. I felt like the younger me would have loved it but somehow magic of this book didn’t reach me as adult. And that made me confused because I still love Narnia to death.

There were a lot of good  things in this book. First, genre is funny… it’s like science fiction except that it’s fantasy and that shows in the book. I feel like it has more emotion and less technical/ science fiction-y mumbo-jumbo. I liked W Ladies and them quoting everything and everyone because the words did not come easy for them. And I liked how simple everything was. Evil in this book is mostly described as ‘The Black Thing’ or/and ‘IT’, yet you knew exactly what it was.

“Euripedes. Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything.”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

Characters were well built and Meg is an unique persona. I don’t know that many main characters who’d be like her. Homely, awkward and math loving. Fantasy elements, new worlds and creatures were entertaining.
4/5 stars but I wouldn’t read it again.

How-To Read A Wrinkle in Time
1.
Short (just over 200 pages) simple and creative, perfect read for kids. I think it also has nice lessons on how things and people and places are different and how we should always fight the evil in this world.
2. First part of a quintet so there are 3 books more for those who adored this.
3. I sensed some religion-ess in this book. A bit similar to Narnia.

“A book, too, can be a star, “explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly,” a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

Have you read this? Thoughts?
Have you seen the newest movie adaptation? I haven’t but I found cast choices interesting.

Featured image source

Night by Elie Wiesel

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
― Elie Wiesel

Night, first published in 1960s is a work by Elie Wiesel about his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps both Auschwitz and Buchenwald, at the height of the Holocaust toward the end of the Second World War. 

I read Night because of my earlier read Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. In that book, Sapolsky had quoted Elie Wiesel and that quote is stuck in my mind. “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” It’s unimaginably deep quote. If we do not care, if we stay silent,  if we do not pick sides, the world will fall apart. I don’t think I’ve realized it before or not to full extent of that it is a great crime to remain silent. And so I was intrigued by this book.

“To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

Night (again I listened to it) was shocking, beautiful, torturous read. It describes undescribable horros and undescribable pain. Thinking about the book makes causes me to shiver. I felt like  crying so many times but at the same time I couldn’t stop listening to this book.

Let’s start with the title. Night. It’s not just the darkness outside but also the darkness within. It’s not a night you’d imagine at first. It’s a night so full of smoke that you cannot breathe. Despair so strong that the dawn will never come. A Night that does not end.

“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed….Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

People lost hope and stopped believing in their God. Because why would God be silent through all of this. As one man describes: “I have more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people.” It’s a scary read because it also describes how people lose not just their belief but also their humanity. Cruelty becomes a new norm. People turn against one another as self-preservation takes over. Words like Brother, Father, Friend are meaningless.

“One more stab to the heart, one more reason to hate. One less reason to live.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

Audio performance by acclaimed George Guidall was just a stunning one. I felt like it was Wiesel himself was telling the story as Guidall’s voice truthfully carried all the impossible pain.  My audio book also included Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech and preface to new edition of the book and it made me so mad. Original version of the Night was over 800 pages long and it was cut basically every time it was published. And author had to plead and beg to get his work published in many countries. Imagine that.

I feel like I’m unworthy to review this book. I could write thrice as long review from what it already have and still I wouldn’t be able to describe this properly. I guess for me, the most important lesson from this and from Wiesel was how neutrality kills. How indifference kills.

Night touched me to the very core. It’s brutal but necessary read. One of the best reads of my life. I loved it and I will be haunted by it.

5/5 stars

How-To Read Night

1. Just 120 pages but it feels like 1000 pages long.  It’s a heart-wrenching book and even though I would like to urge everyone to read this, it’s a difficult book and I know some will find it hard to stomach. Then again, you have no right not to know.  We must take responsibility for humanity’s sake.
2.
Night is a trilogy so there are two more books to read: Dawn and Day. I’ve heard they’re more fragmented than Night but I cannot not leave them unread.
3.
It’s a beautiful book. Yes, it’s about holocaust but Wiesel’s thoughts on all his experiences are  uniquely expressed. So many lines make you stop and think.

“Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

Have you read this? Thoughts?

Featured image: Smoke (Public Domain)

The Decameron

“Essere la natura de’ motti cotale, che essi come la pecora morde deono cosi mordere l’uditore, e non come ‘l cane: percio che, se come cane mordesse il motto, non sarebbe motto, ma villania” – The Decameron, Boccaccio
The nature of wit is such that its bite must be like that of a sheep rather than a dog, for if it were to bite the listener like a dog, it would no longer be wit but abuse. 

The Decameron is 600-years old collection of novellas by Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio. The book contains 100 tales told by a group of seven young women and three men who are sheltering in a villa outside Florence. Decameron apparently has something to do with number ten. Ten nights are spent telling stories. The book is quite humorous, the tales are full of wit and practical jokes and from time to time they offer some wisdom, although some of the tales are quite old-fashioned.

.There’s  a lot to The Decameron and that makes it hard to review it. There’s a lot of sex and many tales center priests and women. On the other hand, it’s always nice when church is mocked. There are many lies and lots of deceit in Decameron and those two are perhaps the core themes here.

“Io ho inteso che un gallo basta assai bene a diece galline, ma che diece uomini posson male o con fatica una femina sodisfare.” – The Decameron, Boccaccio
I have always been given to understand…that whereas a single cock is quite sufficient for ten hens, ten men are hard put to satisfy one woman.

I liked how they were well aware of these natural laws like there was Murphy’s Law Nature, Fate, Fortune No matter what you do in life, life is out of control. Characters in stories are prank each other yes, however there also seems to be a lot of bad luck.

I also liked this tragic backstory. Our storytellers have ended up in villa outside Florence because they are trying to escape the Black Death raging in Florence. Good sense of humor is vital survival skill. I’m rating this book 4/5 stars. It might seem quite high, however I wasn’t expecting anything much from this, in fact I don’t think I have ever even heard of this book so it was quite entertaining read.

How- To Read The Decameron
1.
You should really chew on it. The Decameron has so many themes and many wise lines so just take your time with it.
2. Paperback has almost 900 pages… so definitely take your time. Maybe read one tale a day? Maybe ask fellow readers which tales they liked.
3. If you have to read this for college or for some literature class, just skip reading and wikipedia what happens in book. It will be painful to read this for a class :D
4. Tales about lustful monks might tire you but main theme of Decameron is lies and deceit so it’s quite entertaining even with sex factor. Reading this is like watching a soap opera.
5. If you’re really excited about this, I would recommend you this book called La Divina Commedia from fellow Italian for further reading.

“Leggiadre donne, infra molte bianche colombe aggiugne più di bellezza uno nero corvo, che non farebbe un candido cigno.” – The Decameron, Boccaccio
Charming ladies, the beauty of a flock of white doves is better enhanced by a black crow than by a pure white swan.

This book pretty much  wrecked my Goodreads ‘year published’ stats. There’s no fixing that huge century-long gap… is there. Have you read any books written centuries ago that you have liked? Have you read The Decameron?

//Anastasia

All pictures very kindly borrowed from the internet & Wikipedia Commons.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

 

“Maybe there was once a human who looked like you, and somewhere along the line you killed him and took his place. And your superiors don’t know.”
― Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a science fiction novel by  Philip K. Dick, first published in 1968. The novel takes place in  a post-apocalyptic San Francisco. Post-apocalyptic because life has been damaged by nuclear World War Terminus. The plot follows a bounty hunter Rick Deckard whose job is to “retire” (read: kill) Nexus 6 model androids who have escaped from the outer colonies and try to pass as humans. There’s also subplot that focuses on John Isidore, a man of sub-par IQ who aids our fugitive androids.

“You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.”
― Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I’ve long been a fan of Philip K. Dick. I think it all started when I was a kid and my dad brought me a paperback called The Man in  the High Caste. My dad is huge fan of history and probably thought it would be interesting read. It was and so was Do Androids… Author has very fascinating thoughts and he is very deep with them. We can see this already in the title. You can go with androids. Or you can go a step further and ask if they dream…if they dream of electric sheep? The novel beautifully explores topics like: What is real, what is fake what makes us human? In book, the androids are said to possess no sense of empathy. It’s not quite true, is it?  And if to forget about androids, there are other interesting topics to explore too: How UN always makes super clever decisions,  nuclear war: hasn’t yet happened but it could?

 

“You have to be with other people, he thought. In order to live at all. I mean before they came here I could stand it… But now it has changed. You can’t go back, he thought. You can’t go from people to nonpeople.”
― Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

4/5 stars

How- To Read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
1. Read it in English.
I first read this in Finnish and they had translated the title as ‘Bounty Hunter’. Not fun. Many other translators apparently thought the title  was too difficult to translate…In Swedish: Dreams of Androids, Dutch: Electric Nightmares, Italian: Then Hunter of Androids? I can imagine how they translated everything else.
2.
A must read for PKD fans and for those who love science fiction :)
3. Cult classic thing. You know how it is with those.
4. Many interesting adaptations, for example: 1982 film Blade Runner and its 2017 sequel Blade Runner 2049.

Have you read this? Thoughts? What makes you so sure you’re human?
This post is a part of a very happy event called scifi month. Check it out.

“You mean old books?”
“Stories written before space travel but about space travel.”
“How could there have been stories about space travel before –”
“The writers,” Pris said, “made it up.”
― Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Pictures: Black sheep from PixabayDo androids dream of electric sheep? | by Bill McIntyre ,do androids dream of electric sheep? | by cdrummbks