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 It has been replaced by the Republic of Gilead.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?

 

The Vegeterian

“Why, is it such a bad thing to die?”
― Han Kang, The Vegetarian 

Kuvahaun tulos haulle the vegetarian han kang The Vegetarian is a South Korean novella written by Han Kang and first published in 2007. It’s quite  a fascinating book: Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband live an ordinary life. Then Yeong-hye  becomes haunted by splintering, blood-soaked images and she decides to become a vegetarian. If the plot description doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, don’t worry. It’s supposed to be more on a poetic side.

“I want to swallow you, have you melt into me and flow through my veins.”
― Han Kang, The Vegetarian

Either way, as a result of her decision, she becomes an outcast. Novel is divided into three parts and our Yeong-hye is described through three different people. First, her husband who already dislikes her and does even more so when she stops eating meat. We move on to a second part where Yeong-hye is described by her sister’s brother who sees her more as an artist painting flowers on her body. And then finally in the third part , we see Yeong-hye through the eyes of her sister as Yeong-hee is in a mental hospital

“Know what?”
“I didn’t you see. I thought trees stood up straight… I only found out just now. They actually stand with both arms in the earth, all of them. Look, look, over there, aren’t you surprised? Yeong-hye sprang up and pointed to the window. “All of them, they’re all standing on their heads.”
― Han Kang, The Vegetarian

I read this book a year ago and I found it too difficult to give it a proper review back then. Now I picked up Kang’s new book ‘Human Acts’ and I knew that I  had to review this one before finishing it. I adore The Vegetarian. First it seems normal and thriller-istic (or Gone Girl ish)  you meet a couple and think that this will end up badly for one of them. But it’s not a thriller, it’s almost like a piece of poetry.  I loved how it slowly describes the birth and evolution of madness in Yeong-hye. First, she abandons meat but then something in her thinking shifts a bit and she doesn’t want to be this animal any longer. So she stops eating and believes she is becoming a tree. And I feel like it’s not just her going mad but everything around her and the nature too.

And then it’s not even about Yeong-hye. She may be the sun but this sun is only described by the planets rotating around it. This creates a sense of mystery or even an illusion of sorts. Something you know is real but yet something you cannot see or touch. I guess it also describes how mental illnesses affects the other people, close family especially.
5/5 stars

How-To Read Vegetarian
1. 
If you have seen Yayoi Kusama’s work and you have liked it…well this is same but in written. Kind of. I’m probably mentioning since the author mentioned it? It’s beautiful, crazy and confusing. This reminded me of Plath, Kafka and Rushdie all mixed up together. If you didn’t like Steppenwolf by Hesse then maybe you should skip this.
2. It’s very deep book and with unimaginably beautiful thoughts. A lot of them on madness, so don’t dive too deep.
3. It’s quite short of a book, perfect weekend read. Also I think it explains Korea well. For example, I had no idea that they loved meat so much.

Have you read this? Thoughts?

Featured image: ‘Infinity Mirrored Room — Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity’ by Yayoi Kusama 2009 — The Hirshhorn Museum (DC) March 2017 by Ron Cogswell

Eragon

“First, let no one rule your mind or body. Take special care that your thoughts remain unfettered… . Give men your ear, but not your heart. Show respect for those in power, but don’t follow them blindly. Judge with logic and reason, but comment not. Consider none your superior whatever their rank or station in life. Treat all fairly, or they will seek revenge. Be careful with your money. Hold fast to your beliefs and others will listen.”
― Christopher Paolini, Eragon

Eragon is the first novel in the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. Shortly about the plot, the book tells the story of a farm boy named Eragon who lives in a small village in the kingdom of Alagaësia. In the very beginning of the book, Eragon finds a mysterious stone. Or so it appears until Eragon realizes it’s not a stone but an egg. A dragon egg which should not be possible as dragons have long disappeared from Alagaësia. The reason for their extinction is a dragon rider Galbatorix who killed all the dragon riders and their dragons and crowned himself king. Of course, Galbatorix soon finds out about Eragon and Saphira and wants to hunt them down.

“The greatest enemy is one that has nothing to lose.”
― Christopher Paolini, Eragon

I first read Eragon when I was 13 and back then I was immediately hooked by this story and it’s just impossible not to adore Saphira. I was so enamored with her, that I used her name + some characters as my first nickname in various internet pages. Reading and reviewing Eragon now, ten years later, is harder than I expected. There are issues with Eragon and you have to keep in mind that Christopher was only 15 when he wrote Eragon (I was so jealous of that fact). Sometimes the pace of the book is very fast and sometimes one event seems to go on for tens of pages. Writing is a bit clumsy and there are grammatical errors.

“It’s amazing that a man who is dead can talk to people through these pages. As long as this books survives, his ideas live.”
― Christopher Paolini, Eragon

Where the magic of Eragon lies, is the interaction between Eragon and Saphira.  Their relationship is everything you want a creature and a human to have. And I love how they’re similar, yet different in many aspects and how they grow in the story.

5/5 stars

How-To Read Eragon
1.
If you love Lord of the Rings, Dragonlance or Earthsea series, I’m sure you’ll adore the Inheritance Cycle. There are similarities between this one and LotR that may annoy some readers, yet I think that if you read enough of books, you’ll see that there are nothing but similarities everywhere. 
2.
This is a wonderful read for fantasy lovers and especially for dragon lovers. Though the length of the book is not very easy.
3.
You can read a sample chapter of the book by clicking here.
4.
There’s a movie adaptation yay. The movie got mostly unfavorable reviews. I just don’t get why they always fail with movie adaptations of great books like this.
5.
 Eragon is the first part of the Inheritance Cycle, so if you liked this, you’ll have 3 more books to go.

“Books are my friends, my companions. They make me laugh and cry and find meaning in life.”
― Christopher Paolini, Eragon

Have you read Eragon? Who is your favorite dragon in literature?

The Children of Húrin

“A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Children of Húrin

The Children of Húrin is an epic fantasy which original version was written by J. R. R. Tolkien  in the late 1910s, he revised it several times later, but did not complete it before his death in 1973. His son, Christopher Tolkien, edited the manuscripts to form a consistent narrative, and published it in 2007. The book contains 33 illustrations by Alan Lee.

Recently I’ve been re-reading Tolkien’s works. I have read this and his short story Kullervo. In short, the novel describes lives of Túrin Turambar, son of Húrin, and his sister Niënor and their struggle against fate and the curse that has been cast over Húrin’s family.

“Let the unseen days be. Today is more than enough.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Children of Húrin

This is obviously not quite Tolkien, yet it’s more than tolkienesque. The Children of Húrin takes us to a time thousands of years before the events occurring in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, partly connecting with the story in The Silmarillion. I think reading this novel helps you to fil some gaps.

“Why must you speak your thoughts? Silence, if fair words stick in your throat, would serve all our ends better.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Children of Húrin

All in all, enjoyable read for Tolkien fans.
4/5 stars

Tips
1.
This is not for everyone. I think this is for people who like to read, for ones who’ve liked Beowulf and for more  hardcore fans who’ve spent time learning Sindarin or Quenya.
2.
Illustrations are gorgeous, very warmly recommend this because of them alone.
3. 
Children of Húrin connects nicely with some of Tolkien’s other works. If you plan to read this, read The Silmarillion first.
4.
Darkly beautiful, don’t expect an happy ending.
5.
The story is mainly based on the legend of Kullervo, a character from the Finnish folklore poems known as Kalevala. If you have time to glimpse through Kalevala, I warmly recommend it. It’s entertaining and dramatic. If not, you could read short story ‘Kullervo‘ by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Have you read this? What is your favorite Tolkien?

“False hopes are more dangerous than fears.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Children of Húrin

How-To Catch a Falling Star

“A philosopher once asked, “Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?” Pointless, really…”Do the stars gaze back?” Now, that’s a question.”
― Neil Gaiman, Stardust

Stardust is a novel by British writer Neil Gaiman, published with illustrations by Charles Vess in 1999. It tells a story Tristran Thorn who promises to bring back a fallen star for his beloved and crosses the wall that divides his English country town from a dangerous world of lords and witches, all of them in search of the star. And Tristran soon discovers that stars are not how he imagined them to be.

“He stared up at the stars: and it seemed to him then that they were dancers, stately and graceful, performing a dance almost infinite in its complexity. He imagined he could see the very faces of the stars; pale, they were, and smiling gently, as if they had spent so much time above the world, watching the scrambling and the joy and the pain of the people below them, that they could not help being amused every time another little human believed itself the center of its world, as each of us does.”
― Neil Gaiman, Stardust

Stardust was I think the second book I read by Neil Gaiman, first one being Neverwhere. I adore his writing and have to agree with Stephen King when he said that “Gaiman is a treasure-house of story and we are lucky to have him”. Stardust is a beautiful fairytale targeted more to adult readers, and it’s a wonderful thing that someone writes fairytales for adults.

“It’s not hard to own something. Or everything. You just have to know that it’s yours, and then be willing to let it go.”
― Neil Gaiman, Stardust

“Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at the stars because we are human?”
― Neil Gaiman, Stardust

I’d rate this book 4/5 stars. I’d give more but the problem here lies in me loving  Neverwhere and  American Gods even more.

Tips
1.
You´ll adore Stardust if you love fantasy and if you like books like The Princess Bride or works of Lord Dunsany.
2. It’s a quick read because it’s a short read, under 250 pages and because Gaiman writes so brilliantly.
3.
If you love reading fairytales, here’s one you should read.
4.
You can read an excerpt of Stardust here.
5.
There is a  good film adaptation of the book from 2007.

Have you read Neil Gaiman’s books? Have you read this?

“You have to believe. Otherwise, it will never happen.”
― Neil Gaiman, Stardust