Friday, June 23, 2017

Bookshelf Part 6

Yet another pack of books some people might find interesting enough to read. And some might question my - why yes - questionable taste.

Paul Conroy - Under the Wire: Mary Colvin's Final Assignment. It's really hard to write about this book. I picked it at random, because of my affinity for military, war and stuff, but this book describes no war, not even a conflict. It describes a methodological, planned and blood-curdling wiping out one district of Syrian city Homs, Baba Amr by Assad's army. The book's timeline is not linear - it jumps from time to time and from place to place but mostly it centers around the February of 2012 in Syria. The book is written by Paul Conroy, an ex-military working as a photographer for The Sunday Times. It is a relation about a brave woman, a reporter, Mary Colvin who died during the heavy attack in February 2012. And it is also a harrowing description about the life in a besieged district, showered 24/7 with rockets and bullets (especially dangerous were heavy mortar shells caliber 240mm: they weight 130 kg and are 150 cm long, and can reach a target at 10 km range). Assad's army destroyed house after house, shelling at everything that moved, even - or maybe especially - foreign journalists who could inform the world about his actions. All because there was a peaceful demonstration against his rule. This book is both about the Mary Colvin who stayed in the destroyed, ruined city to show what army was doing to civilians, and she paid the highest price for that, and about the citizens of Homs, killed everyday, hiding or leaving through 3-km long tunnel, taken by shells and snipers, dying on makeshift hospital floors.
And the fact that Assad is still at power amazes me. I mean, everyone knows what this monster has done. Can any sniper take him out?

Feliks W. Kres - Północna granica (Northern Border). Oh, that was boring. I finished it only because it was short. Kres is so detached from his characters, they become only letters on the paper, nothing more. I couldn't care less about them, I couldn't even be bothered to argue with their decisions. It's bland. Maybe the next parts would be better but I'm not interested enough to inquire after some characters I can live without.

Dean Burnett - The Idiot Brain: A Neuroscientist Explains What Your Head Is Really Up To.  It was really fun, really informative, explaining many things that happen on a daily basis. Like me going to the kitchen and forgetting what I came for. Or why stupid people have higher self esteem than smart people. Or even why I still have space for ice-cream even after eating whole bowl of pasta^^. An awesome read.

Anna Brzezińska - Zbójecki gościniec (Bandit Highroad). Great, stylized narration (no wonder, the Author is a medievalist and she can use her knowledge) and yet a ruff style about ruffians, assassins, crazy monks of a Crazy God, schemings of the gods and their petty wars, witches losing control over their powers and everyday, superstitious people. Lovely, full-blooded characters, intertwined fates and one bandit that shits on gods' plans. Plus, jadziołek, a bird of two pairs of amber eyes with droplets of poison hanging from the tips of his feathers. A bird that can enter a human mind and sow there seeds of paranoia...
I'm gonna borrow the continuation!

Marilyn Chase - The Barbary Plague. The Black Death in Victorian San Francisco. Because I am very fond of books/shows on epidemics, both scientific and entertainment-ready, I started to read this quite short book that balances somewhere between a novel and a "non-scientific" book. Chase is a journalist and such style is evident in this book, it reads like an essay more than anything. There are hard, numbers based facts here and there like raisins in the cake, but in overall it's a nice read, flowing smoothly through the events of the year 1900 when a Bubonic Plague came to the shores of San Francisco along the infected rats from Honolulu.

Drew Magary - The Postmortal. The idea was great - around our times a cure for mortality is made. It's a series of injections based on an individual DNA, and at first it circulated at the black market and for our planet's VIPs. Then riots broke out because the usual people were demanding the fair treatment - they didn't want to age as well. Because this cure was exactly this: the cure for aging. A person could still die in an accident, commit a suicide etc. At one point the cure was made available to the public - and the chaos ensued. As I said, the concept is really good, but the execution... Boy oh boy, the style is awful, the humor is forced, the characters' depiction is minimal at best. Plus, the main guy is such a jerk I wanted to kill him in the middle of read because he was so annoying.

Hal Duncan - Vellum. The Book of All Hours: 1. Ugh, it's so postmodernist Jorge Luis Borges is probably green with envy. NOT!! The fragmented narration tries to pretend it hides something more, something deep. On the workmanship level - it's like Sense8, only without Wolfgang, which makes it dull. While (d)reading it, I had this gruffy voice at the back of my skull hissing: why the f*ck you still reading this? And when I had around 80 pages more to finish, I gave up. I didn't care for any of the characters, not Phreedom, not Thomas, not Jack... Not even the badly constructed, but having a potential, cruel angels. Not even for the damn Book of All Hours, a main artifact described tirelessly by the plethora of characters here. I read once that this book is only for sophisticated people who would understand its perfectly constructed scheme. And so is Ulisses, and yet Virginia Woolf said it's probably the most boring book she had read. But if I see in one paragraph a 3rd person narration and the next sentence is 1st person and the next sentence is 3rd person again... I know that's messed up and not planned at all. The whole novel looks like a jumble of the Author's notes he was writing for few months, then he put them in random order and rewrote everything and without even final checking, he sent to his blind editor. 
Or maybe I'm just a simple girl, not sophisticated enough.

The continuation of what I wrote in my previous post. This time, Meekhan Borderlands as full novels, developing the events and characters even more, leading them to the great, bloody final under the steel-colored sky and dying child of Verdanno. Simply great!

Honorable mentions:
Ania Loomba - Colonialism/Postcolonialism
Adam Kulawik - Zarys poetyki (The Basics of Poetics)
Marcus Chown - The Never-Ending Days of Being Dead: Dispatches from the Frontline of Science
Pictures from: goodreads.