Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bookshelf Part 3

Another month, another post.
Last few weeks I've been reading lots of boring, scientific-ey stuff not worthy being mentioned here. Also, gros of those are in my own native language and I doubt anyone would be interested to hear about a book on hermeneutics.
Without further ado, let's do it!

The reading list, you dirty-minded people, you!
Starting from the book I had most fun reading and will look for the second part.

It's a first part in a 7-part series (plus two additional) and I have to read them all! And no, not because of the main characters sexuality (which seems to be the main focus of people reviewing these books). When I randomly picked up this book from a library shelf, I only read the basic info about the plot the backs of books usually have. And then I started to read - and I couldn't stop. The Author clearly likes her characters and it's visible - they are described with sensitivity, in a slowly revealing way. We don't have to create the inner world of psyche based only on the bahaviour of the character (as many contemporary novels do) - we get a glimpse into their own labyrinths of mind. This is especially true in Seregil's case - he's shadowing almost as much as he's revealing, being plagued with disturbing dreams. And yet, he's trying to maintain a cheerful facade, joking and observing his surroundings with a lazy vigilance of a cat.
And his surroundings are mostly Alec whom he saved from the prison, a very naive and innocent teen. Alec, instead of being an obnoxious boy hit by puberty, is quick in thinking and loyal to a fault. Finally, a teen not plagued with Werther syndrome, emoting in dark corners, shouting and spewing nonsense.
Seregil takes Alec as his apprentice - at first it seems to be an espionage, but the deeper we immerse in the plot, the clearer it seems that Seregil is not merely a spy...

Tales From Wilżyńska Valley. It's a collection of 9 stories + epilogue. It's a grotesque world, juggling the motifs and stereotypes of people and narratives. Wilżyńska Valley is a small, mountain village that has its own priest, chief, harlot and of course - witch. Because every village HAS to have its own witch. Grandma Lil'-Bilberry is a model witch (with an indispensable droplet at the end of her nose) who can transform herself with the spell "young-and-beautiful". She's very short-tempered, loves plum preserves, drinking 1000%-proof booze and flying on her favorite wooden rail. She keeps a goat (usually it's a young, horny guy under the spell, whom Grandma keeps to allow herself some fun with the man in his, well... human form) and a ginger cat called The Witch's Cat and she hates Grandma. There is a special chapter especially for The Witch's Cat - in the end she left Grandma to follow a priest.
The stories are the venom-dripping satire, crude and rude. On the peripheries we glimpse a more serious and dark world - our Grandma is not exactly a usual village witch. The society, even though distorted to the point of absurdity, rings somewhat true even in 21st century.

The translation of this book had its premiere this month, so it's pretty fresh (the original is from 2015, if I remember correctly). It's a fun read, but mostly for people who like Japan and/or demons as a hobby. It's not a book for professionals, because there's nothing in it we don't already know. It's divided into two parts - first one is an introduction into the field of yokai: who studies them, where and how. The second part is a bestiary compiling most known yokai and those less known based on their natural habitat (water, house, mountains, etc.). I might disagree with some expressions used there, but I do know that some abbreviations had to be made, to present so many theories and beings in a finite form that is a book. However in a matter of Akutagawa, the Author could do a tiny bit more research. This book presents yokai mostly from the second part of Edo period (1600-1868) and contemporary, their transformations and new ones, made up by artists (like Mizuki Shigeru).
You can read it for fun, but for me, there wasn't much new information.

The Author was a journalist and such style is visible. In case of such events as depicted here, it's not a bad thing, though. The narration jumps between cities and places in Western Europe - Hague, Italy, Alps, Paris, Berlin... What makes this an engaging read is the fact it describes things that COULD happen - the whole human civilisation now relies on energy. A switch off - and the world plunges into chaos, darkness and cold. In here, the black-out was caused by a meticulous (as we learn later) movement of a group that is against governments and corporations (especially corporations). It's not a new motif, of course, if anyone watched tv series Mr. Robot knows what I'm talking about. Here everything starts in Italy (and as we come to know later - simultaneously in Sweden) - an error in the energy plant that starts the domino effect - next power plants report errors and soon almost the whole Europe is covered with flashing red lights on the monitors in headquarters. Problem is this: the EU implemented a common energy flow through every member state, energy is produced and shared all through the countries, plus implemented new, intelligent watt-hour meters that had to be installed in every household. Not every country installed them, though. Majority of those were installed in Italy and Sweden... You see the pattern now?
It only takes a virus to reprogram an intelligent meter that sends wrong info to the central and from there to the power plant. Spiraling into chaos is very quick.
One more thing I'm glad the Author wrote about - the nuclear power plants cannot function without electricity that keeps the water pumping to cool the reactor. Without it - you can imagine.