Frankenstein, or: The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley (5 stars)
As I slowly make way through books most of you read in grade school, I’m learning that these books have staying power for a reason. I’ve liked the vast majority of them. Sometimes, I don’t know how I made it through school without having read them before, but my ability to avoid school work should never be underestimated.
This book was phenomenal. Melodramatic, and the prose, though beautiful, was a bit antiquated and florid, but I found this – one of the most famous books ever written – to be full of surprises. That’s hard to do, considering I pretty much knew the entire story. I knew the Monster wasn’t, well, this guy – but I wasn’t expecting him to be so…emotional. And I knew he would be sympathetic, but I was taken aback by how well developed and complex his motivations were.
It’s hard not to see so much of human conflict reflected in this story. From the self-perpetuating cycle of violence in Israel to humanity’s propensity for self-destruction through technology, whether you’re talking about the actuality of climate change or the fear of artificial intelligence. This book works on so many levels, for so many things. It can be almost anything you want it to be. It is, truly, a work of timeless beauty.
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (3 stars)
Full disclaimer: I did not finish this book.
I wanted to like this book. It was good. It was well-written. It was interesting.
But, for whatever reason, it never drew me in. It just felt like the movie Mulan to me, even though that’s doing the book a disservice. And – though this is a failing of mine, not the book’s – my lack of familiarity with Chinese names made it hard to keep characters straight in my head.
Set during the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty in 14th century China, a fortune teller gives the fortunes of two peasant children. The boy is told that he will achieve greatness. The other, his sister, is told that she is nothing. Later, after their father is killed by bandits, the son wastes away and dies. The daughter takes his name, Zhu Chongba, joins a Buddhist monastery and becomes a monk.
The story goes on from there, and I was legitimately interested in the book…..until I just kind of stopped reading it. Part of this, I think, was due to my incredibly smart decision to do a little bit of research on the Yuan dynasty, Red Turban Rebellion, and 14th century China. Unsurprisingly, the story of Zhu Chongba (this book is historical fiction, so many of the characters are based on real people) was kind of spoiled for me. It’s always hard for me to maintain my interest when I know what’s going to happen.
So if you’re like that – don’t do any research into this time period. Sit back and enjoy the book.
The Sunset Limited by Cormac McCarthy (4 stars)
I thought I’d already reviewed this, but it seems that I haven’t.
This is a play, subtitled “A Novel in Dramatic Form”. I got the audio book from Audible, and it was narrated by two men, and they do a marvelous job.
The play is a Socratic conversation between Black, an ex-convict and found God in prison, and White, an affluent man of faithlessness. Black saves White, who was trying to commit suicide. They then go back to Black’s apartment where they discuss human suffering, God, and suicide. Black tries to talk White out of it, and White argues passionately for how badly he wants to die.
In typical McCarthy fashion, the story has rich philosophical themes and irresolute ending. McCarthy has been fairly hit and miss for me. I loved The Road and No Country for Old Men, but didn’t like Blood Meridian and struggled with some of his other books. I don’t think The Sunset Limited is up there with his works that I have liked, and it’s language is sparse even by McCarthy’s standards – but I did find it enjoyable and rewarding.