Hence passes the big-ol’ be-all-and-end-all school term, leaving me, finally, after having suckerpunched some academic discipline and restrain into myself, living too much in the past and too little in the present. Glorifying yourself with fragments of old wealth, faded beauty, once-youth, long-ago-vitality, recollections strong enough to leave you breathless and insane, frantic with your own delusions, like Blanche Dubois. Like Anwell, like poor, frightened, pathetic Charles Kingshaw. My beloved psychedelic protagonists – to think that after I have dissected your motives and circumstances and served it up proudly on fresh, blank paper, I would end up like you – pitiful and neurotic! How present I was then. Imagine Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry making sense only after I no longer need it to.
“The film is on a loop.
…You remember little things. Telling stories
or pretending to be strong. Mommy’s never wrong.”
– Whoever She Was, by Carol Ann Duffy
You placate a sudden, restless emptiness with flotsam and jetsam inconsequential goals. Completing the Sinnoh-dex. Achieving maximum tactician stats. Re-reading character supports. You remember (or pretend to have known) love, lovers, loving, but really, it’s mostly just the little things. I don’t even know what they are, really. Uh : you-me-I -?- sounds schizoprenic even to your-my ears.
I don’t – I wish – I want I do – I came up with a whole family I’d love to have. A cross between the Russian and Irish wolfhound, called Taichou, or Tai (Ty) for short. A Belgian shepherd (groenendel), called Inferos, or Ros for short. A Norweigian terrier I want to call Shin, short for Shinpachi. An Afghan hound, named Khal Drogo, either Khal or Drogo for short. And a labrador retriever. I really only had one but once he’s gone, now I have five! Five. There they go again, beloved, multiplying all out of proportion. Rabid as Chuck Palaniuk’s Buster Rant Casey.
Hot damn, but talk about wickedly good covers and wickedly good books. I’m game for anything brutal and visceral as long as its well written, and while (normal) kids should stay away from Rant, adults could learn a bit or two from it. Finding the guts to love Palaniuk’s books is something like cultivating an acquired taste – it’s a little trying to read beneath the gore and the fragmented narrative style. I’m more favourably inclined to Palaniuk’s book than this book reviewer; however, it is is a good summary and the criticisms are valid.
Wow – stocking mandarins on trees! An angbao (with a condom and a sleazy coupon, no less!) from the illustrious WifeEe and Wife#1! Thank you for the moments I’m too lost to remember.
Disclaimer : The following content, and all other ‘book reviews’ that follow (although I do not claim any ability to review any book) is purely my own unenlightened opinion and may contain spoilers of mentioned books. No hard feelings. Comments are always welcome.
I suppose I’ve come to glance past, and even be prejudiced against, books with catchy titles, because of their tendency to disappoint. Off the top of my mind, I found Paulo Coelho’s The Witch of Portobello, complete with beautiful coverpage art, unremarkable and rather too diffusive to sustain interest, just like I found a majority of my action/adventure/crime thriller reads nothing more than flashy titles and gratuitous excitement. Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, despite having been all over bookstore bestseller shelves, in the lists of book-club recommendations, and made into a Swedish movie, seemed to fall into the same category. Conspicuous title, fragmented blurb, and a strong suggestion, through the coverpage picture, of a badass, attractively no-holds-barred ‘anti-hero’ – all suggesting a book trying too hard.
Thus far, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has done little to impress – it is long-winded, disjointed, and unconvincing. The first problem might be my fault as an obsessively critical reader, but the latter two points uproot the appeal of Larsson’s novel almost entirely. Lisbeth Salanders’ “typically-unusual” combination of a dangerous, talented detective from unsavoury backgrounds, flawed but seemingly invulnerable, with a well honed survival instinct and don’t-fuck-with-me aura, is only superficially interesting…and unrealistically so. It seems implausible that Salanders’s employers, colleagues and friends are unquestionably devoted to her, as many readers seem to be. Plotwise, Larsson’s novel is loose and colourless, like a mismatched and unflattering outfit. There are too many things – murder, revenge, cyberhacking, complicated (and complicating) relationships – with insufficient linking and relevance. The development of setting was negligible, the description passable but repetitive. I have been told the book picks up, but having flipped to the later parts, I remain doubtful.
If there is one book that has more than lived up to its title, it has to be Mindfuck, a dystopian science fiction by Manna Francis. Incidentally, Mindfuck and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo both have intriguing but sociopathic protagonists. However, to compare Francis’s Val Toreth with Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander is to liken Hellsing’s Alucard to Twilight’s Edward Cullen. It simply is not done.
There are no bad guys or good guys. There are only better guys and worse guys.
One of the worse guys is Val Toreth. In a world in which torture is a legitimate part of the investigative process, he works for the Investigation and Interrogation Division, where his colleagues can be more dangerous than the criminals he investigates.
One of the better guys is Keir Warrick. His small corporation, SimTech, is developing a “sim” system that places users in a fully immersive virtual reality. A minnow in a murky and dangerous pond, he is only beginning to discover how many compromises may be required for success.
Their home is the dark future dystopia of New London. A totalitarian bureaucracy controls the European Administration, sharing political power with the corporations. The government uses violence and the many divisions of the feared Department of Internal Security to maintain control and crush resistance. The corporations fight among themselves, using lethal force under the euphemism of “corporate sabotage,” uniting only to resist attempts by the Administration to extend its influence over them. Toreth and Warrick are more natural enemies than allies. But mutual attraction and the fight for survival can create unlikely bonds.
‘Fetching’ does not do this title justice. ‘Appalling’ would suit it better, or ‘forceful’. Mindfuck, both the title and the story, is intelligently written, is perfectly paced to both engage the the reader’s attention and bring to life the detailed, textured characters. I fell, hard, for Val Toreth, who is selfish, sadistic, and ruthless, but very lovable (sometimes hilariously so. He’s obsessed with his own skincare regime). His trying relationships with the two people who matter to him – his indisposable assistant Sara and the perfectionistic Keir Warrick – are deftly and expertly fleshed out by Francis. The sex is kinky and explicit, but suitably minimal and never gratuitous. There is nothing gratuitous about Francis’s writing; neither the angst nor the sex nor the violence, which is admirable control on the writer’s part. Manna Francis mesmerizes with this short, but potent – very potent – thriller.
For a better review of Mindfuck, read “topandbottomreviews“. And for the other stories featuring Val Toreth and Warrick, visit Manna Francis’ website. My personal hedonistic favourites are “Boys Toys“, “Mirror mirror” and “Surprises.” Although, given the consistently superb quality of Francis’s writing, the printed books are extremely worth getting.