Book Review

Book Review: Chaos Walking The Trilogy

I’ve decided that I should write a review for a beloved book series of mine. To be honest I’ve never heard of Patrick Ness and the Chaos Walking trilogy but I’ve heard wonderful reviews (4-5 stars at least) about it on tumblr and the books are wonderfully weird in an awesome way.

So be it.

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Pardon the quality. My sister borrowed my digicam to take photogenic HD photos of her pet fungi (she’s a research assistant in a bio lab) and I’m left with a poor quality cameraphone. I want to do this so bad today so here we are, battling curiosity and hopelessness in judging stacks of papers.

*sigh* I need distractions.

Look! See the invisible writings? The book cover is nothing short of glorious!

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Each cover bears it so you will find yourself caressing them like your first born child. You heard me. First born biological child. *strokes cover*

So I should start with the first book. I loved the title ; THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO. We are to be presented with our hero, Todd Hewitt and fair warning for the faint hearted, his companion, Manchee.

We’re presented with the New World, sort of new settlements (think American colonies in the 16th century but planet-wise) where in the sky you will find an extra moon. The new planet was inhabited by an ‘alien’ race called Spackle and they communicate by hearing each other’s thoughts.

So when the new human settlers came, they did not expect to hear each other’s thoughts out loud. You will see it demonstrated in the book as below.

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I’ve never seen something so random, pretty and wonderful as those bold scribbles. Those are called Noise.

So our story began in a small town called Prentisstown (you can guess what’s the mayor’s name) where it’s been thought that the Spackle released a kind of germ to the humans making them hear their thoughts out loud (even the animals) and the Noise was not only annoying to men but it killed off all the womenfolk including Todd’s mom.

Todd was adopted by his two fathers and he was the last boy in town whose going through the age of men – thirteen, but unbeknownst to him, his fathers thought of a way for him and Manchee to run away from their hometown before he turns 13. Mayor Prentiss had a horrible idea and Ben and Cillian didn’t want Todd to be any part of that plan.

When Todd was walking Manchee out of town, he stumbled upon a spot of Silence in the middle of nowhere. When he told his parents, they immediately want him to leave. Todd didn’t like the idea one bit but he did it anyway and found out that the Silence moved.

It was a girl and she fell from the sky.

The whole Prentisstown was out on a hunt for Todd and he had to bring the girl along with him but how are you going to escape an army when they can hear your every thought?

Dun. Dun. Dun.

The second book is called; THE ASK AND THE ANSWER.

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Blue color. Lovely. This is my favourite cover.

The story started with Todd carrying Viola (The Moving Silence) who was badly hurt to a new place called Haven, a supposedly safe and promised place. He surrendered to Mayor Prentiss’s army and was separated immediately from Viola. Meanwhile Mayor Prentiss conquered Haven and renamed it to New Prentisstown and hoarded all the cures for Noise.

Viola was placed in a house of healing and while getting better, she also learned on how to be a healer like the rest of the women of Haven under guidance from Mistress Coyle. Unhappy with the new mayor, Mistress Coyle led a resistance movement called The Answer to carry out bombings in strategic places in the city. The other side retaliate with The Ask.

Todd, working for the mayor now had to manage a herd of Spackles for municipal works and one day he saved a Spackle from a bombing. His balance shifted. Which side should he take, his employer, Viola or the ungrateful slave?

The last book is called; MONSTERS OF MEN.

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Spoiler alert; there will be war.

The Spackle army was marching towards New Prentisstown and Mayor Prentiss was in charge of his own army while Viola was trying to communicate with a new spaceship bringing the next batch of colonists, new weapons and advanced technology. Which side will win?

REVIEW:

1) The Knife of Never Letting Go was a very emotional book for me. I didn’t like Todd in the beginning. He abuses Manchee for no reason whatsoever! I hated him for being such an idiotic, whiny boy. I didn’t think he’d make a brilliant hero because he’s always scared and to be honest, he made a lot of stupid decisions. He can’t even spell and read. UGH. I thought he was going to get everyone killed because he was stupid.

And I was wrong. I took everything back. Just read the book and tell me how you fell in love with Todd.

2) The Ask and The Answer discussed very delicate theme. It went deeper than most young adult literature (YA lit) ever did to me. I’ve read many YA lit discussing wars, propaganda and tactical but this book sent chills down my spine. It makes you think about the calculating mind reasoning behind a purposely destroyed public watertank and why people are ready to suffer to make the other side die/lose/break in a certain manner.

We are cruel beings. It tells you how humans in war are not much different than monsters. You try to figure out the motives of leaders like Mayor Prentiss who was all about power and Mistress Coyle who talks about rights. You think of why certain people think that their opinion is valid enough to kill innocent victims. Why suicide bombers think that they can achieve something by taking their own life. Was it worth it, an eye for an eye?

Man, the book is just brilliant. I loved the short story at the end of last chapter. I can almost imagine reading with Noise and I wanted to be a Spackle.

3) Monsters of Men was the most difficult read for me of all three. It discusses not two side of a war but three. One side is protecting their own country/people/rights (the Spackle), one side is fighting for power (New Prentisstown) and another side is fighting for survival (the latest colonists who came from a broken planet faraway) You’ll understand why there would be allies and peace treaty. There’s so many hidden things in the war that we saw on t.v and reading this book made me understand the world and the kind of people we live with.

Overall it was a five star book for me 🙂 I don’t know if they’re making a movie out of this but it would be a challenging one that is. You’ll see.

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Mi Vida

Perks of Being a Translator

Last year, I translated a book from John Green called The Fault in Our Stars.

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It wasn’t my first choice. I wrote to the publisher and asked if they were interested in paying me to translate The Hunger Games and they told me that it was already an ongoing project (for 2 damn years) Instead of moping, I asked if there was another project and they said yes, for Mr. Green.

I mean, I’m on tumblr and you, sir sucked big time if you failed to read all the quotes that crept slowly on your dashboard. I thought it was ‘deep’ and philosophical but no way I would read the book. It’s just not my kind. And yet when in Waterstones I saw that book up for a quid and I bought it without thinking twice. Part of it was curiosity but another part was just a dim wish. I might get to fangirl with them (tumblr girls crying over Gus) and get some friends. You know, shallow, selfish stuffs.

So I read it. To be honest, I cried but not a lot. I cried more reading The Hunger Games (sorry, wrong genre) Honestly, I think it’s an equally brilliant book though I have to admit that I disagree on certain parts. I loved how he managed to make Amsterdam a metaphor for Hazel and The Anne Frank House for Gus. It’s like it’s written in the stars [*teary eyes*]

Okay?

Okay.

So my publisher said there was another girl who was supposed to be doing the translation but she had to continue her studies and there’s a possibility that she can’t do it. I said fine and it was supposed to be a 50-50 deal but in the end she just managed to translate up to chapter three. I was fine with it but I would suggest that anyone with the right mind should really think of translating one book alone. It’s a headache to fuse two minds into one voice.

The editor said that I have less than 2 months (we need to publish it before the movie screening in Malaysia) so I did my best. It was hard because Malay words are formal (sometimes philosophical) but not well adapted to be embedded in the minds of teenagers and TFIOS is a book aimed for youth. It’s a young adult literature. So you have to fence fight with literary terms and jostled it with really shallow street slang. You have to mix it right so it should not be too sharp, nor too blunt. I revised and fought for my translation. Sometimes the editor thought it was okay but sometimes he changed it, sometimes without telling me. I told him the truth. Some I do agree and some I didn’t. In the end, the book was done and was sold out in 3 weeks. It went into second print until today it’s one of the bestsellers of the company.

I guess I did okay. Some complained that it was a really formal translation of TFIOS and not ‘groovy’ enough but I’m fine with it. It’s over. Can’t change anything and won’t.

The publisher sent me another manuscript called Cat out of Hell right after the day I sent him the full translation. A pretty dark humored book, if you ask me but he wanted me to choose between Park and Eleanor and Cat out of Hell and if given another chance, I would still choose the same book. I love Cat out of Hell.

Can’t stand P&E. Sorry. Too much brands promo/pop culture references to shape up an identity. I know it’s for youth but not everyone has the same ideology or identify with American brands. In certain countries outside of USA, a common brand costs a fortune and we only saw them on second hand shops or donated during floods. It’s a pathetic excuse to build a character.

Well, yes. Moving on. I was being upset about something more important than labels.

My publisher and beloved editor.

He gave me some time to peruse the book and then told me that I should contact him when I’m done. I guess I deserve some break after TFIOS so after a month, I mailed him asking for updates. I was translating the book (for about 10 pages) and then he promptly said that we’re not printing that book. Malaysians might not understand the dark humor.

Fuck.

Fine. My fault. I should have asked him first.

I met this editor many times. Always smiling, having fun. He knew I speak Spanish so sometimes he would say some Spanish babble and I just laugh. I guess he’s a nice guy to work with.

I asked him if I can get some discounts for some poem books and even my translated copy. He said I can get it for free. WOW. This is so cool! I was looking forward for those copies but then he promptly forgot about that. Fine, I said. Next time.

He put on Facebook that his company was looking for an in-house translator and I immediately applied hoping to get it because I helped them before. No reply.

I asked for my royalty after 6 months. Nothing. There were some mails back and forth. Asks and answers. There was something about consignments, and bookshops not paying it but other than that I guess I have to wait for it. I kinda break my heart because I was asking about it since early December to get to a book sale. Nothing. When my grandmother died, I didn’t have a dime to chip in (that was early January) so I am quite upset with the whole arrangement.

And then again, on their FB page, he’s asking for a Spanish translator (when he already got my resumé from the in-house translator vacancy. He knew that I speak Spanish) Still, I sent my CV. I wanted to see how long can he ignore me, push me and just pretend that I didn’t exist.

I once sent a manuscript to be published (long time ago when my English REALLY sucked) and got nothing as a reply. I can accept that. But now? It’s the same voice. Same action. I feel like a candy wrapper, now discarded at a wrong recycle bin.

I guess I can expect the same thing from him now. No-fucking-thing.

And it’s just so sad because his echo is blaring; that I’m not good enough, that my part of the answer equation did not matter to him and my efforts were worthless. All those nights and worrying and dictionary browsing were nothing. I was just a mean to get a book published and I should not take offence because they’re a big, established company with money.

And stupid me, I thought that if I did a good job they would want me 😦

 

LATEST UPDATE 14/05/2015:

The royalty has been paid some time last week 🙂 I felt like it rained golden nuggets. I thank the unfaulty alignment of stars for this.

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Mi Vida

1/365

It’s another year. Yay!

Another chapter is being written. Honestly, I find 2014 filled with disasters and innumerable deaths. Stories died. Things forgotten. People holding so many promises faded into shadows. Gloom. I don’t know if I should feel terrified or this is the very reason why I should step up and be fearless.

Fearless. Or is it brave? What’s the difference? Should I put courage in the same equation? Sometimes during desperate times I wonder what’s it like to be the daughter of Ares, the God of War. Can I slay the drakon, like Clarisse?

I have no idea.

I guess I got what I wanted. I’ve written a book and published one. I translated another book and finally I have written an English short story despite of having so many doubts and fear that I’m not good enough. I’m the only one who can slay my monsters and I constantly need to do that, on a daily basis and especially when I write.

Before Ryan came, I didn’t think it was a big deal.

He’s American. About 26 years old. I always have this fantasy that I’m able to host a stranger. My house is quite comfortable and those ‘surfers’ can sleep in my brother’s room. A guy (a Czech) from Global Freeloader, another site not unlike Couchsurfing (CS) wrote to me and asked if he could stay. That’s why I updated my profile on CS. I think it’s a brilliant idea. You register as a host for fellow traveler, they stay with you for a couple of days much like a guest, you show them around and then they leave. You’re like a small, private, cheap hostel. It’s wonderful. Those foreigners will learn the real deal, not the tourist aimed activities and of course, keep much of their money for the important stuffs, like airplane tickets or food.

The catch is you don’t know them and vice versa. My sister did not like the idea. Ryan could be a serial rapist or a kidnapper or a thief but I went out with some of couchsurfers when I was in the U.K and they are the very image of a universal language of motion and I understood them.

So I told him that I would pick him up at the jetty.

He’s clean, empathetic and passionate. Worthy of many legends. When I told him I was a writer, his face beamed like the sun. He said he wished that he could be like me. Not as a writer but as a person who follows their dreams. His calling is music.

We talked a lot. He was an English teacher in China for almost a year. When he finished his contract, he thought that his Christmas and New Year is going to be somewhere nearer to the sun (nothing with snow like Omaha, Nebraska) and though his mother didn’t approve of his decision (I can relate to that) I swear, I saw a lot of younger me in his journey. Temperamental, rash and just about had it with routine. Nothing is more lethal than a comfortable life without progress, or what you call routine.

I wanted to help him because I remember how clueless I was. How confused. I spent years wandering and looking for inspiration. Some sort of clue. I want to be the protagonist of my own personal legend and looking around, I felt like a salmon swimming against the current. Fighting something impossible, like gravity.

They would say, everything is enough. Be grateful. Conform in society. Agree with majority. Get a real job. Get married. Get paid doing something you hate because it’s necessary. And many times, I thought these people were right.

I can’t do that to Ryan. I hate it when people lie to my face because they’re too scared to seek something they truly want.

I know some journeys you just have to walk alone. Ponder all the important questions and hopefully find some answers. I feel like Chiron, trying to teach Hercules all that the hero needs to remember in a sword fight but the fight is never mine. I can’t fight the monsters for him. I realized that I came so far. I suffered so much and yet fulfilled in so many ways. It’s funny that I passed this level of difficulty. I never thought I would be able to do something that made me truly happy.

And then the weirdest thing happened. The lost boy, Ryan, the one trying to figure out life one step at a time, finding courage and luck, missing his family and tirelessly asked me the same question over and over again ‘how did you know this is what you want?’ actually helped me more than I originally wanted.

My problem was solved in 2 hugs.

I mean, I always crave physical contact but my family don’t do hugs. We do handshakes but nothing more than a playful pecks on the cheeks. No hugs, no touching. I got this crave when I started learning Spanish and getting along with Spanish speakers. They touch, they kiss, they hug and those are my cure. I love our long conversations. Our lunch or dinner. Sitting before an array of food. Talking about everything. We would laugh and joke. I would tell them how awful my day was and there is always a gift in return; an advice, an apologetic smile, a warm enveloping hug, a gentle squeeze on my hand or just a touch on the knee.

I can’t tell you how I missed those days. The days when I was not alone. The days when someone in my life listens and cared. And I wanted a hug.

I favored a hug from a husband of an ex-colleague. He’s a bit younger than my father and always have good things to say about other people. That booming laughter. The couple has always been my favourite. Please take note that I’m not a creepy person but his hug is something that I think about from time to time. I felt like my life had been the longest winter night and his hug is the first ray of sunlight. Warm and melting. It was so good, like almost frozen toes near the furnace kind of good. I even thought of the worst hugger of all; my ex-boss. He would be the one that I suspect the reincarnation of a boa constrictor. He surrounded me like a vice. Almost like a torture device. I would sweat in his arms, have trouble breathing and hyperventilates when he let go. The craving was that bad, it seemed that I even want him to hug me again.

And Ryan’s hug was somewhere between the two.

He stayed about 2 days and then bought a ticket to KL and later to Siem Riep. The Air Asia news spooked him a bit but he insisted that he should go. Death does not scare him because he couldn’t stand the ‘what ifs’.

That was my answer for his questions. The What Ifs. The Road Not Taken. The Other Maybe.

And I told him, ‘it would be so much better, if you could channel the same faith with your music career’ and for the first time, he was speechless.

It seemed that we both got what we wanted. I got my hug and he got a bag of words that strike the loneliest chords of his soul.

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Mi Vida

2014

I guess I’m living my dreams and still in denial? That would be the tagline of my brand (if I am to call myself a merchandise) this year. I was probably thinking that National Geographic Channel’s biggest falcon would swoop me up and drop me in Africa with the latest Nikon and I start photographing elephants pooping. Seriously, I didn’t think that is an exaggeration of my escape.

Escape.

I want to escape somewhere. Anywhere.

I would consider this one of my life’s biggest mystery. My craving for vast, mountainous land, snow and anonymity. For months, I feel indifferent towards my surrounding. Flat lands, green fields stretching miles and miles, muddy paths in the frequent rain, tiny red mosquito bites and the sound of generator attached to water pumps pumping water from rivers into the paddy fields. They used to be music to my ears. When I told stories about my hometown, I would include these things that made my heart swell with longing. Homesick. I even let myself felt proud of it though I didn’t own any of it, just snippets of memories.

But now I’m just sick of it.

I think about this all the time, actually. I have no boss to tell me stuff that I don’t agree with (they’re all stupid, to be honest. Like you wouldn’t believe me.) I already published 2 books (an original and a translation) and a digital short story, I have ample time to write, daydream and travel anywhere in the world. No children. No freakin’ husband. No fucking attachments. I’m free like a bird, for God’s sake. So why in the world I need this stupid escape?

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Duh. To grow.

I need some space to grow but I can’t figure out how.  Do I need to learn something new? Do I travel somewhere faraway? Do I find attachments somehow? Do I need to really grow up?

There’s nothing wrong with my life at the moment and that fact pisses me off greatly. I seemed to think that to be alive I should experience a wave of emotion, preferably anger in order to change but now I just feel numb. I avoid responsibilities. I don’t even talk for days. I’m like a stagnant water in an abandoned mine. Dirty and getting murkier with filth.

I want to be the sea. I’m not born to be murky.

So this 2015, I am going to escape. I’m flowing straight to the sea.

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