Genre: Canada

Book Review – Touch by Alexi Zentner

August 1, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 4 Comments

Book Review – Touch by Alexi ZentnerTouch by Alexi Zentner
Published by W. W. Norton & Company on April 30th 2012
Pages: 272
Genres: Canada, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads


one-star

"A breathtaking debut . . . filled with ghosts and demons who lurk in the Canadian north woods." —Andrew Abrahams, People

On the eve of his mother’s death, Stephen comes home to Sawgamet, a logging town where the dangers of working in the cuts are overshadowed by the dark mysteries and magic lurking in the woods. Thirty years after the mythical summer his grandfather returned to town on a quixotic search for his dead wife, Stephen confronts the painful losses in his own life.

It’s funny, I usually start out my reviews with a short little blurb of my own just rehashing the particulars of the story. With ‘Touch’ though, this story was so all over the place that I can’t adequately explain it’s basis; it simply eludes me. The official summary feels deceiving and makes it sound ripe with potential… but it never lived up it, that’s for sure. I truly feel as if I’ve been hoodwinked. I blame the stunning cover! *shakes fist* But honestly, I recall going through this magical realism stage and added practically every book tagged as such. This is one of them. I’m thinking that if the author isn’t Sarah Addison Allen, then I apparently don’t care much for magical realism.

It should be said that according to the Reading Group Discussion questions (yeah, I read them in hopes that it would clarify some things. I was wrong) this is considered more along the lines of mythical realism as it incorporates Inuit mythology. While I could say that the incorporation of mythological elements may give it a smidgen of credibility in comparison to strange magical stuff happening for no apparent reason, it was a poorly managed addition to the story. The story is centered around this small town in the Canadian wilderness which came into existence only after gold was discovered. It’s a story about survival. But then out of nowhere some strange creature would pop up and it was like mental whiplash. Like the mahaha (actual creatures name, I wasn’t just laughing):

“They tickle you until all your breath is gone. Leave you dead, but with a smile.”

Holy freaky shit. That’s the stuff of nightmares. But I was intrigued and wanted to know more so I googled this scary beasty with the funny name. The page I found described the mahaha in basically the exact same way the author did in the book. Like it was copied. And that kind of killed the cool out of it. To me, magical realism IS the story, it’s incorporated and intertwined into the very fabric of the story. But all the magical elements in Touch felt like a strange and ill-fitting addition that was added as an afterthought to an otherwise contemporary tale of survival.

The writing style itself, apart from the actual story, was lacking a much needed finesse. The tale was not linear and bounced all over the place without any indication as to whether we were back in the present tense or still being told the story of the past. The point of view was a poor choice as well. The grandson is the narrator retelling his grandfather’s story. Why not just have the grandfather tell his own story? Even though the grandfather told him his story it seemed unlikely that he would know as many details as he did. There were also strange leaps to other characters and telling the story through there eyes which definitely made it implausible as his grandfather wasn’t even present in those instances.

While the writing reflected definite potential, it was too unpolished for me to enjoy. I can’t remember the last time (if ever) I finished a novel and honestly had absolutely no clue the purpose or meaning of it. So much of this story was too farcical in its inconceivability for me to garner any sort of entertainment. Many people have lauded this book for it’s eerie, haunting qualities but ultimately this left me chilled for all the wrong reasons.

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Audiobook Review – Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy #1) by Margaret Atwood

May 24, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 1 Comment

Audiobook Review – Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy #1) by Margaret AtwoodOryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Narrator: Campbell Scott
Series: MaddAddam Trilogy #1
Published by Random House Audio on May 6th 2003
Length: 10 hrs and 29 mins
Genres: Canada, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Sci-fi
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Year of the Flood, MaddAddam, The Handmaid's Tale

four-half-stars

Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.

I am astounded at how fascinating this was.

The story opens with Snowman, a hermit of sorts, struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic society that has experienced an originally unknown catastrophic event. Snowman is seemingly the last human left on earth, with only the Craker’s to keep him company but they are far from being close to human.

We’re treated to flashbacks to Snowman’s childhood, back when he was known as Jimmy, back before the entire Earth was changed. His parents were scientists that dealt in genetic manipulation and were in charge of creating pigoons, pigs which were engineered solely to grow human organs for transplants. We’re also introduced to Crake, a childhood friend of Jimmy’s who goes on to become a brilliant geneticist and the creator of the pill and the project behind the Craker’s.

‘They were inextricably linked—the Pill and the Project. The Pill would put a stop to haphazard reproduction, the Project would replace it with a superior method. They were two stages of a single plan, you might say.’

Oryx and Crake is much more philosophical than I had anticipated. This is a story of altering the human design to create the perfect creature. Crake intended on playing ‘God’ in order to design the perfect human being that would not continue to destroy the Earth and while it’s easy to call his actions wrong, it could also be construed as genius. The Craker’s are peaceful creatures that are physically perfect and lack any sort of violent thoughts or sexual drives and treat the Earth with far more care than any human ever did. The question remains: even if we have the power to alter life itself, do we have the right to do it? Even if it benefits the Earth and possibly saves it for future generations? But what purpose is that if all humanity is killed off for created creatures to continue living so as to repopulate the Earth? Oryx and Crake definitely raises some interesting questions.

I loved the brief glimpses into the past. We’re already given a glimpse of the world as it is “now”: Snowman is the only human remaining, he’s practically starving to death and the Earth has been ransacked. What was the catalyst that caused this change? How long has Snowman been forced to live like this? Slowly we’re given answers and paints a shocking picture. Margaret Atwood is an amazingly inventive writer and has created a world that is both inconceivable and convincing.

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