Undecided

I just don’t know yet. Let me mull it over.

Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer

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“So we just stood there, and although I could feel the heat and weight of him beside me, the steady sound of his breathing, we were living apart.”

” ‘I hope it’s only about six feet deep so we can continue mapping,’ the surveyor said, trying to be lighthearted but then she, and we, all recognized the term ‘six feet under’ ghosting through her syntax and a silence settled over us.”

“… some questions will ruin you if you are denied the answer long enough.”

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer is the first book in The Southern Reach Trilogy, and is set to have all three installments published this year. While it’s kind of nice not to have to wait years and years between books, (cough George R. R. Martin cough) I’m not entirely sure I will read the sequel that is scheduled to come out next month. I was really disappointed that I didn’t like this book as much as it seems everyone else has… I mean, check out the publisher’s synopsis and tell me this doesn’t sound like one of the coolest books ever:

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

I LOVED the idea that the entire expedition was being handled by women, and was very excited to sit down and enjoy a magical and mysterious escape for a few hours. Unfortunately I found this book so hard to get through that a few hours turned into many, many hours, and it was hard for me to finish. While the story is intriguing, and the writing is beautiful, I found it difficult to become invested in the characters, and their outcome; in fact I just didn’t really care. This is probably because it is written as more of a factual scientific report than a character driven novel, which I’m sure has an overall purpose to the trilogy, but was difficult to enjoy when I’m not yet sure what the larger picture is.

Actually, as I reflect on the story, characters, and writing style more, it really feels as though this would make an excellent script. I could very easily see this being adapted and doing well as a film. Think of an all female cast version of Alien, meets The Beach, meets… The Road. Yeah, try and wrap your head around that one. You have to admit it sounds pretty cool when it’s pitched as that.

With so many positive reviews of this one, I can’t help but feel like I missed something. You know what? Maybe I will give the sequel a chance to win me over. But until I’ve finished that and can, ideally, recommend the series, I would say to hold off on this one. Time is a very precious commodity, (as is discussed in this story) and I would much prefer any of my readers to become invested in something I can truly stand behind.

Until next time,

The OMPP

The Obituary Writer – Ann Hood

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“Rose had told Claire once that men had affairs to stay married, and women had affairs to get out of their marriages.”

“Later, when her mother came in to kiss her goodnight, Claire asked her if love felt like ginger ale bubbles. “What you want,” her mother said, “is someone who can take care of you. A man who can provide for you and your children. Someone steady. Someone predictable. If you want to feel ginger ale bubbles, Claire, drink a glass of ginger ale.”

“Do you know the secret to writing a good obituary?” She asked Claire. Claire shook her head no. “All the dates and degrees and statistics don’t matter,” she said. “What matters is the life itself.”

The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood is another one that will go into my “undecided” category this year. While it has its moments of really beautiful writing, I found it extremely predictable, which is quite possibly one of my biggest pet peeves, ever. The story follows the lives of two different women in two different eras; Vivien, in 1919, is an obituary writer searching for David, the MIA love of her life, and Claire, the quintessential ‘perfect’ sixties housewife with an obsession for Jackie O and the possibility of carrying a baby that is not her husband’s. As the story progresses you learn how the two women are linked, and how they will move forward in their loveless lives.

A book like this isn’t my usual style, as I find myself usually rolling my eyes at ‘chick-lit’ more often than actually enjoying it. Especially a novel like this, that deals with women so dependent on a man for their happiness, kind of turns me off. However, despite my occasional eye roll and its predictability, I liked how it ended, and found a couple quotes that were worthy of remembering.

It was an interesting read and quick to get through, (I started it yesterday) and probably a lovely book to take on holiday with you to read on the beach.

Nothing groundbreaking, but then again so few ‘chick-lit’ books these days are *cough* Fifty Shades *cough*. And for the record? I hate the term ‘chick-lit’. Does anyone have any better suggestions?

Until next time! Xo

OMPP

The Beggar’s Garden – Michael Christie

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“If someone tells you they love you for you, it means they will love you as long as you act like who they love – that is who they want to love. So that’s what I did. He said he liked cheerful, so I danced around his house to the radio, and made cheerful kinds of food like pies and triple-decker sandwiches. In the end, he told me I loved him too hard and that he didn’t love me anymore. This confirmed my suspicions that he was lying the whole time, so I won.”

“Hours passed and the ambulances grew more frequent. The injuries migrated steadily from those self-inflicted to those inflicted by others. The television programs, in turn, became more violent and I wondered if there was a connection.”

“She found herself approaching the corner of Hastings and Abbott streets, where the Woodward’s building stood. She had read in the paper it was to be torn down, finally, to build some new type of apartments for young people. Just as well, she thought; it was no use to anyone anymore, the whole city block standing empty, an eight story palace for pigeons and rats. And maybe that was all the neighborhood ever really needed, she thought, more young people.”

It took me a surprisingly long time to get through The Beggar’s Garden by Michael Christie. Normally I’m not a big fan of short stories, but this collection of nine all take place in Vancouver, and focus on the DTES, so I was curious to give it a read. I don’t normally like short stories because I don’t like getting to know a character and their situation, their hopes and their dreams and their fears, just to have them ripped away from me and exchanged with someone else as I’m beginning to develop a bond. However, having each character taken from you as you finally begin to grasp who they are, really makes sense in this book because I think that if these characters were real, their presence in your life would be just as brief. I’m really torn on whether or not I like this one. The characters are all very interesting and multifaceted, and the writing style is fresh and memorable, but something just didn’t click for me. I couldn’t tell you what. I have however found myself thinking back to these different stories over the week, and viewing the homeless people I see in downtown Vancouver differently than I did before. So, really I guess that means that this book is a piece of art — it’s making me reflect and grow and change my perceptions of things. It’s not always easy to hear these people’s stories, but they are written with an air of authenticity that is hard to ignore. “It was as if the country had been tipped up at one end and all the sorry bastards had slid west, stopping only when they reached the sea, perhaps because the sea didn’t want them either.”

If you’re from Vancouver, I would definitely check this one out. If not, I’m not sure you’ll find it as interesting, but it’s still worth a gander.

xo

OMPP