Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Why Was My Suitcase So Heavy?

"The surest way to make a monkey of a man is to quote him."

Robert Benchley, newspaper columnist and film actor

I love irony.

It's because it's half full with oodles of books I haven't read.

First order of business is an apology - for my protracted absence from here, my small little haven in cyberspace with which I have talked and reached out to you, dear reader, and have laid between us the merest thread of intimacy. I dare not assume that I have been missed, but I am at liberty to hope, am I not?

I discovered yesterday that I have had internet access since Monday, and the reason that I have not come online sooner was because broken phone line. The break was hidden in the router (splitter, divertrix, whatever) and there are parts of it that's pretty fried up - not to mention covered in a black, greasy film characteristic of what burnt synthetic rubber insulation pisses out. A lightning bolt was probably what did it in.

I managed to fix it though, with the help of an old phone line I got stashed somewhere, a box-cutter, a toothpick, and a dinner fork.

So here I am, bad penny himself.

Depicted in the picture below in all their glory was what I bought through the course of my one month vacation from various noteworthy bookshops (and by 'noteworthy' I meant 'not-MPH') throughout Malaysia, including from the Border's at Queensbay Mall in Penang. Yes, the road trip was an excuse. It was books I was after. Oh incidentally, there's still a couple Penang posts still pending and they consist mostly of boring travelogue-ish waffle and pictures which I (probably erroneously) thought looked awesome. I'll see to that soon enough.

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Just the stack in front, obviously. Don't be daft.

See why I needed to buy a bookshelf?

The books looked a bit grayish and foggy because I have wrapped all of them with embossed translucent PVC wraps as soon as I brought them home. I like the feel of the gritty, scratchy wrappings when I read. It's a sort of fetish, really, like how some people like whips, handcuffs and leather thongs.

Here's what I got, from top to bottom of the stack;

A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L'Engle

The celebrated first book of the Time Quartet and it contains strong modern science elements. It's a kid's sci-fi read, as expected (and by 'expected' I meant 'it was one of Beve's favourite') but it makes for a good light read, excellent for airport-hopping which was what the tiresome journey back here to Manipal required - so yes, I have finished it. I give it a 6-out-of-10.

by Terry Pratchett

My first experience with one of Pratchett's many fantasy satires set in the Discworld universe was Going Postal, and his brand of writing is an acquired taste (at least it was, for me). Once I got hooked, I got hooked good. I am 100 pages into Thud! and I have already laughed out loud a dozen times. From what I've seen so far, it's definitely superior to Going Postal.

My efforts in hunting for a paperback edition of Wintersmith (the third book of the awesome Tiffany Aching series) was met again and again with failure. I guess Thud! would have to do for the moment.

Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen
by Garth Nix

I've seen Garth Nix's colourful (and sometimes gaudily hologrammed) books standing on the children's shelf of every bookstore I have entered in the past few years but I have always resisted the urge to pick them up (a product of my haunting disappointment in selecting the turd Eragon by Christopher Paolini from one of said kids' section). Also, I thought the author's name sounded daft and made up, and his Wiki article actually needed to stress that that was the Aussie author's real name. I only caved in after reading zzzyun's brief review on them and bought the lot; collectively known as the Abhorsen or Old Kingdom Trilogy.

They were pleasant reads (I have finished them) and I grade them a 6.5-out-of-10. The narrative was rather lacklustre with humor spread so thin you can't taste it. The redeeming feature of these novels is their system of magic, and the way the author handled the concept of necromancy - both rather tired elements of fantasy that felt fresh under Nix's quill. I know of three other novels with cooler interpretations of magic, and they are Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy, Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and LeGuin's Earthsea books, in that order of ascending awesomeness.

Homeland, Exile and Sojourn
by R. A. Salvatore

Drizzt Do'Urden is frequently cited one of fantasy's most beloved characters. He was first birthed in the Icewind Dale Trilogy as a supporting character, but it quickly outshone all the other characters by the simple reason that it's the only original bit of invention in the whole archetype-ridden, clich├ęd-infested series. If you ever want to start reading R. A. Salvatore's books, I suggest you start with these. I've read 6 other of his books and they were all nearly-average at best. I felt like poking my eyes out every time he uses words like "stamina" and "adrenaline". I award the Dark Elf Trilogy (that's what Homeland, Exile and Sojourn are called) a 5-out-of-10. It's a good choice for mindless reading and it gave a cool insight into the twisted, malignant drow society featured prominently in these novels.

Dune Messiah, Children of Dune and God Emperor of Dune
by Frank Herbert

If these books are anything like their predecessor, the simply titled Dune which was hailed as one of the greatest science-fiction novels of all time, they should be chock-full of political backstabbing and pseudo-technological mysticism. Though it was a slow read, it was a good one and it has one of the qualities that most speculative authors strove to attain, but failed miserably in doing so. I call that quality 'immersive' (it's a word that ought to be coined, in my opinion - 'absorbing' is stupid). I use it to describe all the fantasy/sci-fi books that I got lost in.

The Dragonbone Chair
by Tad Williams

It's the first book of some-series-I-don't-remember-and-don't-care. After about 100 pages of pointless purple proses describing the hero's everyday life and the society he lives in - without the slightest sign that the story's going anywhere remotely interesting - I am almost ready throw my hands up in disgust and burn the damned thing. Still, I brought it along with me here to India for one of those extra rainy days. There's still about a million pages left of it and who knows, the good bits might just be hidden reaaal deep.

The Iron Dragon's Daughter
by Michael Swanwick

It's books like this that the word 'nihilistic' was invented for. I started reading this after dinner on Tuesday, and I couldn't put it down till it was 3 am in the morning. I do not approve of sex, profanity and contemporary culture references in fantasy novels as a rule (it would defeat the purpose of seeking escapism from them in the first place), but in this book, it all clicked perfectly together! The book follows the story of a changeling girl in a fairy world unlike anything I have ever read before - an industrial, filthy universe with the distinctive tang of post-apocalyptic anarchy.

The central theme is deals with 'that bitch, fate'. Yeah, you heard me right. It's not fate, it's 'that bitch, fate'. It also contains a light but powerful dusting of faith and existence, and the pointlessness of the latter without the former. At the end of it, I felt that I have learnt something important but for the life of me, I cannot quite say for sure what the heck it was. I give it a 9.5-out-of-10, and it is currently number 3 on my personal top ten chart. Read this superb review if you want to know more.

The Worm Ouroboros
by E. R. Eddison

It's a real oldie, written back in 1922 by some Norse scholar and it was a high fantasy novel compared often to Tolkien's The Lord of the Ring. In fact, Tolkien even praised this book once in print. I was told that Tolkien's prose style is "pedestrian" compared to this dude's mock-archaic, high-diction. That means I'll need a shot of espresso before I start reading it.

Brotherhood of the Wolf
by David Farland

This one is the second novel of Farland's epic fantasy series, The Runelords. The first book, The Sum of All Men was a humourless, hobbling sort of read but it does feature a rather cool system of 'endowments' where a person can give a trait of his to a person of his choosing, usually a king or someone of similar nobility. A person who gave an endowment of wisdom to another would be reduced to a witless retard. A person who gave an endowment of strength would be weaker than a newborn baby and could barely breathe without help. So, you can see where the title of the first book came from. It's just one of those books I consider to be crappy but want to read more anyway.

by Neil Gaiman

I first learn of this book after reading a post from Jen's blog but I am far too lazy to go nosing for the link for it now. I'm not a big fan of Gaiman's works, and I found American Gods and Stardust to be rather average, really. The reason for my wanting to read this is this movie poster;

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Makes you want to read it too. huh?

The book's rather thin and if you read it real slowly, it would probably take you only two hours tops. According to a review, the book is suppose to be creepy to adults, while kids would read it like it's a normal adventure tale. I don't know - maybe it was all the hype surrounding this novel and my expectations went too high - but I found it to be as chilling as a marble floor in the afternoon. I even chose to read it at 3 am during a rainstorm just to heighten the tingles but I guess I'm not adult enough to get freaked. Everyone else I know thinks it's marvelous though, and it would most definitely look great on screen. I can't wait for the stop-motion animation flick to come out - Dakota Fanning is going to be the voice of Coraline. 7-out-of-10 for the book, I think.

The Princess Bride
by William Goldman

I often do little research forays into the world wide web for great stuff to read, an occasionally, the title of a book comes up so often in so many people's listings of favourite reads that it becomes impossible to ignore. The Princess Bride is one such book, and I see it in every top 100 list I've read. Oh dear, I hope it will not disappoint.

The Third Policeman
by Flann O'Brien

This one had been in my books-to-buy-list since forever and I never got quite around to hunting it down. I found it accidentally when I needed to get an extra book to take advantage of some discount scheme that Borders was running. After recalling several book titles from my memory (I forgot to bring that list that day) for the information counter girl to check for me - and finding that they are all either sold out or no longer in print - I suddenly remembered this book. As luck would have it, they had it in stock an original paperback edition no less!

The only catch was that a long, straight (though hardly noticeable) crease ran across the top bit of the front cover. I asked for a discount for it and received a 10% cut. Anyway, embossed PVC wrappers are good for hiding this sort of defects, which was another reason why I prefer them over the clear types.

Oh yeah, a tip from a veteran book shopper on book shopping in respectable big chain bookshops (by 'respectable' I meant 'not-MPH-either'); if a book you wanted to buy has some sort of damage on it, always try to score a discount. Both Kinokuniya and Borders offer a good 10%. The only catch is that there must not be a mint copy lying about somewhere (and don't bother hiding those good ones either because they can always check their inventory). Occasionally, they'll give you the excuse that they can always send those damaged books back to the warehouse to be replaced, telling you that they can call you when the new copies arrive but try pressuring them by saying that you have to fly back to India in a few day's time or something. It always worked for me. If you still fail to get any price cuts, the problem may very well lie in how your nose and eyes are arranged on your face.

by Hope Mirrlees

I think this deserves a whole blog post dedicated to it - I can do no less. I have hunted forever for it.

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I love you.

And now I've found you. My precious.

A Game of Thrones
by George R. R. Martin

I first heard this book described in an amateur writer's forum a few months ago as a good example of good characterisation. I got curious and started sniffing around for more information. Then I started seeing the series' name (A Song of Ice and Fire) cropping up everywhere I look. Myn Wee had already read it (and said that there's a disturbing amount of gore and incest in it), and I suppose I better start soon. I hate being behind, however imaginary the race may be.

So, if you are the type to return what you borrowed (rest assured, I will miss my books), and you're a principled person who never, ever, ever, ever put creases in the spines (or anywhere else, for that matter) when you read, I don't mind lending any to you at all.

Any, except Hope Mirrlee's Lud-In-The-Mist. That's too darn valuable. Go get your own.

Measures his happiness in unread pages,
k0k s3n w4i


bevE said...

shuddup >_>

i read it when i was 10 or 11 and has been my favourite ever since

who are YEW to think my mental capabilities are infewior ?!?!

lud-in-the-mist is also precious to u coz u took FOREVAH to find. it is sO easy to find here. :3 i could get it within a week if i had to order. T^T jelez?? x3 *twirls*

bevE said...

and i wanna read the iron dragon's daughter now o.o

michellesy the crankypants said...


Thou hast found it! Thy precious! O Great and Enlightened One, Lud-In-The-Mist is now yours! =D

I actually thought you were MIA online for another reason entirely, one that I can empathise with. Really. Cos I am an ulat buku too =)

I figured you would be holed up in your room in Manipal, steadily reading your way through a haul of books accumulated from jaunts to bookstores in KL, Malacca and Penang.

How wrong I was. You would not neglect us so, O Great Blogger =)

Gah. In all honesty, wish I had time to read more.

You can award me the keys to uber-geekdom anytime too. I don't mind =D

Twas me who was a band geek in addition to being an ulat buku during my formative years.

But really, at the moment, uni sucks. Life sucks. At this point in time, everything sucks.

Including the English proficiency test I have to take tomorrow - for the sole purpose of migrating to The Land Down Under, yadda yadda, long story, you don't want to know, cue eye roll.

Oh yes, that sucks in particular.

To add insult to injury it cost RM900 and a shift's worth of lost wages because I had to give up work for an entire Saturday to do the damn friggin' bleepin' thing.

Wish me luck OK?

And it's great to see you back online. Now THAT does not suck! =)

lisa said...

I want all your books.. ><

Dr.Vishaal Bhat said...

I wouldn't mind having all your books either!

k0k s3n w4i said...

Shure it was xD
Stop rubbing it in. I know you're in Great "Big Ass" Britain and you can get any books you want at a snap of your finger but some of us have to deal with the narrow literary market niche of the South East Asians, okay. hmph.
Go get the Iron Dragon's Daughter then, since it's sooooo easy for you, tho i'm not sure you're old enough for it =d

You really gotta dispense with the "O Great Blogger" bits. Do it when I get 100 comments per post or something xD
English proficiency test? That would be a snap to you. If the late Steve's manner of speaking is anything to go by, the bar's pretty low.
Good luck, Mitch. Tho I'm pretty sure you dun need it :)

You can! Just head to the nearest bookstore...
You are in Malaysia right? And Hi. I don't believe you have introduced yourself :)

@dr.vishaal bhat
I didn't think you're the fantasy reader sort :)

Dr.Vishaal Bhat said...

The only thing I Love more than the game of cricket is reading... I love to read anything as long as they are sensible... And who does not want to live in a fantasy? :)

lisa said...

It's not cheap to get storybooks.. I want yours..>< haha..Just got to know bout ur blog recently. I'm Lisa from Muar but currently in KL studying.

k0k s3n w4i said...

@dr.vishaal bhat
fantasies are not usually known to be sensible xD

u knew it from where? I am always intrigued when a non-blogger came across mine.
well, if we ever do live near enuf, u can always borrow from me (if ur careful with them!).

Lisa said...

Ermmm..i think i got to know ur blog from a girl..but dont remember her name. I'm bad with names..sorry. Where do u stay? Im currently in UT (university Tower).. I'm pretty careful in handling books. hehe ^__^

k0k s3n w4i said...

I'm currently residing in Manipal, some small town somewhere in the western bit of the Indian subcontinent. In a year's time, I'll be back in Malacca to continue my other half of education. If you ever ended up in Malacca, just lemme know :)