Monday, 28 May 2007

I Completed the Once Upon a Time Challenge!

I've finished reading Alice in Wonderland, which means I've completed all 4 books for the Once Upon a Time Challenge. To recap, I've read the following:

Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (Fairytale) - Completed: 28 May 07
Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny (Mythology) - Completed: 9 May 07
Mr Punch, Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean (Folklore) - Completed: 7 May 07
Abhorsen Trilgoy, Garth Nix (Fantasy) - Completed

I initially started off with some books I wanted to read but got distracted by others. Good thing they fit the criteria and also good thing Carl V allowed us to substitute books. He is very generous too, offering a grand prize for people who complete the challenge.

It was fun to do the challenge, even without the prize but the prize is very fun on it's own too.

In any case, I'm going to continue reading the other books I initially put down for the challenge: Faery Reel, Arabian Nights and Adventures in Unhistory.

I'm sorry I'm not posting as much as I used to. Some things coming up on the work front. I'll post about it when I receive more confirmed news.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Free Online Fiction

I found some free fiction online, while surfing the net. I read some of the stories and felt they merit sharing.

One is from Kelly Armstrong, who writes about werewolves and vampires:

Another is Ted Chiang, sci-fi writer, winner of a Hugo and 3 Nebulas:

There're a lot of other authors featured in the freesfonline site, eg. Orson Scott Card and one of my favourites from my pre-teen years, John Christopher.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

When I was reading the first chapter of Lord of Light, I wondered whether it was really a science fiction and fantasy novel. It seemed like Robert Zelazny, in a fit of madness, decided to dump a mish-mash of characters with Indian names any old how into a confusing story filled with Hindu and Buddhist terminology.

With Brahma, Ratri, Karma, Mahasamatman, Nirvana, etc. featured in stilted English, like the way old Hindu and Buddhist religious texts are translated, you'd be forgiven if you thought the book is about religion or mythology. You won't be alone. Many others who have read this book have the same sentiment.

But come Chapter two, things become clearer. As you read on, you'd find that the first chapter is the present with the story taking a sequential narrative of flashbacks in the subsequent chapters, leading up to the final scene, which brings you back to the present.

Lord of Light was read for the Mythology category in the Once Upon A Time Challenge. Basically, the story of Lord of Light, without revealing too much, is about Sam, who goes by many other names like Siddhartha and Mahasamatman. He is one of the original colonists who populated a planet and subjugated the masses by making themselves gods. The colonists have a technology which allows them to be immortal through tranferring their "minds" from one body to another. They also have the technology to allow themselves to possess supernatural powers. They keep free use of these technologies exclusive to themselves and make them available in a limited fashion to the rest of the population. Sam is a rebel who wants to make this techonology freely and completely available for the masses and stages war against the gods.

It is science fiction because of the technology and fantasy because it is written like an epic journey. I feel that with the way the story is executed, it becomes all the more interesting and satisfying, though it makes for harder reading. I really needed to use my brains to keep up with the twists and turns, and also had to keep track of the various body changes and names that the characters go through.

Roger Zelazny used many literary devices to convey subterfuge just like the way religion was used as for deception in the planet. One could write a thesis about that clever style of writing. Overall, this is a book that bears numerous readings and is worthy of the cult status that it has been honoured with, though it might take some getting used to, because it is not the typical science fiction or fantasy that one might be familiar with.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Spiderman 3 Rawks!

Boy I'm tired. After a week of fevers, I managed to get better and went to catch Spiderman 3. Like my son says, "IT RAWKS!" I love black-suited spidey - but Peter Parker will always be such a nerd! Hee ... just look at how he dances even when he's got the dark side on! Wahahaha. But I've always loved Spiderman - he's fallable and adorable. And I like every character in Spiderman - they are always so human - even the villians. Everyone go watch it - even though some complained it's such a soppy love story - I think there's enough of everything to satisfy the whole family - love, action and the dark side.

I finished reading The Changed Man, by Orson Scott Card and Strawberry Marshmallow, Vol. 2. I'm now rereading Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut* for the Dystopian Challenge AND the Banned Books Challenge - I'm having a hard time starting on Arabian Nights - I wonder why. I read Cat's Cradle long ago, when I was a teenager, but I don't think it made sense to me then, because I don't remember it much. It makes me think of watching Donnie Darko.

*Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
The Strongsville, Ohio School Board (1972) voted to withdraw this title from the school library; this action was overturned in 1976 by a U.S. District Court in Minarcini v. Strongsville City School District, 541 F. 2d 577 (6th Cir. 1976). Challenged at Merrimack, NH High School (1982).

Wednesday, 9 May 2007


I've finished Lord of Light, which I forced myself to read because I wanted to complete it for the Once Upon a Time Challenge. It's not an easy book to read but I'm glad I did it because it's a good book on many levels.

This makes me think that joining challenges are a good thing for me, because the challenges give me the push I need to complete things that I started.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Mr Punch, by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean

So many layers of meaning, this one: Mr Punch, a graphic novel written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by Dave McKean; read as part of the Once Upon a Time Challenge, under the Folklore category. (The reason it is placed in this category is explained here.)

I think most people know of the Punch and Judy show, famous figures of popular culture. I know the stories and when I read them in the comic, I can remember them, but I don't recall where or when I saw the shows. I know I've always been afraid of Punch and Judy and I've always avoided watching them in any form in the media. I believe I've been fortunate enough to have never watched any Punch and Judy shows in real life, but then maybe my memory is faulty, because how else would I know the stories? I even remember Mr Punch flirting with his girlfriend when his wife wasn't around!

This is the basis of the comic, Mr Punch: it is about memories, blurred and unreliable, of disturbing and incomprehensible experiences etched into the mind but never really fully grasped.

Mr Punch is told from the point of view of an unnamed narrator, recounting his memories of a brief childhood stay at his grandfather's seaside house. His grandfather owned an arcade near the sea side and the narrator's days were filled with frightening Punch and Judy shows, and encounters with
his dwarfish, hunch-backed uncle Morton; the Punch and Judy puppeter, the bottler, who collects money for the Punch and Judy shows; and the shivering mermaid in a tank.

Like the horrific Punch and Judy show, where Punch throws the baby out the window and kills or beats with a stick everyone he encounters, Mr Punch, the graphic novel, tells of family secrets, horrors and dysfunctions. You could even read parallels between Mr Punch the puppet and the various men in the comic - there are very telling motifs and references which are easy to pick up. But who really is Mr Punch? Mr Punch the puppet and the parallel human Mr Punch - evil sinister little man (or men) - who is he, or who are they?

A graphic novel - you could finish it quickly or you could take ages reading it. I always spend alot of time over a comic, especially if it is well-drawn. Always staring at the pictures - so much information in each frame. I can never fathom the amount of work that goes into drawing a comic. I am filled with awe by this one. The artwork by Dave McKean is gorgeous. Very dark and moody, tinged with a deep melancholy, fitting for the disturbing story. The juxtaposition of real and stylised images in the frames, mirror the blurring of reality and memory. This is an excellent book, which leaves you thinking and wondering. I might need to get a copy of this book for keeps. It will not disappoint any Neil Gaiman or Dave McKean fan.

Wind Up Bird

I'm home sick (2 days' medical leave from the doctor, with antibiotics and a swollen throat) but can you believe it, I'm extremely happy?

I woke up later than the usual time this morning and heard a creaky wheel going "ekekekekekekek". Then I went to the kitchen and heard it again, and realised it's actually a bird! I immediately thought of the wind-up bird from the Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. I've been reading that book for ages, but only read a couple of pages each time I pick it up. It's a moody book that requires a quiet reading attitude.

I'm almost done with Mr Punch and I'm prepared to write a proper review this time! I'll post it soon.