Aloha From Hell Sandman Slim #3 – Richard Kadry

Okay so this is officially my new favorite book. I cant believe how much i have forgotten about this series as i am reading it again.

Quick Recap – Sandman Slim aka James Stark is the new hot thing in LA, lived in Hell (literally) sruvived and is now back on Earth. In the previous books, he took on the agents of both Heaven and Hell, yes angels and demons (no mere mortals would do), reconnected and connected with old and new, avenged the murder of his girlfriend (sort of) and killed an entire army of zombies / drifters single handedly.

Stark is on a break from all the mayhem. “Nothing worth killing for. I’m no cop. The SubRosa has their own Mod Squat to deal with the small stuff” Being a Nephilium – Half human half angel, there is a war going on in his head between his two sides, reflecting in his actions and decisions. He is instigated into joining an exorcism on a boy who has been possessed by a demon, only to discover its no demon at all but Mason from Hell, who has stolen Alice (previous gf) from Heaven and has challenged Stark to find her in three days. “It’s so quiet and peaceful here I’m getting bored with breathing. Maybe we’ll get lucky and the world will go to hell again. Fingers crossed.”

Sandman seeks help from a ‘road rage deity’ to find a unobserved path into Hell (to circumvent Mason’s watch over known roads to hell) and has to kill himself to get in. “Dying is’nt the worst thing in the world, but dying because you are stupid is.” The goodbyes are awwww sweet. He lands near Eden, and believe it or not burns down the whole garden, just because (badass!)

Sandman Slim is on his way back to Hell and who knows if he is going to be back or not. Hell is hell. There is chaos, violence and unanticipated changes from Stark’s last visit down the rabbit hole. He is captured and loses an arm in the arena. He encounters God, or one-fifth part of God who then directs him to the asylum where Alice is and then on to Tartarus. Stark breaks into and out of Tartarus, which apparently has never been done before (of course). “Dante got it wrong when he put the ‘Abandon all Hope’ sign at the entrance of Hell. This (Tartarus) is where all hope dies, even for monsters)”

Once Lucifer, now Samael (since fallen angel is back in heaven) generals have been liberated and turned against Mason, war ensues. Stark’s trump is his patchy alliance with Kissi (“when you’re an Abomination, you can’t trust Hell, and Heaven hates you, so you don’t always get to choose who you dance with at the prom”), which turns the war in favor and gets all Kissi killed (two bird one stone, etc). Stark killed by Mason splits into two of himself. The angel and the human who is then saved by the angel LOL now we have two of Stark!

Mason gets killed and Stark becomes, guess….the new King of Hell – oh yeah, he is the brand new Lucifer! Angel Stark goes back to Earth, Alice goes back to Heaven with Samael and Stark is now getting ready to rule the hell

The third book in the series is by far my favorite. Its full of wit, sarcasm (refer conversation between Stark and God) and letting go’s.

Hail the new boss! looking forward to the fourth book in the series 🙂 i wonder what all will this new Lucifer get upto!

“I survived the arena and Mason down here, and i survived Wells, Aelita, and the Golden Vigil up there. I still have two legs, two eyes, an arm and something pretty close to an arm. I’m back in Pandemonium, so i bet Kasabian can see me. Maybe i’ll learn semaphore Morse code so i can send messages to Candy. And i wouldn’t mind killing Aelita. She goes right at the top of my Infernal to-do list. Yeah. Thi

Storm Front Dresden Files #1 – Jim Butcher

Everytime i read this series, its like the first time. Even though i know what’s coming, it’s still fun to read and rediscover.

Harry Dresdon is a wizard and available for hire as per the yellow pages. It made me check mine here in Singapore to see if there was any listings for wizard, but alas, none! Why do these magic people seem so keen on hiding all the magic stuff from us the normals…sigh! This is the first urban fantasy series i had read years ago and if i ever write a book, it will be this genre for sure.

“Science, the largest religion of the twentieth century, had become somewhat tarnished by images of exploding shuttles, crack babies, and a generation of complacent Americans who had allowed the television to raise their children”

There are multiple characters in the book – some normal and some magical. Murphy, the police contact of Dresden and sort of a friend is normal, Morgan, an agent of ‘the council’ is annoying and way too self righteous, Susan is a journalist chasing magic news and Mac is a quiet character – wow didnt know a quiet character could say so much. Then there is Mister the cat, Bob the skull and magical encyclopedia and Dresden’s clients. There are ofcourse the villians the protagonist has to fight (otherwise where would we be!)

Dresden is hired by police to consult on a murder investigation, where two people died because their heart burst out of their body and also hired by a woman to find her lost husband. While following the leads for both respective cases Dresden encounters the crime lord (somewhat like Yakuza or Triad head) Johnny Marcone and things go boom from there on. A demon manages to break through his house and completely destroy his date, and the ultimate power hungry Victor Sells is out to kill Dresden by making his heart bust out of his body.

“So, i concluded. It was up to me. Alone,. It was a sobering thought.”

Dresden lies to his only somewhat friend Murphy (who didnt take it well) to keep her safe and landed up at the den of inquity alone, hurt, tired and wihtout any of his toys, except a locket from his mother. ” The five pointed star within the circle was the ancient sign of white wizardry, the only remembrance of my mother”

Once the action is over and the evil has been laid to rest, Harry is ready for his death, when he sees Morgan and this interaction i think was the most funny part in the entire book “How perfectly typical, to survive everything the bad guys could do, and get taken down by the people for whose cause i had been fighting”

Its fun to read this series because its a bit of everything, a touch of reality, with a dose of absurd, and a mega helping of magical beings to give it flavor. As a reader, i always find myself getting upset on behalf of Dresdon as no matter how hard he tries to prove his being on the side of good – he remains broke, and he remains under suspicion.

Harry – just know you have friends, in the form of readers who are rooting for you.

Kill The Dead Sandman Slim #2 – Richard Kadry

WOW two books of the series in two days – they sure are addictive.

Quick recap – our antihero protagnist is a half angel, Nephilium, also knows as James / Stark / Sandman Slim, who has spent eleven years in Hell (literally) and come back from the dead to avenge on the magic circle that betrayed him and murdered his girlfriend. He ends up with four of the six in the circle dead, one (Mason) in Hell and last Kasabian a head brought from the hell to be the mouth piece of Lucifer (yeap THAT Lucifer)

Second book in the series starts with Stark working as an independent consultant between the forces of good (Vigil) and evil (Lucifer) by running paranormal jobs for whoever pays him. He is killing vampires, stealing from the ones he killed for side hustle and providing consultation on supernatural murders. “The way I look at it, me stealing from the dead is like regular people pocketing Post-its on their way out of office”. Lucifer’s retainer does help him pay the bills. Well the boss is in town (L) and wants Stark to act as the bodyguard during his time on earth.

Body guarding the King of Hell was never going to be easy, especially when Stark stumbles upon the mystery surrounding zombies, which are starting to infiltrate L.A. I didnt know there could be so many types of zombies! There are four – Zombies / Drifters / Zeds and Zots – the regular zombies like the ones in Kdrama Kingdom, Lacunas – some brain function but stink, Savants / Saperes – “Savant is a Lacuna that can call for pizza delivery” and Death Born – zombies whose souls have been removed at birth. Whoa! keep up people

The chase ensues, where Stark is finding the who, why, what of zombies – as hoardes of them have been let out on the streets of L.A. with neither agents of Heaven or Hell too keen on lending a helping hand. “The universe is the meat grinder and we’re just pork in designer shoes, keeping busy so we can pretend we’re not all headed for the sausage factory.” A bite from zombie renders the human part of Stark dead leaving him entirely angel or half angel.

The struggle between the human and non-human Stark (or as per the book Stark and not Stark) is very well depicted and reflects in the decisions. Stark is also trying to move on in life – with Alice, though dead but very much alive in his thoughts and dreams, the guilt is riding high. The brief expose of “who the father is?” and dice landing somewhere between Lucifer and Uriel is interesting. Sad though is Heaven or Hell, Angels or Demons, politics is all pervasive hands down and its all about power plays.

No one dies, not the good guys, i mean and Stark now has an open challenge from Mason, which means the choice is to find Mason before being found. Like Lucifer said “When i’m gone, Hell will need a new Lucifer……….There are only two candidates with the power and knowledge to take over: you (Stark) and Mason, One of you will live and lead. The other will die.” Now the question is will Stark accept the new job offer to be the Crown Prince of Hell or not.

Sandman Slim, #1 – Richard Kadrey

On break from work for a few months (loving unemployment so far) and I have decided to use this time productively, i.e. read my old (and new of course) favourites and write reviews.

This book is as Dark as Dark gets – maybe not “Irreversible” movie dark but it has its moments.

James Stark, who does not like being called ‘Jimmy’ or even ‘James’ has literally come back from the dead. In a magical ritual he was pushed into ‘Hell” or what he refers to as ‘Downtown’ at nineteen and now he is thirty. All he owns is a few pieces / artifacts from hell that have come with him and the clothes he presumably ‘died’ in. His magical coin ‘Veritas’ leads him to one of the six from the circle of friends.

“Its Kasabian, one of my friends from the old magic cried. One of the six on my list”

Leader of this circle is Mason, his sidekick / enforcer Parker, two ladies, a weak guy who killed himself wracked with guilt soon after and the loser turned into a Frost man running a video store. Stark’s girlfriend Alice has been murdered by Parker (directed by Mason) and Stark is out for blood – of all of them.

I loved reading the whole Stark chopping off Kasabian’s head and depositing it in cupboard (since he needs information and does not want to let K die just yet). As the story unfolds, we see shades and layers of grey – the pain, the agony, the grief and the humanity, which refuses to die out. He cuts off the head but doesn’t let Kasabian die and as confessed towards the end – he just couldn’t. He starts by a) revisiting his old apartment and finding an old friend maintaining it for him, then b) the place of his betrayal – which is now a land plot, and c) trying to find where his girlfriend maybe buried.

On one side we see Stark adjusting or trying or not trying to earth, we see the ‘monster who killed the monsters’ in hell and on the other side we see him still at nineteen mentally (girls), and what he has missed – what is blackberry, how do I ‘get’ internet and of course all the clothes he burns through at an astonishing rate.

Stark finds trouble or trouble finds him. As he discovers that in exchange for his journey to the hell, the circle of six except one suicide and one video store guy, four got powers beyond imagination. M & P (Mason & Parker team – almost sounds like a law firm) abducts Kasabian (wait can you abduct a severed head and a body – not dead), kill the two out of the six – the two women – one running the highest class bordello and the other teenage idol and proving yet again how psychotic they both are.

While focused on his quarry, Stark attracts the attention of two groups – one “SubRosa – are the people regular people aren’t supposed to know about. Its not that we don’t like you; its that you have a habit of burning us at the stake when you notice us” – in other words the magical community and the second ofcourse the national security. National Security guy (who of course is cocky) is the first to refer to Stark as ‘Sandman Slim’ – a pseudonym he earned in Hell. We are yet to discover if there is a deeper meaning behind the name.

The way the structure of the book is laid out is so simple and yet so complicated. There is of course Heaven, Hell and Earth. Angels, Demons and Mortals “We’re the punching bags in their family psychodrama” Hellions, except Lucifer are unable to travel to Earth unless they have the key that opens thirteen doors (which is one of the artifact Stark has). Angels try to recruit Stark with the whole redemption and sinner and in service to God marketing spiel, which did not take.. Its pretty astonishing – from the beginning Stark said he will kill everyone in the magic circle and go back to hell – as if he is convinced he belongs there – not on earth and definitely not in heaven (self worth issues!). Author introduces us to a new ‘species?’ Kissi (pronounced KEESHEE) who are the creatures of chaos.

The book answers so many questions and yet opens so many possibilities. Its a fantastic depiction of LA as a place, as a society and culture. “THERE’S ONLY ONE problem with L.A. It exists.” The writing is rich and the wit is sharp. Characters evolve realistically – no one is too good or too bad (except perhaps M&P) they all are multifaceted and human with individual quirks.

Stark aka Sandman Slim has saved the world twice over by the end of this book – once by dealing a strong blow to the Kissi – we dont know if they have been entirely eradicated byt for now the threat is contained, and second by maybe defeating Mason by handing him over to Hellions in Hell (Parker has of course been killed).

The first book ends on a cryptic note with Lucifer leaving Kasabian’s head wtih Sandman Slim as his ‘mouth piece’. Allright, i am going to read the second book now, see you soon with the second part.

Dragon(E) Baby Gone – Robert Gainey

I got this book recommendation off of Twitter directly from the author 🙂 Yes people! it helps to follow #writerslift on twitter and even more so to ask for book recommendations. You end up finding these little jewels, which you for sure would miss out on otherwise.

When it’s a book full of magic, evil wizards, slimy but helpful demons along with a couple of dragon eggs thrown in, the fact that the main protagonist (poor girl) is just plain normal human, doesn’t even slow you down. This book is action packed, fast paced and twists enough to keep you on your toes through all of 160 pages of it.

I wish there was a rule to not start a book (any book) in sewers – I was having coffee when I started reading, you know and lets just say some of those pages though interesting are not exactly a book-to-read-while-eating-or-drinking kind of material. Anyway, action begins with our strong female lead chasing up a drop off deal between two criminal factions in a sewer. As is the norm in any office, not enough information is provided whilst assigning the project and not enough or at least relevant tools either.

We come across human gang and creatures (fire elementals from Plane of Fire – an alternate reality) with chase involving bullets and fire and sewage slinging. Once the case is retrieved, Diane Morris (our strong female lead and FBI agent) discovers that though one stolen egg has been found, the second from the clutch needs to be retrieved and both replaced before the Big Momma Z ergo the who-shall-not-be-named dragon wakes up and finds them missing.

Agent Morris also has her own personal encyclopedia in the form of a cat “Jericho” who is a TV addict, champion at racking up credit card bills by impersonating Morris’s voice, for food, of course. Rest of the shopping can always be done via internet (LOL)

To enable her mission, Agent Morris is sent to a super secret facility to gain help from a “probably” demon and ends up contracting him for life under, hopefully, specific clauses and gaining a partner. Of course, the eggs are retrieved and replaced and benevolence of Dragon M gained at the end with multiple injuries and a ‘good job’ pat from the boss

I am not telling you the rest of the story – got to read the book for yourself hahaha. The plot is predictable but interesting to keep you engaged. There are a lot of details – for example about ‘probably’ demon, the Agent herself, the department etc, which I am hoping the author is planning to cover in the upcoming books. The writing is a combination of witty and sarcastic and character build up is intriguing. Just one observation, there are a lot of details thrown in with not much context – not sure if that is deliberate. For example there is reference to Merlin and Sigrid but not much to go on from there.

Its a fascinating world Agent Morris is operating in and I wish I could borrow her cat for a bit!

The Power – Naomi Alderman

This revolutionary dystopian book is utterly mind-blowing and thought-provoking. Though as a reader and as a female, i have imagined a world ruled by women, but this book just takes the concept to an entirely different level.

As it is written: “She cuppeth the lightning in her hand. She commandeth it to strike.”

All girls, across the world, start developing an unusual power at the age of 14-15. They find themselves able to discharge electric current via their fingers and palm, sometimes enough to defend themselves during dangerous situations and sometimes even enabling them to kill. Then the power grows and they find they are able to invoke this power in older women, which cannot be cured or surgically removed safely until their death and that every girl child in the world is born with this power.

Book is written via four main characters – with different lives and providing different perspectives.

Allie Montgomery, a runaway teenager, who after killing her foster guardian to fend off his sexual advances, finds herself set up in a convent as “Mother Eve” – the messiah arrived to lead the world to a different enlightening. “God is neither woman nor man but both these things. But now She has come to show us a new side to Her face, one we have ignored for too long.”

Roxy – daughter of a drug lord, who uses her powers to kill the man responsible for her mother’s death, with help from her father and brothers. She learns from the “electrical eels” and cultivates her power to become stronger and more in control. She is the soldier that faith leader “Mother Eve” teams up with to realise her dream of setting up a safe harbor, a country for all women, away from men.

Tunde – a Nigerian journalist, first encounters the power at the hands of a young teenage girl, he has a crush on and finds it fascinating and horrifying at the same time. He places himself in dangerous situations and countries to chronicle this change in the world – the new age so to say, the political change and the world gone upside down.

Margot – a mayor of an American town, who as only a woman could in such situation, tries to harness the power by providing training grounds to girl – for them to learn and control this mystical ability as against her competition men, who ruled by their fear would like to destroy all.

At the beginning of the book, all wronged girls are able to take revenge, all young girls are able to defend themselves against boys and men. There is unrest – as would be natural, with parents trying to “cure” their female child, turning them out of the house and even looking at them fearfully. It’s almost ironic to read about “special buses for boys to keep them safe” and formation of “save men’s rights” type of communities.

“Power to hurt is a kind of wealth” illustrates the next phase as the dark side of the power starts to build up. Women start feeling empowered ” Now they will know that they are the ones who should not walk out of their houses alone at night. They are the ones who should be afraid.” Government’s fall and women establish their kingdoms. Females find themselves in positions of power and are no longer afraid of the male dominion, that had always been the ruling force in the “previous world”.

Initially, male half of the population harboured the illusion that this is a temporary state, then they start looking for reasons behind this evolutionary change; post that comes the stage of acceptance – this is the way world is now; and of course followed by ways to defend themselves. I found the commercialisation of this power delightfully satirical – advertisements of rubber shoes & socks, personal batteries, etc. Author has ingeniously provided us with an insight into social media as would be at such times. Men are scared and women are now hungry to use their power.

Ultimately power corrupts – be it man or woman. In the third phase we find that though women have risen using the power from their so-called “weak” state into the more powerful gender, they also lose their ability to empathise with the other gender. Roles are reversed, but cruelty, corruption and atrocities remain the same. Though a new state was set up to promote peace, it leads to slavery and oppression for men, rapes by women, and laws that force men to be enslaved to a woman in every which way “At first we did not speak of our hurt because it was not manly. Now we do not speak it because we are afraid and ashamed and alone without hope, each of us alone. It is hard to know when the first became the second.”

“Men are no longer permitted to drive cars.”

“Men are no longer permitted to own businesses.”

“Men are no longer permitted to vote”

Its ironic, Saudi Arabia (actually Moldova in the book), that led the women revolution once the power was discovered and tried to break free of all these rules imposed on the women, ultimately reverses itself in a worse form, only to have much harsher rules imposed on men.

The book does not end with an apocalypse or an “end of the world” flood, nor does it provide a definitive answer to this dilemma – We who covet power at some point in our lives, why are we unable to stay true to the path of peace. Is this how our DNA, our brains have been programmed. I found this book highly imaginative and an educational read, raising a lot of questions in my mind. Is there a way we could ever find a way to exist peacefully, without brutality and wars – perhaps not – maybe some of those elements make the kindness and humanity shine and maybe some of these darker elements make us appreciate the value of good.

The Rules of Magic – Alice Hoffman

“Anything whole can be broken,” Isabelle told her. “And anything broken can be put back together again.” That is the meaning of Abracadabra. “I create what i speak.”

If you have read Alice Hoffman (as i have – all of them), when you pick up the book you know that next few hours / days (depending on your reading speed) are going to find you in the middle of an absolutely engrossing story, full of magic and witches and curses and some spells that you wish worked in real life (i tried the ones with only chanting – nah it is truly fiction alas!)

The latest book by Alice Hoffman is a prequel to one of my favourite book “Practical Magic” and gives a detailed insight into the lives and dramas of the two doddering aunts, who sounded scary and as if they were always grey and old, and transforms them into young, partially hedonistic, full of life characters.

This family has two girls – Franny and Jet and a boy – Vincent, who are born with magical abilities due to their bloodline, however, mother has decided to keep distance from the “family” and impose rules to postpone the discovery of such talents and affinities for a while – no red shoes, no black clothes, etc etc. Well these magical talents aren’t really meant for getting the house chores done by wave of a wand, but more into being able to read minds (Jet), extreme charisma and ability to see future (Vincent) and ability to talk to / understand birds (Franny).

Children being children obviously want what is forbidden to them. They are curious and chafing against the mother’s rules. When Franny turns seventeen, she gets an invitation from the “family” or “aunt Isabella”. Though parents are not happy, children are grown enough to have an opinion – and they set out to discover the mysteries of their inheritance. The house Magnolia street is mystical and yet restful and the summer passes in a bliss for all three. They learn the history of their bloodline, meet a cousin they have never met before (April) and find out what trials and tribulations are the fate of witches and wizards – loneliness, inability to fit in, being stared at and even feared and not being able to drown.

Jet falls in love with a neighbour boy, who turns out to be from the enemy camp due to an age old curse, which proclaimed that any person from Owens tribe – who falls in love, will cause misfortune and death of the ones they love. Jet discovers the truth behind this curse by losing her beloved and her parents in an accident and Franny decides to give up her love to save him and herself from heartbreak. Aunt Isabella finally provides the words of wisdom near her death by telling Franny to Love more not less to beat the curse.

Post accident. all three – Franny, Jet and Vincent have to grow up within a short span of time, find a way to make money and find a purpose to their lives. Jet lives her entire life devoted to her one and only love – her devotion finally wins over the enemy and reconciliation happens slowly. Franny discovers that it is far easier to fall in love than to give it up and that too to another woman. Hay, her childhood friend, confidant and lover finally gives up the idea of marriage and accepts Franny for whoever she is – curse or no curse.

Vincent, however is complicated. He is a profilgate drowning himself in drugs and alcohol provided for by his musical talents. He discovers true love with another man and hence unlocks the dilemma of not being able to fall in love with numerous women he had affairs with. War happens – well, the normal world is still normal around all the magic and wizardry, and Franny in her determination to save Vincent, gets Hay to provide a forged certificate declaring Vincent medically inept for military service.

Vincent’s interview does not go as smoothly and he finds himself in a mental asylum, from where he is rescued and shipped across the world with only occasional postcards and chocolates to make his presence felt. April, on the other hand has a baby girl fathered by Vincent and gets education and a job to provide for the child.

The ending of the book is what connects it to the sequel (which was released years and years before) where Regina (April’s daughter) dies with her husband, leaving two little girls behind – Sally and Gillian. Sally the elder and practical one calls the two aunt, now old ladies, and tells them that they need to be taken in.

As we know, Practical magic is the tale of the two little girls – Sally and Gillian. In their story, the aunts are at the twilight of their lives and yet a solid presence for them.

Alice Hoffman, in her usual style is able to make this fantasy tale flawlessly believable, so much so that, it becomes easy for a reader to believe that maybe – just a bit maybe, one of the love potions made by aunt Isabella is real and will work, the soap they make in their cauldron can be made and will keep the skin, in reality, as young as it did in the novel. Story line is fast paced and yet characters are evolved, making it possible for a reader to imagine them as they must have been.

Believe it or not, i did try to make my boss vanish the next day – but alas, it didn’t work.

1Q84 – Murakami

“It is not that the meaning cannot be explained. But there are certain meanings that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words.”

What a beautiful, beautiful book – absolutely mesmerising. This 1300 plus pages tome is yet the best by Murakami. The title intrigued me, when i saw it at the airport and synopsis at the back cover was enough to convince me that this is not any ordinary story. It is so enriching a book, so full of imagination, an allegorical tale of two people, two worlds, two thoughts, so intertwined and yet so simple. Magnificent falls short of trying to describe the two moons that are so central to the storyline. Trust me, i am not exaggerating. It is a long long book and yet i am sad, now that i have reached the end.

A lonely boy and a lonely girl of age ten are in the same school. For two years they are in the same grade as well. Their childhoods are different and yet similar, leading the boy to be kind to the girl and the girl to fall in love with the boy. Not much interaction is required and yet girl once finds an opportunity to hold the boy’s hand and convey her deep intense feelings. By the time boy realises that something important has transpired in that short interaction, girl leaves the school and their paths don’t cross for the next twenty years. This story revolves around how the world, or perhaps i should say worlds, makes it possible for them to find each other after twenty years of longing for that simple innocent touch. Some things are destined to be.

Aomame, a professional trainer is also a proficient murderer, though her killing is limited to abusive men who has brutalised women. While on one such murdering assignments, to avoid a traffic jam, she finds herself climbing down rickety stairs from an expressway and finds herself transported from the year 1984 to 1Q84. 1Q84 is a strange world, where illogical is the only way and the sky has two moons. Reader also encounter the boy, Tengo in this world, ghostwriting a fantasy novella “Air Chrysalis” for a seventeen year old girl Fuka-Eri, as encouraged by the editor Komatsu.

The book or the fantasy storyline of the book is the epicentre, so to say, around which the lives of these handful of characters in this book revolves. This award winning, bestseller book “Air Chrysalis” changes the lives of all around it. Initially believed to be a fiction, Tengo over a period of anxious, troubling and intense times comes to understand, is actually real. “Little People” in reality weave air chrysalis from the threads of the air to create an alter ego of a person. The first person whose alter ego or “Dohta” is created is none other than Fuka-Eri herself.

Fuka-Eri while living with her parents on a sort of a commune, of which her father is the Leader, becomes the perceiver who provides a gateway to these Little People. Once her father becomes the receiver – who hears the voices, Fuka-Eri runs away (or becomes the opposing force for the Little People, hence the destroyer as well) at the age of ten and is brought up by her fathers best friend.

Once the book is published and read by people, the voices stop – as explained by the author – it leads to rise in opposing forces against Little People. At the same time, Aomame, via her patron, student and friend – the dowager, is assigned to kill the Leader, for the atrocities committed against young girls.

The Leader is killed, Aomame is in hiding, Fuka-Eri’s role comes to an end and now the commune or the society is hunting for Aomame. This is when a private investigator finds the connection between Tengo and Aomame and decides to stakeout at Tengo’s apartment, in the hope that Aomame will come to meet him. Its almost as if the whole world is working, moving, changing itself to bring Aomame and Tengo together.

In the end Aomame and Tengo do meet each other and manage to climb out of the 1Q94 to 1994 and are finally together.

It is a fantastical book and the writing is so rich that i actually took an unplanned day off work to finish it without putting it down. The characters are deeply mesmerising – their evolution, their struggles, their needs laid out bare to the reader to analyse and feel. These are not complicated people who find themselves in a different world but simple everyday lives, suddenly living through the struggles of a world of Little People, transported to a world where a man having sex with a conduit could make the woman he loves pregnant and yet, they both are absolutely sure in their hearts and mind that it is their child and not some unrealistic phenomenon.

As the author aptly says “if you can’t understand it without an explanation, you can’t understand it with an explanation”

I am looking forward to reading this book again!

 

 

The Man Who Spoke Snakish – Andrus Kivirahk

This fantasy fiction novel is an enchanting piece of work written by an Estonian author, translated by Christopher Moseley. I haven’t checked it out, but a board game is also available based on the book 🙂

The tale is set in a fantastical version of medieval Estonia. The story is of a boy named Leemet, who can speak “Snakish”. “Snakish” (which auto correct does not recognise as a legitimate word) is the language taught by snakes to the humans, to converse, command and interact with animals. Leemet finds this language quite hard to learn from his uncle, and manages to be last man who spoke Snakish. It is the time of transition in Estonia – when pagans and forest dwellers are moving to villages and discovering farming and bread. As more and more people move away, they forget the language of the forest and start living by strange rules of foreigners and Christianity. Leemet, along with his family, is a few who resist the allure of village and try to uphold the old ways as best as they can. There comes a time of conflict between villagers and forest dwellers – when their individual beliefs are in conflict – as per villagers, snakes personify devil, whereas, Leemet knows that snakes are the friends.

As Leemet realises that the world around him is changing and never to go back, it also makes the reader think about how evolution over the centuries must have taken place. “where there was once dry land, the sea now splashed, and i had not had time to grow gills” perfectly describes who hold out against the change and are swept away by the sheer force of it. Its interesting to read, how the change is sometimes based on blind faith into the unknown and fascination towards what is new – not necessarily good or bad. The people who moved from forest to villages simply did that because they were fascinated by the various tools used in farming, new type of food and later from sheer need to be in a society and not left alone. Leemet, at the end is left alone ” was used to the knowledge that i was the last. Everywhere and always.”

The ending is a bit disappointing. The book starts with the legend of “Frog of the North” who is asleep and can be waken up in times of need, if lots of people call out to him in Snakish. In the end we see that Leemet has found the “Frog of the north” and spends the remaining life taking care of him.

It is a very interesting read, philosophical in way, if you dwell deeper into the story. There is a lot more in the book – friends who change once they move to a different way of life, bears who salivate after young women and seduce them, snakes who invite humans to hibernate with them in winters, Primates who think people of the forests are modern – thus depicting a transition between three stages, grandfather who can fly with the help of wings made from human bones and wind bag and wolves that are milked and ridden. The reader will find humour in the beginning, however, darker side is revealed as the story progresses.