Sunday, April 26, 2015

Rashmi bookmarks “Genocide of One”

Kazuaki Takano's story is about a child who is the next step in human evolution, and whose superior intelligence could well pose a threat to all of humanity. This was an undoubtedly brilliant concept. Conducted some years before, the Heisman Report was about research into extinction of the human race. One of the five possible reasons it outlined was a gene modification that would develop a superior human, an intelligent being that would eradicate lower humans, as it saw animals as detrimental to the growth of humanity. With the news of the birth of the life form known as Akili, that prediction appears to have come true, and various key individuals have to react very quickly.

The narrative was also really interesting, as we follow multiple threads, all of them eventually leading to the birthplace of a new civilization (symbolically, in Africa). Acting under presidential orders, Jonathan Yeager leads an international team of hand-picked operatives into a Congolese jungle to destroy the being. In Japan, Kento receives an email from his father, curiously four days after his death - with very explicit instructions for a secret project with a tight schedule. Meanwhile, in Uganda, Sanyu gets an enormous sum of money to transport a van in a war zone in Congo. Nigel Pierce, who lives amongst pygmies in their natural habitat, appears to be the only one who knows what the truth really is. These parallel events make for very exciting reading.

I also liked the social commentary that certain characters and situations throw light on, chief among which was the true intent behind American-led wars - as Yeager, stationed at Baghdad, says at one point, the war was never about the ideology it claimed, it was always about oil. When the story went into the background of young children recruited into war via the cruellest means possible, it was a brutally scathing comment on war.

Unfortunately, at several points along the way, I lost interest mainly because the story was just too long and a lot of details could have been severely edited. I also did not like the fact that the author's voice kept getting manifested in various characters' lament about how greedy this world has become. After the initial few comments on how people have become more "war ready", the tone got too pedantic, and I felt like I was being preached to a lot. And that really broke my concentration.

Overall, however, this was an enjoyable read. Oh, and I thought the title was really awesome!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Rashmi bookmarks “Bird Box”

There is something terrifying out there. That much we know. What it is, we will never know - for to get a glimpse of whatever is out there, is to be driven to violent insanity. This also we know.

Josh Malerman tells us the story of Malorie and her two young children, who are among the handful of survivors in a world devastated by whatever it is that has driven everyone to brutal murder and suicide. The narrative follows two streams: one, in the present where Malorie embarks upon a journey - blindfolded, downriver, in a rowboat - in hopes of reaching a safe haven, the other, a flashback that starts when this terror first started taking over the world.

The greatest horror stories, for me, are the ones built on psychological suspense, and woven around an inexplicable atmosphere of an unknown fear. And on that score this book was terrifying all the way through! Imagine living your entire life blindfolded. Walking about in the middle of the day, knowing - Knowing - that there is a being (another human? a creature? an alien? a monster?) right in front of you, which has the power, with one brief glimpse to turn you so insane as to make you tear chunks out of yourself. That central concept and an overwhelming suspense moved the narrative along at a fantastic pace - and as it did, it also raised some very interesting concepts revolving around perceptions of sanity and immunity to fear.

I will say this; as I was nearing the ending, I actually thought of an awesome conclusion, which was much better than the way this story ended! That notwithstanding, this was a great read.