Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rashmi bookmarks “Confessions”

Kanae Minato presents a murder mystery in one of the most unique narratives I have ever read. (I read the translation by Stephen Snyder). There were so many things that made this book so amazing. First of all, this story is narrated in a very stark, even simplistic manner - yet, somehow the bare boned monologue is surprisingly intricate. The story starts with Yuko Moriguchi's final lecture to her class. The lecture starts with a comment on the new milk programme at school. Mundane enough. At some point it moves to an announcement of her upcoming retirement. Also ordinary. When the topic moves to details about a colleague's life after being afflicted with AIDS, it gets just a little uncomfortable. Weaving in and out of the tale with deep comments on life, the lecture suddenly crashes into the recent death of her four-year-old child, Manami. Before we know what happened, a revenge plot for the two murderers, Shuya and Naoki, is announced right there in the classroom.

That story told in that chapter becomes the framework of the rest of the book as each chapter becomes a confession by a different player in this gruesome drama. What made Shuya invent that electrically charged purse - and then want to try its effects on someone? Why did Naoki decide to support a murderous plan? How does something like this affect the people in their lives - the mother, the sister, the girlfriend? What is really fascinating about this narrative is that we see the exact same series of events from different points of view - and those dramatically different perspectives move the story forward.

I was also really moved by the different comments on life and society - comments that I would actually like to see someone address! Questions of troubled kids and juvenile laws, peer pressures and social stigmas intersperse an already dark tale.

One story. Different voices. Constant twists ... that led to a grand act of vengeance. This was not really horror or crime in the traditional sense of the genre - rather it was a layer by layer exposé of some very dark and disturbing sides of human nature.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Rashmi bookmarks “Aces High”

Edited by George R. R. Martin, “Aces High” is the second in the “Wild Cards” series. “Wild Cards”, the first book of this series, was all about the effects of a deadly alien virus on humans. From mysterious pennies from hell, to futuristic alien technology such as a reality shifter, to ancient Egyptian Masonic rituals, “Aces High” throws those superhuman Aces and badly mutated Jokers together as they face the two deadly threats of the Astronomer and the alien Mother Swarm.

An immortal "Astronomer" who gains energy through ritualistic killings. The undead "Demise" who can kill people by telepathically projecting the "memory" of his death experience into them. "Jube the Walrus", an undercover xenologist from the planet Glabber. "Modular Man", the sophisticated android, gifted with artificial intelligence as well as human emotions ... The new characters introduced in this book were fantastic. But because some of the old characters continued to be an important part of this word, I really felt like I was returning to a familiar place. The always interesting Croyd (Sleeper) Crenson, the Great and Powerful Turtle, Mark Meadows, who returns in very interesting ways, and of course Dr. Tachyon, Takisian prince / scientist / telepath  ... it was good to return to this alternate Earth.

What I also really liked about this book was that it delved a lot deeper into the characters this time. Aces aren't the perfect cape-wielding superheroes that we were led to believe. During the capture of a few Aces by a Takisian starship, we go behind the shell of the "Great and Powerful Turtle" and see the broken man behind the scenes; his fall and rise to greater heights was a high point in this story of Super Heroes.

The concept introduced in the first book was so unique, I was curious to see where the follow-up story would go - and I was not disappointed. This was a great read, with memorable characters coming together to build a very good story. What really impressed me - and this is kudos to the editor - is that even though this is a collection of short stories by different writers, at no point did the book feel anything less than one cohesive story.