The Atlantis Gene (2013): I Really Tried to Like It But In the End I Was Just Glad I Didn’t Spend Money On It

I thought I was in luck. This book had appeared on one of my obscure to-read lists, scrawled on the back of some homework assignment I was surprised I hadn’t thrown away, or maybe the back of a receipt, or a crumpled post-it note. I had forgotten about it until I saw it again on Amazon Prime Reading, where I could read it. For free.

In the end it wasn’t important because I was disappointed.

 

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I should have known when “THE BATTLE TO SAVE HUMANITY HAS BEGUN” was part of the description.

The Atlantis Gene, written by A.G. Riddle, begins as a vessel in Antartica unearths some strange structure in the iceberg. You have Dr. Kate Warner, a researcher in Indonesia trying to cure autism and some kind of special agent David Vale doing something. And then there’s something about a conspiracy that involves pretty much the entire Earth.

I will be frank about my own bias. I’m not usually huge on the whole “saving the world” ideas, especially “saving humanity” ideas. I’ve always found myself to be more interested in plots that focused on smaller battles, like crimes in the city of Los Angeles, or maybe trying to find out who you really are. On the subject of bias, I also want to mention the disclaimer that I am really not quite a published author and I’m really just a college student who doesn’t really know what she’s doing so maybe I have no place to criticize anything.

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Sorry. Probably not going to read the other two that exist.

I will give The Atlantis Gene the benefit of doubt on its plot. Perhaps other people will find it much more enjoyable than I did. In the same way I can accept that some people may really enjoy parts of The Martian that I did not, I can accept that perhaps some people will like the plot of The Atlantis Gene.

What I couldn’t really stand was how everything was revealed through dialogue. It seemed just about every single plot point, emotion, small unneeded detail was boxed in with quotation marks. Not only was it unrealistic, these giant exposition dialogues that seemed to take up pages on end, I also found it unnecessary. Two scientists don’t have to explain the purpose of their experiment and discoveries only to have the other guy tell him, “You don’t need to tell me that, I worked on it too, now get to the point.” Sure, this is important information the reader needs, but it doesn’t need to be in quotation marks. It also doesn’t have to be so point blank directed at your face.

By having everything pointed out to the reader, including glaringly obvious points, makes the writing a lot less compelling. Perhaps the apparently upcoming movie will make it better. But, in writing, I was really impatient to just get through to the end.

There was also so much background information. I understood the practicality of it–you needed to establish certain points to have the plot make sense, but it really took away from the action of the present plot and I felt weighed down having to push my way through all of this background.

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Okay. This cover is nice. I’ll give it that.

I just wasn’t interested. The plot felt slow and the characters felt very much two-dimensional, like action movie leads. Kate and David went through the right motions, discovering new evidence, saving each other’s lives, and eventually what I think was supposed to be a romance. Could I tell you what made Kate and David stand out?

No. Not really.

 

Mostly, I just didn’t like this book.

Conclusion: With expository dialogue almost the entire way through, the flat Kate and David fails to move the reader, despite their struggle to apparently save humanity, very much a large-scale event, but one that was still rather difficult to care about as it seemed to be pushed away from the center of attention due to all the background knowledge, also revealed through dialogue between two people who did not need to say it to each other. 2/10.

 

Night Sky With Exit Wounds (2016): Look Even the Title Is Amazing

It’s been a very long since I’ve written a review. Thankfully I’ve had the chance to read a lot more these days.

It was really kind of a coincidence that led me to reading this book. When discussing Asian American authors with my professor, Ocean Vuong was one of the names that popped up. It just so happened that my friend had told me about this collection of poetry at around the same time, so I borrowed her copy and began to read it.

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I ended up loving it so much I bought my own copy.

I loved it. I thought it was incredible, brilliant. I had always loved poetry–the lilting rhythm, the vague sense of there was something beyond what I could comprehend, the visually appealing aesthetic of language.

But I swear Ocean Vuong took it up another level.

I really loved how simple his words were. In the end, mostly really amazing poetry is comprised of simple words, words that I know and can use. But they just seem to demonstrate more mastery over it because whenever I try, it just ends up as ink on a page, whereas Ocean Vuong can somehow conjure up a sense of beauty and sublimity. In his poem, “Immigrant Haibun,” he describes sailing on an ocean and when he comes to the topic of the conversations he’s had on a sailboat, he adds, “Salt in our sentences.”

I know the word “salt” and “sentences” and I know how to use prepositions and pronouns. But any of the poetry I write never seems to come across as powerful as that line, “Salt in our sentences,” which turns out to be one of my favorite lines in the entire collection.

I don’t know how he does it.

And it’s so personal too. With what seems to be a semi-autobiographical poetry collection, Vuong describes things in a way I had never considered could be possible, but it works, it absolutely works, and it works wonderfully.

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And he’s so young. What the heck. 

Night Sky With Exit Wounds is beautiful. You may not believe me right now, but it is. It’s rare that I find a piece where I really consider to be beautiful. There are books that excite me, thrill me, make me think. Night Sky With Exit Wounds just makes me want to reread the lines, to sink back into the tug of the poem. I want to read them out loud, but my roommate is doing her computer science homework so I settle with mouthing the words under my breath.

Conclusion: Deeply personal and mysteriously abstract sometimes, Night Sky With Exit Wounds is absolutely stunning, in content, but most of all in the poetry style of simple words, synesthesia, and I swear a little bit of magic. Bonus points for being part of the very underrepresented Asian (American) authors in English literature. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Night-Exit-Wounds-Ocean-Vuong/dp/155659495X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487997026&sr=8-1&keywords=night+sky+with+exit+wounds 10/10.

The Martian (2011): You’d Think That Living on Mars Would Change a Person But Not Mark Watney Apparently

I was hopeful. Beyond hopeful. So many people were raving about it, it was accurate science fiction, Matt Damon was going to be in the movie, etc., etc.

And it was about Mars and space. Space!

The Martian (by Andy Weir) tells a survival tale of botanist Mark Watney who is stranded on Mars after his crew leaves him behind, thinking him to be dead. An astronaut stranded on Mars, where there is no life, no water, no air, just rocks and sand and a couple of things NASA left behind. It’s hard to get more intense than that.

Unfortunately, only the premise proved to be intense.

It was cool how Watney survived on Mars. It was cool how he knew all the science and did the math (and I swear Weir wrote this with a calculator next to him), and sarcastic first-person narration is usually not a bad way to go, but in the end, I was far from impressed.

I was excited to see the movie before, but now…not so much.

The only thing The Martian has going for it is scientific accuracy.

Don’t get me wrong, I am pretty into science. I like science, I’m considering going into science as a career. But The Martian didn’t appeal to me.

While we’re on the topic of scientific accuracy, I have to say that I am impressed and I did enjoy it, at least for the first hundred pages. However, as accurate as his chemistry was, a hundred fifty pages later, it’s still chemistry. Simply speaking, it got old.

I was expecting a tough, gritty survivalist story with maybe a pinch of the theme of humanity and fate thrown in as last minute seasonings, but it just didn’t turn out that way. All Watney did was ramble to his log about how he managed to not die that day and maybe part with some not-so-witty sarcastic comment that I feel like I was supposed to laugh at.

It also seemed highly implausible that someone could live on Mars for a year and a half and not change at all, being surrounded by red sand in every direction, and faced with the constant fear of dying. On Mars. Where there is not a single living thing. And not to mention, lack of communication with humans for the first couple of weeks. Watney didn’t change a single bit.

We don’t even have to go as far as deep character development. I just find it hard to believe that even after a year and a half on MARS, Watney can still spit out sarcastic comments like it’s not an issue at all. I never believed for a second that Mark Watney felt like he was actually going to die.

But Jamie, not every book has to be deep and philosophical with meaningful character development.

Yes, but every book should have at least some developed characters. The Martian has close to zero character development. The entire thing is almost always from Watney’s perspective, and also a log perspective where he is literally supposed to be telling his last words to, and yet, I know almost nothing about Mark Watney.

That’s not entirely true. I know he has parents and I know he’s a botanist.

And the other characters who are all working to bring Watney home alive? They’re hardly more than names that were printed on the paper in black ink. They seemed to only exist for the purpose of trying to bring Watney back home.

I was dissatisfied with The Martian. And I didn’t find it funny at all, despite Weir’s attempt at a sarcastic, smart-ass narrator. I suppose I do have to give The Martian credit where it’s due though–the science really was interesting and it was interesting to see Watney save himself through creative methods.

Conclusion: The Martian grabs the reader with a gritty premise of a lone astronaut stranded on Mars, but Watney fails to capture the reader as he monotonously tells the audience how he didn’t die with too many attempts at humor that really weren’t funny; it was potentially a gritty survivalist story, but ended up being flat and stale, even though it was flavored by accurate science, which in the end, failed to add to the “fiction” portion of science fiction. 3/10.

House of Leaves (2000): I Was Confused Then I Was Amazed And Then It Ended

Haunting.

If I had to describe House of Leaves (by Mark Z. Danielewski) in one word, that would be it.

Haunting.

I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting, but it was not what I got. In a good way. Weird, but good.

It’s about a house that’s bigger on the inside. And a whole bunch of other things that I don’t know how to put into words because although there was a plot, there also was no plot. It’s indescribable really.

I thought I was going to have a lot of fun writing this review because there’s so much to discuss and to think about and it’s so different and unconventional that I thought I would make this post accidentally too long.

But now that it actually comes to writing it, I can’t think of what to say. Just haunting and indescribable. First of all, there’s the formatting. I mean, it’s sometimes just pages and pages of text that feel like a textbook (and frankly almost boring, but not quite), but then there’s also sometimes just one word on a page. It was weird. Weird almost doesn’t cut it. But it was intriguing and for days I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it. Thinking back, I’m not even sure what was so fascinating about it that I just wanted to keep reading it. I haven’t read a book like that in a while, a book that brought back the eagerness to read, the itch of wanting to reach the last page.

And then you’ve got pages like this.

I do have to say that I was very conscious of my pacing though.

Because of the formatting and the vast difference in the amount of text on a certain page, I became very conscious of the breaks that I was taking to turn the page. I don’t know if that made a difference in anything, but it was interesting. House of Leaves was a book that I couldn’t completely immerse myself into because I was either too busy turning the page or turning the book upside or flipping back and forth because I got lost.

It almost sounds like a bad thing, but it isn’t. Whenever I am analyzing a text or reading criticism, I can’t immerse myself in it, or it would just be pointless. If I’m so caught up in Shakespeare or whatever that I forget to analyze, then what’s the point of trying to write an essay on it?

So I tried to read House of Leaves as I would something I would analyze. It didn’t quite work as I couldn’t make sense of anything, but it was definitely a reading experience that I won’t forget. I didn’t know a lot of things, but I do know that I will read it again. And probably another time after that. Even though I tried to make sure I read every word, I still felt like I was missing something, that I had accidentally skipped something.

The pages are really cool. Weird, but cool.

I still feel like that, even a week after having read it. And the kind-of anecdotes that weren’t really anecdotes because it still related to the topic, but at the same time it was off-topic. There was a certain passage and a kind-of motif that goes through the entire book about the Minotaur that blew my mind. It is, without doubt, one of my favorite passages in any book. Ever. This review probably doesn’t make much sense, but it really isn’t so much a review as a place that I can get my thoughts together because there’s so much to this book. And honestly, I’m still confused.

Conclusion: Dark, mysterious, and unconventional, House of Leaves is a book worth experiencing as the tale of the house unfolds through anecdotal editor’s notes, footnotes, and other intriguing features. Although confusion may be a very prominent part of the reading experience, but it somehow draws meaning and thoughtfulness through the words that may or may not be upside down. 9/10.

Fight Club (1996): Whoa

Note: This is a review on the book. I have not yet watched the movie. But I’m going to.

Whoa.

Like, just…whoa.

No, like, I’m going to go out and buy a copy of this so that I can read it again. And find out about the meaning of life probably.

I’ve been wanting to read Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk for a long time. Long before I read his short story “Guts” a couple of weeks ago (which was astonishingly amazing and disturbing–I would recommend this short story if you have a strong stomach and am not easily disturbed or like weird, disturbing, almost taboo stuff) and long before my friend told me that she really liked Chuck Palahniuk.

And finally, the chance arose when my friend let me borrow her copy of Fight Club.

Fight Club starts out with the Unnamed Narrator who doesn’t seem all that special. He has a job at this unnamed car company and he suffers from really bad insomnia. He meets Marla Singer at a cancer support group, even though neither of them actually have cancer. He also meets Tyler Durden, a charismatic, outoing extremist that starts a “fight club.”

And then there is that famous phrase: “The first rule of fight club is you don’t talk about the fight club.” Or something along those lines.

It is impossible to give a basic plot to this story because then I would have to give spoilers and I don’t want to do that because I want everyone to read this amazing book.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I really want to now.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the narration.

The book is basically entirely narration. Yes, I know that books are usually all narration regardless, but Palahniuk has this particular style that is so characteristic that it feels like the Unnamed Narrator is talking to you. That may also be because of the occasional second person thrown in there, but for me, it just adds to the effect of being told a story from someone’s inner most mind.

The Unnamed Narrator’s narration is strangely vague. Throughout three-fourths of the book, I was confused. I don’t think there was any particularly confusing jumps in time or plot, but the wording of everything is not entirely clear at first.

But, as I read on, it all made sense. I was confused, but it made sense.

Fight Club just left me in awe. I don’t even know how to write a review because I can’t gather my thoughts together coherently.

I just don’t know how I feel about it.

I mean, I liked it. A lot. A lot a lot a lot. But, really, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I have all these general feelings, but I don’t know how to type it out or to even put it in words in my head. There’s so much to discuss and so much to be able to debate over, I just don’t know where to start.

But, hey, I would love to discuss this with someone. Leave a message in the comments, or send me one on my About page. This is just a book that needs discussion. Deep, life-changing, philosophical discussion.

Conclusion: Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club captivates the audience with the strange insomniac who goes nameless throughout the book as he meets Tyler Durden, the soap-maker who founds the “fight club,” and guides the audience through the deep and dark mind of the narrator, leading them through an engaging plot as the fight club becomes more and more intense, all the while putting the reader (or maybe just me) in complete awe of his unique style and vague but clear narration. 10/10

(I know that in my Rating page, I said that nothing would ever top The Shawshank Redemption or Forrest Gump or Harry Potter, but this definitely makes it into my top favorites. It’s being added to the list of books/movies that nothing will ever top.)

Before I Go To Sleep (2011): Pretty Good But I’m Probably Gonna Forget About It In A Month

This book was recommended to me by several people. And it’s being made into a movie. So I read it.

Very intriguing, don’t you think?

This is a book I would’ve picked up, even if it hadn’t been recommended. Before I Go To Sleep, written by S.J. Watson, has a very intriguing concept of a woman who wakes up thinking she’s in her twenties when she’s actually forty-something. Turns out, she forgets almost everything about her life whenever she goes to sleep and wakes up the next morning, still thinking she’s either in her twenties or just a child. And every day, her husband has to explain that they’ve been married for a long time and that she was in an accident that gave her memory problems. Cool, right? I admit, I would’ve been much more impressed with the idea, if it hadn’t already been in a movie called 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.

Yeah, this movie.

But, that aside, I picked it up with a growing interest and high expectations. The story itself wasn’t uninteresting. A tiny bit predictable (as in I guessed the ending long before it happened), but completely new stories in every single book are too much to ask for, so I forgive Before I Go To Sleep.

Although nothing much really happened action-wise, the changing moods of the narrator, Christine, are very interesting. Other than the occasional desire and growing crush on her younger doctor, Dr. Nash, the internal conflict focuses on her changing trust in her husband, Ben. Her trust in him fluctuates throughout the book. In the very beginning, the reader is shown the words, “DON’T TRUST BEN” that Christine has written in the front of her notebook that she has been writing down her life in. S.J. Watson then leads us into several entries in which Christine believes that Ben is the only person she can trust. lHer trust fluctuates between oh-you’re-the-only-one-i-trust-because-you’ve-taken-care-of-me-despite-my-memory-all-these-years-so-therefore-you-must-really-love-me and dude-what-the-hell-you’re-not-telling-me-the-truth.

In all, the plot was interesting and it grabbed my attention in the slightly-tugging-at-my-mind way, rather than oh-my-god-i-have-to-stay-up-all-night-to-read-this way; neither of which is better, this story just happened to peak my interest in a different way.

However, despite all its strengths and interesting concepts, I will probably have forgotten the entire plot of the book by July. “Bland” is a harsh word to describe the plot, but more like the taste of that mediocre buffet on the side of the highway. It’s good and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but by the end of the week, I will have no idea what I had eaten at that buffet. That is Before I Go To Sleep. In a food analogy.

To me, the issue is in that the entire book feels the same. All of Christine’s entries run together and it ends up seeming like one long entry, which is almost like a flat line, meaning there is nothing that stands out. Other than the interesting concept of this specific type of amnesia, nothing about the plot really stands out. It all feels the same.

Obviously, there are things happening, like when Christine first realizes that Ben has been lying to her about her son, which she didn’t know she had, or when she meets with Dr. Nash, but the feeling about these scenes and events is pretty much the same. That slight sense of mystery, curious and slightly nagging, but easily put out of the mind, with just a dash of anxiety.

Conclusion: Although an engaging idea about a new kind of amnesia, the book itself is quite easy to forget with a somewhat predictable plot and lack of change in tension and feel; despite this, Before I Go To Sleep still pulls off an enjoyable read. Bonus points for having Nicole Kidman in the upcoming movie. 7/10.