Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller


Achilles may have been way past anyone’s prime. The story book that reeks of Greek mythology and/or legends of its heroes may have come and gone through the cracks of my neuron but therein lies some part where retrieving it is of no difficulty. The historical fiction painted out by Miller may garner appeals for most. Shed in a light foretold by many, yet angulated in a twist so distinct (which is argued over the centuries by Greek historians and literary intelligentsia) that focuses on the twined relationship between Patroclus and the great Achilles himself. Digressing very minimally from its historical basis, many of the old legendary characters were brought to life as this page-turner novel regales on the sweat and blood poured in the battlefield; not forgetting of course the surprising lengthy discourse on the homosexual bond between the two protagonists.

Of significant notation is the striking contrast between the two characters that would form the main ingredient of the 350 page novel. That of Patroclus, an exile from the lands once he was prince but looked upon with much disregard and disfavour. He was not one to be triumphed or languished with words of praise. Just one wrong deed was sufficient to tip his father king to banish him from sight and it was an accidental misdeed that flourish out of unguarded temper that made this decree materialised. Little did he know that his fate was about to alter, for the good or the bad, one would have to discover that for himself. But for glory, back in ancient Greece, and for honour and dignity, that in itself I would say that he succeed this with a life that he would have never comprehend. Banished to a smaller kingdom where Achilles and his father ruled, he slowly made a friend for himself. And deeper as the friendship blossoms, so do their male hormones, although they seem to discover for themselves that what normally lies forthright for a common male gender does not so easily apply for them. They found the attraction of love distinct from others as they start to desire for each other more and more. And it becomes quite obvious of the sexual habitu├ęs for the both of them even when this was not written in stone at the beginning.

But what captures and captivates perhaps would be the progression of love, one of close and entwined destiny for the fates that lingered upon these two boys’ head. One a demigod, but one a mere mortal. One that thirst after glory, living naturally in the field of battle drawing only blood and sweat, gore and grime, lavishing himself in the victory of resounding clash of the blade and the twanging zerp of the arrows on the bright glaring shield. While yet the other, who prefers to linger around in the safety of the tents built far away in the command centre. Such contrasting personalities, wrought with so much differing circumstances so painful to grapple for the both of them, yet brought together in a destiny that seems so befitting to them and them alone. Had it not been known for a matter so moot over the centuries, I would have begun to imagine Miller as a figurehead so overwrought with artistic imagination, but not without the fascinating skill of weaving an intricate bond between an ancient legendary warrior and that of his consort.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Revival, Stephen King


Depends on how you look at things, I'm wont to point out the fact that King has ridden this one out just fine. Though there's a large disparity as to how horrific he could rub on those human nerves raw back in those days when It, Christine, Carrie and Cujo carried heavier weight - he nevertheless made it a resounding feat to carve out Revival.

The turn of events, the meetings of what seems to happenstance or destiny or fate as one would have deemed it fitful to be, was by far one of the longest drag by King. But the story merges as it tells of two characters' lives - that of Jamie Morton and Rev Charles Jacobs. The first encounter, innocent as it may seem, dwarfed by the fact that life seems so naive and harmless was the key notion where King builds on and takes an about-turn that might just take his readers on a cruise from the world of wholesome religious sanity into that of an unbelievable secular incredulity.

For the great portion of the novel is credited towards the life lived by Jamie and his minuscule encounter with the Rev was not discounted by many for a fact. The first encounter after his single digit life meant way much more to him than any others especially after having been dragged on to the fanatical whims of drugs and its after-effects. The Rev with his 'insane' obsession of electricity that he would proudly claim as that equivalent to his hobbyhorse cured Jamie off his addiction when many rehab centres would have failed. Gone was the wasted life ruined by the big H, gone was the craving carved up by the hypos delivering the poison, gone was the embarrassment he had to encounter with his fellow traveling musicians. What the Rev did cure him of however did very little to assuage his condition that paves the road to where the novel builds up from; one that would not be wrong to administer the term as shock-effects after the lightning encounter. And that was what it was.

The novel reels on playing with fire and has the notion of bringing back King's previous novel entitled Salem's Lot where vampires rule. I'm sure you would agree with me that was far more a devastating read that would leave you turning your lights on for weeks (and without sleep) before adapting to it, but Revival was the lesser of two evils. It wouldn't give you much of a creep, but you've got to appreciate the intelligence and the knack King has in crafting horrific genres that none other would come close. Though as solemn and as crestfallen many of his ardent fans would agree, the pincer grips that would once engulf you with horrifying and nasty thoughts, giving you the pees and Hershey squirts nonetheless; has indeed lost its fangs. The beast has been mollified or so it seems.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Summons, John Grisham


Nothing fancy with this one. The story drags on for far too long and the dots hardly connect towards the end. A very unsuspected twist probably due to the inability for the crumbs to be dropped early on as the suspects were too little to begin with. The unravelling part in coming to a closure of events was hardly believable. Just some tricks spun out of nowhere to ensure that the story is laid to rest. The confrontation was a farcical scene that didn't give the book any justice, not that it had any to begin with.

For the credit of it, the Summons does have good intention in coming out with an oddity of its own. It has the potential to create a most stirring thrill throughout the protagonist - Ray Atlee; none of which had anything to deal with legalese. Perhaps Grisham has some dry run during the season when the book was published, much of that I can't be certain but I do hope that the next couple of books that I pick up would be much better than this.

The Summons wasn't exactly a page-turner, it was more of a law professor who chanced upon a few million dollars in his father's closet and through some vice, decided to horde the money to himself. As a consequence, the novel belaboured on itself as to how he has to keep turning over his shoulders to see who's dawning upon him. Paranoia is a class far away from this one, and that's perhaps how poorly thought out this book has been.

I'm going to take a break from reading more of Grisham's legal thriller novels and settle for something else for the time being...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Brethren, John Grisham


I suppose it's the consequence of having read many of his works non-stop for the past one month or so. That such an effort would lead to the lack of being surprised by the tales spun by Grisham unless it is one that really captivates your attention and keep you glued to the pages for hours. The Brethren was a simple plot of extortion which can be done in almost any setting. And this was chosen ideally to originate from a federal prison where three former judges were incarcerated for various petty crimes that they have committed in their older lives. With years of imprisonment still beyond the horizon, they decided to put their time into good use by penning an advert into a gay column. This results in ongoing penmanship between their contrived plots of a self-crafted youth looking for kind hearted male souls out there to forge a friendship which would then turn into extortion should they discover their pen-pals to be rich and prominent figures with a great deal of authority to conceal.

Little do they know that their evil plotting and scheming led them to a congressman who would one day run (unexpectedly) for a seat in the White House. And as the latter grow in terms of his popularity while chasing after votes, his terrible secret hidden in a closet for nearly five decades is about to be hung dry. What would the authorities do to thwart the Brethren's plans - the three ex-judges who cleverly colludes in such dirty tactics to earn some dirty money? The storyline runs for some pleasant cloak and dagger scenes though much of it were rather predictable. But one finale keeps dodging the bullet no matter how readers try to anticipate the outcome of the perpetrators who deserves much more than earning money from dreaded souls who would now be scarred for life.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The King of Torts, John Grisham


This novel does for some good reading, though albeit not as exciting or as thrilling as his other five-star novels that I've rated of late. I find the King of Torts to be rather monotonous, prosaic and a tedium of sorts. Thrown in was a couple of self-contrived plots that sounded too typical and all so prearranged that the excitement was significantly hampered. Marring the success of the lengthy story was the repetitive spiel of civil action lawsuit legalese by mass tort lawyers which soon became an expectant theory that gets bounced around quite a lot throughout the novel.

Grisham however was not concerned with the utterly depleted spice in his works as he could almost craft out anything out of nothing. Spinning a yarn is a workmanship that could only be related to him and none other could make the whole ordeal of burdensome read thrive and blossom. If a summation is needed for a synopsis of The King of Torts, it is one of a hardworking, diligent and bright lawyer five years out of law school who works for the Office of the Public Defender. His job is to defend the indigent defendants, too poor to be able to afford a fair trial for his conviction. Some carrots were thrown his way, caught his attention for a quick buck in the makes and he grabs the chance. And before long, he makes it into the multi-millionaire bracket before being overwhelmed with more class action suits which promises the raking in of even more money than he has ever seen in his three decades of miserable life.

Clouded with the sudden wealth in the makes, he gets blindsided into making hefty purchases of a sports car, several real estate alongside his new house, a jet, a yacht and a new girlfriend. Jolted from an almost state of penury which is frowned upon by his girlfriend's family, he is suddenly thrown right into the spotlight of the mighty and powerful. Given the affirmation by journalists and reporters, he craves the attention that he had once longed after. But nothing is fun without a breaking point now isn't it? No matter how successful a tort lawyer is in his works, he would have to suffer in a point of his life; where everything backfires and he in turn gets sued. Then again, that would yield too much out of the work of some fun reading, so if you feel like it, just flip the pages.

Be forewarned though, this is nothing like his better works. The doldrums would hit you right before you even get past the first ten chapters.