Tuesday, April 24, 2012

50 Books // The Passage // # 7

This book is a whale. Almost a thousand pages! With my Generation Y symptom, the 'low attention span', this took a while to read. There's also a lot of characters and I'm not good with names. The book's timeline spans decades and of course, the world is in peril.

All of this spells out one thing. The Passage by Justin Cronin is an epic. With a capital E. Epic. Actually no, in caps lock. EPIC. Add an exclamation.


It's also a vampire novel. I can hear you groaning. I can assure you this is no Twilight. The vampires here aren't covered in pretty sparkles. They're covered in human viscera. Actually, the 'virals' I pictured more as a zombie/vampire hybrid and they're more vicious and more horrifying than any vampire or zombie I've come across in a novel. These things are ruthless. 

It's quite hard to describe the plot because there's a lot going on here but all you need to know is that there's a central character. She's a little girl named Amy. The reason she's so special I won't give away here but in the first part of the book we read about where she came from and how the virus spread throughout the world. 

It then becomes a post-apocalyptic story and the story shifts and focuses on what's called the first colony. We don't exactly know what has happened with the rest of the world because the colonies have isolated themselves as a form of protection from the virals. The problem is they can't isolate themselves for much long. 

The first part of the book is outstanding. Cronin sets up the characters and the story really well here. Even though the premise is familiar (it reminded me of I Am Legend) and certainly not new (virus outbreak) it was still very electrifying and I was eager to know what was going to happen next.

All of a sudden the story is fast-forwarded by almost a century. The thrill of the previous part quickly wanes because of we're suddenly introduced to a different world and new characters. I hated that. I felt like I was just getting to know the previous characters and here I am suddenly being introduced to new people. It was like becoming popular at school then all of a sudden you're moved to another one.

The middle is the weakest for me. I can't even remember what happened for the most part because it was so uninteresting. I was ready to give up halfway through until I started to warm up to the newer characters. The story then starts to really get exciting. That was what I wanted from this novel all along: the thrill of a post-apocalyptic story with vampires. I was reading more literary books before this one and I was craving for lots of action and I was finally getting it. 

The Passage ends in a cliffhanger (or rather, CLIFFHANGER!) and I don't care if the next instalment is the size of War and Peace, I'm itching to read it. I'm just hoping we don't get introduced to a million new characters.

Book 'poster' was created and edited by me. Book cover from here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mapping the city

In one of my design classes we treat the city as a studio and as part of our mapping project we had to embark on a derive. A derive is a journey through the city which involves actively observing urban spaces in a new way - igniting curiosity, noticing previously unnoticed information and heightening the consciousness of one's surroundings.

Then we begin to map the city beyond the geographic and topographic lines and start to map the city based on emotion, psychology, economics, politics, history, philosophy, architecture and concept.

My theme for this project is transformation - exploring this notion of an unfinished city, a city of cycles and flows: decay/construction, architecture/human, space/time, movement/idleness.

All photos were captured and edited by me during one of my derives.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

50 Books // We Have Always Lived In The Castle // # 6

I've always been interested in stories about a small community traumatised and scarred by a singular event, either past or present - from Camus' The Plague to Miller's terrifying play The Crucible - there's something about mass hysteria or mob tyranny that I find so fascinating and admittedly, a little bit exciting.

What Shirley Jackson does best in her novel We Have Always Lived In The Castle is how in the beginning she contained the hysteria and suppressed the mob making the inevitable panic (occurring later on) to spread as fiercely as a bushfire and as damaging as cancer. 

The novel is written from the perspective of Katherine Blackwood, who at eighteen years old is the youngest in the Blackwood family, or rather what's left of the family. Both Blackwood parents died as well as an aunt and a younger brother when arsenic was mixed with the sugar and then sprinkled on their blackberries. Constance, the older sister was blamed because she was the only one who did not put sugar on her blackberries. The uncle survived the poisoning and Katherine skipped the meal.

Only three are left to reside in the Blackwood residence and they live in near isolation from the rest of the town after being casted away after the incident.

The novel moves like a slow, seductive and deliciously disturbing dance and everything feels dark. I only experienced a slight glimmer of light from the tender relationship between the two sisters. But even their relationship had its dark moments.

Everyone is cruel to everyone. The townspeople are frightening. The Blackwood family are cheerlessly bizarre. I don't recall the weather being mentioned in the book but it felt like every passing day had a dark grey hovering above it, with an occasional downpour with no promise of sunshine.

The characters are beautifully complex and enigmatic and the reveal at the end felt like a sudden chilly breeze: abrupt, disconcerting at first but then it all makes sense.

Book 'poster' was created and edited by me. Book cover from here.


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