Miscellany: Emo about AMoL + Steelheart Into Darkness + Book Nerd Confessions

“A Memory of Light,” the final book in Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” saga, was released in the U.S. today. And while starting the series is part of my Reading Goal this year so I don’t have much of a clue about the story, I nevertheless got kinda emo over Brandon Sanderson’s blog post about reading the final scene in the Saga. In truth, I even got emo back when I was reading a fan’s account of attending RJ’s funeral. I guess it’s the thought of RJ not being able to finish his magnum opus after years and years of effort. It’s a good thing he was organized enough to leave lots of notes and that he had enough time to leave instructions.

Or maybe I’m just plain emo at heart.

Also, it’s now a bit less intimidating for me to start “The Eye of the World” now that there’s an end in sight.

✿ ✿ ✿

steelheartSanderson’s next book up after AMoL is a dystopian YA (EDIT: Apparently this wasn’t the YA, it’s The Rithmatist) called “Steelheart”.

There are no heroes.

Every single person who manifested powers—we call them Epics—turned out to be evil.

Here, in the city once known as Chicago, an extraordinarily powerful Epic declared himself Emperor. Steelheart has the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, no explosion can burn him. He is invincible.

It has been ten years. We live our lives as best we can. Nobody fights back . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans who spend their lives studying powerful Epics, finding their weaknesses, then assassinating them.

My name is David Charleston. I’m not one of the Reckoners, but I intend to join them. I have something they need. Something precious, something incredible. Not an object, but an experience. I know his secret.

I’ve seen Steelheart bleed.

It sounds epic! (And look, “epic” is now a pun in this context, so it’s very much intended.)

This is Sanderson, so I expect good humor and yet another fascinating magic system. It’s going to be interesting to see him do this kind of dystopian. The cover image hints at something a little more sci-fi-ish, so I also expect the world to be very different from his Cosmere-set epic fantasies.


Okay, actually, the reason why this is giving me a sci-fi-ish, even a little steampunk vibe, is that cover art. You know, ‘coz there is this:

Star Trek Into Darkness

and THIS and THIS and…nevermind.

✿ ✿ ✿

Epic Reads has a fun post on the Undeniable Truths About Being A Book Nerd, and…dude, so many of these are true about me. But right now, I have a…

Book Hangover

And it’s all because I’m a bit drunk on Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One.”

Ready Player OneI would never call myself a gamer, but I do love video and computer games. My childhood favorites were The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros.; I finished Diablo II, Final Fantasy VIII and several Resident Evils; I love the Mystery Case Files series; I obsessed about Angry Birds and Plants Versus Zombies, and I even have an NES emulator installed in my computer because I still want to play the old Zelda with the pixelized graphics. So I empathized a lot with Wade and his geekiness even though his life is a lot more extreme than mine.

I also related a lot with all the 1980’s references because I lived through those years and everything is just so familiar. I think there’s an added layer of enjoyment of this book for people who lived through the 1980’s or those who are very much immersed in that time’s pop culture.

It is by no means a perfect book even if I gave it 5/5 stars. The characters are pretty much game character archetypes (not sure if that’s intentional or just a product of the plot) and there are some rather cheesy analogies and story points. I had other pet peeves but I forgot them amid all the fun I was having. I loved the pacing of the story and the geekiness of it all, the effort Cline took to world-build the OASIS and its mini-games, and the way the narrative sucked me into the world. Reading this was more of an experience because I felt like I was actually playing along with Wade. His feeling of almost-emptiness after logging out of the OASIS to go back to the real world is akin to how I felt every time I had to stop reading the book to do some work.

So because I had so much fun reading this…5 stars! And a book hangover! I have to get over this so I can start our next TMRS Book Club Pick: “Open House” by Elizabeth Berg.

More geek confessions: Back when Steve Jobs died, I half-expected Apple to announce that he has a clause in his will that mandates the holding of some freaky grand Apple app-based tournament where the winner will get a million dollars. I really did. For serious. For realsies. Oh, well, I guess he’s saner than I imagined.

“Naermyth” by Karen Francisco

Title: Naermyth
Author: Karen Francisco
Read Date: 27 September 2012
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Status Updates: click!
Review Preview: I suppose a mythpocalypse could be worse than a zombie apocalypse.

never were they myth in the first place…

The world ended. It was not because of a comet, prophecy, natural disaster or whatever garbage foretold on the internet, but because every myth ever written turned out to be an account of historical fact. These monsters we’ve read about as children waged a war that lead to the human race’s downfall. And the unlucky who survived are hunted down or, worse, tortured.

In these dark times, people could only turn to the Shepherd for help. I am one such Shepherd and I thought my only task was to protect the few humans who still thrived on this desolate world. But when I rescued Dorian from Dwende captivity, I discovered that not only is he the most dangerous thing to have around, but he could be our one hope for redemption. I now find myself protecting a born killer, but in doing so, I’m turning my back on everything human.

OMG, it’s an aswang apocalypse! Well, okay, it’s actually an apocalypse brought about by mythical monsters who were never mythical (“naermyth” = never myth) in the first place. It’s a mythpocalypse! I love the idea.

Francisco paints a vivid post-apocalyptic Metro Manila, ruined and over-run by many different creatures, although this should be extra vivid for Filipinos, especially Metro Manila residents, because Francisco took care to mention familiar landmarks to ground her setting. She also incorporated other places that are often associated with Philippine mythology, like Capiz, Mt. Makiling, and Mt. Arayat.

The voice of the novel is Athena “Aegis” Dizon, a young woman who is part of a group informally called the Shepherd, whose mission is to find human survivors and bring them to sanctuaries. Aegis has the reputation of being one of the best warriors among the Shepherd, and she is hero-worshipped by almost everyone who’s ever heard of her.

I’m ambivalent towards Aegis, though. I suppose it’s easy enough to like her because she’s an ass-kicking warrior and she’s courageous. Likewise, it’s also easy to get annoyed by her because she’s painted as this supposedly distant, cold, and rough girl.

I say “supposedly” because I didn’t really feel that particular brashness or wildness, or at least, that quality is not really unexpected from someone who’s had to live her life as a survivor, protector, and warrior for the past 5 years. The coldness was apparent, at least, to some extent, but I didn’t feel that she’s all that distant either, because she’s made solid relationships with the other Shepherd boys she calls her “brothers,” with the girl Liwanag, with blacksmith River, her mentor Benevidez, and later, with the refugee Dorian. She does try to distance herself from romantic entanglements, but in the context of the story, I think this is more about denying her own feelings than any particular aversion to relationships.

Later, after a big reveal, Aegis attempts to justify her reluctance to succumb to her romantic feelings by attributing it to her nature. I thought that was a cop-out even though it seemed intended to give more weight to a “fight for your love” theme for Aegis. I personally feel that “falling in love despite your nature” would have resonated better than “my nature prevents me from loving but I am willing to fight.” But that’s just me. Anyway, I do get the authorial intention with regard to how Aegis is written, it’s just that I personally feel that she lived up only to some of the hype.

Dorian, the man Aegis rescues from a 5-year stint as a dwende prisoner, reminds me of Berem from the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy, at least in terms of his character arc of Refugee to Possible Game Changer. “Possible Game Changer,” of course, means that Dorian is more than what he seems. I will admit that I had an initial violent reaction toward the revelation of Dorian’s true nature because I’ve just recently finished reading an entire series about what he is. I got over this when the mythology was fleshed out later on, though, and because his arc played out differently than from what I expected.

Among the minor characters, I am particularly fond of “Tito Bing,” a quirky professor who was hiding out in UP Baguio before Aegis and Dorian found him. He reminds me of Walter Bishop from Fringe sometimes, although Tito Bing is more self-sufficient and…lucid. 😛

There are parts of “Naermyth” that I think were born out of good ideas but just weren’t executed well enough, like the portrayal of the diwatas of Mt. Makiling. I thought the Armani-wearing guy and the rest of Macky’s court strayed a little too much into corny territory.

There’s also the idea of Fusion, or re-engineering humans and Naermyth. While the fusion (pun!) of concepts of alchemy, magic, and molecular biology was clever, its introduction into the plot came too late, so it had this “tacked-on plot point” feel to it despite being important to the arc of certain characters. It does give more depth to one character, in particular, though.

Then there’s the head-villain-in-name, Valarao, whose motivation is shallow despite trying to convince himself that it will benefit the country, that the final confrontation between him and Aegis felt anti-climactic. I don’t mind villains who are not outright terrifying, in fact, I’ve encountered villains who exude quiet menace or who terrorize people just by the mere mention of his name (Voldemort), but Valarao was just plain disappointing. 😦

I wish the book was better edited. There’s too much going on in the novel and a few more editing passes could have tightened the narrative, and the many grammatical and spelling errors would have been spotted. Francisco also tends to repeat verbs like “sang” as an alternative to “said.” I can imagine the characters speaking in this manner and that’s okay, but if everyone sang all the time, it’s just annoying.

I didn’t care much for the romance aspect of the story, which is surprising, considering that’s one of the things I do gravitate to most of the time. I suspect it’s because of Aegis’ drawn-out denial of her feelings, her subsequent justification to not enter into a relationship, and then a 360-degree turn. The angst was good for drama, but it killed the romance for me despite the “okay, I will fight” sentiment in the end. The interactions didn’t thrill me at all, either; there was no kilig factor. 😦 While “Naermyth” is very readable, I feel like the text concentrated more on the world-building and the plot more than anything else despite the first-person POV, which is probably why I did not become emotionally invested in any of the characters (not even Aegis) or their relationships.

What I appreciate most about “Naermyth” is the concept and the attempt to retell local myths to suit modern readers. It’s something that Rick Riordan has done very successfully for Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that “Naermyth” is up to par with Riordan’s work, it’s a respectable step towards getting there.

♥ ♥ ♥
Special thanks to sis Lianne, who gave me this book for my birthday. 🙂

Transcript and Recording of the Lauren Oliver Book Signing in Manila, 24 March 2012

Author Lauren Oliver was here in our part of the world last weekend to promote Pandemonium, the 2nd book in her Delirium trilogy! She had a Q&A and book signing at Powerbooks Live in Greenbelt 5.

My friend Leia also won a contest to be part of a private lunch with Lauren, and she asked me to be her guest. I was quite starstruck during the lunch, so I only managed to really remember this part of the conversation when we were talking about Nicholas Sparks’ visit here, and Lauren said:

Nicholas Sparks! Is he even real? I always pictured him looking like Fabio. What does he look like? Of course I could always Google him, but…

So anyway. I recorded the Q&A during the book signing event itself, which was hosted by Ms. Xandra Ramos Padilla, Purchasing Director for Books of National Book Store and Powerbooks.

If you missed the event, you can opt to listen to the recording by using the media player below, or you can read the transcript after the jump.

Recording of the Lauren Oliver Q&A: Click the green icon to play!

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