Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ajax Penumbra 1969

Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan

I bought this as a Kindle Single but I think it is available as a book as well.

This is the prequel to Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.  In it we meet Ajax Penumbra and learn of his upbringing and college years.  We travel with Ajax to San Francisco and see how and why he stumbled into the 24-Hour Bookstore.

This was a short read but fun and entertaining and I think it is worth reading especially if you have read Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.

Bel Canto

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

This was a hard book to get through.  I had to put it down and then go back to it (part of my new year's resolution is to finish all those books I didn't finish last year).  It was worth finishing.

Bel Canto is set somewhere in South America.  A lavish birthday party is being thrown at the home of the Vice President.  The guest of honor is the president of a company being wooed by the nebulous South American country.  They would very much like him to build a factory in their company which would bring much needed jobs and revenues to their country.  The president of the company has no intention of doing any such thing.  He agrees to this party because the country has arranged to have his favorite opera singer perform at his party.

Unfortunately, the terrorists planning to kidnap the President of the country don't get the message that the President will not be attending the birthday party after all.  This book is about what happens when a rather poorly planned kidnapping fails to occur but now way too many people are hostage and the terrorists see no way out.

Much of the story surrounds Mr Hosokawa and his interpreter, Gen Watanabe.  We also get to know Roxane Coss the opera singer.  Several of the terrorists are featured as well as a few of the hostages including the Vice President.  The people within the Vice Presidential residence live in a bubble until they don't.  The ending is predictable but it's quite lovely in how swift and silent it seems to occur.

I hated the Epilogue.  I think this book was a beautifully written tragic love story.  There were so many people who became wrapped in different kinds of love, love of music, love of a friend, love of an un-reachable woman, love of a man or a woman within a bubble.  The Epilogue seemed to diminish the relationships and feelings that occurred in the book by trying to tie it all up in a nice bow of resolution.  I didn't want the resolution.  I wanted to feel like I was left hanging and deflated.  That felt genuine.


Allegiant by Veronica Roth

This is the third book in the Divergent Series.
This book really brought out the whole question of society and how it works or how it should work.  The expectations we lay upon members of society and in what situations do we expect less and should we expect less or more.

I found myself comparing Roth's societal discourse to that within the Hunger Games trilogy (mostly because I just saw the movie Catching Fire).  The worlds were similar in that there was a controlling government that was monitoring the activity of the controlled.  In the Hunger Games, the people of the Districts knew they were being monitored and controlled.  In this trilogy, the people of Chicago are in ignorance of the reality of their situation.  There are cities mentioned who know they are monitored and controlled and their societal structure is much more broken and dissolute than that within the walls of former Chicago.

I found this book, and the series, entertaining and thought provoking.  I think it would be a good avenue for discourse with young adults about society and the expectations that we place on ourselves and others in order to live and function within society.  This series didn't have the rated R psychological twisty-ness of the Hunger Games nor was is as violent so I think it will have a broader audience.

There is one more book in the series which is Four: A Divergent Collection. This gives us a more in depth look at Tobias Eaton aka Four and why he is the way he is.  I am fine skipping this one although I'm sure it will be an entertaining read as the others have been.  Roth also has a series of Divergent Short Stories.  I think I've lived in this world of her long enough and I'm ready to move on.