Story of Your Life

I just finished this story, written by Ted Chiang, and just in time for the movie it’s based on, Arrival. I thought it was fascinating — an alien first contact story told via the perspective of a linguist who is attempting to document and intrepret the aliens’ language.

I am writing my own alien story, and felt totally intimidated, because my story reads like an emotional mess. I dunno. I liked it though, but the end bummed me out, only because the aliens arrived, spoke with humans, and then left without telling the humans much about themselves.

The way the heptapods thought was reflected in the main character’s narration. The work Louise did with the heptapods was peppered with Louise’s memories of her daughter. Turns out that Gary, the physicist she was working with, was the father of her daughter, and that they conceived her after the aliens had left. I thought that was pretty cool.

The very last line was awesome, too. But I would have liked to know more about the aliens.

Anyway, I am looking forward to Arrival, and I am definitely going to see it.

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Warning:  Salty language ahead.

I already knew that this was left-oriented before I read it.  However, I am currently on a big fantasy kick, so I decided to read it anyway, since I have already read lefty fantasy (Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm trilogy) before.

Anyways, so far I agree with the negative reviewers – the setting is confusing.  I had assumed it was your typical European medieval fantasy, set in the past, on some planet in another universe, but as it turns out, it’s set in the future.  I had thought it might have been alternate history, like Melissa de la Cruz’s The Ring and the Crown (another one I’m currently reading) but it’s not.  The setting is one of the many problems I have with this little slice of propaganda.

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The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New Things

It was great. Beatrice’s loss of faith kind of annoyed me, and I knew that it was going to happen, but I think it happened too quick, and too late into the story. If a bunch of hoodlum brats were torturing my cat, I’d have been really upset (more like devastated and catatonic, because I love cats), but I don’t know if I’d have been all, “there’s no God.”

Not that I haven’t had my faith tested, because I have, and I am ashamed to admit it. I lost my faith for incredibly shallow and vain, prideful reasons.

But anyway, I loved it. I stayed up late to finish it, however, it left me wanting more and I had a lot of questions about Oasis, its inhabitants, and the bizarre environment.

This planet is supposed to be humid and tropical, but there’s no tropical plants. There’s hardly any animals. There’s no mountains or large bodies of water. I don’t know how the author could have conceived of such a massively boring world. I plan on writing a novel of my own that takes place on another planet, and boy do I have big plans for this planet. Exotic plants and animals, fantastic terrain, majestic mountains, etc.

The Oasans are so sweet and nice, and I thought it sad that Peter decided to leave them, although his wife clearly needed him. He never really lost his faith in God, and he never gave up on her, and was even willing to stay with her even if she had permanently turned her back on God. That’s far more than what I could do, given that I’ve had a falling out with a friend over this very matter.

Anyway, some reviewers have complained about the “proselytizing” and “preachiness” of this book. I don’t know if the author is a Christian – I have heard of his other novels, and I had started reading Under the Skin after seeing the film adaptation starring Scarlett Johansson. However, he knows his stuff as far as Christianity goes. I mean, the characters are never caricatures – they seemed real to me, although simply Christian, not cursing or whatnot (although Peter does let loose a curse when one of the aliens might die). Most secular authors just know nothing about Christianity, and often write characters that are these ridiculous parodies of Christians – street preachers bellowing about hell and damnation and how evil the world is. Oh, and they can’t resist writing Christian characters that are total hypocrites. No, Bea and Peter are not hypocrites, they are not hyper judgmental and they don’t constantly tell people they’re going to hell. They don’t push their religion on other people, but they don’t hide their faith either.

So there was a lot of talk about God, the Bible, the nature of Jesus, etc. Of course there would be – the story is told from the perspective of Peter the pastor. It’s not first person narrative, but it is told from his perspective, and Peter’s opinions aren’t necessarily the author’s opinions. He did a great job in writing a realistic Christian character and I guess some people don’t like actual, authentic Christians rather than the ridiculous caricature created by the mainstream media.

So if you hate Christianity portrayed in an even remotely flattering light, this novel isn’t for you. You might be delighted at Beatrice writing “there’s no god” after the torture of their cat, but Peter says no such thing. Sorry.

Anyways, as I said earlier, I really liked it. I wanted to know more about the Oasans – did they have a form of government? Were there more of them on the planet, or was the settlement their total population? Did they have any of their own creation myths prior to the arrival of the humans? Why did they look the way they did? Why did only some choose to be Christians?

This novel is really about long distance relationships and how they are tested, and how they endure. Unfortunately, we are left without knowing if Peter and Beatrice really patched things up. So much left unsaid, but the whole experience with the Oasans was just amazing.

Just a quick note about the Oasans. They like the New Testament better than the old testament. Jesus and forgiveness resonates with them more than any other story in the Bible.

I wonder if this is some kind of insight into their society and how they view themselves. Have they, as a society, done something bad, and are they in need of forgiveness from a savior?

I wonder.

The Graceling Realm Series by Kristin Cashore

This is a review of all three books, mainly because I feel that they’re all rather formulaic at their core. These are fantasy novels written by the ostensibly left-wing feminist Kristin Cashore, and they take place in a mystical realm with two major landmasses separated by a mountain range: The Seven Kingdoms and The Dells. Graceling and Bitterblue both take place in the Seven Kingdoms, while Fire, the middle book, takes place in the Dells.

In the Seven Kingdoms, there are people with special abilities called Gracelings – each of these people are gifted in one area. Someone might be a phenomenal cook, someone else might be able to read minds, etc. They are distinguished by their odd eyes – one eye might be green, the other blue.

In the Dells, there are brightly colored animals called monsters. There appears to be no other major difference to these animals other than their outlandish coloring. There were human “monsters” with brightly colored hair and special abilities, like mind control, but they died out, and the book Fire starts out with the last human monster in the Dells – a dark-skinned, red haired girl named Fire.

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