9. BRAVE NEW WORLD By Aldous Huxley

Futuristic dystopian novels have been knocking about since the dawn of civilisation, and some even brilliantly foretold the future decades ahead of time, notably Orwell, Alan Moore, Bradbury, and of course Huxley.

Brave New World tells a story of a futuristic world set in 2500 where genetic engineering is the only way humans are created. Meticulously, humans are conditioned to fit into certain social classes without aspiring for more or contemplating change. Entertainment, sex, and recreational drugs are advertised through hypnopaedic methods to fill in their spare time and eradicate from the root any hint of dread they might feel. Humans don’t age, they don’t get sick, they don’t get emotionally attached to one another in a way that could become —by their understanding— dysfunctional. There are no families, no gods, and no need for anything artistic or beautiful. The way the world is so diligently controlled to maintain order gets the social outcast, Brandon Marx (I’m not entirely sure if Marx is a coincidence) frustrated. He visits a savage reservation and so the story begins.

I’ve made a joke when I started reading it, saying I was reading the Tory manifesto, and to be honest, it does seem like a Tory wet dream —the slogan used in the book even has the word stability in it. Maintaining stability, getting everything and everyone under control, keeping the “savages” closed off in a reservation, implementing and reinforcing social strata, institutionalised racism, and media propaganda, and so on.

Technology has been directed towards creating a perfect world, and the methods used, while ostensibly inhumane, the overall contentment of the community has rendered such abstract concepts as immorality or oppression redundant. Nonsensical.

The flawlessness of this book, however in my opinion, is exactly where it has fallen short. The author has opted for perfection over beauty, substance over style, so much that I found the book to be painfully tedious and even soporific —no exaggeration, I fell asleep reading it so many times. It started off with a spark that slowly dwindled after the end of the first couple of chapters because nothing really goes on. There’s hardly any character development, no conflict, even the rebellious characters are restricted by their own conditioning, they fade out one after the other and the only thing left is the community.

It’s not your average entertaining book. If you’re reading this for entertainment, stop reading after Chapter II because there’s all you need to know about how. Beyond that, it’s all about why. That’s where it gets controversial and thought provoking. The question of whether civilisation really is the best thing for humanity —something I’ve often wondered myself, having been raised in a developing country. Drawing a parallel, I often see the Western world the way one would view the New World, with everything readily available and all the problems either solved or compensated for. I sigh in frustration and say, “everything’s so easy!” to which I’m often met with a scoff and a “you say that like it’s a bad thing.”

Recommended, definitely.


8. MOTHER NIGHT By Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut is a master of wit, and of the best authors to have ever existed. There are many aspects of his style that are singular, but what fascinates me the most is his perfect timing. While most writers know what to say, he knows when to say it.

Through his minimalistic prose, introduction of unforgettable characters and events imbued by the trademark Vonnegutesque bleakness, nihilistic pessimism with the occasional glimpse of hope and dark humour, he’s captured the woes of war, love, and subsequent despair of the two in the roller-coaster of emotions that is Mother Night.

The story is told as the confessions of Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a Nazi war criminal, or so he was told. As the mockery of something as serious as Nazi propaganda plays out, the lines are blurred, and the only thing made abundantly clear much as it is often a recurring theme in Vonnegut’s books is that WWII was a fucking bonkers era in history.

Mother Night is a book to read in one sitting*. It is short and simple, but will challenge the reader, change the way one views the dichotomy of good and evil, and the helplessness of man. It is a book that will stay with you forever.

5/5 for sure.

*I didn’t read it in one sitting, personal reasons, although I wish I had.


7. ROOM By Emma Donoghue

I’ve made the mistake of watching the film way before I’ve read the book. It was because I didn’t think I’d be able to find the book anywhere here, and didn’t want to wait for too long. As I was watching, I thought, wouldn’t it be great if the book was written in first person as Jack?

And it is.

Writing a child character, first person or not, is one of the most difficult tasks for an adult writer. It’s rarely compelling or convincing, because it’s not easy to remember what being a child was like. Writers often make the child either too smart and precious, or too naive. Emma Donoghue perfectly captured the voice of a child. The incongruity of intellect, the volatility, the way he made sense of everything even when it didn’t, and most importantly, the innocence. Viewing this world through his eyes, he’s just a child that wants to play and loves his Ma, he’s unaware of the damage that’s being done to him, he’s scared, and it will break your heart.

Every chapter of this book is heartbreaking but for different reasons. Even still, it’s so gripping the reader will want to look away but can’t. You’re angry then sad then mellow, and you don’t even know how it happened. Events flow effortlessly and change of pacing happens swiftly, the characters are just as real and convincing as the narrator, since Donoghue managed to convey the flawed nature of humans just as well as the alien, complex nature of a child.

One thing Room has opened my eyes to, something ‘Ma’ has pointed out to Jack and others (not giving much away,) is how little a child needs in order to be society’s idea of ‘normal.’ She managed to provide a healthy environment using only few supplies and all the love a mother can give. Besides the basic necessities of life, that’s all children need.

Room is beautiful and shocking, definitely risky for a writer to go down that path but Donoghue has proven more than capable.



6. THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA By Ernest Hemingway

I’ve been mulling this over for what seems like ages. I thought about abandoning a review altogether and just writing a two sentence long entry, homage to Hemingway, but that would have been lazy.

Thing is, I found this book difficult to digest.

After Paulo Coelho, considering they both have different styles of expressing symbolism and life lessons, this is certainly refreshing. It’s a short book, there isn’t much going on, but comparing the two, The Old Man and the Sea has more to offer than The Devil and Miss Prym.

Here’s my take on the book: Going down a list of things that make a good book, this one is a winner. Coherent plot, perfectly-set pacing, diligent scene illustration, three dimensional character(s?), and most importantly symbolism that doesn’t come off as trying hard. It’s simple and to-the-point, but there’s more to it than let on. There’s more to extrapolate, and there’s room for the reader upon which they can reflect their own emotions. However, while reading this, from beginning to end, I was bereft of all sorts of feelings.

It’s about Santiago overcoming all the obstacles after almost believing he’s doomed to failure. He persists and perseveres, compromising what his own body needs and blindly fighting off whatever gets in his way. Even though in the end he hardly had anything to show for it, winning in the conventional sense was not his end goal. He wanted to feel alive and competent. Catching the fish was irrelevant. Looking at the bigger picture, this is about life as a whole.

Overall, I get what the book was getting at, and I saw the events and characters as if they were real, but emotionally I had no connection whatsoever. Quick pacing and short sentences, it felt automated.

The tip of the iceberg is a method that works for many readers, but not for me. Give me details. Give me a profound psychological analysis of every single one of those details. Mostly I avoid minimalist authors but I have a few exceptions. Sometimes minimalism is absolutely imperative, Kurt Vonnegut is a good example of this, but if I had to choose, I’d go for authors that dig deep.

Admittedly, The Old Man and the Sea is a book I would recommend and always talk about as an example for perfect writing, but wouldn’t want to read it again. I liked it, but didn’t love it. It’s an above average experience, and a nice little gateway to more Hemingway.



This is the first and last experience for me with Paulo Coelho. I’ve heard so much about the guy so wanted to check out a book of his out of curiosity. Let me just say, the book is interesting. The characters are well written and events are well set, but my biggest problem was his prose.

I’ve seen a review saying he writes “in a universal language” and that’s fair enough because it means he’s easy to understand, no matter where you’re from, however, I found it to be boring, condescending, and a bit juvenile. There was nothing challenging about this book. I love a book that gives me a brain work-out, or gets me emotionally involved. This book did neither.

It’s full of life lessons and morals, but the premise is far too obvious to enjoy. Paulo Coelho is really good for quotes on sunset posters, but a whole book is a bit superfluous. I would have enjoyed this book more if it was my 14-year-old self reading it.

Recommended if you’re 14.


4. I LOVED YOU MORE By Tom Spanbauer

I tried to look for that one article where I first read about I Loved You More. Couldn’t find it anywhere. I know it was either posted by or shared by LitReactor, and that’s yet another reason why I’m so glad I have LitReactor in my life. As soon as I saw that article, read the synopsis, I wanted to have the book.

Last time I fully enjoyed a book (and I mean fell in love with it to a point where I had to pause every few sentences because they’re so beautiful that they make you stop in your tracks,) was when I read The Picture of Dorian Gray. I’ve read many books after that, but none got close enough to have that place in my heart. Of course that was until I read I Loved You More. Tom Spanbauer, the Oscar Wilde of the twenty first century.

It’s a story of a man cast out of the world of men, falling into a complicated relationship that turned into an even more complicated love triangle, and cursed with a health crisis. The delicate and gritty reality of romance and grief, perfectly represented, poignant and palpable.

The book is impeccable, written in language so simple yet so rich and heavy. The vulnerability of it, how real it felt, the pain and joy and longing. You have to go where it hurts goes both ways for writer and reader. It’s not one of those books that go by without leaving its mark. It drew me in right from the beginning, and by the end I was crying.

5/5 easily.
I can’t recommend this enough. In fact, I’m going to look into getting the rest of his books. Seriously, no one writes like this guy.

Review, Uncategorized

3. BLACK GUM By J David Osborne

First of all, let me just say the cover of this book is absolutely fucking sexy. It doesn’t just look good, it also feels good. When I first got the book, I kept touching it because it’s so soft and the print is prominent.

Anyway, book molestation aside, this is a pretty solid one. J David Osborne nails it once again, with his gritty, desiccated style, telling a story so engaging I finished it in two sittings (and that’s saying a lot as it takes me months to get through a book usually.)

Not to give away too much, this is about a man having the worst possible kind of rebound. A good man doing bad things in an act of desperation, ending up meeting the most complex, most interesting, and scariest kinds of people. It’s weird, sad, funny, and different. Imagine Mike Patton, but a book.

What I admire about it is that it respects the readers’ intelligence. There’s no tedious character introduction or in-depth description of scenes and atmosphere, because everything is already clearly established in the author’s head –it’s all raw and real, you’re right there where everything’s going on without the author boring you with minor, easily deducible details.

The only reason I’m giving it a 4.5 and not five stars is because the ending kind of fell flat. I was expecting some kind of climax but it felt so lukewarm that if there was one, I clearly missed it. Rounding it up to 5 on Goodreads though because 1) Holy shit, Danny Ames! and 2) This bit made me genuinely chuckle:

“What’s these teardrops mean?”
“Means I’m super sad.” –p.27