“Coming Up For Air” by George Orwell – A review

Written in a Europe on the verge of war, this book reveals itself as dauntingly realistic: an accurate portrait of what it was like to be alive in such tension-filled times.  “Coming Up For Air” is its title, but it could also serve as the accurate description of the act of reading it. George Orwell delivers a story that doesn’t allow you to breath. That is, it does not give the reader an opportunity to digest all the intricate meanings he purports. However, its theme is easy to discern. The approach of an ominous threat which civilization can do nothing about.

George Bowling, 45, is one of those helpless creatures who also wait for the inevitable: war. As a result, Bowling becomes restless about the future. He forebodes evil approaching. That is why a need to narrate an account of his early life arises.

That life as a young boy, a life before the First World War is a time filled with innocence. Bowling permeates it with nostalgia.

Released in 1939

Even though Bowling’s life is fiction, it all feels absurdly realistic. Yet the reason for this deceiving authenticity may reside in the author himself. It is known that Orwell – the author- was about the same age as Bowling – his character – when he wrote the novel. Not only is Orwell’s childhood and first name imprinted in Bowling, but his political views are imprinted in it too. They both despise the Bolsheviks. Both men hate ideologies and mindless propaganda.

Another important aspect about the book’s nature are it’s overwhelming accounts of humanity. Orwell was a journalist which makes people the center of attention in his novels. It becomes evident throughout his works – and this one is no exception – the literary quality contained within his writings.

“Coming Up for Air” may not be qualified to achieve the notoriety that “1984” achieved, yet it is as pertinent and meaningful as the latter.

Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays by George Orwell: A review

Although a writer, Orwell was primarily a journalist. As a result, the sheer necessity to extricate himself from the depiction of something he his witnessing first-hand is quite evident along his works.

What differentiates him from his other novelist-journalists of his epoch such as Steinbeck or Hemmingway is the ability to drop a considerable amount of humanity into his accounts. The essay “A Hanging” – in which Orwell describes how it was to witness a public execution of a prisoner in India – is a perfect example of this. In it, he not only expresses his contempt for the man who is about to die, but he also acknowledges the wrongness of the situation. In “How the Poor Die”, he recounts his memories of his unpleasant stay at Hôpital X in Paris. Once again, he shows affection towards the unfortunate people who died alone and helpless in the corridors of the establishment.

Other than his empathy, Orwell holds a pragmatic view regarding writing, language and communication. “The prevention of Literature” and “Politics and the English Language” are the most conspicuous examples. In these two essays, he argues about the pretentiousness of certain writers, who use ideas to convey words, and not the other way around. One can say that these points of view might have emerged during his years working as a journalist, yet the arguments he utilizes hold enough poignancy to persuade the reader. In essence, and from his perspective, the “ego” should not count when writing. He reveals he writes only when he has something to tell the audience, and not exclusively as means of self-recreation.

Defining someone as “ahead of his time” might be regarded as a cliché or commonplace. But when it comes to portraying George, this needs to be done. This book should be seen as essential. That is, if you the reader wants to explore the mind of a man who lived through most of the pivotal points in the first half of the XX century, although not always fully belonging

Edge of Eternity by Ken Follet – a Review

Mr. Follet may not be the most talented popular writer out there, but he surely makes up for it with intricate and engaging narratives which make bold and assertive statements about political and social issues. For as long as he is been doing it, he has mastered its craft. However, one thing he hasn’t become proficient at: cutting down the manuscript’s length.

The novel, although extremely complete – it covers and solemnly focuses on thirty years of cold-war – lacks character. Not characters: they are plentiful and diverse, however the personality and chemistry between them just isn’t there. As in every historical novel, fictional characters experience and participate in real-world happenings. It obviously doesn’t contribute to the believability of the plot, but it surely is an effective device to tell the desired story, and Follet executes it with class. They are, for the most part, descendants of the characters that made part of the previous two books, and they pretty much resemble them in their actions.

Book 3

To me, the main problem is the novel’s length; some scenes should, and could have been cut out. It’s not that they’re uninteresting or not compelling, most of them are. However, the sheer abundance of interactions and dramas between the characters play a good part in boring the reader out, and cause mental exhaustion. Of course, not every reader will manifest it, but for the most part, they will lose the engagement they once had when they started the book.

In conclusion, Ken Follet brings goodwill and ambition with him to the word-processor. He has done his research, he has prepared his outline well, but in the end, he doesn’t seem to understand where he could have improved. He ends the trilogy with a bang, but it could have ended with a nuclear explosion. Well, the cold-war didn’t, so I guess it’s all right.

3.5 Stars

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King – A review

Stephen King needs no introduction, and his stories no explanation. They just fill in an entire parallell universe while becoming embeded in eatern civilization’s pop-culture.

In Mr. Mercedes, a 66 year old King does something his rather advanced age could not have permited: irreverence. And, although the formula of the novel might seem overdone, he adds is little twist to it.

Brady Hartsfield is the phsychopath King portrays in this novel. A tormented yet intelligent young man, whose infancy proved troubled. Now, revealing the killer is by no means a spoiler, because you become aware of is identity very early in the novel. Therefore, Mr. Mercedes is not a mystery story, but a well told detective story between Brady, and a retired police officer. Brady had run over 9 people at a job fair and got away with it. Hodges, the detective, is watching tv and considering suicide when he receives a letter from him: “I had pleasure in doing it, but I won’t do it again.” This drives the rest of the plot.The coherent, engaging, well constructed prose, believable characters, situations, it is all there, for us to endure and enjoy.

Engaging, emotional, and most importantly, immensly entertaining, MR. Mercedes brings out the best in popular literature. A must read for all of us who dearly love alternate realities. Our own isn’t enough, after all.

 

 

“The Stand” by Stephen King and the Ebola Virus outbreak

Why did I decided to read “The Stand” again, while an outbreak of Ebola virus started occurring in certain parts of Africa?

Truth is, I don’t really believe in anything other than coincidences, and it’ll stay that way. In an interesting manner, I picked up the book I loathe the most, the one I’ve read with huge glee three years ago. But now I’m an adult, and I am curious to see how my perspective towards that story had changed.

But, to no avail, my search for a different outlook failed. The book is stupendously well written, and the characters and story arch is so believable. As a result,I still look at it in the same way and I still regard it as my favorite book of all time.

And what makes it so interesting?

Is it because of the subject matter: a virus outbreak clears 99% of the human population, leaving the one percent to wander, trying to rebuild a somehow lost species, with evil lurking in every corner? Maybe it was, or maybe because it had the potential to be a timeless tale. Good vs Evil, the oldest story ever told. You might know one other book who uses that formula. Some people call it the bible, others call it primitive fiction. But that besides the point…

Good vs Evil

The reason I consider the 1978 Stephen King novel the best popular novel ever written it is because of the influence and impact it had on other well-known stories in western civilization, over the past thirty years. Lost, the ABC television show was pretty much entirely based on the philosophy of “The Stand”: the strongness of the characters, the evil entity wich dominated all of those people, and so on. Or perhaps, flash forward to today, where the most popular TV Show on air “The Walking Dead” as a lot of the same similarities.

The Ebola Virus is one of the many viruses known to man to kill viciously and without mercy but, curiously, it also one of the many who were portrayed by the media as being dangerous to all of the civilization. Somehow, the media propagates the idea of human annihilation, and is fond of it.

The swine flu, the bird flu, just to name a few, all victims of media frenzy and greed. “Captain Trips”, as Stephen King’s created virus was known as, didn’t even give time to media to react. In just a few days, almost all of humanity vanished. And that, folks, is what most resembles the truth. Because sometimes fiction is the representation of reality, a reality we can’t even fathom to replicate and build. Because, believe me… if an epidemic struck, we wouldn’t even have time to print a newspaper. It would be that quick.


“The Stand” is a book you must read. An ode to storytelling. Perhaps one of the few pop novels still relevant a hundred years from now.

Does Life have a purpose? “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins

We can all agree, without fearing a disagreement of sorts, that the oldest question ever proposed by a human being is : what is the purpose of life? At this point, it might even seem cliché to even formulate it, but it is poignant to do so, for the purpose of this review.ImagemLife is ephemeral… well, many religious and spiritual deviants may disagree with that argument, for they give to much relevance to the word “why”. But what really begs the question, through a scientific and rational point of view, is indeed “how”. How are we here? What is the fundamental thing that needs to happen in order for us to be here at this exact moment, breathing while reading this.

According to Richard Dawkins – evolutionary biologist and author of The Selfish Gene – only genes have a purpose. When it comes down to survival, they really are the main deceivers, and even though they don’t own a conscience they pretty much dominate the path life takes, ever since the first cell was able to be formed (We still don’t know how, but there are some great probable hypothesis). But why is it all of ephemeral, and genes aren’t?

The answer is very complex indeed, and it involves those same genes we talk about. It always does and because “DNA works in mysterious ways”, we cannot predict what the molecule of life is going to do next. But one thing science is certain of is that genes work only to their own personal benefit per se. When a living being reproduces, he is assuring that is genetic code is successfully transferred to the next being. This process goes on for millions of years, spanning thousands of generations.

Richard Dawkins poses this question: are genes selfish? We can most certainly assume they are, because if they weren’t, we wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t have read the book, and Dawkins wouldn’t have written it. Genes work for their own good, because they have to make sure they replicate, making sure that natural selection acts upon them, and evolution as a process becomes a reality.

Life is ephemeral, but genes aren’t. They have a purpose, perhaps the only thing in the entire universe who has it. But the first person to make life not seem like a miracle was Mr. Charles Darwin. As a result of his work, he was able to tone down the need to question the meaning of life. Until the 19th century, it was thought that God was the entity responsible for all things, living or dead. But, after years of hard work and detailed observation, he came to the conclusion that life went through some metamorphosis.

Today, we still hear some ignorant people denying the darwinian school of thought, some blinded by unadulterated faith, others just too dumb to understand it properly. But it doesn’t really matter if you believe in it or don’t because we cannot control the outcome of the universe. In other words, it doesn’t really matter what your opinion is about it: he’s not a teenager, you know. He’s 13 billion years old.

The selfish gene is, by all means, a wonderful and brilliant book. Without ever disrespecting the works of Darwin, Dawkins successfully reformulates his main ideas, pointing towards the genes as the main characters in evolution.
4/5 stars