Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Review: x0

Title of Book: x0
Author: Sherrie Cronin
Published: February 20, 2012
Available: Amazon

x0 is a compelling tale of worlds apart and how they come to interact. The author has drawn extensively on her own personal experience in the field of geophysics where she has interpreted seismic data in the oil industry for many years, as well as her research into Nigeria: covering its historical, political, economical and social  aspects.

While the leading plot appears to be the tale of a woman ruthlessly misused as a pawn in a dangerous political game, and the efforts of those who set out to save her - what I found most compelling is the web of human interaction, not only weaved through our increasing immediate access to each other through technological means, but also through the telepathy of the key characters.

When we think of telepathy, many of us still think back to the Duke University experiments, where a person in one room was meant to transmit, through mind alone, images to a person in another room. x0 takes a much more sophisticated approach to the whole notion of telepathy - or better stated: levels of communication which go beyond what is generally accepted as possible according to “natural” laws. Some people might think that we are entering here into the area of Science Fiction, but I don’t think so. Many of us have experienced things that we cannot explain by so-called “natural laws” - usually things involving people we are close to. x0 is taking this one step further - building upon what appears to exist and hypothesizing on where it may take us.

Perhaps what appears the most far-fetched in the book is the philosophy of the secret organization, which calls itself x0 (or ONE). Yet, even here, the author doesn’t pull us away into a fantasy world. The organization’s philosophy is just that - a “philosophy” - which is accepted even to different degrees by the members of the organization, themselves.  What is also interesting is that the members of this organization can find their own special place within the organization, no matter if they believe themselves to be religious or not - or whether or not they believe in God.

I found the book well written and a compelling read. Moving back and forth between the minds of the key characters proved to be quite effective and the characters are constructed in such a way as to complement each other in the telling of the story.

The one thing that I found difficult to relate to, however, is the inclusion of “links” in the book. I am not against the idea of introducing links, especially if this creates a type of hypertext which allows the reader to interactively decide in which direction the plot will lead him/her. But this is not the case here. The introduction of links is meant to optionally supply more information about certain things mentioned in the book. However, I can’t see a reader following these links in the midst of reading without losing an essential part of the rhythm. Also the sudden appearance of the word “Buy” beside links to a song, tends to suddenly exclude us from the writing, if only for a moment. In this case, I would have  preferred the author to have used footnotes - putting a number beside each place where a link is desired and include all of the numbered footnotes as a list of links in a special section at the end of the book.

I look forward to reading more works by this author.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book Review: Margaret of the North

Title of Book: Margaret of the  North
Author: E Journey
Published: April 25, 2012
Available: Amazon, Smashwords

The romantic classics follow a rather simple recipe. Man and woman meet. There is immediately an underlying attraction, but before they can act upon it, events lead them astray and they grow to despise each other, even more so because of the sexual tension which haunts them. But, in the end,  it is true love which conquers all and our hero and heroine join together in a passionate embrace, ensuring us that they will live happily ever after.

There is something smugly satisfying in reading such a happy ending. It doesn’t really matter if we really believe that they will live together happily ever after. For a moment, we collectively share a leap of faith, believing that all is possible, if only we find the right person.

Such endings have satisfied people for a long time - centuries, in fact. But lately, readers seem to want more. They want to know what happens next. Do Darcy and Elizabeth marry? Do their passion and newly found intimacy stand the test of time?

And this is where the sequels fit in. Not sequels written by the original authors. They have long since left this world. But sequels written by new authors.

In most cases, the new authors try to maintain the colour and texture of the original work. Where they decide to take us, regarding the progression of the plot, is another matter. Much of this depends on their own view of the world. Do they believe that love will continue to conquer all, despite the mundane trials and tribulations of daily life? Or do they believe that passion and intimacy will slowly fade away.

In “Margaret of the North”, a sequel to Elizabeth Gaskell’s “North and South”, E. Journey chooses the first course. Throughout the sequel, the passion and intimacy between Margaret and John not only show no signs of fading, but appear to grow in intensity. But, whereas this may pay homage to our romantic desires, it does not make for the best reading. Much of the strength of the original story was in the conflict between Margaret and John which leads to their realization of their love for each other in the end.
Our expectancy, as to where this conflict may lead us, makes for compelling reading. But in the sequel, things are a little too perfect, and although the repetitive text informing us of their love for each other may be reassuring, it leaves no room for expectation, and makes for very slow reading at times.

Another source for conflict in the original story was the goings on at the mill. Would the mill keep on running, would the workers strike, would the owners of the mill understand the needs of the workers better. These concerns were not only an integral part of the evolving plot, but also had a significant effect upon the relationship between Margaret and John. However, this compelling conflict is lost in the sequel. Margaret has received a sizable inheritance and John no longer needs to worry about how to finance the reopening of the mill. Margaret also has the means now by which to finance her progressive ideas about improving workers’ conditions, something which John fully supports. The only real remaining source of conflict is Margaret’s relationship with John’s mother. John’s mother cannot find it in her heart to accept or like Margaret. However,  except for the sadness that this causes in Margaret’s heart, it has no significant effect on John and Margaret’s relationship, nor on other things which take place.

While the sequel is fairly well written, I found that the method of telling the story through the eyes, and more specifically - through the minds of the characters, left me somewhat detached. Reflections ran on for a little too long and I found too much of the text repetitive. And without elements of conflict, the characters seemed too one dimensional, at times. I also found that too much effort was invested in retelling many of the events that took part in the first book, as if only in this way could we truly understand what was transpiring. I would have preferred that the understanding of events in the original to be more subtly presented.

As  you may have guessed - although I consider myself a romantic by nature - I am also a pessimist as to how long romance can last. If you do not share such pessimism, you may see many of the things I have written about quite differently in your own reading of the book.