Tag Archives: slavery

In Darkness by Nick Lake

9 Apr

11451112I am the voice in the dark, calling out for your help.

Nick Lake‘s In Darkness is the 2013 Printz Award winning story of a nameless teen trapped in the rubble underneath a collapsed hospital after the Haiti earthquake. His only companion in the darkness is a decomposing hand, his own memories, and a psychic connection to Touissant l’Ouverture, a Haitian revolutionary who lived 200 years earlier.

So, this book is…wait for it…dark. And when I say it’s dark, I mean dark in every sense of the word. Half of the narrative’s setting is defined by absolute darkness. The sense of claustrophobia as we experience the narrator’s blindness, his thirst that drives him to drink whatever blood has collected on the floor, to reach out and touch a disembodied hand just to see if his only companion in his coffin is alive, is overwhelmingly visceral.

The subject matter is dark. It is a story of horrible lives, of murder and murderers, of watching your father get hacked apart by machete toting gangsters, of fighting for your country’s freedom only to die in a dungeon on the other side of the world. This is the kind of story that, for the bulk of its telling, makes you want to kill yourself from the overwhelming sense that there is nothing good in the world, at all.

The writing is staggering in its bleak beauty. Some of my favorite quotes include:

“I tried to call out, but bullets are faster than words, and I was just standing there in the middle of all that metal death” (263).

“We have a mouth – we can feel it in our face, an opening into us that can let the spirit out – but when we use it, when we speak, there is no one to listen. The voices that come to us, drifting through the darkness beyond our prison, they might as well be the voices of the dead. (…) We are a slave to this space, to the inevitable decay of trapped things. We can feed ourselves, but there is no food; we can work with our hands and with our minds, but there is nothing on which to work; we have eyes, but there is nothing to see. There is no future and no past. We are in the darkness. We are one” (326-7).

One of my favorite things about this book was the spirit of Om that came through more and more strongly as the narrative progressed; the sense of emptiness and unity, while horribly depressing in context, was also one of the only reoccurring moments in which I, as a reader, felt liberated from the oppressing sense of insurmountable awfulness.

At times I struggled to get through Touissant’s half of the narrative; it just didn’t have the pop that our nameless narrator’s story had. However, I appreciated the parallels of experience that spanned the hundreds of years between their physical lives, and so I was able to deal.

All in all, this is a pretty amazing book that still continues to haunt me even though I finished it about two weeks ago. However, there are parts that can be difficult to get through without wanting to say “fuck this world, I want to die,” so just be forewarned if you do decide to pick it up.

And, just because Biggie Smalls is mentioned every other page, it’s only fitting that he gets the spotlight for this edition’s music match.

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Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

6 Feb

12812550Title: Days of Blood and Starlight
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 517

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil held a wishbone between them. And its snap split the world in two. 

After breaking the enchanted wishbone that held all Karou’s memories of her life as Madrigal, the chimaera resurrectionist’s apprentice beheaded for loving the angel Akiva, Karou finally felt as if she had all the answers regarding her mysterious identity that she had been searching for for her entire life. But within minutes of getting all those answers she also learned that Akiva had betrayed her, and that the age-old war between angels and chimaera had been rekindled as a result of that betrayal. Days of Blood and Starlight picks up right where Daughter of Smoke and Bone left off. Akiva has returned to his regiment of Misbegotten (bastards sired by the Emperor to be soldiers) where he must hide his grief over what he has done, pretending to go along with the enslavement and murder of chimaera so he can covertly try to save and warn as many as he can of their impending slaughter. Meanwhile, Karou has transported what’s left of the chimaera army to a Kasbah in Morocco, where she has taken up Brimstone’s mantle as resurrectionist for the White Wolf. But as Akiva and Karou, in different worlds appearing to work towards different ends, begin to unravel threads of conspiracy, intrigue, and deception, it becomes more and more apparent that they are still both working to the same end: hope for peace.

So, for months now I’ve been getting lackluster feedback about this book from my various friends and coworkers. And I get it, but I disagree. Whereas Daughter of Smoke and Bone was a perfect blend of urban fantasy and high fantasy, to the point that it could potentially appeal to paranormal fans and readers who don’t necessarily loooooooove fantasy, Days of Blood and Starlight is straight up high fantasy. It’s an all out war in another world; even the parts that take place in our world are utterly removed from the world as we know it (excluding the parts with Mik and Zuzana)(and yes I know I just used the word “world” three times in one sentence). While I am 100% cool with this, the genre shift means that Days of Blood and Starlight has a fairly different appeal, so I guess I get the disappointment in some contingencies of the readership.

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

7 Jan

8490112Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 448 pages

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love.

It did not end well.

Karou is a young art student in Prague who has no idea who she actually is. Her hair grows out of her head a luscious shade of blue, she can speak a stupid amount of languages, and her sketch books are filled with hundreds upon hundreds of sketches of ghoulish devils, all with elaborate back-stories that she tells her friends. Only, they’re not just stories. Karou grew up in a devil’s lair; she is the ward of the Wishmonger, a devil named Brimstone who (you guessed it!) deals in wishes, selling them for teeth pulled out of the mouths of corpses by ghastly characters. One day, all over the world, blackened hand prints start showing up on  doors, and people report sighting strange beings who appear human, but whose shadows have wings. When Karou finds a handprint on the door to Brimstone’s shop, she is pulled into an otherworldly war between devils and angels, a war that she has been a part of for much longer than she knows.

This book has been getting an insane amount of hype ever since it came out, and I kept telling myself “by golly, I really want to read that! The next time it’s on the shelf at the library I’ll grab it.” Only, it was never on the shelf, and eventually I had to suck it up and put a hold on it, and thank god I did because this book is da bomb and easily one of the most enjoyable books I read in 2012.

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