26 May 2017

The Study: Envisioning my Dream Reading Space


No sooner had I declared my writing hiatus than I was approached by the good people of Arhaus to take part in their reading nook project, and write a post about my dream reading space. I would have complete creative freedom, and I was more than welcome to use pictures of their products for inspiration in exchange for some endorsement. Naturally, I got curious. What is this company that has taken interest in my blog?  


After a short Google search, I learnt that Arhaus is a furniture manufacturer that was founded in 1986 in Cleveland, by Jack Reed and his son, John. The name itself – Arhaus - is a cross between Århus, which is a city in Denmark, and the term “our house”. The company claims to adhere to a policy of using recycled material, and abstaining from using wood from the endangered rain forests. 
I got interested in this project for several reasons. One being that it would give me an opportunity to branch out, and try something new. But it would also give me an opportunity to talk about something that I actually care about, namely reading. Also, let me state in advance that I am not getting paid by Arhaus to write this post.


I really wanted to partake in this project, but there was still the issue that made me go on hiatus in the first place: the finals. They're only ten days away now, and it’s getting hard to see anything above the growing pile of books and notepads. However, if there’s anything that I learnt in this past year is that writing is important for my emotional well-being. I was reminded by my brother of the short story, The Door in the Wall by H.G. Welles, about a man who would sometimes encounter a mysterious door that led to a fantastical world, a garden of Eden. The catch was that the door would only appear when the hero was about to reach an important milestone in his life. For the past eight months, writing has been my door in the wall, and I really wanted to go through it this time, finals be damned! For me, writing satisfies a kind of hunger that no other art form or hobby ever could. Finally, all it took was a gentle push from my family, a.k.a. the only people I ever listen to, and here we are.
The dream reading space. What is my dream reading space? Where would I like to be the most when I'm about to immerse myself in a good story? As with many other things in life, there is a discrepancy between our expectations and the real life. Between the fantasy image of the perfect moment with a good book, and the reality of trying to carve out the time to actually sit down and read.
In my preparation for this post, I ransacked my own mind in search for my fantasy reading sweet spot, and what I found were specific images that have been imprinted in my mind by pop culture and advertisement. There’s Belle's library from Beauty and the Beast, in itself an image that has become iconic among book lovers. There's the Batcave from Tim Burton’s Batman (Michael Keaton, FTW!). But if I really am honest with myself, there is one image that stands out the most for me. I call this piece “The Study”. Let me illustrate:
In the season one episode of New Girl titled"Fancyman, part 1", Jess and Nick go to a party at the mansion of Jess' friend, Russel. Nick hates the mansion at first, as it stands for everything that he hates – rich snobs, arrogance, and excess. But then he enters Russel’s study and everything changes. He literally falls in love with this room, and with its décor. Suddenly, he realises that this room represents everything that Nick isn’t, but wishes himself to be – a successful and accomplished man, who is respected by his peers, and owns a lot of cool, expensive stuff. Although Nick’s behaviour is exaggerated for comedic effect, I still find his reaction to seeing Russel’s study totally believable. And not just because he wants to be as rich and successful as Russel.  




The truth is, I didn’t make this connection when I first saw this episode, but now that do think about it, I always wanted to have study like the one that Nick fell in love with. It is an image I have carried with me since early childhood, after having read one too many Sherlock Holmes stories. The study is a room where you can enjoy the faint and yet distinct smells of books, and old furniture. It’s a room that invites you to sit down, take a deep breath and just read. The colours here are dark, but soothing. There are wall to wall bookshelves, filled with absolutely every book you ever wanted to read. There are collectibles and souvenirs. But they're not just things. These objects tell a story; they work as a reflection of the owner's personality (in my case, I imagine a row of Vinyl Pop action figures). 





It isn’t the physical space itself or the symbols of materialism and comfort that I find so attractive in my dream study. Rather it’s what “the study” represents – accomplishment, self-assurance, and the sense of inner peace.  And, of course, it also represents all the free time you have so that you can read all the books on those wall to wall bookshelves. You don’t have to go anywhere. There are no chores to be done, no petty distractions of the real world. Just you and a book in your lap.
So much for the fantasy. Reality is hectic. Reality is filled with surprises and it requires responsibility and attention. In reality, my study would be an unholy mess. Think balls of yarn on the desk. Think dust bunnies hiding in the corners. The truth is, I would be too far away from feeling that inner peace because I would be too distracted by the mess.

In reality, I read whenever I get the time, and that means that the “dream” reading space is wherever I am at the moment. Most of the time, I prefer to read in my living room. But if the book is a good one, it doesn’t really matter where I'm reading it. I read Asimov’s The Robots of Dawn in a single afternoon, while lying on my bed. Trains are also a good place to read, I think that most of us can agree on that. Coincidentally, the only reason I could finish Asimov’s Foundation was because I read it on a train, and had nothing else to do with my time (that was pre-smartphones, mind you). Of course, now I love that book, and the whole series it spun, and all that thanks to that one long train ride
.


Reading is a cherished pastime for many of us, and whether you read to escape reality or to enjoy a good story, you want to be able to fully immerse yourself in the story. That immersion demands peace and quiet. It demands your full attention. And most importantly, it demands time. In a world where everything happens so fast, where we get frustrated with the slow wi-fi, and get crushed by the weight of our own expectations, being able to take a deep breath and just read for a couple of hours is somewhat of a luxury. But it's an important luxury. One that is sometimes necessary for our emotional well-being.   



***
So, this was my *somewhat* commercial post. Like I said, I'm not getting paid for this. But if you ask me to collaborate with a company that is environmentally conscious, in a project that allows me to express myself creatively and take a well-deserved break from all the studying, I say, "Why not?". Two of the pictures I used in this post are from Arhaus.com and if you ask me, their products really are beautiful. I also posted some links, so you can check them out. 

As for me, I am thanking you for your time, and diving right back into the ocean of caffeine and despair.  

Arhaus.com

Arhaus, the Blog


7 May 2017

Weekly Small Talk #7: Blog News and Finals

Hello all and welcome to Weekly Small Talk, an original series, that gives me an excuse to talk about anything even remotely related to books and popular culture.



Ever since I went back to school, maintaining an active life here, on this blog, has been more of a struggle than I wanted to admit to myself. The last time I was studying full time was five years ago, and even then, I didn't have any hobbies or side projects that required this amount of time and attention. Needless to say when I plunged into this thing called college last September, I had a bad grasp of what I was getting into. And it wasn't just the school itself, but the full list of extra-curricular stuff that our wonderful Faculty of Odontology at Malmö University has to offer. I'm not complaining. I haven't had this much fun since... well, ever.

That being said, something had to give. For instance, I had to quit my tutoring job, which was bringing me a lot of joy. And then there was this blog which, even though it stings to admit it, I have been kind of neglecting. I haven't been posting as often as I wanted to, nor have I been able to provide you with the kind of content that I have been aspiring to. And I don't think the main problem here was the amount of school work and after school fun stuff I've been so busy with. Rather, it was a tug of war between my inherent laziness and my high aspirations. I always wanted to do more than just review books on this blog, but because I almost always ended up binging shows on Netflix or just checking my Instagram feed, I didn't have the time to write all those amazing articles and do the necessary blog maintenance.

This has been my not-so-subtle way of saying that in the future, I will be working on improving my time management and battling the laziness within me, but that for now, I will have to take a break from blogging. You see, the finals are coming, which means that for the next four weeks, I will be studying for the finals, while still doing my regular case work, and having my usual clinic hours. I don't want to do this, but I also don't want to clog this blog with pointless fillers, just so that I can keep the pretence of being active. That's just not cool.

Thank you, my awesome readers, for being so cool and understanding.

And, once the gruesome exam season is over, and I've had my much-needed rest, I am going to come back to my full blogging form, so look forward to more book reviews, and Weekly Small Talks. Also, I will be starting new projects, once the summer has kicked in. Firstly, I'm going to start a new series of reviews of books that were later adapted into popular movies. This is something that I wanted to do for a long time, and once I'm done memorising the names of all the facial nerves, this will be a fun project to dive into.

Secondly, in the anticipation of the upcoming season eleven of The X-files, I will be doing... something. I still don't know what, though. What I want to do the most is an X-files episode guide, starting from the Pilot all the way up to the season ten finale. Then again, I also want to review the comics (even though they're no longer canon), and some of the books. We'll see.

For over a year now, this blog has basically been my only creative outlet. I often get the feeling that I've carved a nice little comfort zone for myself, and as a result, I haven't been active outside of it. There are so many other ways to express yourself and to connect with other creators. And this is what I want to do this summer. For instance, what is this Reddit thing I keep hearing about?

I'm looking forward to doing all kinds of fun stuff here once the finals are over. In the meantime, you can still follow me on Twitter @dinara_tengri, and on my Facebook page, Dinara Tengri Book Reviews. Thank you again for being so cool, and I will see you again in a few weeks.







3 May 2017

Book Review: The Princess Diarist

Title: The Princess Diarist
Author: Carrie Fisher
Year of Publishing: 2016
Published by: Blue Rider Press
Source: I bought it

The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie.

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a (sort-of) regular teenager.

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.

Happy May te 4th! It's Star Wars day and to celebrate it, I read Carrie Fisher's memoir, The Princess Diarist. Prepare for a review full of nothing but wild guesses and assumptions.

The Princess Diarist is an interesting book as it sheds light on Fisher's relationship with the character that came to play such a big part in her life, as well with the entire institution that is Star Wars. I'm not the one to comment on how Fisher felt about "being" Princess Leia or about having her whole life defined by that one character, but that this relationship was a complicated one is an understatement. Take, for example, her feelings about appearing at sci-fi conventions. 

According to the author herself, she liked spending money when there was money to be spent and when the finances became a problem, she reluctantly agreed to attending conventions.  She states plainly that it wasn't her desire to connect with her fans that drove her to being a recurring star at fan-fests. In her own honest and unapologetic way, Fisher states that she always considered her participation in sci-fi conventions as "celebrity lap dancing": 

"... the exchange of a signature for money, as opposed to a dance or a grind. Instead of stripping off clothes, the celebrity removes the distance created by film or stage. Both traffic in intimacy." 



Wow, that's one helluva way of describing something that may be one of the most exhilarating experiences in a fan's life! But the lap dance analogy is Fisher's own. Some fans may disagree with her on that, but we must respect that this was how she felt. Also, consider the lap dance analogy from her own perspective. She recalls being accosted by the adoring fans of her mother - Debbie Reynolds - at a young age: 

"In a way, she belonged to the world, and while most of the portion of it that appreciated her was content to do so at a distance, the true fans seemed to want to assert a kind of ownership by coyly requesting, pitifully pleading, or aggressively demanding, that she provide them with their coveted token, proof to all and for all time, in the pre-selfie era, of an encounter!" 

My take away from it is not that Fisher disliked her fans. In fact, she states quite the opposite more than once throughout the book, and recalls some of these meetings with appreciative fondness. But there was a clear line between her public life and her personal life, and she seemed keen on keeping that line clear. Socialising with fans forced her to let the public life into her personal. To me, this would qualify as having my Instagram account open for public, thus letting anyone on Earth take part in my personal everyday life. And, yes, my Instagram account is closed, and it mostly consists of selfies in scrubs. 

The chapters where she talks about meeting her fans also made me think about the fan culture itself, and how it often isn't enough for us to just like a movie and to appreciate it for what it is - a work of fiction. For some of us it becomes a matter of possession. Luke, Leia and the gang - these characters are dear to us, and their stories become meaningful to us. They become more than just good fiction. They help us deal with hardships, and they inspire us in everyday life. We feel connected to these characters; we feel protective of them. 

The flip side of the coin is that we oftentimes feel like we "own" these stories, and these characters. A feeling of possession that is somewhat self-delusional. When we don't like the changes the creators introduce to the established movie world, we take it personally; we feel betrayed ("I hate George Lucas for ruining Star Wars!"). Movies like Star Wars provide us with means to escape our reality; they are beautiful illusions, and we become very keen on keeping our illusions intact. We don't want our heroes to change, and since ageing is the most inevitable form of change, it is something that we fans have a hard time accepting. How dare Carrie Fisher not look like a nineteen-year-old at fifty-eight? Why can't Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny look like they did in 1993? Change is hard to accept, because it cuts through that perfect illusion like a double-bladed lightsaber. 

There is a lot more to be said about the fan culture and the complicated relationship between the creators and the fans, and that is a conversation for another time. Here, I will simply say that Fisher's book gives us a unique and even sobering look at this relationship. 

The behind-the-scenes look at the filming of Star Wars shows how little we actually know about the movie we love so much. We can only enjoy the finished product, but it is very rarely that a fan gets to be a part of the creative process. This realisation dawned on me when I was reading the chapters about the time Fisher spent on the set of Star Wars. There are no spectacular moments here, no movie magic, no fairy dust sprinkled over the cast and the crew. Turns out, filming Star Wars was a day job. The set was a workplace, and like in any workplace, there were conflicts brewing, tensions rising, and new relationships taking shape. 

This is where we come to the "pièce de résistance" of this book, that is, Fisher's affair with Harrison Ford. An account that some critics have labelled "cringe-worthy". Personally, I don't see anything here that can be considered cringe-worthy, except for the simple fact that Ford was married at the time of their affair. Hence the ever-present feeling of awkwardness and unease that comes with the instances of tenderness and make out sessions.  

Again, I'm not the one to comment on the nature of their relationship, other than, "OMG, Han Solo and Princess Leia had sex in real life!". What I can comment on is the way Fisher writes about it, and make my own wild assumptions as to how their relationship made her feel. Fisher talks about their affair with incredible honesty, and the whole thing just drips with angst, unaddressed emotions, and unrequited affections. It seems like in that brief affair with her co-star, all her insecurities and ghosts of previous relationships manifested themselves, making her question her worth and doubt herself.

If you hunger for the juicy details about the more physical aspects of Fisher and Ford's time together you will be vastly disappointed. This isn't a tell-all. This is a reflection, a contemplative look back on what must have been an important moment in a young woman's life.  

The reflections of the more mature Carrie Fisher, told from the perspective only four decades can give you are juxtaposed nicely with the excerpts from the diary that Fisher was writing at that time of her clandestine relationship with Ford. There is a lot to be said about this diary. Firstly, I was genuinely surprised by the maturity and depth the nineteen-year-old Princess Leia showcased in that diary. I was fascinated by her prose and her poetry alike. Secondly, these writings reveal so much about the inner workings of the young actress. Perhaps they reveal too much. 

The Princess Diarist is a great book. It's beautiful in its honesty, and charming in its naiveté. It's funny and self-aware. The language is crisp, sharp, and witty. Fisher isn't afraid to laugh at herself, and this self-awareness gives the narrative an edge. This is one of the books that invite you to read it again. 


My rating: 4 stars 

21 April 2017

Weekly Small Talk #6: Return of The X-files

Welcome to this very special edition of Weekly Small Talk. It's an original meme where I usually talk about anything that is remotely related to books and popular culture. 

Warning: this post contains spoilers for X-files season ten.  

This week, I already talked about my rescue book haul. But when I woke up this morning, my Twitter and Facebook feeds had a surprise for me: 

The X-files is coming back for a new season.


"Did I get it right?", I asked myself. The X-files is coming back. The filming is scheduled this summer, and the new season will most likely premiere in 2018. To be completely honest, the news wasn't that much of a surprise. We all saw it happen. And by "we all" I mean the "we, the fans". The way Fox and the creators were talking about it, it was a question of "when", not "if". Obviously, both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson have busy working schedules, and making a new season happen, even a short one, must present somewhat of a logistical nightmare to all those included. 

I was willing to wait. An old sentimental fan like me could wait for an indefinite amount of time, as long as I would get to see the original cast back again. This may not turn into another Star Trek reboot, and if that nightmare scenario will someday play out, count me out.

Season ten was good. Not great, but strong, original and - most importantly - true to the spirit of the original series. It seems like it's the new mythology that has been the thorn in the side of many critics and fans, but the main problem with that season was the run time. Six episodes were simply not enough to tell all the stories the writers wanted to tell. I liked the new mythology. It was a fresh take on the old canon, and come on, would it really be that much better if Carter and Co just rehashed the same old stories they wrote twenty years ago? That being said, trying to kick-start the new mythology in just two episodes wasn't very smart.



Now, it seems, we will be getting ten episodes, instead of six. Perfect! I think that if done right, ten episodes will be just enough to resolve the cliffhanger in the latest finale, explore this new mythology and maybe finally re-introduce William Sculder (that is, the dynamic duo's secret son). But that means that the episodes will have to be condensed, tight, and that the writers can't be wasting precious time on characters like Miller and Einstein. At this point in the series, we don't need new characters. But if the writers will insist on introducing new members to the X-files family, they will have to contribute something to the story, instead of just being caricatures. As you can guess, I really hated Miller and Einstein.  

There is so much I want to see in season eleven. I want Robert Patrick to reprise his role as John Doggett. I want Alex Krycek back (make him a human-alien hybrid, for all I care, just bring him back!). I want to know what happened to William, and if Scully having alien DNA means that her blood is now all green and acidic. I want Monica Reyes come out and say that she didn't really work for the Cigarette-Smoking Man, and that it was all a big prank. I want the make-up team to get a better wig for Gillian. I want more dry and endearing sittings at Skinner's office. Most importantly, I want the same level of originality, good writing and acting that not only made The X-files a pop-culture phenomenon and a template for so many TV-shows that followed it, but a show that still resonates with sci fi fans all over the world. 

Okay, now that I made my part in sharing this news and giving my two cents on the matter, I can finally show you how this news makes me feel: 

 







  

19 April 2017

Book Review: Phantom Eyes

Title: Phantom Eyes (Witch Eyes #3)
Author: Scott Tracey
Year of publishing: 2013
Published by: Flux

Source: the Malmö city library.

You can also read my reviews for the two first books in the series - Witch Eyes and Demon Eyes.

Every child in Belle Dam is taught about the feud from an early age. There are ‘our’ people and ‘their’ people. Friends and enemies. Associates and strangers. It’s the kind of town where eyes are always watching, and you don’t need a reason to sell out your neighbors.

But the feud is a lie. As a new wave of fury sweeps through the town, creating a third front to an already overtaxed war, Braden has been broken worse than ever. His innocence? Shattered. His heart? Crushed. His magic? Gone. His new life? Ruined. And this is only the beginning.

Beneath the city lay deep wellsprings of power. The one who controls them is the one who will win the feud. In a city filled with puppet masters, Braden must elude their strings and end the feud once and for all. But first, he must outsmart his father, evade Catherine’s dark magic, regain what was stolen from him, trick a phantom who refuses to die, and foil a demon’s master plan.

Even then, he may not survive. Because power is a problem, and victory comes with a cost…


Okay, it's the last one in the series. Or is it? 

I'm not really sure what happened with Phantom Eyes, but here is where this series lost me. Or maybe I just got lost within this book's many spells, rules and in-universe logic. Where the first book managed to set up a strong world and tell the beginning of a very captivating story, it's the second book that really lived up to this series' potential; it explored the characters and the many complicated rules and traditions of this world. The story sizzled. It burned bright. 

Perhaps it burned a little too bright, because when time came to finish this most epic of tales, there wasn't much fire left to keep the story going. Sure, part of that can be explained by how short my attention span really is, and that after a couple of books, I just got tired of reading about the same characters, doing the same old thing. 

For the most part, though, I think the culprits are the characters themselves. And the plot. And the story. The whole shebang. I get that it's difficult to live up to the expectations set by the previous book, especially if that book was awesome, and the bar was set pretty high. Not only does Phantom Eyes fail to live up to the sizzle of Demon Eyes, but it also fails to generate its own sizzle, and keep me invested in the story. 

I mean, there is so much at stake, and at the same time there's no sense of urgency, no tension. At some point in the book, the story gets so entangled in this world's rules and history that it has trouble moving forward, and actually going somewhere. 

The story starts out promising, and then slowly but surely fizzles out. That includes the romance between Braden and Trey. When they first met these two in Witch Eyes, sparks were flying. It was the forbidden romance between two teenage boys from two feuding families. "Oh, Trey Lansing, Trey Lansing! Wherefore art thou Trey Lansing?". In Demon Eyes, their relationship became more infuriating as Braden was chasing Trey who was being cold and distant (for reasons I now cannot recall), but the tension was still there. In this book, it's Braden who's being cold and distant and Trey is doing all the chasing, although now the tension is gone, and it feels like the two of them are just going through the motions. 

Phantom Eyes is by no means a bad book, but it is a disappointing one, both as a sequel and as its own work of fiction. It's the final book in the series, but not the last one as there is a prequel, titled Homecoming. Maybe I'll get around to it someday. But for now, I feel like I'm done with this series. 


My rating

Plot: 3 stars
Story: 3 stars
Characters: 3 stars
Language: 4 stars

Total: 3 stars




17 April 2017

Weekly Small Talk #5: Rescue Book Haul

Welcome to Weekly Small Talk, an original feature where I talk about anything related to books or popular culture. This week it's time for another book haul. But not just any book haul. My school library is having a major book purge, getting rid of the so called "expired" books, and as soon as I saw this abomination take place, I could not just walk by. I mean, what kind of a person would I be if I let a perfectly good copy of Fahrenheit 451 be thrown out and recycled into wrapping paper, just because nobody wants to loan it? 

                                       

Never in my life have I brought home this many used books. Ten books, to be specific. I also took an old biochemistry text book, but I'm stashing it in my locker (it's very heavy). So, without further ado, here are the books that I have "rescued" from the great purge: 


Tusen och en Natt (Arabian Nights)

No Longer at Ease, by Chinua Achebe

Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (now I have four copies of this book in four different languages)

Don Quijote, by  Miguel de Cervantes

The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer

Timmarna (The Hours), by Michael Cunningham

The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling

Spirits of the Dead: Tales and Poems, by  Edgar Allan Poe

Högläsaren (The Reader), by Bernard Schlink

In other news, I have just finished the final book in the Witch Eyes series, so we can all look forward to that review.



9 April 2017

Book Review: The End of Eternity

Title: The End of Eternity
Author: Isaac Asimov
First published in 1955
I read the 2000 re-issue by Voyager

His name is Andrew Harlan. He is an Eternal: a member of a highly exclusive organisation. He is a Technician, and his job is to range through past and future centuries, monitoring and even altering Time's myriad cause-and-effect relationships. The Reality Changes Harlan initiates may affect the lives of up to fifty billion people. Above all, therefore, a Technician must be dispassionate. An emotional make-up is a distinct handicap. 

But when he meets Noÿs, Harlan falls victim to a phenomenon older than Time itself- love. It is then that he realizes that years of self-discipline must be cast aside. He must use the awesome technique of the Eternals to twist Time so that he and Noÿs might survive - together. 


Would you kill Baby Hitler to prevent World War II? It's a classic example of questions that philosophers like to ask to illustrate the issues of morality and ethics (and to sound smart and deep in the process). It's a question to which there is no real answer. Mostly because time travel hasn't been invented and the opportunity to off Hitler in infancy has yet to present itself. But also because we cannot predict what consequences an action like this one would have in the long run. But suppose we could make that predicition?

In The End of Eternity, Asimov gives you this opportunity. He depicts an entire society of men - the Eternals, who have taken it upon themselves to travel back and forth in time and micro-manage reality in order to prevent catastrophes, world wars and other less pleasant aspects of human activity. These Eternals live in a parallel dimension called the Eternity (makes sense), which allows them to manipulate reality without being affected by the changes.

Our protagonist is an Eternal by the name of Andrew Harlan. He's a Technician, which means that his job is to execute the changes. Going back to the Baby Hitler example, it would be Harlan's job to kill him, or at least to provide his parents with a prophylactic.

Being a Technician is a tough job to say the least, because even the tiniest change Harlan will make will inadvertently affect the lives of billions of people. A Technician must leave his emotions out of his job, and be dispassionate, and rational. Harlan does his job well, because he believes that he's doing it for a greater good. Until he meets a woman.

Noÿs is a secretary that has been hired from the real world temporarily. Despite Harlan's best efforts, he falls in love with Noÿs, and she falls in love with him. But there's one problem: a reality change has been scheduled, and Harlan is supposed to make that change. And when he does, Noÿs will be erased from existence.

Going by the blurb, the plot seems simple enough: a man must choose between his duty and his heart. But nothing is that simple when it comes to Isaac Asimov. There are twists and turns; there are spies and political mind games. The final plot twist threw me off at first, but at the same time it's so very Asimov from the foreshadowing down to the payoff, that I can't believe I didn't see it coming a mile away.


There is one detail in this story that I didn't buy at first, especially since the entire plot hinges upon it. And that is the way Harlan falls for Noÿs. It happens so fast that it borders on #instalove, and the whole thing just seemed forced to me. But the more I thought about it, the more it started to make sense to me. When we first meet Harlan, he is in his early thirties, and still a virgin. Hell, he's never even met a real woman before. Eternals live almost completely isolated from the real world and Technicians, due to the nature of their job, are more isolated still. Technicians aren't allowed to let their emotions affect them, making them the most emotionally repressed bastards of the bunch. When you know where Harlan is coming from, it becomes easier to understand how he can fall for a beautiful woman so fast.

This book is short. It's very self-contained and condensed, and it leaves you wanting more. It doesn't overstay its welcome and it's refreshing to see an author who can tell exactly what he wants in just under two hundred pages. What I do miss here is a more developed world-building, and a closer look at the characters' emotional make-up. The Eternity feels very isolated and I don't feel like I can get a good grasp of this world.

But that is precisely the point. The Eternity is an isolated and lonely world, filled with isolated and lonely people. The Eternals don't interact with each other outside of their work. They have been torn away from their families, and are forced to spend most of their lives in an artificial environment. Every man here is a deserted island. We don't get to see the full scope of their emotions, because emotions have been bred out of them. They take to various hobbies and vices (like smoking) to fill the void, and when their feelings do take the upper hand sometimes they don't know how to handle them.

As outsiders, the Eternals may observe the real world, and make predictions and calculations, but they may never be a part of it, and they stay for the large part unaffected by the changes they make. Which begs the question: do the Eternals have the moral right to tamper with history? They claim to be doing it for the good of mankind, but is it really up to them to decide what that "good" is supposed to be? What does it matter to them what the future holds if they won't be a part of it in the first place?

We see the Eternity solely through the eyes of Harlan, and it is through his journey that we become aware of the flaws of his society. In this respect, Harlan reminds me of Guy Montag from Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Both Harlan and Montag have been indoctrinated by their respective societies to believe in certain truths, and both must gradually come to a realization that there is something inherently wrong about their philosophies. Not that the Eternals are as bad as an army of book burning firemen, but the parallels are there. Or maybe I'm just trying to find a way to connect the dots between two of my favourite authors, I don't know.


My Rating
Plot: 5 stars
Story: 4 stars
Characters: 3 stars
Language: 4 stars

Total: 4 stars