This past month has basically been the start to an apocalyptic novel: no more going out to public places, no more hanging around in cafes (or shisha bars), and definitely no more being lax on flu-preventative methods like frequent hand-washing and drinking plenty of ginger tea. Instead of going outside the house now, I've been drinking lots of ginger and liquorish tea instead by the TV, which I would hold equivalent to drinking mouthwash straight -- any germs hanging around in my throat would have been burnt up at just the first gulp. Now, every time I need to venture outside of my house, I try to treat the world like everyone is infected -- infected and with one hundred packs of toilet paper rolls at their house used into creating some sort of budget snow kingdom.
Even though the world is looking a little bit more gloomy lately, the lack of social outings has helped me focus more on getting through my unread pile of books sitting in the corner of the room. To name a few...
The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu (2020)
This short story collection came out fairly recently. The first week of it being out in stores, I raced to the city and grabbed my copy from Boffins Books. After Liu's fantastic first collection The Paper Menagerie (2016), I was pumped to read his second. Some of the stories in this one, however, I found a bit chewy and hard to immerse myself into, and perhaps more tailored towards a seasoned sci-fi reader than a light reader like me. One story, "The Reborn", I considered a solid 5/5 tale, which had me going down one direction only to discover a hidden agenda that had been there all along. I loved that there was a lot of current topics of controversy to unpack in a lot of these stories. Overall, I gave this collection a 3.5/5 star rating, because Ken Liu is an original, but this book did sometimes lag my interest.
Child of God by Cormac McCarthy (2010)
So, the last time I read something by Cormac McCarthy would've been in around Year 11 as a part of my English class's project on his book The Road (2006), which I found so throwing with its bleakness that I watched the movie too just to see the grimness come to life. Child of God followed a similar sort of bleak style, but took itself out of the sci-fi genre and more into the lines of horror. The main character, Ballard, is the exact opposite of what you'd expect the title character to be like and was a lot more closely aligned with a title like "Child of Satan", but I get that there's more to unpack there. The writing definitely went to some dark places, to the point that it was hard to put the book down. 5/5 because the writing's a wowzer and Ballard creeps me out.
Growing Up African in Australia Edited by Maxine Beneba Clarke with Magan Magan and Ahmed Yussuf (2019)
I picked this anthology up after watching Maxine Beneba Clarke, Ahmed Yussuf and contributor Rafeif Ismail in discussion at Perth's 2020 Literature & Ideas Festival at UWA this February. I loved the ideas presented in the book, as well as the pondering on the concept of being "a different kind of black" in comparison to Indigenous Australians. I liked that there's so much to dissect, between both the empowering, to the sad and pondering. 4/5 because there was a lot of range in these stories and, even though I'm not the target audience here, it's still interesting to look into something I hadn't really thought on much before.
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (1943)
I picked this book up knowing nothing of what it was about. I thought it was going to be some sort of experimental fiction based off it's semi-quirky title. Instead, it was a book about the cut-throat world of architecture and how everyone reluctantly worshipped the go-getter Roark: a closet-rapist. Hated it. Considered going all Fahrenheit 451 on it, partly from boredom, partly from the toxic message it was sending out. The only thing I found interesting was the dynamic between Roark and sad-boy Peter Keating. 2/5.
As a little side note, here is how I generally give out my ratings:
1/5 = How did this get published?
2/5 = Hated it, but I can see where others might have liked it.
3/5 = Worth a read, but probably won't pick it up again.
4/5 = Awesome. I'd read it again.
5/5 = Enthralling. Immersive. Likely stayed up all night to read it. Will annoy people by ranting about it all of the next day.