Saturday, March 12, 2011

Zombies and French Kisses

I spent the entire day engrossed in books.

First, I finally finished World War Z by Max Brooks. It was not a very long book, nor was it difficult to read, but I just never had the continuous time to devote to completing the book. I think that spoiled my perception of the story.

World War Z talks about the zombie war. Max Brooks is a journalist who interviewed various survivors of the war. The book contains their personal accounts of what went on during the war in their respective towns, villages and countries from the start of the zombie invasion, through the war, and around the victory towards the end.
The zombies were described as the worst enemy possible - no emotions, no remorse, no weaknesses that could easily be used as bait to stop them. Details, no matter how disturbing, were not spared.

"All human armies need supplies, this army didn’t. No food, no ammo, no fuel, not even water to drink or air to breathe! There were no logistics lines to sever, no depots to destroy. You couldn’t just surround and starve them out, or let them 'wither on the vine.' Lock a hundred of them in a room and three years later they’ll come out just as deadly...

...You’ve heard the expression “total war”; it’s pretty common throughout human history. Every generation or so, some gasbag likes to spout about how his people have declared 'total war' against an enemy, meaning that every man, woman, and child within his nation was committing every second of their lives to victory. That is bullshit on two basic levels. First of all, no country or group is ever 100 percent committed to war; it’s just not physically possible. You can have a high percentage, so many people working so hard for so long, but all of the people, all of the time? What about the malingerers, or the conscientious objectors? What about the sick, the injured, the very old, the very young?...

...For the first time in history, we faced an enemy that was actively waging total war. They had no limits of endurance. They would never negotiate, never surrender. They would fight until the very end because, unlike us, every single one of them, every second of every day, was devoted to consuming all life on Earth. That’s the kind of enemy that was waiting for us beyond the Rockies. That’s the kind of war we had to fight."

I really liked how the switching of characters was so fluid that it was easy to isolate one person's story and storytelling style from another. There were desperate, selfish, ignorant, greedy, courageous, resilient and angry characters in the book. The feeling of hopelessness at the height of the invasion was almost palpable. It gave an idea of the state of human survival if anything globally catastrophic were to meet us and the situation was bleak.
I would recommend the book, but only if you have the time to dedicate towards it.

After completing that book, I got started on Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. This is a girl's book. I loved it. I haven't read a really nice, light story of young romance devoid of apocalyptic consequences in AGES.
This is a story of a teenage girl (Anna) who was sent to spend her senior year of high school in a French boarding school for Americans by her clueless and selfish writer-turned-Hollywood-mogul father. At first, she loathes him with a fiery passion and she loathes that she had to live in a country that she didn't know anything about - culture, language or history.

"Two of his books have been made into movies and three more are in production, which is where his real money comes from. Hollywood. And, somehow, this extra cash and pseudo-prestige have warped his brain into thinking that I should live in France. For a year. Alone. I don’t understand why he couldn’t send me to Australia or Ireland or anywhere else where English is the native language. The only French word I know is oui, which means “yes,” and only recently did I learn it’s spelled o-u-i and not w-e-e.
At least the people in my new school speak English. It was founded for pretentious Americans who don’t like the company of their own children. I mean, really. Who sends their kid to boarding school? It’s so Hogwarts. Only mine doesn’t have cute boy wizards or magic candy or flying lessons."

She befriends Meredith, her dorm-room neighbour and Mer's friends, Josh, Rashmi and St. Clair. It is St. Clair, with his unruly hair and sexy british accent that makes her both uncomfortable and smitten. The story then goes through their year at the school, the silly teenage issues and the bigger adult decisions.
I loved the banter between Anna and St. Clair (first name, Etienne) as they bonded while everyone was away for Thanksgiving and then their emails when they went to their respective homes for Christmas.

"To: Etienne St. Clair
From: Anna Oliphant
Subject: Re: Are you awake yet?
I’m awake! Seany started jumping on my bed, like, three hours ago. We’ve been opening presents and eating sugar cookies for breakfast. Dad gave me a gold ring shaped like a heart. 'For Daddy’s sweetheart,' he said. As if I’m the type of girl who’d wear a heart-shaped ring. FROM HER FATHER. He gave Seany tons of Star Wars stuff and a rock polishing kit, and I’d much rather have those. I can’t believe Mom invited him here for Christmas. She says it’s because their divorce is amicable (um, no) and Seany and I need a father figure in our lives, but all they ever do is fight. This morning it was about my hair. Dad wants me to dye it back, because he thinks I look like a 'common prostitute,' and Mom wants to re-bleach it. Like either of them has a say. Oops, gotta run. My grandparents just arrived, and Granddad is bellowing for his
bonnie lass. That would be me.
P.S. Love the picture. Mrs. Claus is totally checking out your butt. And it’s Merry Christmas, weirdo.

To: Anna Oliphant
From: Etienne St. Clair
Subject: HAHAHA!
Was it a PROMISE RING? Did your father give you a PROMISE RING?

To: Etienne St. Clair
From: Anna Oliphant
Subject: Re: HAHAHA!
I am so not responding to that."

It was generally a nice story of a person in a new place, learning how to be independent and enjoy the moment. Very Lost in Translation - a movie made by Anna's favourite director. How fitting.

I'm on to The Passage by Justin Cronin now...

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