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Old 02-10-2008, 11:45 PM   #1
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What Are You Reading Right Now?

I read Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe) and Foundation (Isaac Asimov) simultaneously, but I end up finishing Things Fall Apart a day earlier. The title should give you the clue that this is a fall-from-grace story, and it is. It details the life of Okonkwo, who, in enduring many hardships, rose to become a person of high rank. His ego was as massive as the respect his village people paid him, and he ruled his family with iron fist, often resorting to violence. He eventually fell, but I’ll let you find out what led to that. I enjoyed Things Fall Apart very much, particularly how it paints the norms and the traditions of Africa, and although some of Okonkwo’s shortcomings leave a lot to be desired, I still find myself sympathetic to him. I also like Chinua Achebe’s writing style: it is simple yet crisp, and despite the relatively low verbal proficiency the book required, it never sounded dumbed-down.

Foundation takes place 10,000 (some) years ahead of now. By the powers of math and psychology, Hari Seldon predicted that in 200 years the Galactic Empire would fall. So he gathered a few notable scientists and built the Foundation, so that he can mitigate the effects. To think that math and psychology can predict the future is to oversimplify theories of divinations, but whatever, I still think the idea is sound. Sadly, I’m indifferent to whatever the hell is going on with the Foundation, and that’s because of the plot and the writing. Basically, there’s more talking and yapping than any movement, it’s like reading a boring dossier. It wouldn’t be so bad if the characters were interesting. They weren’t. Everyone was either the interchangeable manipulative intellectual powerhouse (Seldon/Hardin/Mallow) who always wins and who talks like he has rehearsed his every dialogue, or the also-interchangeable inept pseudo-intellectual "thinks he’s the shrewd devil" cannon fodder who always loses and who also talks like he’s rehearsed his every dialogue, except with more venom. And notice the choice of pronoun? That’s right, there were almost no woman, as if a woman is insignificant in politics (a bizarre belief if, while reading foundation, you’re in a country where a woman perverts democracy). I also think that the wins were done in a very annoying way - what I call the "Knew Ex Machina", which is the "I KNEW THIS ALL ALONG HOHOHO!" plot device. The readers never could’ve learned beforehand how a person could possibly overcome an adversity, then it just happens and that person discourses a whole chapter about how awesome his wit is. Such cheap storytelling! The setting is also irrelevant: I don’t know why this had to be in the future, because the description of such future was so sparse. It could’ve taken place now and the story wouldn’t alter. Heck, Asimov could put a lolcat in there and it won’t matter (like, "V10L3NZ D LAST PWNAGE 4 INCOMPETANZ!"). I heard that the latter Foundation books are better. I sure hope so, because the first book is bust, despite the good premise.

So that wraps my post for today. Anyone read any good books lately? Want to make some recommendations? Want to comment on my opinions of Things Fall Apart and Foundation?
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