Books


”Мы” (We)is a dystopian futuristic novel by Yevgeny Zamyatin completed in 1921. D-503, a spacecraft engineer, lives in the One State, an urban nation constructed almost entirely of glass, which assists mass surveillance by the secret police, or Bureau of Guardians. D-503’s lover, O-90, has been assigned by One State to visit him on certain nights. She is considered too short to bear children and is deeply grieved by her state in life. O-90’s other lover and D-503’s best friend is R-13, a State poet who reads his verse at public executions. While on an assigned walk with O-90, D-503 meets a woman named I-330. I-330 smokes cigarettes, drinks alcohol, and shamelessly flirts with D-503 instead of applying for an impersonal sex visit; all of these are highly illegal according to the laws of One State. Both repelled and fascinated, D-503 struggles to overcome his attraction to I-330. I-330 invites him to visit the Ancient House, notable for being the only opaque building in One State, except for windows. Objects of aesthetic and historical importance dug up from around the city are stored there. There, I-330 offers him the services of a corrupt doctor to explain his absence from work. Leaving in horror D-503 vows to denounce her to the Bureau of Guardians, but finds that he cannot. He begins to have dreams, which disturbs him, as dreams are thought to be a symptom of mental illness. Slowly, I-330 reveals to D-503 that she is involved with the Mephi, an organization plotting to bring down the One State. She takes him through secret tunnels inside the Ancient House to the world outside the Green Wall, which surrounds the city-state. There, D-503 meets the inhabitants of the outside world: humans whose bodies are covered with animal fur. The aims of the Mephi are to destroy the Green Wall and reunite the citizens of One State with the outside world…

Along with Jack London’s ”The Iron Heel”, ”Мы” is generally considered to be the grandfather of the satirical futuristic dystopia genre. It takes the modern industrial society to an extreme conclusion, depicting a state that believes that free will is the cause of unhappiness, and that citizens’ lives should be controlled with mathematical precision based on the system of industrial efficiency created by Frederick Winslow Taylor. George Orwell claimed that Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) must be partly derived from ”Мы”. However, in a letter to Christopher Collins in 1962, Huxley says that he wrote Brave New World as a reaction to H. G. Wells’s utopias long before he had heard of ”Мы”. According to one translator of ”Мы”, Natasha Randall, Orwell believed that Huxley was lying. Orwell began Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) some eight months after he read We in a French translation and wrote a review of it. Orwell is reported as “saying that he was taking it as the model for his next novel”. Brown writes that for Orwell and certain others, ”Мы” “appears to have been the crucial literary experience”.Shane states that “Zamyatin’s influence on Orwell is beyond dispute”. Robert Russell, in an overview of the criticism of ”Мы”, concludes that “1984 shares so many features with ”Мы” that there can be no doubt about its general debt to it”, however there is a minority of critics who view the similarities between ”Мы” and 1984 as “entirely superficial”. Further, Russell finds that “Orwell’s novel is both bleaker and more topical than Zamyatin’s, lacking entirely that ironic humour that pervades the Russian work”. ”Мы” was the first work banned by Goskomizdat, the new Soviet censorship bureau, in 1921, though the initial draft dates to 1919. Zamyatin’s literary position deteriorated throughout the 1920s, and he was eventually allowed to emigrate to Paris in 1931, probably after the intercession of Maxim Gorky. The novel was first published in English in 1924 by E. P. Dutton in New York in a translation by Gregory Zilboorg, but its first publication in the Soviet Union had to wait until 1988, when glasnost resulted in it appearing alongside George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. A year later, ”Мы” and Brave New World were published together in a combined edition. (via Wikipedia)

”Мы” was written before both ”Brave New World” and ”1984” as said, but both carries a lot of resemblances to ”Мы” and you can´t pretend that is has had a significant influcence on the other books. However, being a great fan of russian writers like Bulgakov, I was intrigued by ”Мы” as I hadn´t heard about this book before strangely enough. The conceptual idea is there, but the execution leave you something to wish for. I red a Swedish translation and it´s hard to know how much you lose from the original language, but I found ”Мы” being confusingly written and not as straightforward as ”Brave New World” and ”1984” which both are great novels. I reckon I found myself trying to get my head around the main characters and their whereabouts, but felt the story floated around without a linear structure and I dropped the thread at times. ”Мы” didn´t have the impact on me as I wanted, but I´m glad I have red it.

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On October 25th, 2016 New York Times bestselling novelist and cultural trickster Chuck Palahniuk will publish Bait: Off-Color Stories for You to Color, his first ever coloring book for adults, this fall with Dark Horse Books. Bait will be both the coloring book debut and the second short story collection for Palahniuk, author of Lullaby and Fight Club. The book will contain eight bizarre tales, illustrated in detailed black and white by Joëlle Jones (Lady Killer), Lee Bermejo (The Suiciders), Duncan Fegredo (Hellboy), and more. Each story is paired with pieces of colorable original art, nearly 50 in all. Dark Horse Books will publish Bait: Off-Color Stories for You to Color as an 8.5 x 11 inch hardcover album, with uncoated and white interior paper stock, accompanied by a cover illustrated and colored by Duncan Fegredo and designed by Nate Piekos. (via http://chuckpalahniuk.net)

Gotta have.

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Damned (2011) introduced us to 13-year-old Madison Spencer, newly arrived in Hell after her death; as she tried to figure out what exactly happened to her, she took us on an exciting and often very funny tour of Hell. Now, in the sequel “Doomed” (2013), Madison is back on Earth, stranded there on Halloween, facing the prospect of spending an entire year as a ghost among the living. The sequel gives us a clearer view of Madison’s childhood and explains why she was damned to Hell. I liked “Damned” that allowed us to take a ride in Hell with Madison, obviously inspired to Dantes “Inferno”, but with that classic Palahniuk twist of vile environments and evil behaviour. The hellish travelogue structure was intriguing and you wanted to find out where it would take Madison. In “Doomed” we get a better understanding of Madison´s damnation and Palahniuk takes further swings at religion, Hollywood parenting, teen difficulties and global hypocrisy. Palahniuk’s satire works for the most, but in the case with “Doomed” it becomes a stretch as he drags out the story in a set of some sort of long tweets that speaks to different people via social network channels. I don´t think Palahniuk manages to keep this one together and entertain with his twisted writing that normally is of my liking. This becomes a bit of a question mark and it´s hardly Palahniuk´s best work. I can only hope that third and final chapter of Madison Spencer´s trip on the other side is much better.

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Book & Hero is a clever bookend. A magnet is employed to suspend the superhero in the air, giving the impression of him ‘saving’ the books from an imminent fall. Supershelf is a floating shelf which gives the impression of a superhero holding the books aloft, preventing them from falling to the ground. The base is concealed by the books and the superhero is affixed via a magnet to the base to give the item its dynamic appearance. (via Designboom)

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“Child 44” (published in 2008) is a thriller novel by British writer Tom Rob Smith. This is the first novel in a trilogy featuring former MGB Agent Leo Demidov, who investigates a series of gruesome child murders in Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union. “Child 44”, the first in a trilogy, is based on the crimes of Andrei Chikatilo, also known as the Rostov Ripper, the Butcher of Rostov, and the Red Ripper, who was convicted of and executed for 52 murders in the Soviet Union. In addition to highlighting the problem of Soviet-era criminality in a state where “there is no crime”, the novel explores the paranoia of the age, the education system, the secret police apparatus, orphanages, homosexuality in the USSR, and mental hospitals. (via Wikipedia)

Stalin’s Soviet Union in 1953 is an official paradise, where citizens live free from crime and fear only one thing: the all-powerful state. When war hero Leo Stepanovich Demidov, a rising star in the MGB, the State Security force, is assigned to look into the death of a child, Leo is annoyed, first because this takes him away from a more important case, but, more importantly, because the parents insist the child was murdered. In Stalinist Russia, there’s no such thing as murder; the only criminals are those who are enemies of the state. After attempting to curb the violent excesses of his second-in-command, Leo is forced to investigate his own wife, the beautiful Raisa, who’s suspected of being an Anglo-American sympathizer. Demoted and exiled from Moscow, Leo stumbles onto more evidence of the child killer…

Crime is not really my genre, but I felt compelled to read “Child 44” due to the setting in Stalin´s Soviet Union. A truly fascinating and shocking time period at the same time. Smith has managed to create the atmosphere of paranoia and paralysing fear controlling the country and its inhabitants and the idea of putting a demoted and former MGB agent in the lead of this serial killer investigation and manhunt is a good plot. But, compared to The Guardian who said “the story is exciting, but the characters and dialogue are underdeveloped, and the prose studiously bland”, I think the story is not that exciting to be honest and this brick of a book ends up as just an average and ordinary crime thriller in my eyes. A shame as the foundation is pretty good.

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“Who could forget their first view of Adam Ant on Top of the Pops, white stripes across his face, swaggering to the beat of ‘Antmusic’ or in frilly shirt and mask for ‘Stand and Deliver’? One of the most successful pop stars of the 80s, his face adorning posters on teenager’s walls from Acton to Akron, Adam Ant was a phenomenon. Now in this frank and revealing autobiography, he tells the full story of his amazing life from his dysfunctional childhood to his key role in the punk movement and creation of a unique musical style that brought him a string of hits (both singles and albums). At one point he was so famous other stars sought his company and advice – even Michael Jackson called in the dead of night to ask about music and clothes. His many girlfriends included Jamie Lee Curtis and Heather Graham and for a time he lived in LA, acting in fifteen films. Adam also writes honestly about his life-long battle with manic depression. His first episodes were triggered by the stress of living with a violent, alcoholic father, and he tried to commit suicide when he was at art school. A gruelling episode with a stalker in LA precipitated a mental breakdown, and a stalker in London led to his well-publicised arrest and hospitalization in 2001. At times funny and at other times tragic, this is gripping account of the turbulent life and times of one of music’s most fascinating figures.” (via Amazon)

I just finished pop icon Adam Ant´s “Stand & Deliver: The Autobiography” a book that gives you an up close and personal view of the artist Adam Ant and his real persona Stuart Leslie Goddard. For us who grew up in the 80s, Adam and The Ants were one of the coolest bands around in the beginning of 1980 and further on during 1981. The clothes, the warpaint, the songs, the videos, the concept, the images, the members. Everything was packaged in such a great way and they made an impression that lasted. The story gives us a portrayal of Adam in the very early days of the brief punk era to the rise that made him a true darling and poster boy of the MTV generation during the 80’s. But, we also get an insight into his personal complexity, his struggle with bipolar illness and the spiral downwards in erratic behaviour, suicidal thoughts and the ugly side of the tabloid press. This is of course his way of answering all the rumours about himself and setting the record straight. It´s tragic to read about his change to something pretty different from who he used to be and his artistic side. At the same time he set the boundaries himself once upon a time and wanted nothing more than being seen and heard. It´s a fine line to thread with the tabloids, the press and the pressure that comes with that. The tabloids don´t mind to help you to stardom, but they don´t mind either to make sure that your pop crown is thrown in the bin when they think the time has come. This book puts a good light on mental illness which is something we need to do in general globally. From having been in a close and personal relationship with someone suffering from bipolar illness, I really want to see that this topic is much more out in the open and people with it are truly treated properly. I hope Adam feels better today and that he has his bipolar illness under control. I reckon “Stand & Deliver: The Autobiography” is a must for any Ant fan.

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