Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I came to this book with high hopes. I had heard excellent things about the author being a promising new presence in literature. Her style is the sort of delicate, precious, overly-contemplative glaze we have grown used to. Everyone is trying to run away from life in some form or another, until the final scene which felt unsatisfying and forced, though I’m sure the author was trying to introduce some sort of cathartic, redemptive element. None of it worked.
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Invitation to the Game by Monica Hughes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The book is set in a dystopian future wherein human labor is being replaced with that of robots. A group of students graduate from the government boarding school and are shipped to their ‘area’. They are not allowed to leave the area without permission. They basically live off of meager welfare and their craftiness.
But the thing is, these kids really are intelligent. They decide to live together which gives them more latitude in choosing a place to live, as there are no individual dwellings available at that time. The group demonstrates solidarity and diversity. Not the stereotypical diversity of different skin colors—we never learn anything about anyone’s ethnicity, actually—but in their skills and personalities. You know, like in real life. They are invited to “the game” (as in the title) even as they learn to thrive in the sordid world of the unemployed.
The story is about character, skill, and teamwork. It is about learning that a team of six can accomplish vastly more than six individuals. And the reveal—there are two—at the end is gratifying; it is gracious; it is rewarding.
Also, the kids know how to do stuff, like make a loom and identify plants. This hints at actual useful, practical applied knowledge (ie, technology) will make the book challenging for your pre-teen or early teen. The Hunger Games series forces a young woman to be a hero by displaying masculine traits. This book doesn’t fall into that facile, infantile, ridiculous trap of the unsophisticated and misanthropic mind.
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Para mis estudiantes de la FTUEBE, aquí está el ensayo del cual hablé hoy en clase:
3. Sistema Dewey Decimal
Unexpected Grace: A Life in Two Worlds by Farifteh V Robb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Some years ago while completing my research for a PhD I interviewed Farifteh Robb. That led to the publication of a brief article titled “The Secret World of God: Aesthetics, Relationships, and the conversion of ‘Frances’ from Shi’a Islam to Christianity” in Global Missiology. At that time Robb was not discussing her history publicly, but I’m glad that she decided to do so.
This books brings a welcome contribution to the growing literature by converts from Islam to Christianity. Robb’s strong background in literature allows her to reference great authors and work in a way that other converts cannot. The fact that she ended up in Anglican Christianity as opposed to evangelical or charismatic Christianity is also rare for such conversion narratives. My favorite thing about the book was reading her personal recollections of what life was like in Tehran before, during and after the 1979 revolution.
Finally, the author has a light and witty style. Her sense of humor is much appreciated.
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Ralph 124C 41+ by Hugo (foreword by Fletcher Pratt) Gernsback
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
What was the first science fiction novel? Many would say Frankenstein: The 1818 Text. But a lot of readers today think of sci-fi as being related to envisioning a future with new, exotic technologies. And if that is indeed essential to sci-fi then this book is in fact the first ever sci-fi novel. Beginning in 1911 the book started being published as a series of short stories but the author eventually brought them all together in this one book. It does have fantastic technologies–personal space travel, agricultural wonders, floating cities, and even the conquering of death.
What really caught my attention was how some technologies suggested were so distant, while other things sounded passe. The flying cars are still a long way off. But a flying taxi still had a driver, something that is not outdated yet, but will probably be in a decade.
Ultimately the book is a romance. The clear templates for masculinity and femininity are not chauvinistic or sexist (I think–but I’m a guy) and this older vision of human relationality will appeal to more conservative readers while leaving younger readers mystified. The book still reflects the naive modern confidence in human reason born of the so-called ‘Enlightenment’. Two world wars have disabused us of the falsity that science solves all our problems or that education somehow makes people good–though these myths are at the heart of that other sci-fi fairytale world, Star Trek.
Anyone interested in the history of sci-fi should read this book. It is a great book for when you cannot focus on detailed plot twists or read for lengthy periods of time. (This is my nice way of saying take with you when you take your kid to the dentist or are waiting in line at the post office.)
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A Barth quote from “The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ” by Fleming Rutledge –
“To this day, as we look around us at the self-destructive tendencies in the world that destroy good and hopeful things — from broken levees to derelict housing projects to botched aid operations to failed nation-building — we see the Lord standing in the place where the fiascoes are happening, not only in the place of those victims who are made to suffer but also and most radically in the place of the delinquents, collaborators, transgressors, and perpetrators.”
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Tuve el privilegio de ser entrevistado por Moisés Cornejo sobre mi experiencia y trabajo en el Medio Oriente para el blog de la catedral. Escúchalo (todo en español).
I had the privilege of being interviewed by Moises Cornejo about my background and work in the Middle East for the cathedral blog. Check it out (all in Spanish).