Tag Archives: fiction

In Order to Live, by Yeonmi Park

In Order to Live

A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom

Published 2015. 273 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates

The true story of a young North Korean girl’s struggle to survive and escape the cruel North Korean regime.

Yeomni gives a detailed picture of what it’s like to live under an oppressive regime, the hardships, lack of food, power shortages (playing games in complete darkness).

She explains the “class” system, and how her family was in a higher echelon but fell once her father was caught smuggling metal (the only way he could provide for the family). And once you or anyone go down in the social ladder there’s no recovery.

The government is dreadful at managing the country, there are shortages everywhere (except the capital), even major infrastructure like railways suffer with trains unable to complete journeys due to power shortages.

It’s sad to read of the hunger to the point they can think of nothing else but food. The whole tragic situation is the worst of all communist dictator governments.

A must read for anyone concerned about human rights.

The Way We Were, by Arthur Laurents

Published 1972, 189 pages

A love story about two people where different political views and ideas eventually drive them apart.

Katie has left wing political ideas which includes socialistic inclinations. At the other end of the spectrum is Hubbell, who is politically opposite but whom she falls in love deeply.

They marry and end up in the movie business. Eventually Katie’s old socialistic political ideas return and her past is brought up and she is denounced as un-American by acquaintances who wished to get revenge. I had heard of how US actors were harassed by the anti-Communists post World War II and it was good to read a story set in the era.

Katie and Hubbell are forced apart, but their love for each other can still be sensed.

A good read with a sad ending.

Animal Farm, by George Orwell

Published 1945, 119 pages.

I first read this in high school way back in 1978, and as my son had to study if for Year 10 it was a good time to read it again.

For this edition I read the notes and it’s interesting to get the background story. The book was controversial and getting it published was a difficult process. A shortage of paper after World War II didn’t help.

Orwell with the book wished to make the point that revolution wasn’t bad, but  success relies on the leaders serving the common good and not themselves. Leaders can get greedy, especially once they cement themselves into the position of power. The common people need to be able to expel leaders that no longer serve them.

British Press

In Appendix 1 Orwell laments that the British Press (especially the “high brow” end) are reluctant to offend Russia. This may be so as not to make political negotiations difficult for the British government. He says that one publisher started to accept the book until they consulted with the Ministry of Information. It’s hard to imagine a government censoring such a book, but talk of censoring the internet now is becoming less imagination and more reality.

Conclusion

A classic book to read, which must be on a number of “bucket” lists by now. The parts where Squealer uses “facts” to keep the other animals ignorant about what is really going on reminds me of the current political situation in the United States. Dangerous times indeed.

 

Op-Centre, by Tom Clancy 

Published 1995, 387 pages.

A story about defense, intelligence and crisis management in the middle of an attempt to start a conflict between North and South Korea; and even Japan.

The story was hard to follow as each of the eighty eight chapters has a different time and location, due to the time zone differences it was hard to visualise the sequence. The locations were Seoul, the Op-Centre, Chevy Chase MD, The White House, Nagato (Japan), Quantico, Diamond Mountain, the DMZ and many others. Very confusing!

The story shows its age with the computer technology. One of the characters had a Toshiba Satellite laptop, the same old second hand one I used for doing Big Pond Internet Satellite services back in 2004. The Op-Centre catches a computer virus; one which can insert vehicles into photographic images. This is not plausible. The code and the necessary manual intervention required for image editing is beyond the capabilities of a virus. I really hate it when authors get technology so wrong.

I don’t think this is his best work, noting that he also wrote The Hunt for Red October and Clear and Present Danger which have been made into great films.

Conclusion

Op-Centre is an okay read. The author seems to have substituted good writing style with having lots of things going on with a large number of characters; none of whom you get to know well or care about. A novel for the desperate traveller or commuter.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, front cover, a long time favourite.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, front cover, a long time favourite.

This was the first book I read using Aldiko book reader on my Samsung S2. Not a bad way to go, especially at night as no reading light is needed. I think paper pages are easier on the eyes though.

There are many free classics available, and having an interest in books that have been converted to films I had a read of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Story Line

The film mostly follows the book, as with most movies of books, but there were a few surprises with this one.

The story opens with a grey atmosphere, no one is happy being worn down by the harsh Kansas environment. Only Toto keeps Dorothy happy.

In the first few pages the storm begins. Here the movie introduces the characters that later appear in the land of Oz, not so with the book.

The Tin Woodman was a shock. From the movie you get the impression he is passive. In the book he makes frequent use of his axe to chop his enemies. And his axe was part of the reason of how he ended up being made of tin. His body was replaced by tin as each body part was chopped off by his axe which was enchanted by the Wicked Witch of the East.

One puzzlement was the party of four had to put on glasses with green tinted glass before they could enter Emerald City. Perhaps it wasn’t really green but just an illusion like the Wizard was.

Overall, an enjoyable read.

 

Storm Warning

Storm Warning, by Jack Higgins (Book – 1976)

Storm Warning, by Jack Higgins
Storm Warning, by Jack Higgins

An excellent read to take away the boredom of travel. The author keep you interested throughout with dramatically described action scenes.

The story is about a group of nuns who board the Barquentine Deutschland to escape Brazil towards the end of World War 2.

An excellent point is raised when villagers from the island Fhada are questioning why they should rescue German survivors, the enemy. One villager points out “they are still people and they are loved and needed by someone”. You would hope the Germans would feel the same way if they had to rescue a Allies ship and crew.