Summary of Reading – June ’21

2010: Odyssey Two (Arthur Clarke)

Great worldbuilding. Clarke’s descriptions of alien life were definitely quite different. They were also much more realistic given the remote likelihood of alien life being humanoid. Life inside Jupiter was … pretty bizarre and thought-provoking. How would gas-based creatures live? How would their biological systems work? Of course, even the notion of there being biological systems in such creatures can be questioned.

Now, what really made 2001 so mesmerising were Bowman’s accounts of his journey. Simply put, what the monolith showed him was awe-inspiring. Clarke doesn’t recreate that same sense of awe. While the imagery of, say, seeing stars merging was delightful for audiences back then, it’s nothing but a quick google search now. 2010 really replaces this awe with danger. “Attempt no landings there,” a message as clear as day, broadcast by the aliens and a quote that really encapsulates how humankind sees the monoliths.

It was also quite telling to see just how advanced the civilisation that created the monoliths is. Firstly, using the most fundamental building materials to make more monoliths, and then turning a planet into a cosmic oven and creating a mini-star is a feat of engineering we humans can’t even dare to dream about.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Suzanne Collins)

‘Twas pretty exciting to be back in the Hunger Games universe and YA Dystopia after a long time. I headed into this book entirely spoiler-free, to the extent that I had to figure out who the characters were and when it was set independently as I read the book. Seeing the antagonist of the original trilogy presented as the protagonist here was quite fun and probably the only aspect of the book I found enjoyable.

I found a lot of things quite stupid. Firstly, the fallout between Lucy and Snow just seemed extremely artificial. How do two people who are very much in love go from running away together to attempting to murder each other in literal seconds. Throughout the book, I found Snow’s liking for Lucy as something that made him see the Capitol from the perspective of the districts, but all of that just went away in a single scene. Tons of character development wasted here. I didn’t understand Snow’s inbuilt dislike for bird-song, and that too after how he adored Lucy’s songs. Just didn’t make sense.

In all, this book felt like both a much-needed deeper foray into the hunger games world but also quite forced. Throughout the book, it seemed as if Snow would understand how the districts felt, but he just inexplicably veered off that course in an instant. It was interesting seeing things from his perspective. However, elements like Sejanus’s actions, his tie with Lucy Gray, how he didn’t exactly like the Hunger Games and his time as a peacekeeper are elements that don’t fit in well with him being a tyrannical ruler.

And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie)

A brilliant murder-suspense storyline. I enjoyed reading this book, and it gave off a very read-in-a-single-go vibe which was nice. The main element that serves to engage is the reader themselves trying to figure out who is doing what. This is something all detective novels do but this one accomplished to great detail. I couldn’t really tell who the murderer was until the confession at the end, and the suspense overshadowed the annoyance at being in the dark for so long.

The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)

I’ve been holding reading this book off for a bit inexplicably. Hawkins throws a lot of light on how certain mental health issues affect people, and I’m all for it.

I genuinely did see Tom as the victim throughout a majority of the book. It felt like he was receiving a lot of negative attention from Rachel. In fact, the notion that Rachel is at fault is what I thought would be the result. I believed that the author would build up to Rachel’s repressed memories being her attacking Megan due to her resemblance to Anna out of spite. The clues were there: blood on her clothes, signs of physical trauma indicating a fight etc.

At the same time, I never really fell for the therapist-did-it idea. Kamal did engage in wrongdoing through a relationship with a patient, but his moral compass shone through in each of their interactions. If someone can question a relationship repeatedly, and put a complete stop to it due to nothing but guilt, how can he be the one who murdered the patient?

The husband never felt guilty because of his interactions with Rachel and how Hawkins conveyed his emotions.

At the end of the day, it’s pretty telling how people can be so incredibly manipulative. Tom’s exploitation of Rachel’s blacked out episodes was also quite astounding. More than anything else, I really admire how Hawkins portrayed Rachel as someone who is still. While Tom and Anna are raising their baby and Megan is working on herself through therapy, Rachel is at a complete standstill mentally. She’s reliving the same day again and again. Looking out the same window. Passing out drunk the same way to avoid her sorrows. An incredibly good picture of how depression can be.

2061: Odyssey Three (Arthur Clarke)

This book seemed to go slowly as compared to the previous two books in the series. In fact, I find the decline of quality in Ender’s Saga similar to the decline in action in the Odyssey series.

The “wow” moments of previous books – Bowman’s journey in 2001 and the discovery of life on Europa in 2010 weren’t replicated at all. I mean, there was the awe in finding a mountain that was a single, pristine diamond, but it never really matched the feeling of exhilaration generated in the previous books.