Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

“He was unheeded, happy, and near to the wild heart of life. He was alone and young and wilful and wildhearted, alone amid a waste of wild air and brackish waters and the seaharvest of shells and tangle and veiled grey sunlight.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 216 pages.
Read from September 2, 2020 to September 7, 2020.

1992; I was six years old when Christopher Johnson McCandless set out on his grand adventure to embody his own philosophical belief in the existence of man. 

McCandless, who dubbed himself as Alexander Supertramp gave away everything and partook on an ‘adventure’ all over the country that eventually led him to Alaska, of which he deemed to be the ultimate frontier, challenge, and goal to live in and conquer. With next to no provisions, his wit, and determination, McCandless was a man who wanted to live by his own rules and ideals, even if that meant abandoning his family and friends. Little did McCandless know, that the spot he settled on in Alaska wasn’t all that far into the wild but that it would also become his resting place.  This is an immensely shallow summary for what is undoubtedly an intricate a read on a man with many intrigues and intelligence. 

This isn’t my first book by Krakauer. I read Into Thin Air and was immediately captivated with his detail, frank, and highly engaging non-fiction writing style. I actually wish Krakauer was a runner as I think he could write some amazing running related books. For example, Born to Run , written by journalist Christopher McDougall, while I really enjoyed the book it had structural and format issues and as well as a very  matter-of-fact and journalistic-writing approach. Both men are journalists but I feel like Krakauer really knows and understands how to deliver a good story. 

Krakauer’s take on McCandless, as well as his own exploits are what made this book for me. Krakauer’s personal intrigue and connection to McCandless, it’s what gave this book that special edge as he too felt some of the same urges, determination, and arguably recklessness as the young man. I imagine if Krakauer and McCandless had been given a chance to talk that they would have gotten on well and McCandless would have felt a little less alone in his ideas.  Krakauer’s in-depth retelling and interpretation of McCandless is what I really felt more connected with in this book rather than McCandless himself. That isn’t to say I didn’t appreciate aspects of McCandless, I mean the guy had some very valid points about modern society but in the same breath, took his views so seriously that he became selfish and dangerously fanatical at times. Krakauer did such a good job in giving a balanced perspective on McCandless that you feel like you’ve been given a good grasp of the whole situation as well as the fallout following McCandless’ death.

This book might not be everyone’s cup of tea however, you need to have some interested in adventure exploits and risk-taking or the choices that McCandless, and even Krakauer, make won’t resonate with you making which might make it it easier to brush these men off as ‘crazy’. However, even with a mild interest, the writing  of the book itself should be able to engage most readers on some level. This book was definitely a good read and I’m glad I finally got to it. 

 

Monstress, Vol. 4: The Chosen by Marjorie M. Liu

Are you ready for volume 5? It comes out on October 6, 2020.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 176 pages.
Read July 15, 2020 to July 21, 2020.

Well, at least I don’t have to wait long for the next volume in this awesome series as it looks like the fifth volume is set to come out next week. Perfect timing.

Maika, joined by Covin, is trying to reunite with Kippa. In this volume, you learn more about Kippa’s back story and to see that there is a lot more to Kippa than you first gathered. In looking for Kippa, Maika meets someone unexpected, someone, she never thought she’d meet that she has a personal connection with. The scheming that this particular individual has done while the impending war is building is alarming to Maika and needless to say, she isn’t overly thrilled about her connection to them. Maika is finally starting to get some of the answers that she seeks and as a reader, you are also starting to get a bigger picture of the issues that she is dealing with and the bigger scope of the war that is ready to implode.

Somehow things have managed to get even more convoluted in this volume than the last two and I really struggled to keep up with everything that was going on. I think a reread of the four volumes before tackling the fifth one will help me better grasp everything this time around. With that said, I still rated this volume high because the story and artwork are still immensely captivating even if I’m not sure of what was going on sometimes. Kippa’s story was the best section of this novel in my opinion as her character really became more dynamic in this volume and I’m looking forward to seeing how she continues to progress.

Overall, a great series and a must-read for any graphic novel lovers or fantasy lovers.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

“The beauty of this world where almost everyone was gone. If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 352 pages.
Read from August 24, 2020 to August 31, 2020. 

This book is what you get when you combine brilliant writing with an end-of-the world-based plot, a dash of Shakespeare, theatre/band nerds, celebrity gossip, religious cults, and the occasional Star Trek reference. It’s a collaboration that no one knew they needed and this was so close to being a 5-star rating for me.

A pandemic hits the world and wipes out 99% of the population within a very short period of time. It’s so contagious and deadly that those who catch the flu-like virus are dead within 48 hours. Each chapter is narrated by characters who will eventually be connected at one point or another throughout the book. The opening chapter begins with a famous actor, Arthur Leander, who has a heart attack while performing King Lear. An in-training EMT in the audience, Jeevan Chaudhary, who once was a paparazzi who followed Leander around in his previous career, jumps to stage to try and resuscitate him. A child actress, playing one of King Lear’s daughters, is comforted by Jeevan as Leander passes away. Outside, the outbreak was making its rounds in the city. Later that evening, Jeevan, having been given warning from a friend who works at a hospital, locks himself up with his paraplegic brother in his apartment as the world as we know it, ends.

Fast forward to the future where the few remaining humans barely survive in small stationed camps. The once child actress, Kristen is now with a travelling troupe of actors and musicians who travel from camp to camp performing Shakespeare. A lost art from a lost time that brings comfort. Kristen remembers very little of the time prior to the pandemic but holds onto a collection of comic books Leander gave her titled, Captain Eleven. After losing a few members of their troupe, Kristen and her fellow performers find themselves contending with a self-proclaimed religious prophet who kills those who don’t follow.

The Earth is a barren landscape of what humanity used to be and there are now generations of children who have never used electricity, the internet, or been inside a moving car or aeroplane. As each chapter of the book goes back and forth in time, you start to learn more about each of the character’s lives before the pandemic and how each of them is connected to Station Eleven.

This story had me from the opening chapter. The author artfully encompasses an end-of-the-world story that includes Shakespeare, so I was immediately hooked. What was peculiar about reading this book was the timing since I was in lockdown for the COVID pandemic. Probably not a good idea to read about a virus that wipes out the world in the middle of a real worldwide pandemic.

I didn’t want to put this book down but what stopped me from giving this book a 5-star rating was the ending. The ending left me wanting more, a lot more. I was expecting a bigger conclusion with some larger connection between all the characters. After some fast-paced action, the ending is happy and one in which all the characters can breathe a collective sigh of relief, of which I did enjoy immensely, it’s just that I was just hoping for more a twist or larger piece of the puzzle. Jeevan and his character felt completely dropped shortly after the pandemic and he didn’t play a relevant part in any of the character’s lives through the book and that was a huge disappointment. The ending felt like there was a lot left unsaid and after immensely enjoying the whole book I felt ending was dissatisfying.

This book will be a contender for the top book I’ve read in 2020, of that I have no doubt. I would strongly encourage you to pick up this book if any of the above topics interest you. The ending may not have been what I wanted but it was probably because I didn’t want it to end.