Review: Nostalgia by M. G. Vassanji

28363849*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Nostalgia

Author: M.G. Vassanji

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Publication Date: September 20, 2016

ISBN: 9780385667166

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In the indeterminate future in an unnamed western city, physical impediments to immortality have been overcome. As society approaches the prospect of eternal life, a new problem must be confronted: with the threat of the brain’s storage capacity being overwhelmed, people want to move forward into the future free from redundant, unwanted and interfering memories. Rejuvenated bodies require rejuvenated identities–all traces of a person’s past are erased and new, complete fictions are implanted in their stead. On occasion, though, cracks emerge, and reminders of discarded lives seep through. Those afflicted suffer from Leaked Memory Syndrome, or Nostalgia, whereby thoughts from a previous existence burrow in the conscious mind threatening to pull sufferers into an internal abyss. Doctor Frank Sina specializes in sealing these memory leaks. But one day, Presley Smith arrives in Frank’s office. Persistent thoughts are torturing Presley, recurring images of another time and place. As he tries to save Presley from the onslaught of memory, Frank finds clues that suggest Presley’s past may be located in war-torn, nuclear-ravaged Maskinia, a territory located in the southern hemisphere, isolated from the north by fiercely guarded borders and policy barriers. Who was Presley before the Department remade him, what secrets are buried in the memories that are encroaching upon him?


This was my first foray into the books of M.G. Vassanji, and I’m definitely ready to read more. Nostalgia introduces the reader to a future society in a mysterious sci-fi world in a concise but moving story. In this world, identity is something that no longer belongs to the individual and death is no longer an imminent threat. Humanity has lost not only personhood, but also any sense of mortality as well. People are divided by religion, by their desire to live forever or die naturally, and even by their own sense of consciousness and reality. Vassanji has weaved together a complicated story that could have easily been expanded to double the length, or even into a series. I think my main criticism would be the length of this story. So many interesting ideas and complicated topics are introduced, and there was not enough space for the author to really delve into the nitty-gritty details and to fully flesh out these ideas. I’d love to see a follow up novel to this series where more of these themes are explored.

Frank, the protagonist, is struggling to understand the world around him. He’s questioning his own beliefs and the world that he knows. His patient, Presley Smith, is having strange dreams that spark deep confusion and thought in Frank. As Frank seeks answers, he begins to learn that perhaps everything he’s known is not as it seems. Perhaps there are other answers out there.

The book has an overall sinister feel, and does not have a warm and fuzzy happy ending. It’s not a feel good book, but instead is a story to provoke thought and to cause the reader to question the transformation of technology in our own world. Vassanji posits a potential future reality for us that could be something our world one day sees.

I thought this book was very interesting and well-written considering it’s length. It made me happy to see it on 2017’s Canada Reads list and although it was not the winner, it’s a book that definitely deserved to be a contender. Although I was unsatisfied with the ending, I found the characters to be unique and compelling. Vassanji’s way of writing is slow and thoughtful, thorough and pensive. I didn’t feel rushed or hurried. I wanted to savour each page. The reader is given tidbits of information which helps build the mystery and intrigue.

I hope you’ll give this one a try, because it’s definitely worth it, especially for sci-fi fans!

Worn Pages is back up and running!

Hi all!

I’ve finally had some time to get back to writing and I thank you all SO MUCH for your patience. The wedding is still a few weeks away, but now that I’m nearly done preparing the decorations, I’ve been able to go back and review a few books. I’m exciting to share the upcoming reviews with you. I’ve been reading some really great books. 2017 is shaping up to be a great year for fiction. I hope you’ll all enjoy what I have to say, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts too! Stay tuned for my first review of 2017, coming to you next week.

Happy reading!
-J

Review: Pauls by Jess Taylor

Pauls-Jess-Taylor-cover-510-510x777

*I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Pauls

Author: Jess Taylor

Publisher: BookThug

Publication Date: October 2015

ISBN: 9781771661683

Synopsis:
Pauls, the debut short-story collection by the exciting young writer Jess Taylor, is about people: the things that remain unseen to them; how they cope with their unforgettable pasts; the different roles they take in each other’s lives; how they hurt each other; how they try to heal each other; the things they want to learn; and the things they’ll never discover. At the same time, Pauls is a portrayal of the world as these people see it—they all exist in a universe that is strange and indifferent to those within it. Coincidences, relationships, conversations, and friendships all pose more questions than answers.

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Pauls is a short story collection that’ll take your breathe away. These stories are open, raw, and truthful. They do not shirk away from tough topics and seek to portray reality as it is: harsh, tough, and unforgiving. The Pauls in this short book do not have easy lives. They struggle with abuse, depression, pain. But they also find love, friendship, and healing. This collection moved me and more than once, it took my breath away. Taylor’s writing style is coaxing. She writes with the power of experience. She made me feel as her characters feel. I understand their sadness and their hurt, their need to love and protect, their desire to find contentment. Taylor’s writing made me feel like I knew these experiences. In a few short pages, I felt like I knew the characters intimately. Pauls is a window into the lives of strangers, that could so very easily be our own. Few stories have happy endings, but all stories share their lives as they really are. They don’t try to hide or alter. It’s an excellent collection.

Funky Cover Friday

Kwe: Standing With Our Sisters (edited by my favourite, Joseph Boyden) brings together the voices of many, rising up against injustice against Native Women in Canada. It collects essays, fiction, and poetry into a collection that I’m just bursting with anticipation to read. It’s been hanging out on my TBR for a few months now only because it was first released as an ebook and I want nothing more than for a paperback to be released.

This cover for me is just visually stunning. It’s incredibly moving and it says so much, especially in conjunction with the topics discussed within the pages. Having studying Native Canadian literature, attended pow wows throughout my childhood, and having a significant interest in Native Canadian literature in general, this cover really speaks to me. It captures the essence of everything that I’ve read or experienced. I think it’s absolutely beautiful.

Have you read Kwe? What did you think? How do you think the cover represents the content within?

 

 

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Kwe | ed. Joseph Boyden | 9780143194910 | Penguin Random House Canada | Dec. 2014

Review: Revenge of the Grand Narrative

22228437Title: Revenge of the Grand Narrative

Author: Richard Rosenbaum

Publisher: Quattro Books

Publication Date: 2014

ISBN: 9781927443712

Revenge of the Grand Narrative

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The oldest man in the world, an activist with a suspiciously persuasive singing voice, and the author of the most anticipated debut novel ever…are three different people. Together they set out to investigate a mysteriously sychronistic earthquake that seems to have leapt from the world of fiction.

Revenge of the Grand Narrative is a novel that brought a smile to my face in a way that no book has done since the metafiction class that I took in university. The extent to which this novel is aware of itself as a fiction is amusing and absurd to say the least. This book has a whole section in it’s second half that walks the reader through parts of the stories development and the author’s thoughts and notes on the writing. The author/speaker identifies the story as a work of fiction, commenting on the style, the thought behind it, even to the point of conversing with one of the story’s characters directly.

The more “traditional” narrative is an absurd story of a city struck suddenly and unusually by earthquakes, accompanied by the landing of a wooden, naturally grown, robot-esque, fire-spurting being. It’s left to our three main characters–a famous author, a Kantian deontologist, and an idealogical utilitarian– all of whom are opinionated and act exactly how you’d expect, to save the day. We don’t really get any sort of conclusion. Each character finishes the story trapped inside the Generic House of Worship, a structure that isn’t really quite sure what it is. The writer, that is the speaker, returns to these scenes to walk us through his thoughts behind each character and each situation.

Rosenbaum has fun with his writing here. His statements are often intentionally obvious or ridiculously absurd, and it’s hilarious. He kept bringing a smirk to my face. The ending especially gave me a good chuckle. It’s a really unique story, and a light hearted read.