Friday, October 7, 2011

New Zealand Book Reviews

We've had a lot of time to read so I've read a few books. I just started "In the Time of the Butterflies" by Julia Alvarez which is very good so far!

Frank Herbert
In one of my creative writing classes, we gave presentations on our favorite authors and shared excerpts from their books with the class. (I chose 'The Arrival' by Shaun Tan). One of my closest friends in the class Monika chose a selection from Dune, a fight scene when Paul is fighting one of the native Fremen. Reading the scene out of context was adventure enough. Describing hand-to-hand combat in writing is very difficult - it's much easier to watch Jackie Chan - but Herbert did a great job.

So when I reached that scene in the book I was so excited, I understood the context and it was a bazillion times better!

I have foolishly proclaimed, "I don't like science fiction. It's not what I write." The first time I met James' brother Sam we were having this discussion, and Sam reminded me of an important lesson. He said something like this: "How do you know what you write? Don't limit yourself."

Reading "Dune" reminded me that it is not good to classify yourself as a certain type of writer. Along the same lines, I don't think it is wise to tell yourself that you dislike a certain type of food and then never eat it again. Maybe your tastes will change. Maybe it will be cooked in a certain way that makes it delicious. For me, "Dune" was that delicious reminder that science fiction can be fantastic.

PS: I think "The Cloud," a city-funded hangout promoting tourism during the Rugby World Cup, looks like one of the sandworms from Dune.

"As The Earth Turns Silver"
Alison Wong
I was excited to find some historical fiction about New Zealand in the bookcase here. "As The Earth Turns Silver" is the emotional journey of Katherine, a Kiwi woman in the early 1900's trying to feed her two kids after her abusive husband drunkenly stumbles into a river and dies. Katherine buys her groceries from the Chinaman's grocery stand, which is cheaper than the other stores. The racism towards Chinese immigrants at the time was astonishing; one man was shot in the back of the head by Lionel Terry (a true story) a notorious racist who went to prison for murder.

A complicated and secret romance unfolds between Katherine and the kind Yung-san, one of the owners of the grocery store.

This book helped me understand what life was like when New Zealand was just forming. Much of the racism towards Asians has dissipated, but it will be interesting to see what I notice as my journey through New Zealand continues.


  1. haha "science fiction is fantastic" -- well, no, that's why it's called science fiction...

    =) i enjoyed reading this! yay book reviews! Now if you hadn't actually read Dune and were doing a fictional book review of fiction, it would have been metafiction.

  2. whoops, is fantastic a different genre? I guses so. lol.

    haha metafiction!! yeahhhh

  3. Hi AAAAAAmber!
    I loved Dune too. I think all the Young boys read it in the '70s. I had forgotten all about it. I think they made it in to a movie in the '80s with Sting. Arthur C. Clark and Ray Bradberry have made some good classics. You are a great Young explorer in every way Amber. Keep on Trekkin' !
    Uncle Jimbro