Review: Thud!

Thud! by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Funny that I read this just when I was getting started on a project discussing propaganda sold as history, and history lost in hate.

So the trolls and the dwarfs hate each other because of a weird violent thing that happened thousands of years ago at Koom Valley. No one even knows who started the war, the battle or the hate that ensued. All everyone knows is DWARF HATE TROLL, TROLL HATE DWARF.

Enter Commander Duke Mr. Vimes, his lovely dragon raising wife Sybil, and cute little son Young Sam. Add in the usual cast Nobbs, Carrot, Detritus, Colon, and sprinkle in new cast Angua and Sally and you’ve got one story that needs a telling.

The death of Hamcrusher is shadowed by dark dwarves determined to hide a secret. This secret is related to the DWARF HATE TROLL, TROLL HATE DWARF history, but Vimes is having a hard time figuring it out.

I totally loved the part where Vimes stopped a violent riot by getting everyone so drunk they had no idea which way they were coming or going. Important thing is, there was no fight. But Koom Valley was still looming and in the spirit of DWARF HATE TROLL, TROLL HATE DWARF there could yet still be a battle.

The mysterious Mr. Shine, the dwarf king and Vimes and his crew find themselves on a race to figure out the SECRET and stop lots of people dying for no particularly good reason.

As usual, Ankh Morpork is one hell of a place to live and Terry Prachett is a master storyteller!

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Nothing but Fear Itself

Someone just told me: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

It occurs to me that this applies to so many aspects of life that we all have to deal with. Fear moves us to do so many things; avoid pain by doing as much avoiding life completely, hurting others in an effort to avert our own hurt, giving up on dreams to avoid the pain of failure… I could keep going.

In my life, I have faced fear so great it has made freeze for a moment before I can gain the courage to act. That’s the thing about me, when I am afraid in the superlative sense, I freeze. The only time it may have been a good thing was when I came face to face with a cobra and my frozen fear gave someone the chance to scare the crawly monster away.

Last year, I was hit by a massive bout of depressive apathy. In hindsight that was a moment of fear so great that I convinced myself not to care about anything or anyone. Borne out of a series of disappointing episodes involving broken trust, friendships turned sour and a surprising discovery about myself, I froze. I remember only vaguely thinking that I couldn’t do anything that would put me in the same position of vulnerability to hurt, disappointment and uncontrolled anger.

In just a few months of being frozen in fear, I’ve lost out on so many wonderful opportunities. I regret that much more than any mistakes of judgement I could possibly have made.

Someone else who has been inspiring me lately said: If you can do one thing everyday, no matter how small, that scares you or challenges you, you are on the right track.

So here’s to diving into the really cold deep end of the pool. Okay, just sticking my foot in it. Yeah, just the toes.


Review: Going Postal

Going Postal
Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think this is the Discworld novel I have enjoyed the most so far!

I am not a fraud, well, I possibly am, in that at one point in time I stood and looked at the rest of my life and thought: Well, I have no choice. I’m just going to make it till I die.

That’s Moist von Lipwig’s only choice, isn’t it? He didn’t have much of a choice. And then he found that he loved the only choice that he had. Which was to be a decent human being and a damned good Postal Master.

Of course, he could quit any time.

Terry Pratchett weaves this story in such a way that you smile even as you cringe. You fall in love with Lipwig, Ms. Dearhart, Stanley, Groat, even the Golem, Pump. You admire Vetinari and laugh at the wizards. But most of all, you pity Reached Gilt, because he as so out of his depths from the start!

And now, I must take a few minutes to return to the realworld :)

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Review: To See the Mountain and Other Stories : The Caine Prize for African Writing 2011

To See the Mountain and Other Stories : The Caine Prize for African Writing 2011
To See the Mountain and Other Stories : The Caine Prize for African Writing 2011 by The Caine Prize for African Writing
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finally. 3 years later, I read this collection. Loved most of the stories.

A couple of the Workshop stories left me puzzled, not because the quality was below par but because I may have been a little slow to grasp the plotline. Or I was looking for plotlines where none were meant to be.

Enjoyed the read in two sittings. That means something.

Looking forward to rereading the 2014 Collection once it is published in print!

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The World You See

I spent a couple of hours with some young people this weekend and it got me thinking.

That statement is significant. The drug infusion didn’t go very well because someone screwed up and ended up giving me an overdose that left me puking my guts out for nearly three days. So being able to be outside my dark room and off my bathroom floor was pretty cool.

Then the really cool peeps I ended up spending time with in the name of ‘training’, happened to be very young. Maybe not young in experience but anyone on the -23 range counts as young to me these days. I feel old most of the times these days. Go to the gym and the young lady on the treadmill next to me hits 12 speed while I’m huffing at 6. Go to the supermarket and the kind till person smiles, ‘Hello mum, do you have a loyalty card?’ Okay, fine, I’m exaggerating. But I do have lotsa white hairs.

As to the thinking…

Anyway, the youth in the really cool peeps was evident in their ability to express ideas with such enthusiasm and hope, I found myself feeling a little peeved with myself for being so negative about some things. Sighed several times, ‘To be young again!’

One of the conversations we had was on the increase of narcissistic obsession. It’s all about me, I, mine… We are so focused on what’s good for me. Some schools of thought encourage psychopathic arrogance. You don’t have to be nice, just be good at what you do. Nice guys finish last. etc etc

Then we are shocked when killers kill – they are good at what they do, and definitely not nice about it. #Gaza #Westgate #Mpeketoni #Ukraine The Twitter hashtags abound to prove my point.

Look around you. How much narcissism do you see? Look at yourself. How many times do you put your needs ahead of the safety and well-being of others? In the way you drive, the way you grow the food you sell to consumers, the reports you hand in that affect that company you work for that supports 40 -100 employees, the policies you support, the politics you stand with…

Enthusiasm only comes in when I’ll be getting my way and gaining a lot from it. Hope is almost non-existent because I’m double sure my next door neighbour has just about the same amount of ill-will towards me as I have towards him.

I look at the people I work with and sometimes I am simply amazed by the sheer amount of politicking and scheming going on. What happened to doing your best and getting ahead by merit? Everyone assumes the other is out to get them and you’ve got an endless cycle of show downs. It generally exhausts me so I keep finding myself zoning people out and focusing on tasks, which isn’t easy because I have to pretend I’m working with a bunch of difficult AI. Reboot! Edit code!

I’ve caught myself saying more than once that I can’t deal with humans. Repeated the joke: “I used to be a people person, but people ruined it.” I hear my own narcissism in that.

I’ve watched with amusement as feminists and pseudo-feminists react to a certain ‘young lady’s’ articles on societal issues. A few years ago, I listened with amusement as people harped about the content of a certain radio presenter’s show. There was even talk – in both cases – of impressionable youth adopting the teachings perpetuated by these persons. Haaaarrr!

1. Words only have as much power as YOU give them. Emotionally/verbally abusive relationships destroy the victim only as long as the victim needs and seeks validation from the abuser.

2. Bad behaviour ignored, good behaviour rewarded. This kindergaten principle doesn’t always work, but it would definitely work if bad online behaviour was denied airtime/airplay and better /more useful content promoted. It isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

3. Humans have stopped thinking for themselves and will simply adopt other people’s thoughts. People go with the popular opinion.

I watched an Indian acquaintance declare that if you worked with Israelis, you would understand why Hitler threw them into the gas chambers. I wondered if he had even paused to consider what he was endorsing. I personally know a Kikuyu man who cheered at the brutal murder of an old Indian couple, because some other Indians he worked for were cruel employees. I bet you can add to these stories here.

We just don’t see each other as human beings. Africans see whites and either assume that all whites have money and ‘can help’ or that all whites have a ‘white-saviour complex’ or that all whites are racist pigs. The people from the other side either see ‘lazy niggers’, ‘what a gifted young man from Africa’, or ‘you are from Kenya, I have a friend in Nigeria, do you know him?’ Christian Kenyans see Muslim terrorists. Muslim Kenyans see hateful Christians. Kikuyu. Luo. Israeli. Palestinian. Just depends on which holy war you are fighting.

Like, I said, spending time with hopeful enthusiastic young people got me thinking. I didn’t say I found a solution. I don’t have a solution. But I know who does.

In the meantime, I’ll pop another pill and get me some sleep.

Review: Soul Music

Soul Music
Soul Music by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Music runs the world. Totally loved this analogous narrative about the capitalistic insanity of the rock band world – crappy, crappier bands and all.

Suck. Crash. Trollz. And then there is The Band. Glitter, manager and death racing right along. And no one got sex. Or drugs!

And then the day music died? Music didn’t die at all! Because Death is on an extension mania.

Soul Music isn’t my number 1 Discworld novel. But I loved it!

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Dreadlocked Lines

The coffee shop isn’t too crowded.  There’s a middle aged couple at the far corner talking in hushed tones. A young woman wearing a blue niqab that reminds me of my high school classmate and swimming partner from all those years ago is seated two tables away from me. Blue Niqab is reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I can barely read the title from where I sit but I recognize the cover with its multi-colored quadrilaterals and the lady holding an umbrella. The book on the shelf in my living room has the same cover.

It occurs to me that I’d rather be anywhere but a scantily populated coffee shop on a Saturday morning. As a matter of fact, I know I would still hate being at the coffee shop if there were more people. I just hate coffee shops. Period.

But I did promise to be here. So I take a deep breath, another of many that I have been taking to try and steel my nerves, stop the racing of my heart, dry the palms of my clammy cold hands. It hasn’t worked so far.  I look at the coffee in front of me, the cute heart design on the froth sinking into the milky base with every second I wait.

Maybe, I should leave. I look around, wonder for a moment what the people watching me might think, wonder why they would care, wonder why they would be watching me instead of minding their own business… The crazy little thoughts ping pong in my mind and I almost laugh at the ridiculousness of it. So I continue sitting, back ramrod straight, just staring at the coffee.

I blink.

And then there she is, walking towards me, tall, with an air of superiority about her, her dancer’s hips encased in faded blue jeans that disappear into suede calf high boots. God, she is tall! I raise my eyes, I can now see her smile, and peripherally her long dreadlocked hair. I always wanted dreadlocks. I just never made the effort to go get them. They look nice against her éclair brown skin.

She is upon me with another blink. I stand; my hand extends of its own accord to offer a handshake. I realise she is closing in for a hug. And then she is hugging me. For a half moment I see the lines in her face. The picture on Facebook of her with the Martin Luther King Memorial in the backdrop made her look as young as the teenage boy and girl standing with her. A son and daughter the captions and comments had explained.

I can smell her perfume; it is nice, hints of both fruit and flowers, definitely lavender. I like her perfume. Then I feel the anger rushing in. It is brimming hot and quickly overpowers the fruity and floral scent. I think I can’t breathe. I really can’t breathe. She says something; I can’t make out what she says. All I can hear is a garbled sound that makes my head hurt. She leans in, bending her knees as she does, and speaks again. I still can’t hear what she says. I can’t even see her clearly anymore. She is just a silhouette now, with a fiery red aura.

I can’t take it anymore. There is a ringing in my ears, a pain in my head that I don’t want to feel anymore. She is talking. She is still talking; why will she not just shut up? I want her to be quiet, for just a moment, so I can think, so I can bring my mind under control again. But I still hear the garbled sound coming from her.

I just can’t take it anymore. My hands close around the serviette wrapped knife and fork that the waitress placed on the table for some reason. An inane thought crossed my mind; shouldn’t the fork be delivered along with the food, or at least just before the food is served?

And right then a gust of clean, calm coolness sweeps into my mind. My heart slows down. The aura dissipates. My hand lets go of the knife and fork. My hands are still cold and clammy, but they are not shaking now. And I can hear her words.

“Oh my gad, it is such a long time since I’ve been in a café in Nairobi!”

© Juliet Maruru