The Impossible Fairytale by Han Yujoo – #BookReview

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The Impossible Fairytale (불가능한 동화) by Han Yujoo
Published by Graywolf Press on March 7, 2017
Genres: Korean Books
Pages: 192
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon
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five-stars

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The Impossible Fairytale by Han Yujoo (Korean books)

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Synopsis of The Impossible Fairytale:

The Impossible Fairytale tells the story of the nameless ‘Child’, who struggles to make a mark on the world, and her classmate Mia, whose spoiled life is everything the Child’s is not.

At school, adults are nearly invisible, and the society the children create on their own is marked by soul-crushing hierarchies and an underlying menace. Then, one day after hours, the Child sneaks into the classroom to add ominous sentences to her classmates’ notebooks, setting in motion a series of cataclysmic events.

First Sentence:

“Dog.
See the Dog.
See the dog drifting by.”

My Opinion of The Impossible Fairytale:

It was incredible!

The fantastic literary experiment that Han Yujoo did with The Impossible Fairytale was a wonderful trip down a scary and exciting forest path for me. Han Yujoo (and her translator Janet Hong) has a wonderful way of words.

Some parts of the story are a bit out there, but you can easily skip them.
The gems however are when you get to the really scary meta-literary passages full of confusing and enticing power.

The Child, a small girl, seems to be a ghost in her own classroom but decides to enter her classroom in the dark and change the words in her classmates’ workbooks. The next day the teacher sees this changes and this sets the stage for the deepening trouble to happen.

“It hurts. Friction spreads through her whole body. But she doesn’t have the luxury of feeling pain. Blood oozes from her chin.” – The Impossible Fairy Tale p.61

The Child and Mia are both set down a scary tunnel of exciting and unnerving consequences. But we too are brought into a sort of dream-like world where there is murder and betrayal.

The meta-literary parts of the The Impossible Fairytale were entirely like Alice in Wonderland, but far worse. Whereas Alice in Wonderland can be easily read by children, The Impossible Fairytale has some actions and themes that would be best for adults.

But I think the main point of this novel is the question “what is the consequences of writing a novel where you have your characters commit such an awful thing like murder?”

Han Yujoo (the author) needs to comes to grip with what her character has become and what she herself forced her to do by writing the novel. Is the character responsible for her actions? Or is it the author’s responsibility?

“When I look up from the attendance sheet and survey the lecture hall, I spot an unfamiliar face. She wasn’t here the first day of class. Her name isn’t even on the attendance sheet.” – The Impossible Fairy Tale p.156

By creating art through writing, the author creates another world where there is no independence in actions but instead a force of the hand. In this case, the Child comes out of the novel in a sort of strange dream like state where the reader as well as Han Yujoo needs to come to grips with what the story has become.

The Impossible Fairytale is like a slippery slope where the reader drops down into a rabbit hole full of impossible but exciting events. It made my hair twitch and my insides gurgle. This is a book which you can’t read anywhere else. The full crushing experience of Korean classroom culture and Korean home life as seen in Our Twisted Hero by Mun-Yol Yi comes to the forefront.

If you love Alice in Wonderland on acid, then this is for you.
It is the ultimate road trip down a dream world of impossibility and slippery images of pain and hate.


Summary:

The Impossible Fairytale is really an experiment in writing, but because of that is just another experience altogether. You really just to keep reading and immerse yourself in the emotional song of the Han Yujoo’s book.

Some parts can be skipped, but that doesn’t mean you need to toss out the baby with the water.

If you like trance-like states and amazing detail in disturbing classroom life, along with meta-literal thrills, you really need to get this book. It’s something you just need to do.

I would highly recommend The Impossible Fairytale to anyone who is open to out-of-body experiences and to push the limits of their comfort zone.

My Rating: 5/5

Find all details about The Impossible Fairytale on GoodReads and Amazon.

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The Gapcai Effect by W.S. Jenkins – #BookReview

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The Gapcai Effect by W.S. Jenkins
Published by Dragon Tree Books on September 14th 2018
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 298
Format: eBook
Source: Net Galley
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four-stars

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The Gapcai Effect - W.S. Jenkins (Science Fiction Book)

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Synopsis of The Gapcai Effect:

In The Gapcai Effect, Space scientist Toba Antanari, of the interstellar civilization GAPCAI, has always had an obsession with reaching another star that supports humanoid life. After discovering the planet Earth when streaming data begins to return from probes that tracked the life of every human since the year 1637, he eventually learns how to traverse the vast expanse of space.

After evaluating 250 years of historical data on his 800-day journey to the new world, he knows he possesses the means to bring order to a promising but increasingly chaotic civilization with the assistance of his GAPCAI technology. But alas, the implementation of his plans sets off a chain of events he never could have imagined…

First Sentence:

“For nearly one thousand years, Toba Antanari pursued the seemingly unattainable goal of eclipsing the speed of light. Though many on his world, GAPCAI, considered him the preeminent scientist of any generation, for the last 300 years of his life he felt like a failure.”

My Opinion of The Gapcai Effect:

I really loved the premise of this book!

What if there is another humanoid race in a distant galaxy that has solved all our problems with A.I. and technology? That is the question that The Gapcai Effect poses for us.

It was a fantastic read because this is something happening now in our own world. A.I. and machine learning is ramping up with AlphaGo beating Lee Sedol in the five match Go match in 2016. AlphaGo was a computer program developed by DeepMind Technologies, now the leading A.I. technology firm that was acquired by Google in 2014. We still have lots to do in the fields of A.I. and machine learning, but the start has already begun in our current time.

“It’s also immediately clear that they possess Artificial Intelligence that is heavily integrated into existence… It’s like an extension of themselves.” – The GAPCAI EFFECT

But imagine if we fast forward another 1000 years in the future on our own planet Earth with A.I. helping to create a utopian world. Then imagine if we were to meet another humanoid species millions of light years away and help them to rid themselves of humankind’s greatest ailments using our more advanced technology and A.I. This is the central premise of this novel and is incredibly exciting to look at what the results of that would be.

I was waiting for something go wrong and boy did things go wrong. Not only on the planet Earth but also on Toba’s own home world.

I loved how at the root of the central conflict was not on the technology side of things, but on something so human-like as jealously over a girl/boy. Despite the curbing of human actions at an external level, bubbling underneath the surface are all the emotional forces of anger, jealously, fear and hatred. The novel spells out that we cannot ever run away from what makes us human. We can only control externally what the possible results might be from that internal emotional roller coaster.

“Even though they’d been distant since his change, he knew she would hear about it, especially about the kiss. He felt guilt coming on, but he rationalized that he hadn’t done anything wrong.” – The GAPCAI EFFECT

I also loved how beneath the perfect uptopian society there was secrets and subtle challenges to the things as they were. Despite the façade of an utopia, humans will always find ways around the so-called rules designed by A.I. and technology to meet their own desires.

The characters are also fascinating, in particular Aulaura, the distinguished reporter who is able to meet the humanoid alien Toba in person and perform the interview of the millennium.


The later stages of the novel supercharge and explores the unexpected consequences of Toba’s experiment on Earth through the characters of Kurt and Sarah Jo. Imagine if the tables are turned upside down, with those people limited in power are given superhuman intelligence and strength? It reminded me of the X-men saga, with mutants coming up against the rest of humanity. But The Gapcai Effect plays that narrative down another path with an interesting ending in stall for you.

The Gapcai Effect manages to play all these narratives together nicely with many characters and side plots merging together to an ultimate showdown in the ending. It was a really great read!

Summary:

Although this book might be a bit slow at the start, you really need to give a go and read it to the end! The premise plays out in such a great way and keeps the novel grounded in the emotional stories of the main characters.

If you love science fiction or even love reading about great characters, you should give The Gapcai Effect a chance and get it today!

My Rating: 4/5

Find all details about The Gapcai Effect on Goodreads and Amazon.

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George Orwell’s 1984 Big Brother: Your Burning Questions Answered

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What is the meaning of ‘Big Brother Is Watching You’ in George Orwell’s Book 1984?

George Orwell’s 1984 Big Brother is a formidable figure. George Orwell wrote the sentence “Big Brother is watching you” in his novel 1984 (Nineteen Eighty Four). It comes up on the first page and third paragraph of the book. However what most people think of Big Brother today is different from the meaning George Orwell intended in his book.

“Big Brother Is Watching You” – this is the caption that runs underneath a giant poster in George Orwell’s novel. As Winston Smith, the protagonist of 1984, enters an apartment building he is faced with a giant poster with an enormous face. This face belongs to ‘Big Brother’.

“Even from the coin the eyes pursued you” (p.21)

The giant poster of ‘Big Brother’ was designed so that no matter where you go the eyes follow you about as you move. This is the literal meaning of ‘Big Brother Is Watching You’.

1984 Big Brother is Watching You Poster

Big Brother is Watching You Poster. By CBS Television – eBayfrontback, Public Domain, Link

Throughout the book ‘Big Brother’ does not just appear on posters. He also appears as a vast figure on TV screens (pg.12), on coins being used as money (pg. 21), on stamps, on the covers of books, on banners, on the wrappings of cigarette packets (pg. 21), on children’s history books (pg.62), as a giant papier-mâché model two metres wide (pg.83), and as portraits lining the streets (pg.117).

 

Who is George Orwell’s 1984 Big Brother?

Was Big Brother a real person in 1984? The protagonist, Winston Smith, also asks the same question. However the answers he hears back does not curb his want to learn the truth. The answers he receives to his questions are:

“Nobody has ever seen Big Brother” (p.162)

“Does Big Brother exist?”
“Of course he exists. The Party exists. Big Brother is the embodiment of the Party.” (p.204)

This shows that there was no real identity for Big Brother as revealed in the novel 1984. However if we are to take some examples from history, there probably was at least one main leader who controlled the party.

George Orwell published his novel Nineteen Eighty Four in 1949, so we could see what kind of historical examples he may have looked at when writing his book.

The main example would have been Joseph Stalin who ruled the Soviet Union from the 1920s to his death in 1953. Joseph Stalin initially ruled the USSR as a one-party state governed by plurality but by the 1930s became the dictator of the Soviet Union.

Joseph Stalin portrait - Cult of Personality

Joseph Stalin portrait. By Resetnyikov – https://sovietbooks.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/st-img_0466.jpg, Public Domain, Link

In a bid to shore up his control of the party and of the USSR, throughout these years Stalin grew a Cult of Personality. This is where he was deliberately portrayed to the people of USSR as a great person who should be admired and loved.

How did he do this? By bringing all artistic and cultural production under state control. In effect, all artists were employed by the state to create products that consistently praised Stalin with all competing points of view eliminated.

 

So, Was Big Brother a Real Person?

Big Brother in George Orwell’s 1984 might not be real person. Well, at least Big Brother’s identity is not given. But we can also see similar processes of personality cults with other leaders of totalitarian communist or totalitarian fascist states as well.

These include Joseph Stalin (the Soviet Union – see above), Chairman Mao Zedong (Republic of China), Adolf Hitler (Nazi Germany), Benito Mussolini (fascist Italy), as well as Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un (all three from North Korea).

“Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or in bed – no escape.” (p.21)

So here we can see very similar ideas and mechanisms between Cult of Personalities historically around the world and George Orwell’s 1984 Big Brother. Even if we are not given any answers to the identity of Big Brother in the novel, it seems according to historical precedent that there must have been at one leader who controlled the one-party state.

Mao Zedong Political Poster

Mao Zedong Political Poster. By Francisco AnzolaPolitical poster Mao, CC BY 2.0, Link

 

What does Big Brother represent in George Orwell’s 1984?

Big Brother represents the ‘dictatorship of the party’. Essentially this means that the party is represented by Big Brother, both being entities that are always watching and knowing every action and thought of the population.

This is shown by the omnipresent images of Big Brother throughout the novel. The vast face appears everywhere from giant banners within and outside apartment blocks to stamps, coins and the covers of children’s history books.

“Big Brother is the guise in which the Party choose to exhibit itself to the world” (p.162).

Winston Smith, the protagonist of the novel, continuously describes the eyes of Big Brother in portraits and banners designed so that they seemingly follow you as you move. In effect, it is not just Big Brother who is watching you but the Party itself.

Joseph Stalin portrait march

Joseph Stalin Portrait. By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-18684-0002 / Höhne, Erich; Pohl, Erich / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, Link

This kind of ever-present surveillance by the party is further emphasized by the telescreens which receive and transmit simultaneously. These telescreens in the novel seem as ubiquitous as televisions or mobiles are in our own world, but with one difference: they can be dimmed but can’t be turned off.

 

What does Big Brother mean in 2018?

Nowadays, Big Brother is not just a term that has a negative connotation but is also the title of a worldwide popular TV series.

The TV series Big Brother first started in 1999 and was originally a Dutch reality competition TV series that was created by John de Mol. Now Big Brother is a franchise which has different TV series across the world including US, Australia, Canada, China, Africa, the Balkans, Albania, Angola, Belgium, Brazil and lots more.

In each of the different franchises, there is a common premise. That is, housemates (people living in the house) live together in a specifically constructed house that is isolated from the outside world. Housemates are voted out and the last housemate remaining wins a cash prize.

Big Brother TV franchise

Big Brother TV franchise. By Jiaren Lau – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jiaren/196057713/, CC BY 2.0, Link

While living in the house, contestants are constantly monitored with a vast array of live television cameras and personal audio devices. Big Brother is used as not only the title of the series but also an omnipresent authority figure who represents the producers of the TV series. The produces give the contestants tasks to do by communicating with them through the Big Brother authority figure.

 

Is the idea of the TV show Big Brother taken from George Orwell’s 1984 Big Brother?

Although the name of the TV series is Big Brother, there is little else in common with George Orwell’s 1984 Big Brother.

George Orwell in his novel was attempting to depict a dystopian future in the UK where a totalitarian one party state controls and monitors the thoughts and behaviors of its populace. In the TV series Big Brother, contestants in the house are continuously monitored with TV cameras and audio equipment.

The commonalities are that a group of people are being continuously monitored by cameras and audio. However, in George Orwell’s 1984 the populace has no control over the monitoring. In contrast, in the TV series Big Brother contestants apply for and can withdraw themselves from the house at any time they like.

Big Brother TV Nowegian House 2001

Big Brother TV Norwegian House in 2001. By EzzexOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Also, other reality TV series such as Survivor! have cameras pointed at the contestants for most of the time. If there were some other TV series which attempted to bring other concepts of George Orwell’s series into reality there would most likely some kind of legal ramification.

In particular, one major part of George Orwell’s novel 1984 was about censorship. This is where photographs are edited and public archives modified in order to control the information given to the populace. People who have been eliminated from the party are removed from photographs, and past figures are changed in order to cover up falsehoods in the present.

This kind of censorship comes to the front in maintaining the admiration and love for Big Brother and the Party. However, these kind of themes are absent from the TV series Big Brother.

 

What is the book 1984 by George Orwell about?

George Orwell’s 1984 is essentially a criticism of totalitarian regimes. He does this by portraying what the future would look like if England itself had become a totalitarian regime controlled by an all-seeing one-party state.

Looking at the historical context, the novel would be a major criticism towards Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship rule over the Soviet Union throughout the 1930s. In particular, George Orwell’s other famous book Animal Farm is based on the criticism of Stalinism. Animal Farm itself deals with the events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm was published in 1945, and Orwell’s 1984 was published in 1949. Thus we can see that George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four is a continuation of Orwell’s criticism of totalitarian regimes. In particular, the fearful future where a totalitarian government has complete control over the past, present and future of their populace.

“Does he exist in the same way as I exist?”
“You do not exist,” said Brian. (p.204)

Nowhere is this more evident then in the censorship and monitoring powers of Big Brother and the Party. When one can police the thoughts of citizens and modify the archival records to fabricate new facts, there is little ordinary citizens can do to gain back their rights of privacy and freedom of thought. Or at least that is what Orwell wants to propose in his novel.

 

Summary of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four:

We follow the footsteps and thoughts of the main protagonist, Winston Smith, as he deals with a Britain controlled by a Stalinist totalitarian regime.  Big Brother and his cult of personality totally overwhelm the environment and setting of the novel, while Smith is merely a rank-and-file party member.

Smith secretly hates the Party and Big Brother but must hide his thoughts and intentions from other party members as well as the Thought Police. He attempts to get help from the Brotherhood – a secret underground resistance force. However, things begin to get complicated when Julia (a worker at the ministry) hands Smith a note that simply reads ‘I love you’.

George Orwell's 1984 Nineteen Eighteen Four

George Orwell’s 1984 Nineteen Eighteen Four. By OrwellinoOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Along the way Smith attempts to get help from his boss O’Brien (an inner Party member). However, this does not go along the lines that Smith wanted. In the end there is a bittersweet ending when Smith realizes that he loved Big Brother after all. Essentially, this is not a fairy tale ending but in fact an emphasis of the total power of Big Brother and the Party.

What did you think of George Orwell’s 1984 Big Brother? Do you like the ending of the book? Are you only reading this because you have to do a book report that’s due tomorrow? Let me know what other burning questions about George Orwell’s 1984 Big Brother you want answered below. 

And always remember:
Big Brother Is Watching You.

George Orwell's 1984 Big Brother

By Frederic Guimont ; Original uploader was ChemicalBit at it.wikipedia1984comic.com (former Art Libre licence stated here) ; Transferred from it.wikipedia, FAL, Link

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Today’s Activities – #update

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I’m currently still reading The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin and finalising my review of her book.

It seems like I have more negative points to say of how she constructed the book, but overall I have a good rating for it.

It would depend on the ending of the book, and how the rest of The Broken Earth trilogy would fit in with the first novel.

I’m a bit late in reviewing her Hugo Awarding book, The Fifth Season, but I only recently discovered it as well as the other Hugo awarding books.

I also want to update the other books reviews on my blog and organise my books on my goodreads account too. So many things to do.

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A.J. McMahon
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Pachinko Machine – what does Pachinko mean? #MinJinLee

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What exactly is a Pachinko Machine in Min Jin Lee’s novel Pachinko? 

In Min Jin Lee’s latest book, there is a very interesting metaphor being used in the title. Her book is called Pachinko and describes Korean immigrants experiences and lives in Japan. But wait, you say – what exactly is a Pachinko machine? Add what does Pachinko mean in English?

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Well, Pachinko is a Japanese word that refers to a machine which is like a Japanese slot machine but a little bit different.

With a slot machine, you pull the handle and wait for the pictures to line up. If the pictures match, you can win big (especially the hard-to-get pictures).

But with a Pachinko machine, you pull back a spring loaded handle and launch the ball (much smaller than western pinball games) into a metal track.

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The ball then flys to the top of the playing field and begins to fall.

Pachinko Machine Balls

Pachinko Machine Balls. By MichaelMaggsOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The playing field is full of brass pins, several small cups (about the width of the small ball), and a hole at the bottom.

If the ball fall into one of the cups, the player gets a payout – a number of other small balls drop into the tray in the front of the machine.

If the ball fall into the hole at the bottom (which it will if it doesn’t fall into one of the cups), then that ball is gone.

The goal of the game is to collect as many balls as possible. These balls can be exchanged for non-cash prizes within the Pachinko parlor. Then these non-cash prizes can be exchanged for cash outside the premises of the Pachinko machine parlor.

Pachinko Machine in 1951

Pachinko Machine in 1951. By 朝日新聞社 – 『アサヒグラフ』 1951年9月19日号, Public Domain, Link

Although gambling is illegal in Japan, exchanging for non-cash prizes within the premises and exchanging for cash outside keeps the game in a legal gray zone.

So, why does Min Jin Lee use Pachinko as the title for her book?

Pachinko machines are essentially a vertical slot machine where winning is not related to the player’s skill. Instead, after launching the ball, winning or losing depends entirely mostly on luck.

Min Jin Lee uses this as a metaphor for what happens to the Korean family in the story.

Pachinko machines are a constant take on chance against overwhelming and unknown odds. So too for generations of the Korean family coming to terms with their exile in Japan, caught between the physical difficulty of exile and the internal feelings of loss.

Pachinko Machine Gambling Hall

Pachinko Machine Gambling Hall. CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

In particular, throughout the novel Min Jin Lee shows how fate (or even patience) can snap, thus showing the bareness of its aftermath.

(Check out the hottest Korean fiction – The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon here!)

Sunja (the main character of the novel) has two sons, however the fate of each son is piercingly divergent.

Noa buries himself deep in imagining himself as a Japanese, attempting to rid of the feelings of loss.

On the other hand, Mozasu embraces what life he has by lowering his sights and trying to pull himself up.

The result of this is thick with compromise and tragedy.

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As Mozasu’s wife says, “Pachinko was a foolish game, but life was not.”

Mozasu in turn replies, “Adapt. Wasn’t it as simple as that?”

I hope this clears things up in regards to what a Pachinko machine is, and how Min Jin Lee uses it as a metaphor in her latest novel Pachinko.

If you have any other questions, let me below in the comment section.

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