Imagine, you have just died. I know, kinda crappy, right? But! At least all your earthly suffering is over. Whatever caused your death is no longer trImagine, you have just died. I know, kinda crappy, right? But! At least all your earthly suffering is over. Whatever caused your death is no longer troubling you and you are restored to the prime of your youth and deposited into a vast, almost infinite library filled with every book that could ever be written and where you do not age, you have perfect memory and are able to recall every word you have ever read and every event that has ever happened to you, your every injury and even death are healed overnight, your every culinary desire is met by an automated kiosk and you are surrounded by people who are pretty similar to you in background. You would think that you are in heaven, wouldn't you? Or at least a book geek's version of it. Yet, you'd be entirely and completely wrong. Because you are actually in hell. Or one version of it based on a short story by Borges The Library of Babel.
Until I read the book, just the concept of a library as hell was complete anathema to my mind. The story tells you straight up, however, that this is hell, as you are greeted by a polite but very red demon against the backdrop of bodies burning endlessly in tar and lava and told that you are here because the one true faith is Zoroastrianism, so bad luck for you unless you worship the Lord of Light and Wisdom Ahura Mazda. Here he is by the way:
(I seriously need to go read up on this stuff as this is the second book made of awesome which I have read in the last year which is based, at least in part, on Zoroastrian mythology).
The devil, of course, is in the detail and comes down to how you define a "book". Because for me, you see, in order to be a "book" something needs to not just be shaped as a book (in fact, with the advent of e-books, it doesn't even need to be shaped as a book at all) but also have content capable of conveying meaning (even if it is meaning which I am not capable of understanding). Whereas in the Zoroastrian hell library, a "book" is essentially a paper book of a set size, 410 pages long and with a set number of lines per page and letters per line consisting of about 95 characters on the standard English keyboard arranged in all possible variations which gives us 95 to the power of 1,312,000 possible books, i.e. quite a bit more than there are electrons in the universe and a library that's about 7,16 to the power of 1,297,369 light years wide and deep but the vast majority of which are just a random arrangement of letters and symbols which carries no meaning whatsoever.
Your task in this hell is to find your earthly life story without errors. "If your story is accepted, you will be admitted into a glorious heaven filled with wonders and joys beyond your imagination." Oh, and "you are here to lean something. Don't try to figure out what it is. This can be frustrating and unproductive".
This book was mind-blowing. It is a book about philosophy and religion and the meaning of life – all things that normally make me cringe and move slowly away but here it was all done in such a gentle non-patronising non-head-bashing way, it was fascinating. My only complaint is that it was not long enough. At the start, it is described as a book found by the narrator in the library. So where, I ask you, are the other 302 pages then? Yet, this is a minor complaint. For all its brevity, there is so much packed into the pages of this book. Love, loss, violence, horror, insanity, cattle mentality, sorrow, hope, hopelessness, infinity are just a few of the themes. I'm sure I will be picking this up again sooner rather than later....more
I don't know how to rate this book or what to think about it, really. On the one hand, I cannot deny that it is a beautifully written, lyrical and perI don't know how to rate this book or what to think about it, really. On the one hand, I cannot deny that it is a beautifully written, lyrical and perfectly constructed piece of literature. On the other hand, it is a parable about a journey to spiritual enlightenment. I hate parables, particularly ones about spiritual enlightenment, with an intensity that really cannot be healthy for me. The words "spiritual enlightenment" generally make me want to stab somebody in the face repeatedly, preferably with a rusty fork. There is practically nothing else that can inspire as much rage in me as the smug spewing of vague meaningless drivel that typically accompanies the words "spiritual enlightenment".
You've probably guessed by now that I am not a particularly "spiritual" person and, frankly, I do not wish to be one. Personally, I believe that the meaning of life is life itself and, for me, that is enough. I do not wish for spiritual enlightenment or nirvana. So, it is perhaps no surprise that this book largely irritated and baffled me. Yet, I cannot deny that it also made me think about certain things that I wouldn't ordinarily think about, all be it that in most cases either my views were at odds with those in the book or the book's message was irrelevant to me or my life. Did I learn anything particularly valuable or profound? No, but a whole day later and I am still thinking about it. Struggling to understand what it is I am not understanding.
It seems to me my main problem with the book is its self negation. One of its central messages is that wisdom/enlightenment is not something that can be learned but is something that must be experienced which is fine, but it goes further than that. The point seems to be in how "experience" appears to be defined to exclude knowledge and thought altogether.
"Knowledge can be transferred, but not wisdom. It can be found and lived, and it is possible to be carried by it. Miracles can be performed with it, but it can't be expressed and taught with words." "The words are not good for the secret meaning, everything always becomes a bit different, as soon as it is put into words." "This are things, and things can be loved. But I cannot love words. Therefore, teachings are no good for me, they have no hardness, no softness, no colours, no edges, no smell, no taste, they have nothing but words. Perhaps it are these which keep you from finding peace, perhaps it are the many words. Because salvation and virtue as well, Sansara and Nirvana as well, are mere words, Govinda. There is no thing which would be Nirvana; there is just the word Nirvana." "I don't differentiate much between thoughts and words. To be honest, I don't have a high opinion of thoughts, either. I have a better opinion of things. Here on this ferry boat, for instance, a holy man who for many years believed simply in the river, and nothing else, has been my predecessor and teacher. He noticed that the river spoke to him and he learned from it. It educated him and taught him; the river seemed to be a god to him, and for many years he did not know that every wind, cloud, bird, and beetle was just as divine, knows just as much, and can teach just as much as the reverent river. When this holy man went into the forest, however, he knew everything. Without teachers or books, he knew more than you and I do—only because he had believed in the river."
I cannot understand or agree with this. Yes, knowledge does not equal wisdom but equally, I don't understand what "experience" is if does not include knowledge and thought. Not only is this complete anathema to me as a book lover but I fail to understand what, then, is the point of this book, which is, in essence words, a teaching?
Also this idea of universal unity and time as illusion:
"The world, my friend Govinda, is not imperfect or on a slow path towards perfection; no, it is perfect every moment. All sin already carries divine forgiveness within itself, all small children already have the old person within themselves, all infants have death, all the dying have eternal life. It isn't possible for any one person to see how far another one has already progressed on his path, because the Buddha is waiting inside the robber and the gambler, and the robber is waiting within the Brahmin. It is also possible through deep meditation to put time out of existence and to see all the life that was and is and ever will be as if they were all simultaneous; in that simultaneity is everything that is good, perfect, and Brahman. I therefore see whatever exists as good. Death is like life to me, sin is like holiness, wisdom is like foolishness; everything has to be just as it is, and everything requires only my consent, willingness, and loving agreement to become good to me and work for my benefit, unable to ever harm me."
Obviously, the very basis of this is the belief in the eternal soul and divinity which, I'm afraid, I do not share. And that's really the bottom line, I suspect. The book and I are working from a different set of beliefs and will always be at cross-purposes because the beliefs are at cross purposes. ...more
That's the sound of me flying through the pages of this book. This is going directly onto my "my own personal brand of heroin"Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
That's the sound of me flying through the pages of this book. This is going directly onto my "my own personal brand of heroin" shelf (previously known as my "crack" shelf, I am shaking up my illegal substances). Cause, seriously, I finished this within a day. And I was at work throughout most of it. Now I am looking like a blood drinking vampire, my eyes are so red. 'Cause I stayed up until 3am. Damn you, book, for being so addictive.
I put off reading this for several months. Because religion pisses me off. No, that's not right. The way so many religious authors shove religion down my throat in their books pisses me off. I already get enough of that from the Jahova's witnesses who insist on ringing the doorbell at 9 am every Saturday morning to ask me what I think the purpose of life is. I have not punched them in the face so far. Clearly, I ought to be canonised.
Also, I was lead to understand this was a HEALTHY young adult romance. Huh? What do I want with healthy? My hard on for dysfunctional, stalkery, rapey, unbalanced, damaged etc etc has been drummed into me for years and years and NOW you give me healthy? I wasn't sure I would like healthy. Maybe, healthy is not my thing. I haven't exactly gone for it in my real life. Much. Put me in a roomful of men and I am pretty much guaranteed to sniff out the mentals to crush on.
Also, although I must admit I have come across interesting use of angel lore (Dogma was full of awesome, the brief glimpse at Anhelikos in Lilith Saintcrow's The Devil's Right Hand was intriguing and Daughter of Smoke and Bone is great), generally angels=epic snoozefest in my head. They never interested me much. I know there's supposed to be some amazing mythology behind them and all, but they just don't seem as fun as the Greek gods, to take but one example.
Anywho, this book. This book is about Clara. Not a fan of that name, BTW. Yeah, it's appropriate seeing as it means light and bright and blah blah blah but it still sounds a bit too turn of the 19th century. I don't know anyone named Clara or anyone who has named their kid Clara. Admittedly, I am not part angel, which is what Clara is. She lives in California with her mum Meg and brother Jeff. Being an angel-blood, Clara has wings, can speak any language and is better and more adept at, well, most things than an average human, but otherwise she is your typical teenage girl. Except with a purpose. All angels have a purpose which they must fulfil on this earth and Clara's comes to her in bits and pieces in visions. She sees a boy standing with his back to her in the midst of a forest fire but the specifics of what it is she needs to do elude her.
As more details emerge, Clara determines that the forest in her visions is located in Wyoming, so the whole family relocates to Jackson Hole, which is a real place. I googled it and it is breathtaking. Just look at this:
I can totally see why Ms Hand set it there. If nothing else, she has shown that she is really smart with this book. I wouldn't like to move there, cause I'm a city girl through and through, but it looks fantabulous. The log cabin houses/mansions are also available for viewing on google (if one is into property porn).
In Jackson Hole, Clara makes some new friends, including Wendy (probably the only complete cipher in this book for me, other than she likes horses, I got nothing) and Angela, who is a sassy, clever independent goth chick and poet and meets Christian, the boy from her visions who is magnetic hotness personified (I think the word broody is mentioned, but I didn't get too much of a broody vibe from him so far, perhaps, something to look forward to in the later book) and Tucker, Wendy's twin brother. All the other reviews of this already wax lyrical about how glorious Tucker is. So I'm not going to add much other than to say that he really is, bar a minor episode where he freaks out over Clara's glowing. It is quite clever the way Ms Hand makes Clara and the readers fall for him not because he is the pre-ordained star-crossed lover who we are told and must accept is hotter than the sun or by making the relationship antagonistic to the point of abusiveness because clearly love is all about that but by showing through Tucker's actions, interests and treatment of Clara what a great guy he is and by letting the relationship develop naturally.
I thought this book was great. It was maybe a bit twee at certain moments. I am thinking of the departure for the prom, achieving glory while kissing a boy and the whole power of love thing (the italics are a bit random, just imagine Celine Dion belting out the words, you know you know the tune). But, overall, I enjoyed it. Really really really enjoyed it. The pacing was good, the writing flowed, I didn't feel like anything was being shoved down my throat at any point, the mythology was interesting, the foreshadowing well done, the love triangle wasn't annoying but most of all I loved loved loved the characters. The cast was diverse and rounded and believable and I had no trouble at all locating my inner teenager to care for and sympathise with them. A great read and I can't wait to find out what happens next. ...more