Jason Y Ng is the author of HONG KONG State of Mind and No City for Slow Men, and has now rounded out a trilogy with Umbrellas in Bloom: Hong Kong’s OJason Y Ng is the author of HONG KONG State of Mind and No City for Slow Men, and has now rounded out a trilogy with Umbrellas in Bloom: Hong Kong’s Occupy Movement Uncovered (all published by Blacksmith Books).
While his previous books simply described modern Hong Kong social dynamics, the latest is explicitly political and an altogether different style than the others. Now that he has written book-length political commentary, Ng has become a crucial player by being first to record the 2014 “Occupy Central” protest movement in any English-language book. It is certainly a must-read. Umbrellas in Bloom covers a lot of ground. The complex political system of Hong Kong is detailed in very readable fashion, with all the grievances spelled out. Various charts explain how the economy has left the majority of citizens behind, and why so many were upset enough to camp out in protest for all those months. Most of all, the mainland Chinese government is shown to blame for suppressing universal suffrage for the former colony under the so-called “one country, two systems.” Indeed, observers of Beijing and Asia as a whole would do well to read this book and understand the climate of Beijing in relation to Hong Kong.
The language of the book does reflect a specific point of view; do not mistake it as a scholarly, objective report. Ng delves deeply into his unique experiences and certainly takes sides. It makes for a good read, and it’s refreshing that he does not censor himself and expresses his informed opinion with confidence. Perhaps there is an element of preaching to the choir, even getting repetitive at times—“blue ribbon” supporters probably won’t change their minds after reading—but for international readers seeking to understand the writing style works well.
The book is very personal as well. It begins on September 28th, 2014, the day tear gas was fired into crows as the whole world watched in horror. Then, the tone does jump around as it goes backwards on the history of Hong Kong politics The central villain is Chief Executive C.Y. Leung, known as a corrupt stooge of the mainland Chinese government, although the entirety of the Legco system in Hong Kong is highly unrepresentative. As 2017 approached—the promised time for universal suffrage, the Occupy Central movement grew. There was also the Scholarism student movement, led by famous student Joshua Wong (who wrote the forward book). Then the tale of three villages: the occupied areas of Admiralty, Mongkok, and Causeway Bay. Different ideologies and challenges are showcased, from the police to thugs and internal struggles between different factions and nativists. Some of the most heartwarming sections are about the young people he met, such as Kent and Renee and Hinson, engaging characters all.
In the end, due to a court order of all things, the Admiralty occupation fell. Four days later, on December 15th, the police cleared out the other encampments and the Umbrella Revolution was left to ponder its own legacy. Ng is quite optimistic, surprising considering nothing on paper seemed to get enacted yet, but he does point out that other famous social justiee movements throughout history took decades to achieve their goals. His conclusion is definitely that it was worth a try. “The 11 weeks I spent in Umbrellaville were the happiest in all my years in Hong Kong,” he writes. Perhaps the soul of Hong Kong has been changed in subtle ways that are not clear yet, but in the long run history will prove that things did change…
There is so much to learn from Umbrellas in Bloom. However subjective, it is definitely required reading for expats and Sinologists. Whether you were there or only watched on the news from afar, the fallout is still occurring today and enlightened observers should learn what they can.
After so many said that Storm of Swords was the peak, I was looking forward to reading A Feast for Crows as catch up in the epic Song of Ice and FireAfter so many said that Storm of Swords was the peak, I was looking forward to reading A Feast for Crows as catch up in the epic Song of Ice and Fire series, and I was sure it would be good but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel!
Of course, in reading the series after the famous HBO show has been out for so long, it cannot be denied that my impression of the visual adaptation is a factor. I have known that season 5 was when the prose and television mediums really departed, and it was fun to compare. I don't disparage the TV writers for their choices, some of it worked (although season 4 was definitely the peak), yet little did I know the book indeed was that much better...
Most of all, I enjoyed the politics with regards to Jamie Lannister as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. His responsibilities as a major player were fascinating. It's always the medieval politics that is the core of the drama, more than knights at war in action scenes.
The hardest parts to read were Cercei's point of view chapters, because she was just so cold and so awful and so stupid. It would almost be sexist, if we didn't know that George R.R. Martin could write so many competent female characters. She truly runs the kingdom into the ground, and here rationals are infuriating.
I suppose the only negative part was how abrupt goes the ending. Martin is very skilled at writing complex webs of intrigue that take us deeper and deeper, but when it all climaxes it seems that the ending went by too fast. I would have liked to see more fallout, more repercussions, more dwelling on the moments when it all comes together (or rather, falls apart) for these characters.
Can't wait to read Dance with Dragons. It was probably the right choice to split up the character arcs into two books, and I just have to be patient to see what Daenerys and Tyrion have been up to....more
Absolutely one of the most fascinating books I have ever read. Historian Yuval Harari does an incredible job of summing up the history of the human spAbsolutely one of the most fascinating books I have ever read. Historian Yuval Harari does an incredible job of summing up the history of the human species (homo sapiens to be specific, as he points out there used to be other species of humans) in a very readable way yet provokes the mind like few other books ever have.
With an almost alien-sense of objectivity -- although also sharply editorializing at times -- Harari analyzes the driving forces from neolithic times to the agricultural revolution to the Industrial one and the present shifts which may completely change and end humanity.
Personally, I think much of the book is a brilliant take on memes. Memes are mentioned briefly, but one could interpret all on religion and myths and, say, our currency system as well as nationalism to be all memetic.
Harari can be harsh by saying that our modern ethical and legal systems are all in our imagination and no less meaningless than traditional religions the intelligent like to scoff. Does not the concept of the social contract apply? Yet, his interesting sense of cold calculations and calling spades spades like no other book has before is the point.
Most striking of all is debunking many interpretations readers may have had. The agricultural revolution as history's greatest fraud is something to think about. Yet before that our hunter-gatherer ancestors were not 'one with nature' rather they caused mass extinctions everywhere they went. Even modern liberal belief systems are to be questioned. Takes on capitalism, consumerism... Buddhism. That the world of today is actually more peaceful than it has ever been. The concept of individuality as so recent.
Of course, the tome wouldn't be complete without mentioning the Singularity by the end.
The question is ultimately that of whether history is leading somewhere or if a series of coincidences... sadly it may just be a series of coincidences that turned this strange animal into gods... and that's something I will never know for sure but I highly appreciate Harari's expertise into the thought process.
I pretty much want everyone I know to read this book....more
Afterlife by Tim I Gurung is a unique novel quite unlike anything else you might read. It also might not be for everyone, written in a curious and dirAfterlife by Tim I Gurung is a unique novel quite unlike anything else you might read. It also might not be for everyone, written in a curious and direct first-person narrative that can be intriguing yet tedious.
The novel opens mysteriously, with direct descriptions of pain in a nondescript setting. The title of the book turns out to be literally just that: the afterlife. The narrator searches in this presumed life after death environment, going from darkness to light. Landscapes are thusly described, from grass to trees and canyons and more.
There is much showing not telling, with exclamation points and lines like “beyond imagination” detailing exactly how the narrator feels being in this place. Much of the novel contains no dialogue, and no traditional plot. The journey goes on and on, and the conflict is simply about continuing to cross an ocean and the accomplishment of climbing a mountain and the unspoiled garden and and then there’s a desert. Etc.
The most interesting parts are when the metaphors of spirituality meets modernity, as the angels and God are revealed to be computer screens. Then come the ironic punishments for various sinners, the sad suicides, and the bureaucratic dolling out of resurrections while souls argue about why they must be reborn as animals. Somehow the narrator character always figures out exactly what’s going on and feeds it right to the reader.
Only at the end of a long journey is the backstory of the character revealed, and upon meeting familiar souls his experiences on the Earth is tied into this afterlife world. In the conclusion the story wraps up a bit too cleanly.
The theme seems to be that we must all give in to destiny and the responsibility of our actions, i.e. karma, whether we like it or not. Al in all there is no choice but to deal with death.
In fact, God comes across as a rather cruel manager with little compassion; more like a computer program -- yet even worse with the pettiness of acting annoyed – than some force conveying cosmic wisdom. Not too grand a deconsructionist approach, it simply is what it is.
Gurung should be praised for writing the novel, for completely finding his own style and not following in any other author’s footsteps. Afterlife is a literary experiment of a vision that cannot be compared with any other work....more
Tiger Tail Soup by Nicki Chen is a historical novel of the Pacific War, from the point of view of a Chinese woman. Author Nicki Chen is an American whTiger Tail Soup by Nicki Chen is a historical novel of the Pacific War, from the point of view of a Chinese woman. Author Nicki Chen is an American who gained a Chinese surname by way of marriage, and any reader will fully sense her fascination with China. She has done the proper research for such a novel. She takes the voice of An Lee, a strong-willed woman who gets left behind to raise children and live with her mother-in-law when her husband goes off to war.
The novel opens in 1946, then jumps back to 1938 and slowly goes through the war years until the epilogue rounds out back to the original year. Full of fanciful language and observations on gender roles in traditional societies – from the Qing Dynasty to the Republic era – and conflicts start off with simple things like getting a perm to look modern and soon grow to horrifying proportions.
Basically, the narrative takes place within the mind of the introspective narrator. Early on, darkness looms from afar. She carries a son in the Year of the Tiger, and is given fortunes of greatness. Then her engineer husband Yu-ming is conscripted as an officer, and most of the novel is about what happens to the war-weary women who are left behind.
At times, the narrator gets too lost in her own thoughts, endlessly reflecting and repeating herself as she dwells on her family and lot in life. The flow suffers for it, but that is the nature of this kind of story.
When the bombs begin to drop, the tone changes dramatically. The violence becomes very real, and that is of course the nature of war.
The chapters of the book are divided into seasons and year, and tales of pregnancy and childbirths and contrasted against the distant war. Themes of life and death. A son is born, a father seldom seen. There are attempts to let life go on, as schools remain open. An Lee’s husband's letters are very important, describing being in the midst of the war. Yet overall it’s still a tale of women. And the emotions always outweigh any action. Time moves on and children age, with snippets of tragedy throughout. Some of the most powerful imagery in the novel concerns simply going to the beach and seeing Japanese battleships. And the suffering grows.
Tiger Tail Soup is not an objective overview of the war, but simply one deep character’s perspective. The hatred against the Japanese even seems one-sided, although in this context it is certainly well-deserved. The reader must remember that it is first-person narrated novel, not a textbook.
The historical aspect stays interesting as the book goes on, with references that range from the Gone With the Wind film to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Halfway through the plot does thicken, and An Lee joins a resistance league which engages in street theater performances. There are arguments, politics, more conflict. When she does finally meet her husband again, and one son meets for the first time, war has changed and hardened the man. Hardened everyone.
Bringing another child into this war-torn world proves to be the greatest tragedy of all in the end. When the worst most possible violence happens near the end of the novel, it is very jarring.
The theme above all is survival, and is best summed up this quote: “It was my fate to live in a time of war, and I bloody well was going to be one of the survivors.”
Tiger Tail Soup comes recommended for readers interested in this period of China, and for anyone who might wish to learn about the human cost of war....more
I am very impressed with this comic strip. As an expat in modern - mainland - China, I was surprised how current all these strips from 80s/90s Hong KoI am very impressed with this comic strip. As an expat in modern - mainland - China, I was surprised how current all these strips from 80s/90s Hong Kong felt. The expat jokes being totally relatable. The treatment of foreigners, the stereotypes of Chinese women and families, it was all done hilariously and spot on and yet with lots of heart!
Poor Stuart, poor Lily Wong :)
It all reads quite current, but some of the best parts explore the anxieties leading up to the 1997 handover.
At times newspaper strips don't flow as well as graphic novels when it comes to story arcs and plots, yet World of Lily Wong is very good at using the 4-panel layout to end in a punchline each time as well as having a wider storyline. Great storytelling.
I feel very lucky to have discovered this great book, and can't wait to read more Larry Feign.
This gwailo definitely approves...
I only wish that I thought of doing expat comics sooner, though then again how late to the game I'd be anyway....more
Nothing like the climax of another Shonen arch, especially when it's a One Piece epic. Things are completely chaotic in Dressrosa and the villainy ofNothing like the climax of another Shonen arch, especially when it's a One Piece epic. Things are completely chaotic in Dressrosa and the villainy of Doflamingo has been exposed, but rest assured he will still be extremely hard to defeat and the battle will rage. Question is just who gets to fight him...
And, no spoilers, but let me say what happened with "God" Usopp I could not help laughing out loud. FIVE STARS!!! And that's why I'm giving my review five stars.
Only criticism may be that with so much going on, the surprising appearance of Soba has been lost in the shuffle and not even gotten enough focus. There will be an appropriate heartfelt reunion later I'm sure.
Can't wait to learn more Law's past.
The New World is turning out to be very much fun....more
Damn you Warren Ellis for being such a phenomenal writer.
This isn't the most perfectly-structured story of all time, and it does get repetitive and exDamn you Warren Ellis for being such a phenomenal writer.
This isn't the most perfectly-structured story of all time, and it does get repetitive and explainy, and "neo noir" may not be your particular thing. You may not even appreciate New York being portrayed as such a desolate wasteland. But damn, the words.
Incredible prose. The violence, the details, the grit of the whole detective thing taken to the Nth degree. And a uniquely American mystery unfolding...
As a fan of the graphic novelist, I'm humbled to see the prose of Mr. Ellis improving as compared to his initial Crooked Little Vein. Damn, damn humbled.