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Novel 3 > Devil's Place

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message 1: by Kalai (new)

Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Welcome back John, Samantha, Violet, Sylvia and Hazirah. Please post your reviews here.


message 2: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Tan (samanthatan0710) | 8 comments First of all, can I just say that Devil’s Place is one of the wittiest books I’ve read in the longest while? Though it isn’t perfect, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would pick up another of Gomez’s works in the future!

Let’s just start with the characters in this novel. Though they’re not super complex, they still have distinct personality and traits, even different ways of speaking and expressing themselves. I really like how Gomez includes bits of the main characters’ past i.e how Chia had been heartbroken over Swee Lin’s sudden departure and how his fondness over conspiracy theories began, Terry’s relationship with Sheila and his failing career as a musician, Ning’s own mother being a prostitute, etc. These not only make the characters much more real and relatable but also explain how the characters have been molded into the characters they currently are. Adding on to the relatability of the characters, Pak Jam really seems like a typical elderly Malay uncle who has lived a long life, has plenty of life experiences and is therefore incredibly wise. It’s probably the way he thinks and how he handles situations. Ultimately, it’s his reluctance to move to another country in the end, preferring to spend his remaining days in a more familiar environment in Malaysia. I can imagine meeting a real life old man, speaking with him and he responding like how Pak Jam would. In fact, this is the case for most of the characters. It didn’t feel like they have just been woven up from thin air, inserted in the book just so certain actions could happen. (I hope this part is understandable..)

Apart from this, I love that they are all random people (taxi driver, terrorist, struggling musician, pimp) put together, most of them being clueless of the full situation until an encounter between characters or some sort took place (and when this happened, their reactions were most of the time really amusing). This randomness definitely helps with the humor bit of the novel! All characters also play an important role in moving the plot. All actions have direct consequences, as seen from the car chase in the earlier bits of the novel.

Also, Gomez can really make up likeable characters (Terry, Pak Jam, Chia) and unlikeable ones (Joe, Joe, Joe). To me, Joe is a selfish, opportunistic prick who only cares about his reputation, gaining power, and nothing else. It annoys me that he gets what he wants in the end because he is so far from deserving. In contrast, what all the likeable ones have in common is that they all have a sense of empathy and they all care about each other. Some are even willing to sacrifice themselves for the other (like how Pak Jam allowed Ning to escape from jail while he stays) which is pretty sweet.

The only problem I have regarding the characters are the lack of female characters once again. Though Ning is a strong female character, the active roles are mostly filled out by men. I still don’t understand why this is the case as how hard could it have been to replace one of the male detectives with a female one? Maybe Gomez has his reasons, but if anyone has a clue as to why, I’d really like to open this up for more discussion!

In terms of culture, there were definitely clear portrayals of Malaysia, both the good and the bad. I like how the Malaysian slang and even bits of the malay language are utilized as well and that these are not overdone or unnecessary. This usage didn’t stop Gomez from using good grammar or making up smart characters, which are both so important!! So kudos to Gomez for proving that an author can stick to authenticity without it coming off as trying way too hard, or it ruining the quality of a novel.

Moving on to organization/structure, ‘Devil’s Place’ is written in multiple perspectives so we often see an incident being described in different ways. This is not only interesting, but it also adds to the humorous element. Most of the characters have different but all really amusing reactions, varying from Chavez’s super-done-with-you-Fellatio, Chia’s I-knew-it!-another-conspiracy-theory-proven, etc. The timeline is also linear, which imo, is the right choice seeing as there are so many characters and perspectives to follow.

I think it’s pretty obvious by now that humor is a huge reason as to why this novel is enjoyable. I found myself actually laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of the incidents and situations e.g. Ning innocently thinking Terry’s name is actually Jesus, Fellatio being super proud that his name is from “some geek god of power and wisdom” (or so he thought), etc. It’s clear that Gomez is talented and has a kind of wit that is easily reflected in his books.

All in all, reading Devil’s Place didn’t feel like a chore to me – the novel is more of something I would willingly pick up myself. I really hope to read more of Malaysian authors like Gomez.


message 3: by Hazirah (new)

Hazirah | 9 comments Couldn’t help but notice the subtle similarities in genres between this book & the last one (Dog Pound) although I must say enjoyed this one a lot more. With that being said though, I’m having a dilemma as to whether my perspective of this book was really built upon my experience reading it or if I used the Dog Pound as a measure against it so hmmm. Still, I tried my best to review it as independently as possible! :)

Motivation
- I’m not the biggest fan of the premise in which the story is built around- the whole corruption, scheming & violence, but I still think that I had a pretty ok time with this book because the author did a good job at not making the story too one-dimensional & planned out the direction of the story really well from the beginning so that the readers could truly experience the rollercoaster ride of mystery, suspense & reveals

Gender roles
- I felt like the male characters were done quite some justice in this story as there were plenty of room for the protagonist, Terry, especially, to grow throughout the entire be it psychologically, by trying his hardest to survive the mess he was unknowingly thrown into, as well as emotionally, where he had to cope with great losses all while trying to keep himself alive as well. In this sense, I felt that his character was portrayed with a good balance of masculine as well as feminine traits as the story developed
- However, I can’t help but wish the females in the story could have played more dynamic roles which actually contributed to the progression of the story. Glimpses of this could be seen in Ning’s attempt to go against the Arab’s abuse as well as her determination to stay alive in order to return to her family but I felt like more focus could be given towards this aspect so that like Terry, we could also see how Ning would grow out of the whole ordeal

Identity, characters & characterization
- I really appreciate how the author took the time to introduce most of the characters with ample backstory so that the readers have enough time to really get to know the characters before forming perceptions about their actions.
- I also especially like the emotional play on the death of Terry’s friends with some flashbacks to their history together as well as the backstory of Ning’s family that really helped to enhance the desperation felt by these characters in their pursuit of freedom from the tangled mess they were in
- Another thing that like about this story was how the characters’ morales were not predefined by what role they play. Eg: Suleiman who is said to be fighting in the name of religion is seen to be willing to put his morals aside even if it meant going against the very religion he was trying to fight for. This is also seen in Detective Azmi who experiences a paradigm shift from the typical good cop into a more convoluted, corrupt cop after his experiences in the force as well as his personal motivations

Culture
- As you will find below in the language section, I think that language definitely played a role in moulding the cultural setting of this story in Malaysia
- Besides that, there were also plenty of representations of Malaysian culture embedded deep within the themes that surround this story themselves, mainly the corruption that takes place in many authoritative levels. Although this does not really paint Malaysia in the most positive light, I do not think that it strays too far from reality & this is something that I think local readers can relate to while foreign readers will find eye-opening
- Another aspect, although I’m not sure if it counts as something cultural, that caught my eye was how deeply ingrained religion can be in some parts of society that one could be driven to fight in its name even if it meant going against what religion stood for in the first place. Although

Organization, arrangement & structure
- I really enjoyed how the story is propelled through its narration which allowed plenty of room for the reader’s to consider the alternate progressions in the story
- However, as much as I understood that the author’s use of rapidly alternating perspectives during intense scenes was to build up suspense and tension, the technique was a bit overused & instead I just got really confused as to whose perspective was currently in action
- In terms of the story’s arrangement however, think the author cleverly arranged the sequence of character introduction so as to allow for the maximum impact of the final reveal (ie spoiler alert: the part where his couldve been dad-in-law that he thought might not be too psychotic turned out to indeed be very psychotic) as I personally thought that since the spotlight had been brought to him so early in the story & so plainly expelled the possibility of him actually being the mastermind behind all the mess

Language
- Generally, I found the language used throughout the story to be pretty average as in it was good enough for me to easily understand the story but not impressive enough so as to add flair to the story itself
- The only thing that really popped out was the obvious implementation of local slangs in a lot of the dialogues between characters (ie: bro, lah) which did serve as a good reflection towards the casual nature of Malaysians but as it is not overdone, does not take away from the reader’s steady flow of reading as well as understanding the story & also allowed reader’s who were not too familiar with the local culture a glimpse into the Malaysian society without being overwhelmed by it
- There was also quite an abundant usage of profanity throughout the story which although doesn’t really add to or take away from my reading experience, did I think enhance the theme of the story itself which is all aggressive & action-packed. However, I would have liked it instead if this was done more moderately in order to convey more of the ideologies behind the concepts such as violence & corruption rather than just portraying them as rather thoughtless & aggressive in nature

That’s all from me!


message 4: by Silvia (new)

Silvia Teow (silviateow) | 8 comments Hi! First, I wanted to say that I liked 'Devil's Place' so much more than I liked 'Dog Pound' but I felt that due to the similarities between the themes for the books, I pitted them against each other and kept comparing the same things which I initially analysed in Dog Pound rather than analyse this book on its own. So, sorry if the review is a bit 'comparative'!

1. Characters
So comparing the characters in Dog Pound and Devil's Place, the characters were definitely more interesting to read in Devil's Place (especially comparing Roy and Terry with Terry's perspective of the story being much more enjoyable to read).
However, I still saw the same pattern of the characters being quite predictable in this novel. Terry being the conventional 'good guy', Ning being a typical 'damsel in distress', Pak Jam's 'old uncle' vibes and more. Nevertheless, I think the vast differences between *each* character made up for this predictability.
Personally, my favourite character was Ning – perhaps, this has to do with emotional play by the author with Ning's backstory & struggles throughout the entire novel. However, this indicates that Gomez managed to evoke emotion in the reader (me) unlike Vies' so kudos to Gomez HAHA! It may also have to do with Ning being the only female character (although this bothered me on a feminist level, I personally felt the plot went on fine despite the lack of female characters – I'd much rather that than female characters added only to play similar roles of prostitutes/submissive roles again re: Dog Pound)

1b. Terry's friends
Clearly I have a lot to say about this even though they died early on in the book HAHA! There were very few things that made me feel a lot but the scene where Terry's friends died definitely did. This was because the way the book opened up made it seem as if these men were going to be part of the main plot and be there till' the end next to Terry's side. So honestly, I was really shocked when they died *just. like. that* so early on! It was a good shock though, the exact kind of twist I'd expect in an action movie. I think that set a really good impression on me early on, tbh!
However, although I was shocked that they died, I wish Gomez could have made their characters more likable so it would have been more painful when they died HAHAHA (I'm aware I sound like quite the sadist but I'm sure all of us readers can appreciate that good ol' pain when a likable character dies)
Despite the flashback scenes throughout the book, it still didn't make me miss their characters or anything like that which is something I wish I would have felt :)

2. Many different plots in a plot
There are many different stories and 'substories' here that all end up converging and linking to one another despite having started off from very different situations. Personally, I feel like this is such a difficult thing to do but Gomez executed this perfectly – definitely a little corny at times and predictable but I really enjoyed reading this nonetheless which is what's most important I guess heh.

3. Humor
I've never read a humorous book before and I really liked the humorous aspect of the novel, here. I felt it was perfectly executed alongside the serious aspect with all the suspense and action. It was such a good balance, I've never read a book like this before! (Comedy and action are my two most hated genres, by the way!)

4. Culture
Much like Dog Pound, there was a strong Malaysian cultural influence in the novels which I really liked! However, I still felt like the use of Malaysian slang was forced although I'm starting to think that this may just be my personal bias because I don't speak with that dialect in my day-to-day life and neither do the people I surround myself with!

5. Short sentences.
There were plenty of short sentences and paragraphs in this novel! I really enjoyed reading it this way because it made everything so much more fast paced and added to the suspense for me. However, I felt like the change in perspectives were overdone and it disrupted the flow of the suspense because it felt very choppy and not smooth. Like, it was very hard to visualise during some parts.

Hope my review makes sense, sorry if it's too comparative! <3


message 5: by Violet (last edited Jun 22, 2018 05:38AM) (new)

Violet Ke | 7 comments “Devil’s Place” by Brian Gomez was definitely an enjoyable read; I finished the book in one sitting without myself realizing. Although I tried not to compare this book with “Dog Pound” due to the similar genre, I have to say this book is a far more interesting read!

The thriller has a very well-thought storyline that keeps the readers engaged. In fact, the plot is rather unpredictable, which surprises the readers in a good way. Initially, I was taken aback by the number of characters involved in the crime, but Gomez cleverly narrates the story from different perspectives, which does not neglect any of the characters in the book, giving the readers a clearer understanding of the characters’ perspectives and thoughts.

Despite the many characters in the book, Gomez surprisingly gives almost equal importance to each of the characters. In other words, given that we remove one of the characters, the entire plot would change significantly, which clearly shows the author’s precision in his writing. That said, it is rather difficult to pick a favourite character in the novel, because I seem to like them a lot (yes, even Joe). Gomez illustrates the backstory of each and every character so well that despite Joe’s egoistic nature, I can see through that and pay attention to his passion and determination as a reporter as well. I truly appreciate Gomez’s style of writing, which sets a neutral voice, so the readers can really reflect and decide for themselves if they really dislike the character.

If I really were to pick a favourite character, I would say Pak Jam. His character as a wise and experienced man is enhanced through his way of solving the issue and making quick decisions, which also portrays him as a very calm and steady person. He is also a judicial and determined man who is willing to sacrifice for Terry and Ning by breaking out of jail. I picked up some of my favourite quotes from Pak Jam – “We’re not perfect. You’re not perfect. If we all just admitted that, maybe perfection would present itself. Until then, no one had the right to impose their imperfections on others.” and “Sometimes the right thing to do is the hardest thing to do.” Gomez cleverly uses Pak Jam as the oldest character to send the message across to the readers, which adds quality and value to the book.

Another character who stands out is Ning. Despite working in the sex industry, Gomez shows no signs of discrimination to her character but merely narrates her backstory and life, which essentially makes the readers sympathise Ning. Moreover, Gomez also empowers her character by showing her motherly love and her will to give her daughter a better life. Although Ning is the only female character in the book, she plays a significant role as all the other characters revolve around her. Gomez also never forgets to show her development throughout the novel by depicting her growth in trust in men. An example would be the notion “go and take a shower”, which used to be a phrase men told her before sex, but it turned out to be something genuine and comforting to Ning coming from Terry.

Throughout the book, I was wondering the significance of the title of the book, and my question was answered at the end, which is very satisfying. Moreover, the ending for all of the characters are taken care off so none of them are neglected, which makes the ending almost seamless. All in all, I really enjoyed “Devil’s Place” and it’s a book I would recommend to others if they are looking for works from local writers.


message 6: by John (last edited Jun 23, 2018 08:55AM) (new)

John Chen | 8 comments Devil’s Place by Brian Gomez is a book I have mixed feelings about. The writing was mediocre, the characters lacked complexity, the plot was sometimes weak… All this SHOULD mean that it’s a bad book because all these elements are, in my belief, integral to creating a good story… and yet, I can’t bring myself to say that Devil’s Place was an unenjoyable reading experience, because it was at times actually pretty entertaining!

(And honestly speaking, no novel I’ve read has made me laugh as hard as I did during my reading of Devil’s Place — laugh, not because the book was bad, but because I genuinely found some scenes funny.

For example, read this:

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…and tell me you didn’t laugh. You can’t!)

I’ll begin my review with this: the story was comical and over-the-top. The story had everything — from a man having his penis bitten off and shoved into his own mouth, to a fat Chinese pimp named Fellatio whose random pelvic thrusts sent a man tumbling down a flight stairs, to a widely feared international terrorist who had his ear bitten off by a senile old man and then was robbed by a common mugger. It was all so silly and ridiculous and chaotic and hilarious to imagine! This isn’t the kind of story you can or are supposed to take seriously, and I believe Gomez understands this too; it shows in his writing, and I really appreciate this about him and the book.

Despite the crazy events that happen in the book and the number of characters involved in the plot, the story flows surprisingly well! I count at least 8 different characters off the top of my head that played a significant role in progressing the plot, and furthermore, the point of view shifts between these characters throughout the book. When a story has this many characters and is told from so many perspectives, you’d expect the end result to be incoherent and a total mess, but it’s not! Gomez managed to pull it off, and I’d argue that all this even helps the story flow better and smoother. It also adds to the humour as we get insights into the characters’ thought processes and their attempts to explain to themselves the farcical situations they find themselves in — situations which couldn’t have occurred with a smaller number of characters. All of them tie in seamlessly, and their interactions contribute to the chaos and confusion which make the story all the more entertaining. Gomez made what shouldn’t have worked, work! And I commend him for this.

There were certain elements of the book which were less than great: the average writing, the superficial characters, and certain events throughout the story that require suspension of disbelief (because realistically, who breaks out of jail THAT easily, let alone 6 typical everyday individuals?). But honestly, I can turn a blind eye to all of this, and this is because, when you’re writing a comedic story such as Devil’s Place, there isn’t much of a need for the writing to have much artistic flair. In fact, the simplicity of the writing probably helped keep the story easy to read and follow. Attempting to write this story with more panache would just make this book come off as pretentious. As for the characters being superficial, this is also understandable because of 1) the number of characters involved in the story’s entirety, and 2) the nature of this book.

1) Considering the number of characters, it’s probably impossible to write a comprehensive backstory for every single one of them without excessive and boring exposition. I’d say what we’re given about their pasts and motivations in the book are sufficient enough.

2) The book is a comedy. There’s no need to have such complex characters because, as mentioned earlier, this story isn’t meant to be taken too seriously, so there’s no reason to create serious characters.

There were, however, times when it felt like the story wanted to take a serious turn by trying to raise the stakes and add tension (which I feel would’ve only ruined the comedic tone of the story), but thankfully, such scenes were few and far between, and thus the comedic feel was kept.

One qualm I have about the book though is how Ning and Fellatio were killed off in the end. Their deaths weren’t really necessary and didn’t go with the light-hearted tone of the rest of the book, so I found Gomez’s choice to kill off these two characters to be a little odd. Another thing that raises questions is the title of the book; why was it called Devil’s Place when Ning wasn’t even the protagonist? This was another thing which I found odd as it didn’t fit in with the storyline and was only mentioned once as the name of the bar Terry and Chia work in by the end of the story. These issues are nothing major, but I still have to question Gomez’s choices on these aspects of the book.

Here’s my final verdict: Devil’s Place was a fun book. It wasn’t outstanding or anything, and it’s probably not something I’d read again, but I can appreciate it for what it is: a telling of a silly series of events involving comical characters that make for a good laugh. Not everyone’ll fancy this book, but just don’t take it too seriously and you’ll probably enjoy it!


message 7: by John (new)

John Chen | 8 comments Violet wrote: "“Devil’s Place” by Brian Gomez was definitely an enjoyable read; I finished the book in one sitting without myself realizing. Although I tried not to compare this book with “Dog Pound” due to the s..."

Hey Vi! I think we agree on most things regarding Devil’s Place.

The storyline really was well thought-out. Despite the number of characters in the story, Gomez managed to keep all of them relevant to the story, and each character plays a part in progressing it forward. I don’t think that’s easy to do, so I gotta say that I’m impressed! While I don’t really have a favourite character in the book, I totally get what you mean when you say you appreciate how the writing is always neutral which allows readers to determine for themselves which characters they agree/disagree with. All these points which you’ve pointed out, I agree with!

As for how Ning’s character was written, I feel like having her personal motivation stem from her need to provide for her daughter is a good idea to get readers to sympathise with and care for her, but I personally don’t feel that Gomez did /enough/ to make readers care too much when she died. He definitely could’ve done more to develop Ning’s character before killing her off to make it more emotionally impactful. Then again, I’m not sure it’s such a good idea to make Ning such a serious character in a comical book like this. Maybe Gomez should’ve just refrained from killing Ning in the first place since there wasn’t much of a point to it. That’s what I think anyway.

Also, I can’t say I feel the same way when I found out the ‘significance’ of the title. It just didn’t quite make sense to me. I don’t really get what makes the name of the bar at the of the book so significant that it’s even used as the title for the book. Ning didn’t strike me as /that/ important of a character to have her name featured in the title either.

Overall though, I believe we feel similarly about Devil’s Place. It’s not a masterpiece or anything, but it is well-thought out and quite enjoyable.

Hmmm that’s all I have to say, I guess. I think you wrote a good review which was interesting for me to read, so thanks for sharing it! :)


message 8: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Tan (samanthatan0710) | 8 comments Hazirah wrote: "Couldn’t help but notice the subtle similarities in genres between this book & the last one (Dog Pound) although I must say enjoyed this one a lot more. With that being said though, I’m having a di..."

Hey Haz! I think we can agree on most of the aspects of the novel, from characters, structure of the story and its gender roles. A huge reason why ‘Devil’s Place’ was pretty successful as a novel to me is due to Gomez’s planning – timeline, whose perspective would reveal what, etc. But I do see how it gets a little confusing when the perspectives were constantly switching, sometimes each person only getting 4 or 5 lines before we were brought into another person’s viewpoint. I was a little lost at the start i.e during the car chase too, but I think I just needed some time to get accustomed to the organization of the story. I do think that if Gomez spent too long on one perspective that it would just result in a slow, draggy story, though.

In terms of gender roles, I really like how you pointed out Terry’s character development, both psychologically and emotionally. Though it was something I noticed while reading, I didn’t think too much of it after. I cannot imagine the emotional trauma he was going through, made worse when he couldn’t afford the time to properly mourn for his best friends. This kinda makes me realise that the strong bond between him and his friends was further emphasized by the lack of in the friendship between Joe, Siva and Arun. Not sure if this was intentional or not, but I thought this subtle use of contrast was pretty clever!

Another interesting thing you talked about was “how the characters’ morales were not predefined by what role they play”. I totally agree with you on this, and it was actually one of my favorite things about the characters. I think Gomez also did shed some positive light on Ning and allowed readers to truly empathize with her. She was so much more than just a prostitute, but also a caring mother and friend. Her daughter was constantly brought up and we see just how willing she was to sacrifice her own life for her. Your point reminded me of how 3D the characters were and how much I appreciated that.

Enjoyed reading your review, Haz!


message 9: by Violet (new)

Violet Ke | 7 comments Silvia wrote: "Hi! First, I wanted to say that I liked 'Devil's Place' so much more than I liked 'Dog Pound' but I felt that due to the similarities between the themes for the books, I pitted them against each ot..."

Hey Sil <3

First of all, yes gurl SAME I kept comparing the two books because they have similar genre, but again, I’m glad Devil’s Place is way better than Dog Pound!

I guess we have similar opinions on Ning’s character to a certain extent. I appreciate the fact that although she is the only female character in the book, her role is still significant since all the other male characters revolve around her. Moreover, I totally agree with you that given the addition of other female characters with less significant and submissive roles, the story would not have have been any better anyways!

I actually didn’t have a lot of expectations in Terry’s friends, that’s why their death didn’t really come as a surprise to me, hence reading your review about your emotional reactions to their death actually interests me! It’s great looking from another reader’s perspective and see how they have different attachments to different characters, and I’m sure your review on Terry’s friends really made me learn something haha! I guess the reason why I didn’t really expect much from Terry’s friends is because I read the summary at the back of the book before getting into the story itself, which I know you don’t really do that because you’re worried of spoilers (you mentioned that for Dog Pound so I assume the same for this haha). Once again, another different perspective due to the different ways we read!

In contrast to your view on the change in perspective, I actually enjoyed that narration technique because I was able to visualize the scene more vividly. I think I like the narration technique the most during the chasing scene on the road because Gomez managed to depict the characters’ thought process in the midst of their tension during the chase, which I think is very impressive. Yet, I can also understand your point of view because it is quite confusing to the readers at some point.

I believe through the reviews I am able to look at the book differently. Although there are a few things I didn’t fully agree with you, I really liked the way you look at it, which is great because there are no right or wrong answers in literature!


message 10: by Silvia (new)

Silvia Teow (silviateow) | 8 comments Samantha wrote: "First of all, can I just say that Devil’s Place is one of the wittiest books I’ve read in the longest while? Though it isn’t perfect, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would pick up another of Gomez’s wo..."

Hihi Sam!
1. Characters
Yes, I definitely agree – we both wrote very similar points about the characters in our summaries but you definitely appreciated it much more than I did! I can definitely understand your perspective on the characters and I think the difference in our reviews are based on our personal tastes!

2. Joe
Yes I definitely agree with you that Joe is a "selfish, opportunistic prick". However, you finding it annoying that he got what he wanted in the end, I ended up appreciating! I felt that if he didn't manage to succeed, it would just become a whole bad guy-good guy novel again but this really shows the harsh reality of life and how bad people do get what they want and sometimes good people are left suffering badly despite the 'karma' they've put out there so I really appreciated this from Gomez! Heh.

3. Lack of female characters
Personally I have no idea why the novels have such a lack of Malaysian characters. Perhaps, these authors (who are male) are not very familiar with writing female characters since they don't have the empathy of it and they may not have female friends because (idk if u get me) Malaysian culture (at least for the older people) kind of frowns upon co-ed friendships? I'm sure you get me – we just don't really see our parents really having "best friends" who are of the opposite sex. This is even seen in Malaysian schools so that might be something unfamiliar for these male authors to write. Not going to doubt that it could also be a result of ingrained misogyny, though but I'm trying to give him the benefit of the doubt HAHA.
However, I (much like you) hope that Malaysian male authors will start doing more research to be more inclusive of both genders in their novels!

4. Summary
I pretty much agree with everything you said! The multiple perspectives adding to humour – yes! and very cleverly done too, I don't think it's easy. It also made it more enjoyable to read than to just view the story from one person's perspective and it definitely spiced up the book!
And for the cultural aspect, I definitely agree with Gomez writing a good balance between authenticity and 'professionalism'? But, I still felt like sometimes it was a bit overdone (I acknowledge in my review that this may be a result of personal bias though!)
Also, I think just generally compared to Vies' the way he implemented the Malaysian culture into the novel was just much more smooth HAHA
I agree that Gomez "has a kind of wit" and it did definitely "reflect in his books"

So good to know we agree on so many things!


message 11: by Hazirah (new)

Hazirah | 9 comments John wrote: "Devil’s Place by Brian Gomez is a book I have mixed feelings about. The writing was mediocre, the characters lacked complexity, the plot was sometimes weak… All this SHOULD mean that it’s a bad boo..."

Hey John!

I can totally see where you're coming from when you say that a lot of the technical parts of the book didn't really give much of an impact but I think Gomez managed to make up for a lot of this through his clever organisation & flow of the story which consistently kept the reading itching for more. I don't think this was intended, but I kinda get the feeling that the simple language and writing style used by Gomez also enabled readers to keep up with the story's intense pace easier too!

On the other hand, I really liked how you talked about Gomez's clever arrangement of his story which allowed more than a few main characters to take the spotlight. I didn't really realise it when I read it on my own because I was stuck to the convention of paying more attention to the main protagonist and assuming that the others played relatively smaller roles in the story's development. However, now that I look back on the story itself, I have to agree that it was so much more than just Terry & Ning trying to make it out of the mess but also a mesh of different motivations from other characters as well.

I really liked the somewhat random combination of characters that Gomez seemed to really just throw in together because I too agree that it really added more fun as well as more different perspectives to the stories as the characters come from varying backgrounds. I think what this helped the story achieve was two things: 1. Compliment the dramatic storyline as well as 2. Portray the possibility of harmony in differences which I thought was really cool!

Lastly, I kind of disagree with how you described the story as more on the comical side. As much as I did find parts of the story incredibly witty and entertaining, I still think that the main themes of the story is still centred around a much darker setting and that the comedic relief was provided at intervals in order to keep the story more light-hearted and entertaining for the readers. I guess in this case, to each their own?

In conclusion though, I really enjoyed your review because it reminded me of the things that I liked about the story & what kept it so exciting for me too! :)


message 12: by Kalai (new)

Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Samantha wrote: "First of all, can I just say that Devil’s Place is one of the wittiest books I’ve read in the longest while? Though it isn’t perfect, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would pick up another of Gomez’s wo..."

Good to hear that this was a way better read for you. You have made some very pertinent points here. Tell me more:

1. What sort of Malaysia is Gomez portraying here?
2. What are your observations of the following?
(a) sterotypes
(b) overgeneralizations
(c) discrimination
(d) assigned roles-- why are roles/characters assigned that way
(e) race relations
3. What can you conclude based on the above observations?
Please quote to illustrate your points; you need not answer the question one by one. Touch on all aspects in a paragraph or 2 will suffice.


message 13: by Kalai (new)

Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Hazirah wrote: "Couldn’t help but notice the subtle similarities in genres between this book & the last one (Dog Pound) although I must say enjoyed this one a lot more. With that being said though, I’m having a di..."

Hey Haz...interesting to note your take on the use of female characters. I would like to learn more about what you think:

1. What sort of Malaysia is Gomez portraying here?
2. What are your observations of the following?
(a) sterotypes
(b) overgeneralizations
(c) discrimination
(d) assigned roles-- why are roles/characters assigned that way
(e) race relations
3. What can you conclude based on the above observations?
Please quote to illustrate your points; you need not answer the question one by one. Touch on all aspects in a paragraph or 2 will suffice.


message 14: by Kalai (new)

Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Silvia wrote: "Hi! First, I wanted to say that I liked 'Devil's Place' so much more than I liked 'Dog Pound' but I felt that due to the similarities between the themes for the books, I pitted them against each ot..."

Hey Sil, I enjoyed reading your comments...I guess there is a few things that truly stand out about Gomez that you and your friends have pointed out. Tell me more:

1. What sort of Malaysia is Gomez portraying here?
2. What are your observations of the following?
(a) sterotypes
(b) overgeneralizations
(c) discrimination
(d) assigned roles-- why are roles/characters assigned that way
(e) race relations
3. What can you conclude based on the above observations?
Please quote to illustrate your points; you need not answer the question one by one. Touch on all aspects in a paragraph or 2 will suffice.


message 15: by Kalai (new)

Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Violet wrote: "“Devil’s Place” by Brian Gomez was definitely an enjoyable read; I finished the book in one sitting without myself realizing. Although I tried not to compare this book with “Dog Pound” due to the s..."

Hey Violet...Gomez has a reputation for being witty and comical and this is one of his better works that appeal to most. Tell me what you think:
1. What sort of Malaysia is Gomez portraying here?
2. What are your observations of the following?
(a) sterotypes
(b) overgeneralizations
(c) discrimination
(d) assigned roles-- why are roles/characters assigned that way
(e) race relations
3. What can you conclude based on the above observations?
Please quote to illustrate your points; you need not answer the question one by one. Touch on all aspects in a paragraph or 2 will suffice.


message 16: by Kalai (new)

Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
John wrote: "Devil’s Place by Brian Gomez is a book I have mixed feelings about. The writing was mediocre, the characters lacked complexity, the plot was sometimes weak… All this SHOULD mean that it’s a bad boo..."

Glad you liked this one a tad bit more than the earlier one! Tell me more about what you think about the following:

1. What sort of Malaysia is Gomez portraying here?
2. What are your observations of the following?
(a) sterotypes
(b) overgeneralizations
(c) discrimination
(d) assigned roles-- why are roles/characters assigned that way
(e) race relations
3. What can you conclude based on the above observations?
Please quote to illustrate your points; you need not answer the question one by one. Touch on all aspects in a paragraph or 2 will suffice.


message 17: by John (last edited Jun 26, 2018 04:17AM) (new)

John Chen | 8 comments Kalai wrote: "John wrote: "Devil’s Place by Brian Gomez is a book I have mixed feelings about. The writing was mediocre, the characters lacked complexity, the plot was sometimes weak… All this SHOULD mean that i..."

Hi Ms Kalai! Tough questions, but I’ll try my best to answer them.

I’d say that the Malaysia portrayed in Devil’s Place is a Malaysia that is incredibly diverse and also one that struggles to fully embrace all the differences between the races, religions, and values that make it so diverse.

Throughout the book, there are a number of instances which show racial disharmony. I’ll quote some lines in the book:

-“He knew that the Datuk couldn’t believe that his one and only precious jewel of a daughter was going to marry a loser like him…he wasn’t even Malay!” (11)
-“Damn Malay girls were going out with non-Muslims these days. What has this country come to?” (43)
-“Bloody Indians” (43)
-“The Indians hated the Mat Sallehs” (161).

Most of these sentiments held by the characters in the book are often unfounded too, as in there is often little to no justification for why the characters feel the way they do. There are no real or discernible reasons to detest other races so much, and yet they nonetheless do. Perhaps this is meant to reflect the mindlessness of the Malaysians in real life who feel similarly to those characters in the book.

Another form of discrimination shown in the book that comes to mind is how Ning is looked down upon for being a prostitute, such as by Faridah; one line in the book says this: “Terry knew the fact that Ning was a prostitute would never sit well with Aunty Faridah, no matter how open-minded she was” (207). This, added on to how Ning’s prostitute name is Devil (which carries negative connotations of immorality and sin), shows just how prostitutes are perceived by conservative Malaysians who shame sex workers.

In regards to stereotypes, there are a few instances such as how the African American was a street criminal as is the stereotype of black people. Another example of stereotyping is when Joe was shown “in a foodstall…eating currypuffs, and drinking Nescafe” (215) as is typical of Malaysian lifestyle. The Americans (denoted by Chavez) are also portrayed as nationalistic as in this line: “…the face of Liberty? of Democracy? of Freedom?…This was the face of The United States of America” (194). Though it’s never explicitly stated in the book that these characters are meant to represent the entirety of their race/culture, these stereotypes are what I inferred from the characters and how they are portrayed.

Based on everything that’s been said so far, it’s safe to say that there’s a lot of stereotyping and generalisations going on in the book. Whether this is Gomez’s view of Malaysia showing through in his writing or if these stereotypes are meant ironically as a way to convey a message to readers is something I’m not sure of, but there absolutely are things that can be drawn from this book which give readers an idea of what Malaysian values and beliefs are generally like.

That’s all from me for now. Hopefully I’ve been able to answer your questions well, Ms!


message 18: by Hazirah (new)

Hazirah | 9 comments Kalai wrote: "Hazirah wrote: "Couldn’t help but notice the subtle similarities in genres between this book & the last one (Dog Pound) although I must say enjoyed this one a lot more. With that being said though,..." Hi Ms Kalai!

I think that one of the things that drew me to Gomez's work here is the fact that he portrayed a reality that most Malaysians have always heard gists of but could never really visualise a larger picture of. Gomez takes some of the characteristics that Malaysians see all too often and put them in focus with a suitable setting and theme.

With regards to the issues in question 2, I think the story really portrayed just how the interrelated these matters are to one another. For instance, since the story is set in the multicultural society of Malaysia, it is rather easy to group races according to their predominant traits. This results in tensions within the society as members of in-groups and out-groups have conflicting views on life issues.

In contrary to that however, the characters in the story are portrayed to be more dynamic than their predetermined roles. This really helped me understand the complexity of an individual. On the other hand, there are still characters that still conform to the expectations of society. This goes to show just how poor of a measure stereotypes are in figuring out an individual.

I'm not really sure if I answered your questions, but I hope I at least touched on the aspects you mentioned! :)


message 19: by Hazirah (new)

Hazirah | 9 comments Kalai wrote: "Violet wrote: "“Devil’s Place” by Brian Gomez was definitely an enjoyable read; I finished the book in one sitting without myself realizing. Although I tried not to compare this book with “Dog Poun..."

I believe through Gomez's narration in Devil's Place, we can see the level of corruption in Malaysia through the eyes of individuals from different background, including Ning, who is actually Thai. At the same time, Gomez doesn't explicitly uses the term "corruption", so it only indirectly link to that theme, which reserves respect to the country itself.

Through the characters in the book, we can see the subtle stereotypes Gomez has portrayed, in which would probably only be more obvious to Malaysians who are more aware of the local society. For example, the indians in the pub where Pak Jam forced Fellatio to finish his cup of drink. Clearly, Fellatio is very intimidated by the 'indians', who are generally stereotyped as the more violent race in the country. Moreover, Gomez also chooses a Chinese man like Fellatio to play the role of a money-minded pimp, which also reflects on the common stereotype of Chinese being more stingy with their money etc. These show a slight segregation of the races in the country in reality, despite the notion of 'unity' in Malaysia.

At the same time, however, Gomez is also very careful with the discrimination in the book. An example would be Ning, who is not narrated overly negative despite her occupation. In fact, Gomez empowers Ning's character by letting all the other characters revolve around her and shows her determination to live. Hence, Gomez does not really discriminate the characters as well, which at the same time, educates the readers.

I feel like I went off track! So please do ask me any further questions if i need to clarify anything! :)


message 20: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Tan (samanthatan0710) | 8 comments Kalai wrote: "Samantha wrote: "First of all, can I just say that Devil’s Place is one of the wittiest books I’ve read in the longest while? Though it isn’t perfect, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would pick up anot..."

To me, Gomez is portraying a side of Malaysia that everyone’s aware of, but is not widely discussing (esp. at the time of writing the novel), revealing the corruption among police men and politicians, prostitution rings and dodgier parts of KL. I like how Gomez brings all of this up, but in a subtler, more light-hearted way.
Throughout the novel, we see a very human side of Ning as we realise that she has no choice but to enter the prostitution ring to financially support her daughter. Even through all the turmoil she faces, she mostly worries about her daughter’s welfare rather than her own. I suppose this is the case for many who are involved in a dark field like that – they do it not out of want or desire, but rather of need. That being said though, I do realise that Gomez includes many stereotypes/overgeneralizations.
Examples:
1. Indians having violent, gangster-like traits: “..I’ll call an Indian friend of mine who’s in the bar at this very moment, and he and his friends will make sure that you finish the drink.” (pg 133)
2. Africans are also violent beings, and thieves: “Give me your watch and your wallet…and is that your motorbike?” (pg 153)
3. Prostitutes come from poorer Asian countries: “I give you girl, okay. From Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, you choose.” (pg 106)
4. Fellatio’s china-man way of speaking: “I tooked her to the dentist last week so when blowjob time no more pain one.” (pg 22)
I think Gomez does this for mostly comedic purposes as admittedly, the novel would not have been as funny without. I personally am not offended by them, but I do see how it could be seen as rude or offensive to some.
In terms of race though, there are characters who don’t fit in our preconceived notions – e.g a) Farouk a muslim man who drinks alcohol and seeks a prostitute b) Pak Jam, another muslim man who has worked as a bouncer in many bars. I think Gomez does this to portray character complexity. Despite their race, they are still their own individuals with personal likes and preferences.


message 21: by Silvia (new)

Silvia Teow (silviateow) | 8 comments Personally, I feel that Gomez portrayed a very realistic Malaysia. I think he tried to capture the reality of the Malaysian culture which is both very beautiful and ugly – with the existence of multiculturalism, also lies racism, with the existence of the very rich, there are also the very poor. I feel that he tried to portray Malaysia as how it is stereotyped: very beautiful, diverse, growing but he also wants to highlight that there are many deep-rooted problems in the Malaysian culture.

This can be seen through how he shows discrimination between interracial marriage with 'Datuk''s disapproval of Terry's marriage with his daughter because "he wasn't even Malay!". This also shows a distinct difference in the mentality between the older generation in Malaysia and the younger generation in Malaysia with Terry having a group of friends from different races and religions and not letting that be a factor, we also see how 'Datuk' is against interracial relations when it concerns him.

Other than that, we learn that Ning is a Thai prostitute and I don't know why this is a stereotype but prostitutes and sex workers are always typically stereotyped/generalised with people who are from Thailand or with Thai accent implying that they are Thai, so I feel that Gomez' choice to make Ning, Thai, was also a result of the common stereotype. Other than that, Ning's character also has a sad backstory with her choice for entering this line of work being so that she could provide for her daughter back home and dreading a lot of what happens during work. I feel this is a common stereotype of prostitutes and people rarely come to understand or consider that sometimes sex workers enjoy their line of work and should not be seen so lowly.

Another stereotype shown is that the ONE horribly abusive customer of Ning's is an Arabic man. I feel that this ties in with the stereotype that Arabic people are violent and abusive as people often assume when seeing an Arabic man with his wife in a hijab that she is oppressed and a victim to her 'husband' although this is not always the case.

However, these stereotypes and overgeneralisations may have made it easier for Gomez to write the story or made it easier for Malaysian readers to resonate with the story. Nevertheless, I'm not a fan of stereotypes and believe authors could work further to break these stereotypes that could harbour discrimination for a certain group. However, I completely understand that this may be very difficult to do as some readers who are used to the stereotypes may be like: "Why is Fellatio a white man? Chinese people are typically money-minded" or something like that.

Hope I make sense! <3


message 22: by Kalai (new)

Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
John wrote: "Kalai wrote: "John wrote: "Devil’s Place by Brian Gomez is a book I have mixed feelings about. The writing was mediocre, the characters lacked complexity, the plot was sometimes weak… All this SHOU..."

Hey John! Great attempt at answering the questions. I am still reflecting on some of your points.

Now that you have read 2 Malaysian novels...do you sense a pattern in the way these stories are told...or not? For example,
(a) what usually creates conflicts and how are they handled?
(b) what are the relationship dynamics like (from person to person)?
(c) what sort of past creates this sort of present and what do we expect in the near future where the stories of these people tell of a sect of Malaysian society? (government policies, societal pressures, traditions...etc)
(d) what are the communication patterns like?
(e) what sort of literary devices are common?

These questions are in relation to both novels that you have read; you can highlight similarities/differences.


message 23: by Kalai (new)

Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Hazirah wrote: "Kalai wrote: "Hazirah wrote: "Couldn’t help but notice the subtle similarities in genres between this book & the last one (Dog Pound) although I must say enjoyed this one a lot more. With that bein..."

Hazirah...you have made some noteworthy points here. But now that you have read 2 Malaysian novels...do you sense a pattern in the way these stories are told...or not? For example,
(a) what usually creates conflicts and how are they handled?
(b) what are the relationship dynamics like (from person to person)?
(c) what sort of past creates this sort of present and what do we expect in the near future where the stories of these people tell of a sect of Malaysian society? (government policies, societal pressures, traditions...etc)
(d) what are the communication patterns like?
(e) what sort of literary devices are common?

These questions are in relation to both novels that you have read; you can highlight similarities/differences.


message 24: by Kalai (new)

Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Hazirah wrote: "Kalai wrote: "Violet wrote: "“Devil’s Place” by Brian Gomez was definitely an enjoyable read; I finished the book in one sitting without myself realizing. Although I tried not to compare this book ..."

I enjoyed reading this Violet!

Now that you have read 2 Malaysian novels...do you sense a pattern in the way these stories are told...or not? For example,
(a) what usually creates conflicts and how are they handled?
(b) what are the relationship dynamics like (from person to person)?
(c) what sort of past creates this sort of present and what do we expect in the near future where the stories of these people tell of a sect of Malaysian society? (government policies, societal pressures, traditions...etc)
(d) what are the communication patterns like?
(e) what sort of literary devices are common?

These questions are in relation to both novels that you have read; you can highlight similarities/differences.


message 25: by Kalai (new)

Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Samantha wrote: "Kalai wrote: "Samantha wrote: "First of all, can I just say that Devil’s Place is one of the wittiest books I’ve read in the longest while? Though it isn’t perfect, I thoroughly enjoyed it and woul..."

Some thorough quoting there! I enjoyed reading your response, Sam.

But now that you have read 2 Malaysian novels...do you sense a pattern in the way these stories are told...or not? For example,
(a) what usually creates conflicts and how are they handled?
(b) what are the relationship dynamics like (from person to person)?
(c) what sort of past creates this sort of present and what do we expect in the near future where the stories of these people tell of a sect of Malaysian society? (government policies, societal pressures, traditions...etc)
(d) what are the communication patterns like?
(e) what sort of literary devices are common?

These questions are in relation to both novels that you have read; you can highlight similarities/differences.


message 26: by Kalai (new)

Kalai Vaani | 44 comments Mod
Silvia wrote: "Personally, I feel that Gomez portrayed a very realistic Malaysia. I think he tried to capture the reality of the Malaysian culture which is both very beautiful and ugly – with the existence of mul..."

You made sense, Sil! Stereotyping is quite the Malaysian trait I would say... and yeah, I would say Gomez has tried to leverage on that, but to what end...is open to discussion.

Now that you have read 2 Malaysian novels...do you sense a pattern in the way these stories are told...or not? For example,
(a) what usually creates conflicts and how are they handled?
(b) what are the relationship dynamics like (from person to person)?
(c) what sort of past creates this sort of present and what do we expect in the near future where the stories of these people tell of a sect of Malaysian society? (government policies, societal pressures, traditions...etc)
(d) what are the communication patterns like?
(e) what sort of literary devices are common?

These questions are in relation to both novels that you have read; you can highlight similarities/differences.


message 27: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Tan (samanthatan0710) | 8 comments Kalai wrote: "Samantha wrote: "Kalai wrote: "Samantha wrote: "First of all, can I just say that Devil’s Place is one of the wittiest books I’ve read in the longest while? Though it isn’t perfect, I thoroughly en..."

Despite enjoying ‘Devil’s Place’ over ‘Dog Pound’ by a significant amount, there’s definitely a similar pattern between the two Malaysian novels!

a) The conflict in both revolves around money, power and corruption, involving lots of scheming and the protagonists seeking an escape. The protagonists have also been wrongly accused of murders, which is the main focus in both novels. I think in that sense, they starts off quite similarly. But the conflicts are handled differently – in ‘Dog Pound’, Roy gets caught and is forced to suffer the consequences of a crime he never committed whereas in ‘Devil’s Place’, Terry successfully escapes and gets to start over. To put it in a black and white manner, the good guys win in one; the bad guys win in the other.

b) Similarities:
- Both novels have a male protagonist with a subtle love interest? (Roy-Jocelyn, Terry-Ning) Hopefully I’m not reading too much into Roy’s one, but from what I remember he’s always wondering where Jocelyn is and how she’s doing. Terry on the other hand, admits that he may be falling for Ning.
- Though limited, we do see some positive familial relationships in both. In Dog Pound, we understand what a huge role his grandfather has played in his love for boxing, and how much he respects him. In Devil’s Place, we see the boys’ (Farouk, Alan, etc.) families completely heartbroken over their deaths. Terry’s fiancée and her father also have a pretty tight father-daughter relationship – it does seem that they are protective over each other. (but how non-toxic their relationship is, is quite debatable I think.)

Differences:
- Devil’s Place portray a lot of friendships. Some are shown in a very positive light like Terry’s friendship group and his bond (almost father-son like) with Pak Jam, while others are more neutral like Joe’s friendship group. In Dog Pound, Roy is more of a lone-wolf, even admitting that he has no friends (whose houses he could crash at) at the start of the novel. His only friend is Han, but I think survival purposes aside, there would be no friendship formed between the two.

c) I think my answer applies to both novels here! In terms of corruption in present times, it probably stems from the lack of transparency between officials-civilians in the past? They know that we are not aware of the transactions happening behind closed doors thus take advantage to seek more power for themselves. Not too sure, but what I can say is corruption is a cycle that seems to perpetuate – for as long as I can remember, we’ve lived and experienced it. This could be small, seemingly insignificant actions like policemen accepting bribes (“duit rasuah”) but i believe that all of these just adds to where we are now. It encourages even bigger corruptions, like the whole 1MDB scandal just recently. I think in the near future, because of Malaysian authors like Gomez and Vies forming stories about them, and more people speaking out, corruption will decrease as the public becomes wearier and officials hopefully start becoming more paranoid (lol).
In addition, we see traditions disappearing in both novels. The muslim characters do not follow conventions – seeking out prostitutes, drinking. This is accurate in today’s present times, especially among the youngsters. And I think this ‘trend’ will continue growing in the near future.

d) I’m assuming communication patterns refer to the way the characters speak to each other? In both novels, the people in power seem to be more assertive with those who are not, as they realise that they are in charge. From what I can remember as well, in Devil’s Place, those who are equals and are working together, seem to be quite rude to each other. Maybe it’s because of the lack of respect between them or the awareness that there is no consequences to the way they speak. Furthermore, we see friends like Terry, Farouk, Alan speaking to each other very casually - it is clear that they are comfortable around each other but there is also a hint of caring-ness between them. I guess this reflects very well in real life friendships.
Sorry Ms, I don’t know if I’m answering this right. Will be willing to elaborate more if needed!

e) Probably hyperbole. In ‘Devil’s Place’, actions, reactions and dialogue between characters were exaggerated probably for comedic purposes. In Dog Pound, some of the fight scenes do seem a bit dramatic, though I thought this made it more interesting for readers. I can’t recall any metaphors in ‘Devil’s Place’, but in ‘Dog Pound’, there’s Penrose Stairs.

I genuinely enjoyed answering these questions! Hope I didn’t stray too far off topic and that my answers make sense to you, Ms.


message 28: by John (new)

John Chen | 8 comments Hi Ms!

Reflecting on both books, there definitely are some similarities between them which I can identify:

- Both protagonists lead unfulfilling lives and work in unsatisfying jobs prior to the inciting incidents in their respective stories.

- Both protagonists are involved in life-threatening situations and are on the run from the law as well as a crime syndicate because of murders they were framed for doing.

- As for how the conflicts are handled, for the first half of the story, the protagonists flee from their pursuers, but towards the second half, they tend to play a more active role in forming plans to confront them. The outcomes are, however, very different as Roy ends up in prison while Terry flees to Thailand where he starts a new life.

- In both stories, the protagonists are also thrown into the fray, their involvement in the conflict not because they did anything wrong but rather by pure circumstance (i.e., Roy was targeted only to be used as a scapegoat because he was the most convenient, and Terry just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person).

Throughout the story, both protagonists also rely on help from others. However, the relationship dynamics between them and the supporting characters are, I would say, quite different in both books; Terry seems to be much more empathetic and concerned for the well-being of the others compared to Roy (as shown by how Terry was concerned for Pak Jam when he was jailed, and also how Terry sympathises with Ning and her need to get home to her daughter). In contrast, Roy didn’t display much care or concern for those helping him, even when they ended up dead. We also get to see how Terry’s personality changes when speaking to Chia, to Ning, and to Pak Jam; whereas he was (initially) annoyed and exasperated by Chia, he was very comforting towards Ning who was in a vulnerable position, and he was respectful towards Pak Jam with whom he saw as a sort of father figure.

One thing to also note on the topic of relationship dynamics is that there was a lot more interactions between the supporting characters in Devil’s Place than in Dog Pound. Furthermore, the stark contrasts between the different characters made for very different scenes throughout the book. For example, in Devil’s Place, there were entire scenes which showed exchanges exclusively between Chavez and Fellatio. When they talked, Chavez was shown making an effort to tolerate Fellatio’s silliness, whereas in the exchanges between Pak Jam and Chia, they were often much friendlier and more cooperative with each other. Then were also scenes with Suleiman & Detective Azmi, and Ning & Terry. However, we didn’t get to see much interaction between the supporting characters in Dog Pound.

As for “what sort of past creates this sort of present”, I assume this is in reference to what happened in the past to have created the setting of the story that we read in the book? I think, very briefly, it’s both the crime syndicates that pursue their own agendas, as well as the corrupt government that enables and encourages those syndicates, that creates the setting that we see in the book. It’s the struggle for money and power by these two parties that make them so callous that, in both books, they have zero qualms about killing off completely innocent people in order to tie up loose ends and benefit their own schemes. It is their greed and corruption that creates the present that we read in the book. All this is in regards to the social and political environment that we see in both books. As for traditions in the books, traditions seem to be dying out among the newer generations as seen by how Roy indulges in sexual activity as did Terry (or at least he was about to from peer pressure). This is despite sex being a taboo in Malaysia. I’d say this somewhat accurately reflects present-day Malaysia as we’re gradually becoming more and more Westernised.

By communication patterns, do you mean the dialogues between the characters? If so, what I noticed was that the dialogue was written in both books to mimic Malaysian manners of speaking by including slangs and occasionally having the dialogue be a blend between malay and english. The slangs somewhat help lend a more friendly feel to the conversations, depending on how they’re used and the characters that are using them. The dialogues are also written to reflect the characters who are speaking the dialogue. For example, Roy tends to use more malay when he’s talking (because he’s Malay) while characters like Fellatio and Han (who are Chinese) speak with broken english. Chavez, who’s an American, also swears a lot more when talking. Perhaps this is meant to reflect how Americans are perceived by some Malaysians to be cruder and vulgar.

I can’t say very much in regards to literary devices in the books. Both books had very simple writing. However, there are a few types of literary devices I can identify in both books:

- Dramatic irony. We, the readers, know ahead of time, at least to some extent, what the reality is and also what will happen to the characters. This is because of the changes in point of views between characters which give readers more of an insight to understand the situation.

- Allegory. At least arguably, both books serve as an allegory for Malaysian corruption and its impact on people.

- Verbal irony in the form of sarcasm. Throughout the story, we can find instances where sarcasm is used in the dialogues between characters.

- Metaphor. I can identify a metaphor in Dog Pound only once which is when Han talks about the Penrose Stairs and fighting for one’s own autonomy.

That’s about all I can say about the literary devices because, again, neither of the books had very impressive writing.

That’s all from me, Ms Kalai! Do let me know if you need an elaboration on anything. :)


message 29: by Violet (new)

Violet Ke | 7 comments Due to the similarities in terms of genre of the two books, it is quite easy to compare and contrast the two of them.

I believe the main reason for the conflicts in Dog Pound and Devil’s place is the role of money corruption and power, which affects the actions of the characters. In Dog Pound, Roy is entrapped in the loop of conflicts due to his lack of power against Rusdi, who is manipulative in the underground society. At the same time, Devil’s Place portrays the corruption of the country through the eyes of typical Malaysians. Both books focus on the major problem of corruption in Malaysia, which paints a vivid picture of the influence of this problem to Malaysians. On top of that, Gomez goes deeper and uses the misunderstandings to amplify the conflicts the characters are having, making the plot more relatable to the readers. By comparing the two books, we can see the conflicts even clearer as we have the access to both the overall view of Malaysia as well as the personal views of conflicts.

Vies and Gomez have different ways of portraying the relationship between the characters. In Dog Pound, there is an inclination towards the ingenuity of the people. Most of the characters are helping each other with ulterior motives. For example, Han helps Roy due to his ulterior motive of destroying Rusdi’s underground business as a revenge as well as Bone helping Rusdi in order to protect his family. Through this, we can see the selfish side of humans in general and how rationality overpowers our emotions. On the other hand, Devil’s Place is a book with more character interaction with genuine intentions, just like Pak Jam’s dedication in helping Terry despite their initially distant relationship because Pak Jam thought that was the right thing to do. Another example would be Terry helping Ning to the extent where he finally moves to Thailand opposite Ning’s daughter to continue helping her daughter on behalf of Ning. Clearly, we are more exposed to the warmth of the Malaysian helpful culture.

The books represents the past of Malaysia as they reveal the most ugly side of the Malaysian corruptions. As a result, they give a rather bad impression of Malaysia to the readers. Yet, it is a good way of getting the readers more involved, which raises the awareness of the major problems in Malaysia. I believe the future local productions will be more positive due to the recent change in the Malaysian government. The possible contrast in the past and future Malaysian books will only create a better understanding of the country, allowing more readers to appreciate their origins.

The communication patterns in both of the books are very similar, which is generally casual among the characters. This is a reflection on the Malaysian languages and our beauty of incorporating few languages in one sentences while making it completely understandable. In reality, this forms the closeness among Malaysians, clearly reflected in the two Malaysian books.

Lastly, I think the common literary device used in both the books is foreshadowing. However, both the authors depicts this in different ways. Vies is a slightly less experienced writer, so the foreshadowing in Dog Pound has lesser impact on the readers, which contradicts with Devil’s Place.


message 30: by Silvia (new)

Silvia Teow (silviateow) | 8 comments Yes, there is definitely a pattern in the way the stories are told – from the progression of the plot, to the physical and social settings and even the characters! Nevertheless, there are very nuanced differences between how Vies and Gomez approach in telling the story, and these very differences collectively play a role in my preference of Devil's Place over Dog Pound.

a) Conflicts
Both conflicts in the novel are typically a result of being falsely accused of an injustice that they did not commit and both choose to run from it rather than confronting the law and pleading innocent – this depicts (in both books) how the law favour the powerful and not the innocent in Malaysia thus leading the protagonists to both be on-the-run despite not being guilty.
However, we see that Terry is a more reflective character than Roy is and he is constantly reflecting on the conflict as well as his current surroundings. On the other hand, Roy is constantly engrossed in himself and making decisions that are rather apathetic to the harm that it could potentially cause to the people around him.
Other than that, Terry is also joined by another character running from the law, too (Ning) and this allows some form of bond that we do not see established between Roy and anyone else.

(b) Relationship Dynamics
As previously aforementioned, Terry and Ning have a relationship dynamic that is not present or shown in 'Devil's Place'. I would say a comparable relationship dynamic would be Roy and Jocelyn's considering she is the only female character as well and seem to have some form of connection with Roy. However, we do not see Roy being half as caring or affectionate as Terry is nor does he really confide in her whereas Terry and Ning enhance the romance element.
Another comparable relationship is Pak Jam and Terry, and Roy and his grandfather. I think that both Pak Jam and Roy's grandfather had a huge 'familial' impact on the protagonists and imparted a lot of wisdom on the characters.
Another dynamic in Devil's Place that is not present in Dog Pound is how all the characters end up converging and being very interrelated whereas I felt that Dog Pound was more choppy and sometimes there were 3 full stories in one novel but for Devil's Place, it was more like 10 different stories that make up ONE story.

(c) What sort of past creates this sort of present?
Probably a very long history with deep-rooted classism and injustice in the justice system which is pretty much the case in Malaysia. Malaysia's government (imo) has long capitalised off the segregation of the 'rich' sector and the 'poor' sector and the existence of these sectors itself, thus this creates a 'present' where money equates to power.

d)What do we expect in the near future where the stories of these people tell of a sect of Malaysian society?
I think it could really go both ways and in the middle – I feel that some authors may choose to focus on this ingrained problem in Malaysia, some authors may choose to write a story that revolves more about 'underdog heroism' with much more optimism and a form of hope, and some authors may choose a mix of both in their stories.
However, I think there may be more stories that would explore other underlying privileges such as racial privileges, gender privileges and even possibly one where the protagonist is part of the LGBT and depict his/her struggles in our traditional community. Personally, if there ever is, I would be very interested to read it!

(d) What are the communication patterns like?
Very casual, very Malaysian for both! However, in Devil's Place, the language is definitely more vulgar, witty, and crude, in my opinion. Another pattern we see in both books, is that despite most characters speaking "Manglish", there is a nuanced difference when different characters of different races speak it. Like when the Chinese cab driver or Fellatio in Devil's Place speaks, it is clear (to us, Malaysians at least) that the character is Chinese! I can't quite explain what it is, though.
Other than that, we see that Ning's character who is not 'local' is not very proficient in English thus she speaks in very broken English and this may be the result of a stereotype of her job and nationality.

e) What sort of literary devices are common?
Irony! As both books used plenty of sarcasm and wit (although I would argue that Devil's Place had more of that)
Hyperbole, especially for the Chinese cab driver in Devil's Place and how he would blow his theories out of proportion!
Flashbacks, I think this personally was used to evoke emotion in the reader in both books
Foreshadowing, I feel that the readers were always aware of what was going on in the book especially because of the third-person narrative but the characters were more 'lost' and didn't know some things that readers did.
Hope I made sense, miss!


message 31: by Hazirah (new)

Hazirah | 9 comments Hi Ms! I had some trouble comparing the two books side by side considering my preference of Devil's Place over Dog Pound so I hope this analysis does not turn out too biased!

1. Conflict - Causes & handling
- In both novels, the story is mainly propelled through the introduction of a conflict which then sets the tone of the respective stories
- The two novels also share a similar trait in that the main protagonists are both trapped in helpless positions at the hands of greedy & merciless antagonists that hold positions of power & influence over the authority
- The conflicts that the protagonists face also both come in the form of trying to escape trouble that they did not sign up for
- Another similarity that both protagonists share in terms of conflict handling is that their main goal was never to ‘catch’ the bad guy but it was always to return to their simple, everyday lives ***

2. Relationship dynamics
- With reference to the protagonists in both books, I think that there are slight differences in terms of their dependence of others
- In Dog Pound, despite having people to support him like Han, Roy always gave me a more of a stand alone-ish kind of vibe in the way that he simply viewed the people around him as guiding lights for him to follow in order to find his escape
- On the other hand, for Terry’s case in Devil’s Place, the people in which he interacted with in the process of resolving his conflict did not only appeal to him on the basis of necessity and desperation, but it is also backed up with empathy and compassion which enabled for what I felt like a more wholesome character development for Terry as readers can see him learning and growing with the other side characters
- For Dog Pound on the other hand, I felt that Roy’s journey was more of an individual thing and as much as that is still impactful to watch him fight his way through conflict, I also feel like it made the story a bit more superficial and harder for the readers to empathise with his character

3. Past affecting the future
- In relation to the points already mentioned under relationship dynamics, I feel like the main protagonists’ respect past played an important role in shaping the way they handled their conflicts now
- For instance, in Dog Pound, Roy who grew up an orphan and was taught how to fight by his grandfather also grew up to be more individualistic and used fighting as his means to get through life
- Meanwhile, Terry who grew up with a group of close-knitted friends also developed a method of coping which involved reaching out to other people for guidance and support

4. Literary devices
- Both stories shared the abundant use of profanity as well as the Malaysian slang which helped enrich the cultural settings of respective stories despite their effectiveness being affected by the extent of their moderation in its usage
- The language used in Devil’s Place was more straightforward and the momentum of the story relied more heavily on its structure which implemented plenty of perspective shifts as well as elements of suspense to propel the story
- I think this really helped with keeping the readers on their toes throughout the entire story and it made the reading experience really entertaining and exciting
- In the meantime, one of the more prominent uses of literary devices that I noticed in Dog Pound was the metaphor of the Penrose stairs which was introduced by Han in the story which I thought was just a really cool idea at first but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it played an important role in explaining the funk that Roy was stuck in

That's all from me, Ms! :)


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