Book Review: The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin

92625Title: The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas

Author : Ursula K. Le Guin

Publisher : Creative Education, Inc.

Release date : April, 1997

Rating : 6/5

☯ Synopsis :

With deliberately both vague and vivid descriptions, the narrator depicts a summer festival in the utopian city of Omelas, whose prosperity depends on the perpetual misery of a single child.

⚜ Review :

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas (TOWWAFO) is a short story of about 10 pages. Initially, I didn’t plan on reviewing it. It was just a passion reading, encouraged by the music video of a K-Pop band that I love in which Omelas is mentioned (“Spring Day” by BTS). Go take a look; although you probably won’t understand a word of what they’re saying, the song’s melody is upbeat and melancholic at the same time, the rap/singing is on point, the cinematography is actually quite beautiful, and the video has tremendous depth and meaning. (Ok now I have the urge to publish a whole article on BTS). Back to the topic.

TOWWAFO is… a masterpiece. In less than 10 pages, it managed to pave a path to my mind, to my heart, to my soul. Its influence is still rattling in my head. I’m constantly thinking about it, its meaning, its consequences.

The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting.

How more wrong can we get?

As you can deduce from the title and the synopsis, once the citizens of Omelas are made aware of the misery of this particular child, some of them choose to accept this sacrifice and stay in their ideal life, for they cannot fix it without destroying everything else. Some of them choose to leave, as they cannot live with this on their mind. Those are the choices they have. For this city, in order for it to remain perfectly happy and prosperous, it needs only one imperfection, only one atrocity to balance everything else, and it’s the child.

Does the benefit of many outweigh the suffering of few? Should perfection be achieved at the expense of someone else? Is the happiness of thousands of people worth the suffering of a child?

That is exactly what Le Guin presents to us in her mesmerizing, yet chilling story. Happiness is, after all, not stupid, nor simple. With only a few words, this incredibly powerful and complex short story delivers some of the most fundamental questions in our society. Think about it. No, please, think about it.

I honestly understand both sides, and it’s part of the reason why TOWWAFO is so emotional. I understand those who stay, because I too dream of a happy, harmonious, perfect life. The idea of leaving my happily ever is horrifying to me. But I also understand those who leave, because I have empathy and conscience, and I don’t think I’d survive contributing to this child’s suffering.

But Le Guin’s story isn’t only about that, I realized. As the title goes, it’s also about the ones who walk away. The ones who leave everything they’ve known behind, to walk towards an unknown destination. Because that’s exactly their state of mind: they don’t know where they’re going, but surely anywhere’s better than here? They’re leaving because it’s not working for them anymore. And although they may start their walk on their own, they aren’t the only ones leaving or who left. They never walk alone.

The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.

Nowadays, those conflicts are still very relevant. We have, on the one hand, the many vs few dilemma. On the other hand, we have the familiar vs unknown dilemma.

From childhood to adulthood, we walk towards the unknown. We don’t have a map of the World of Adults, we don’t know how to navigate its waters, but we are headed there nonetheless. We leave the utopian world of our childhood.

In mourning, we must leave behind the world in which our close one is still present, in order to face the world without them.

The moment we open our minds, we only have but two choices : close our eyes, or keep them open.

But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.

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Book Review: The V Girl by Mya Robarts

21799202.jpgTitle : The V Girl

Author : Mya Robarts

Release date : July 1st, 2014

Rating : 4.7/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

In post-apocalyptic North America, rape and sexual slavery are legal. Lila Velez, desperately wants to lose her virginity before the troops visit her town and can take it away by force. She makes plans to seduce her only friend, Rey, the most attractive man in her town. Lila does not love him but he is the only man who has shown her true affection, an affection she is willing to take as a substitute of love.

Lila’s coping mechanism to her mother’s rape and kidnapping is her secret. A secret that will bring her closer to Aleksey, a foreign, broody man. Lila does not trust him because his links to the troops and his rough, yet irresistible appearance. Aleksey offers Lila an alternative to her plans, a possibility that terrifies her…and tempts her in spite of herself.

All the while Lila will have to find a way to live in the constant company of death, slavery, starvation, sexual abuse and the danger of losing the people she loves the most.

Review :

Woah woah woah, hold up, now. That was a freaking incredible book!!!

I have to start off by saying that this book is NOT for the faint of heart. So if you are, RUN AWAY FROM IT. Seriously, have you read the description?! Yeah, a book that talks about rape, abuse and slavery is certainly not for the sensitive. It’s brutal, and horrifying.

Now, for those of you who stayed: what a ride! The V Girl blew my mind away! Robarts wrote in a careful, mature and poetic way in order to handle such horrible subjects. She brought together some aspects that we can, unfortunately, find in our society. If you think about it, rape culture exists, and is present wherever you go. However, this book isn’t wholly about making people aware of this very real issue. It’s about Lila’s struggle to survive in her own way in her screwed up world, who had already screwed up her own family. The story is sprinkled with so many amazing details and new ideas and concepts that this fictional world felt real. I’m not saying that Lila’s world is awesome. Oh hell no, it’s atrocious! But Robarts’ imagination was, and I immensely enjoyed reading about it. Wow, how I would love to read more about it!

What I also really liked was the pace of the book. It was great, and gave me the time to get to know the characters, and their world, and the way this society works. I had a clear idea of where everyone stood before we jumped to the actual, interesting plot.

The V Girl might fall into the “coming of age” category, because its main character goes through a phase where she changes and evolves. And she did! At first, I didn’t like her, because she was fickle and naïve and constantly scared. She didn’t seem like the kind of person I’d like to read about. I mean, I know her growing up had been hard, and her situation explained why she acted this way…but still. I was irrationally pissed off by her. But then, after everything Lila went through, she became an incredibly brave young woman. She fought nails and teeth to overcome the obstacles she encountered, and she truly amazed me. I particularly admired her respect for herself, her values and her body, and the perseverance and strong-will she developed over time. And what can I say about Aleksey? He’s so HOT. Not particularly my type, but boyyyy, I fell head over heels for him anyway. He’s an artist, and mysterious, and my ovaries exploded many times at his scenes.

After finishing the book, I came to the conclusion that I could have used a sequel to The V Girl, because the writing was incredibly and the characters, fantastic. Unfortunately, I’ll have to rely on only the one.

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Book Review: Darkness Released by Candis Vargo

29844945.jpgTitle : Darkness Released

Author : Candis Vargo

Publisher : Limitless Publishing

Release date : March 28th, 2016

Rating : 1/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

For Hailey James, the ghosts of the past have never truly been laid to rest… After a troubled childhood and one last visit to her family’s abandoned home, everything in Hailey’s life seems to be going according to plan. The business she runs with her best friend, Pat, has hit big time success, and she isn’t even twenty-five. When night terrors come out to play, her future is in jeopardy… With the demolition of her childhood home, and her twenty-fifth birthday drawing near, Hailey’s nightmares become even worse. She is no longer able to do her job. At Pat’s insistence, Hailey undergoes hypnosis. She doesn’t remember much of her childhood, but when she sees a man dressed all in red in her visions, Hailey knows he is the key to her understanding. Hailey can’t seem to escape her past and the ghostly women who haunt it. But she can break the cycle of suffering that has surrounded the women of her family, especially with the future of her little niece, Lilly, on the line. To move forward, sometimes we must go back… Hailey’s future remains uncertain if she can’t face her demons. She can only hope she will be able to defeat the evil which has pervaded her childhood and threatens her family. When the shadows of her past threaten to cloud her future, Hailey must find the strength to unlock the truth of her troubled childhood.

Review :

I’m sorry, but I’m just going to let it out and say it: Darkness Released was just as bad as the Scary Movie movies. And they were bad.

I’m often wary of short stories (well, short: less than 150 pages, more or less?). When they’re well done, they are amazing! But when they’re not… they just feel like a waste of time. It’s like the authors have many ideas, but not enough words or patience, and they just throw everything at our faces. It feels rushed and overwhelming (not the good kind). Even with this thought, I wanted to give this one a try because I love horror stories, and this one’s cover fit just the description! And hurray! I got my scares!…

But they were quickly dampened by just how fast Vargo dismissed them afterward, with either humor or, I don’t know, a kind of writing flatness. The fright wasn’t lasting, and it was too bad, because it was different than the typical ghost scares, you know?

Talking about quickness… The story feels rushed, as I already told you. Hailey was a near-complete stranger to me. I didn’t know her very well, she had no character development, I was indifferent. Of course, since she’s the protagonist, I was hoping she’d discover the source of her problems, but I can’t say I would’ve been very sad if, say, something tragic happened to her. I would have been happy as long as the mystery was solved.

The world and the histories presented were lacking in depth. Everything just fell flat. Actually, the other emotion the book evoked in me, apart from the occasional scare, was annoyance. Darkness Released was filled with clichés, going from horror story tropes to character stereotypes that Robarts decided to use. Hence my comparison with Scary Movie.

All in all, this novel could use a little bit of creativity and thinking. Oh, did I just say “a little bit”?

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Book Review : In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

168642Title : In Cold Blood

Author : Truman Capote

Publisher : Vintage Books

Release date : February 1st, 1994

Rating : 4.5/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

Review :

A surprisingly good read for a true crime novice!

I don’t usually read non-fiction so it’s pretty normal that it didn’t appeal to me enough for me to give it 5 stars.

However, it was really well-written, and very storytelling-like, and at times it was so captivating that I had to remind myself that it was a true story. Needless to say, I was very pleasantly surprised! As it is expected, Capote’s writing is very good. There were some parts that went slow, of course, and I had to refrain myself from skipping them, but in general, it was so beautifully written. One of the particularities in this novel is that there is some kind of sympathy towards the murderers. They aren’t depicted as evil and downright psychopathic. They were (WOW) charismatic at times and likable, even, and it added to the richness of the story. Capote didn’t try to excuse their actions, though, no no no, I think he just knew that, even in real-life murders, there is no black and white. His book even managed to make me like (woops) one of the criminals (not proud to say it). Their execution (it’s not a spoiler, read the news!) didn’t make me feel as satisfied as I thought it would… Anyway.

All the characters were formidably introduced, so much that I had no trouble keeping track of them all (the cops, the family, the neighborhood, etc.). It wasn’t boring or laborious to read about their way of life because of the way the author depicted it. There isn’t much action, and even the crime wasn’t described with the usual suspense that we find in crime novels, but it makes for an interesting read for people who seek to be introduced to the genre.

Soooo, in conclusion, it was a kinda slow read (for me, because I’m not used to it), but it was well-handled. Also, read it if you want to seem cultured, because it’s considered by many to be one of the best true crime stories. ;))