Category Archives: Science Fiction

Hollow City: The Peculiar Tale Continues…

London

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs is the second novel in the tale of Ms. Peregrine’s time traveling troupe of peculiarly gifted children.

Here are a couple of terms and notes that I found to be rather useful in making sense of this rather odd tale while reading:

Ymbryne: female keepers of the loops and caretakers of peculiar children.

Wights: bad guys with no pupils who feed peculiar children to the hollows.

Hollows: invisible tentacled monsters who devour peculiar children… and anything else that allows itself to be eaten, really.

Loop: a place hidden within a time warp that repeats the same day over and over again.

Also, it helps to keep track of the children and their peculiar abilities:

Jacob: he can see and sense hollows.

Emma: she can create fire from her hands without getting burned.

Hugh: he can communicate with bees, and keeps them safe inside his stomach.

Claire: she has two mouths…

Olive: she floats; needs special weighted shoes to keep her on the ground.

Bronwyn: she is incredibly strong.

Horace: he is able to dream of the future (as in bad omens and such).

Millard: he’s invisible.

Enoch: he can bring inanimate objects (and in some cases, dead people) back to life.

Fiona: she grows things… very quickly.

Hollow City picks up right where Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children leaves off: on a couple of precarious boats crossing from the island of Cairnholm to the mainland of Wales. The survivors — Jacob, Emma, Hugh, Claire, Olive, Bronwyn, Horace, Millard, Enoch, and Fiona… oh, and the bird — of the wights’ and hollows’ vicious attack on their loop, set out to find another ymbryne who can help get Ms. Peregrine back into her human form. The children miraculously make it through a storm and onto the mainland, only to be are chased by wights. As they run through the forest and read peculiar fairytales (because how else are they to keep calm at this chaotic time?!), they discover that the hollows have found a way to enter loops — they couldn’t do that before… that’s why loops are supposed to be a form of safe haven for peculiars. But now that wights and hollows have captured the ymbrynes, discovered how to get into these hidden loops, and have a master plan for world domination, how are a bunch of kids and a bird to survive?

…and then things get weird.

They meet some strange animals within Ms. Wren’s loop. It’s a menagerie with an emu-raffe, a talking dog, a odd monkey-man, and chickens who lay exploding eggs (among other creatures). They’re equipped with all kinds of items and head off for 1940s London. But not before meeting some gypsies — contact with the peculiar children does not bode well for the gypsies once they are questioned by the wights. So basically, it’s bad upon bad — then they meet some new peculiars — more bad things happen — and then they meet some carny folk — and then it gets worse… but through a streak of sheer luck and happenstance, they make it to a frozen building where they realize that things are even worse than they imagine in a world-wide scale across time. I hope I’m painting an appropriately grim picture without giving anything away…

“Strange, I thought, how you can be living your dreams and your nightmares are the very same time.”

The story just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser — but you keep reading because you simply need to know what oddity will happen next. However, as with any good story, there are emotions, true bonds, and thought-provoking questions at its core. These children have been through so much; most of them have been abused, abandoned, and mistreated for being freaks of nature. It’s no wonder they would go through hell and back for Ms. Peregrine, risking their lives in the process. Yet, for Jacob it’s a different driving force altogether — he sought out Ms. Peregrine to learn about his grandfather, but leaving a loving family and life behind is much more than he could possibly owe any one of his companions. He goes along with them because of his sense of duty, feelings of camaraderie, and love for Emma.

From the very beginning of the story, the children have a mission: to save Ms. Peregrine. But as the story goes on, as they being to realize that there’s a bigger problem, one must wonder: what happens next? Whether they can save Ms. Peregrine or not, the truth of the matter is that the ymbrynes have been captured, peculiars are being hunted, everyone’s courage is being tested — so, who’s going to help? Who takes a stand to protect those being persecuted? Who’s going to save the peculiar world? It’s particularly poignant that a large part of this take takes place during World War II. Considering the chaos of the world at this point in history, and how so many people were senselessly killed because they were… different, we can see how Ransom Riggs develops the idea that someone needs to step up. But saving the world is too much for such a rag-tag group of misfits to take on — which begs the question: if not them, then who? It’s a difficult decision, but one that must be made. And considering that Jacob is the only one who can see and sense the hollows, how far will he go for his new friends? How much can he sacrifice for them?

The events at the end of Hollow City are… exciting, to say the least. It is clear that there is so much more to this story — the mythology of peculiars is just getting started, and things are going to get a lot worse before they get any better.

“At the heart of nature’s mystery lies another mystery.”

… this is one mystery I look forward to reading more about.

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The Infinite Sea… of Anger and Frustration

chess pieces

“He promised he would empty me. He would empty me and fill me with hate. But he broke that promise. He didn’t fill me with hate. He filled me with hope.”

… And if you’ve had a chance to read The 5th Wave, hope is death — but hope is all humanity has when it’s lost everything else that matters. The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey picks up right where The 5th Wave leaves off. Everyone is injured, sleep-deprived, on edge, and hopeful, while shacked up in a crumbling hotel being overrun with rats. Once again we are able to experience the events as they unfold through the eyes of different characters, and even learn the backstory of Ringer and Poundcake. Cassie is hoping against all odds that Evan is alive and able to meet them at their rendezvous, Ben hopes Ringer is able to explore some caves that could be their winter shelter since they can’t stay in the rat-infested hotel for much longer, everyone else hopes Ben will survive his injuries and infected bullet wound. There’s plenty of hope and wishful thinking to go around. “No hope without faith, no faith without hope, no love without trust, no trust without love. Remove one and the entire human house of cards collapses.” So which one will be taken away? How to the Others plan to dismantle human existence and wipe it from the face of the planet? And most importantly, why are they being so methodical and cruel about it?

Anger. Frustration. Anxiety. Manipulation. I felt all these things as I kept on reading hoping to find some answers, hoping certain troublesome events would be resolved, hoping I would find out more about these sadistic aliens, and hoping things would be okay in the end, hoping there was indeed something to hope for. It’s the end of humanity as we know it, and I wanted things to be okay. I know…

Through Ringer’s experience we are able to learn more about the Others, their evil master plan, and their reasoning behind the attack on humanity — it’s all a rather confusing riddle, which only adds to the questions and frustration. Rick Yancey’s style is also deeply brooding and existential — but how else would we react when faced with the finality of our lives and extinction of our entire race? Each person is constantly faced with a choice of life or death — a choice that decides not only what happens next, but how their character and identity and collective consciousness of all of humanity will be defined. To kill? To die? To leave behind? To risk your life? To give up? To keep going? To break down and cry? To be strong and hold on? To trust? To suspect? To live? To love? To hope?

I read most of this book in one very long sitting because I needed answers. But what kept me reading was the feeling of experiencing it all first hand — all of my emotions matched those of Cassie and Ringer and Ben. Yancey chooses carefully how he presents information to the reader… and at times I felt I was being toyed with — Is he being cryptic on purpose? Is he messing with my head? Is he trying to throw me off? How could this be? Should I have seen this coming? … What I definitely saw coming was that I wouldn’t get all of my answers by the end of this book. I have a million more questions…

“You never know when the truth will come home. You can’t choose the time. The time chooses you.”

I cannot wait for the third installment of this trilogy.

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The 5th Wave — Not Your Average Little Green Men

evan walker

It’s such a great experience to discover you enjoy something you normally wouldn’t have considered. For example, I wouldn’t normally pick up a book about an alien invasion… and yet, I couldn’t put Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave down!

The varying points of view add a certain dimension to the story-telling as we are introduced to, first and foremost, “Cassie for Cassiopeia” and her family. She gives us the crash tour through the waves: “1st wave, lights out”– an EMP makes all electricity and technology useless… “2nd wave, surf’s up” — a massive tsunami wipes out all coastal cities… “3rd wave, pestilence” — the “blood plague” carried by birds wipes out anyone not immune… “4th wave, Silencers” — alien-infested marksmen shoot off the living… and the “5th wave”… well, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? As the waves go on, the human count dwindles. Through each section we see the different points of views — How are each of our characters affected by this apocalyptic event? How does each one deal with loss? How can anyone go on living? What truly matters?

The question at the heart of it all, “How do you rid the Earth of humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.”

While Cassie grapples with the promise she makes to her little brother Sammy, Ben struggles with the regret of running away, and Evan battles with… being good at what he does — (his job is not that pleasant) — the events for total human extinction are moving fast. With the world in complete and utter chaos, paranoia takes over: there is no trust. Trust = death. “First rule: Trust no one. The only way to stay alive as long as possible is to stay alone as long as possible.” Secondly, give up hope — because the end is inevitably coming, and it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” Thus, hope = death; “That will kill you. It kills you before die. Long before you die.” As the awful and carefully calculated events unfold, pessimism and realism blur their undefinable borders… but our characters keep on going. They find strength within their humanity to go on, to defy the ever-so-slim odds, and finally converge at the point of complete chaos.

And so, although the driving forces behind this sci-fi story are the cataclysmic events, the fast action, and the nail-biting suspense — it’s the meaningful bonds between characters that keep you reading. Whether it’s the way Sammy clings to Ben (and vice versa), or the way Evan clings to Cassie (and vice versa) — it’s the human element that matters most when life on the planet barely matters at all. It may be that “the harder survival becomes, the more you want to pull together. And the more you want to pull together, the harder survival becomes.” But the truth is… that this what we humans do: in times of crisis, we pull together.

Of course, there’s also that Cassie is a hilarious narrator… and then there’s also Evan Walker. Just… Evan Walker.

I will be reading The Infinite Sea now…

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A Peculiar Read: Ms. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Ms PeregrineThis book had me at hello — which is somewhat strange, since I’ve been staring at this title for a while now (it has been on the New York Times Best Sellers list for over 52 weeks)… the cover looked somewhat creepy and I wasn’t sure it’d be my cup of tea. But then I read the first line. Jacob seemed like an interesting character I would enjoy getting to know — I wanted to go along on this journey of self-discovery with him, and most importantly, I wanted his grandfather to not be crazy. With tales of girls who could float through the air or make fire appear from their palms, invisible boys, and worst of all, monsters… who wouldn’t doubt the poor old man’s sanity. A man whose magical tales of childhood had sparked a boy’s imagination and thirstfor adventure, suddenly just seemed frail and delusional — still, Jacob’s declaration,”We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing them becomes too high,” feels like it goes deeper than just his grandfather’s stories… making him out to be a grandiose hero was a fairytale — the price (looking after him, defending him from his parents) became too high. Fortunately, Jacob was able to find his way to this strange loop of September 3rd… he met an extraordinary, if peculiar, group of people… he made a discovery after all. Thus, in the end, Jacob turns out to be more than a just teenage boy learning about his grandfather’s past, his realizations go beyond the peculiar children in Ms. Peregrine’s care, his observations are far greater than slightly creepy photographs in a box… “I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was. Yet […] I realized that leaving wouldn’t be like Ihad imagined, like casting off a weight. Their memory was something tangible and heavy, and I would carry it with me.” I must admit… I want to know what happens with this band of odd children and a bird. I think I’ll be reading Hollow City to see how Jake and his friends fare on their adventure.

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