Goodreads Review: The Giver

The Giver (The Giver, #1)The Giver by Lois Lowry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has been on my shelf forever, but I only read it recently in an effort to quickly finish my Goodreads challenge. I now wish I’d read it years ago.

This book, ostensibly for middle-graders, blew my mind in a way no book has done so since I read “Ender’s Game.” Written in deceptively simple and sparse, almost clinical prose, “The Giver” tells the story of a perfect community where everyone goes about their lives, from cradle-to-grave, in a world free from pain, unhappiness, and choices.

The book’s hero, Jonas, is named Receiver of Memory upon turning twelve, even though he doesn’t really know what that means. His mentor, the previous Receiver of Memory, known as “The Giver,” slowly reveals to him the horrible truth behind The Community.

At it’s most basic level, “The Giver” is “1984” for kids. I believe it is quite clear that Lois Lowry has penned a warning against Statism. It even has a heart-crushing, ambiguous ending similar to the one which Orwell included in his book, though this book’s case is slightly abated by the existence of three related installments. I understand that none of these are direct sequels.

The book reads really fast, I being able to go through it in less than two days. I guarantee that you will be kept glued to your seat with this book. It’s just impossible to put down.

I think this book is particularly prophetic in its portray of The Community where Jonas lives. There’s an enforced hypersensitivity about the use of language. Euphemisms for death, euthanasia, and infanticide are rampant. Jonas and children his age are given pills to combat “the Stirrings,” itself a euphemism for sexual arousal. Motherhood is looked down upon as a rather unimportant “job.”

This book is chilling. Give it to your kid to read, but only if you fully understand what it’s about. I’d advise reading it yourself, because it’s a darn good book, and also you can answer their questions when they read the thing.

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Goodreads Review: Look Who’s Back

Note: This review is from my Goodreads account. I will be periodically be sharing my reviews on that site to my blog. Please enjoy.

Look Who's BackLook Who’s Back by Timur Vermes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I learned about this book after reading a review in The Wall Street Journal. Reading the review alone left me gasping for air because I was laughing so hard. Now that I have finally gotten the book and read it myself, I am glad to say that it was just as enjoyable as I expected.

The premise of this book is that Adolf Hitler wakes up in an empty lot in Berlin in 2011 with no memory of anything that happened after 1945. He is at first astounded at what he sees, but soon adapts to modern life while digesting the status quo of contemporary Germany through his rather… unique point-of-view. He winds up as a viral YouTube sensation as he struggles to make it clear that yes, he is the real Hitler, and yes, he means every word he says.

One half of the genius of this book is that it manages to humanize one of the most vilified characters of modern history, Adolf Hitler. As another reviewer wrote elsewhere, he is neither likable nor unlikable, he simply is. Since Hitler is the narrator of his own first-person account of this admittedly farcical story, the fact that Vermes managed to pull off such a feet is incredible. We see him fiddle with a television set, struggle with a bad night’s sleep, and express genuine sorrow.

The other half of the genius of “Look Who’s Back” lays in the originality of its premise and the execution thereof. The book is very much a darkly comedic satire, mocking the superficiality of the YouTube generation through one of the greatest monsters in history. Hitler’s take on everything from dogs to cell phones to Vladimir Putin is nothing short of hilarious. It edges toward the disturbing, however, when you realize that you’re laughing in the context of the antics of a fictionalized version of, well, Hitler.

A lot of this book depends on the reader’s knowledge of German pop culture, politics, and Hitler’s personal biography, but a short glossary in the back of my English edition manages to more of less clear this up for non-Germans. Granted, the book is probably much funnier for Germans, but I will be the first to declare that it remains a brilliant parody of our modern celebrity culture.

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