[I’m probably going to be practising my Japanese a lot around here and on the socials as way to… well, practise it. I hope y’all don’t mind! Translations for stuff that I say (or attempt to say) will be at the end of the post.]
Since I started college, I haven’t had much time for reading at all. Between doing homework, studying, and partaking in other life obligations, mostly related to kitty health, the most I’ve been able to read on any given day is approximately ten to fifteen pages, if I’m lucky. Normally, I will read before going to bad, but I have been too exhausted to even do that much. I won’t lie, not being able to read nearly as much as the personal norm has been making me feel rather inadequate as a bibliophile and a book blogger, or at least it did until this morning when I gave myself a vulgarly fantastic pep talk.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to take this as an opportunity to write up a different sort of post, one that I do regularly for my Asian media content: first impressions!
It is taking me far longer to finish books than I’d like, nevertheless some of the books I’m nose-deep in are ones I feel very excited to talk about. So, rather than waiting around for a review that I don’t know I’ll be writing (or I should say when I’ll be writing), I wanted to try my hand at bookish first impressions. I’ve seen quite a few bloggers doing this, however, in the past I’d blow through the novels before getting a chance to write up a post like this, defeating the purpose. Thanks to school, the purpose has arrived. Woot!
I’ve got two books to chat about briefly and one of them in particular is a title that is so damn good (so far), I want to spread the word about it as much as I can!
Aru Shah & the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
Aru Shah and the End of Time is the first book in a trilogy and it’s an #OwnVoices Indian, middle grade, urban fantasy title. After numerous book bloggers recommended this, particularly Nandini over at Unputdownable Books, I finally picked it up. I started reading this shortly prior to school starting, so I got about halfway thru it and then plateaued. Thanks homework.
Thus far I am loving it so much! My wee Indian heart is beating with so much joy at the representation and all of the cultural inspiration that went into this is uniquely close to my identity and personal heritage. The inside jokes on fitting in and being judged due to the colour of brown skin, or black hair, or other traits is unbelievably relatable and close to home for me. Plus, the humour is perfect for both kiddoes and adults alike, which is something that makes me relish it even more. My biggest issue with middle grade books—and this is entirely a personal preference, not an attack or judgment on anyone who lives for MG novels—is that sometimes it feels too childish to me with dialogue and comedic elements for me to enjoy as an adult. While Aru Shah does have some moments like that, over all it’s very charming and engaging.
The intertwining of modern-day Western culture with traditional Indian culture, specifically where the Indian epic, The Mahabharata is concerned, is done exceptionally well, and basically makes the book the Indian version of the Percy Jackson series. Fans of that series definitely need to read Aru Shah, more so if you’re South Asian and looking for WOC knights, or heroines, who kick arse in a delightfully diverse manner. The diasporic representation is just so good, I can’t really express it in words, at least not quite yet. I’ll try to have it down for the review when I ultimately finish the damned thing.
There’s depth here in an array of levels that, once I do finish reading it, I hope to discuss further in my final review. As it stands, however, I would highly recommend this book to any individual looking for an Indian, or South Asian, fantasy novel that makes the culture’s specific mythos accessible to folks who are entirely unfamiliar with it. People who are familiar, like me, will get an extra treat with all of the subtle remarks and references.
Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill
Sea of Rust is a hard science-fiction, post-apocalyptic, artificial intelligence novel that is so marvellously brilliant (so far). Holy shite, chums. I cannot believe I haven’t encountered this book sooner. It takes place in a world that is basically a desolate, sandy wasteland thanks to a massive war between humans and AIs. Following the POV of an individual AI, we learn about the history of what happened and what the current world is like.
I’m only a few chapters into this book, so I’m not entirely sure what the overall plot will entail. If one doesn’t start to take form quickly, then that will be the biggest downfall of this book. I’m wholeheartedly hoping that that doesn’t happen.
Aside from that, the world-building and atmosphere is extraordinary and engages all of the senses, making it super easy to imagine myself in the actual settings. The first-person narration from the unnamed AI is honest and matter-of-fact while retaining an air of regret and loneliness that is very apt given that they’re all alone in a world where the only survivors are other AIs who are all about killing to survive. So much of the book is also brilliantly quotable and it’s taking all of my energy not to write down every single quote I come across. I’d barely get any reading done if I did that, however, that is also the mark of stupendous writing capability.
The themes are the biggest strengths here in Sea of Rust and I won’t talk about them too much because they will more than likely be the main focus of my review after I finish reading. All I can really say is that it takes Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics and profoundly expounds on it in ways that are blowing my mind intellectually and I fucking love it.
These are my two current reads. I’m definitely going to shoot to finish Aru Shah by the weekend, which shouldn’t be too difficult considering that I’ve got less than half left. I probably won’t be finishing Sea of Rust until next week after I finish my studies.
So, what do you think of these two novels? Do they sound like something you’d be interested in reading? Or are they simply not your cup of chai? Please, come chat with me in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.
Japanese used: Good afternoon, everyone!