“Perdido Street Station”: Book Review

Perdido Street Station - Cover
Perdido Street Station – Cover

“Perdido Street Station” easily takes me to both a familiar and an utterly strange world from the first page. It first remind me to a street in Agrabah from Aladdin, and then to a steampunk-ized version of our world where mechanical things with gears, pistons, steams, on an uneven arrangements roaming clumsily, noisily, mechanically. Going deeper into this world, however, we see a scarred world, wondrous, fantastical, but also made of stuffs from nightmares. Terrifying, almost repulsive at times. A fantasy genre unlike most of its brethren.

This is the first time I read China Miéville and I was led to believe that “Perdido Street Station” is going to be a hard science-fiction because I had intended to read a hard science-fiction when I finally pick “Perdido” from my long queue of “to-read” section from my library.

And so I was a bit surprised after flipping the first few pages and found out that “Perdido” is not strictly belongs to science-fiction genre, but rather to fantasy genre. And not the High-kind fantasy I used to read too.

But my surprise turns into pleasant as I quickly found my way into the world of “Perdido Street Station,” getting acquainted with its many inhabitants although they were not always pleasant or easy to read (and imagine) to.

It takes a little while for the story to get its engine going. Most of early chapters were devoted to characters as they were introduced, and the many threads that eventually led to the story’s fight against its main antagonist in a series of epic action set-pieces.

The story is also not particularly kind to its designated protagonists as well. I personally feel that this kind of direction is a rather refreshing although obviously won’t bode well to readers who seek a “feel-good” story.

In fear of spoiling the story more than it already has, let’s just say that there are a lot of ways the story could have ended that would leave its readers in a pleasant smile, rather than perhaps, a bit too real, and a bit too depressing direction that Miéville chose.

With so many fantasy books being adapted to a movie or a tv series, as I read this book, I kept thinking about the feasibility of this book turned into a moving picture. It has many great ingredients. A lot of visually enchanting characters, there are magic involved, also machines, epic battles with guns and beasts and multi-dimension movements (think of X-Men’s Nightcrawler), a sprawling city, a mysterious desert, a haunted forest, even a bit disgusting Red district. Although, well, it is a bit depressing and a bit hard to enjoy. But hey, Game of Thrones (or A Song of Ice and Fire) works.

All in all, great intro to Miéville although I’m going to venture to a lighter literature first before heading back to Miéville’s Bas-Lag. But I’m definitely going to be back.

Rating: ★★★ – Great read. A bit hard to swallow at first, and its ending is perhaps a bit too depressing for some.

“All You Need is Kill”: Let’s Read #4

“Let’s Read” is an attempt on my behalf to master Japanese language by reading Japanese texts found in books, magazines, newspapers, etc.

In this edition, the text is from “All You Need is Kill.” A military sci-fi written by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and has been adapted to what I think as one of the better sci-fi films with Tom Cruise in the lead, “Edge of Tomorrow.

See all previous posts on this series from its dedicated category.

ついさっきでうごき、わらい、じょうだんげっていたあいつが、つぎしゅんかんなまあたたかいにくかたまりになる。

  • ついさっき. Expression. “Just now.”
  • で. Particle.
  • 動き. Noun. “Move.” Compare with its verb version. うごく. “Moving.”
  • 笑い. Noun. “Laugh.” Just like 動き・動く, also has a verb version ending in う. わらう. “To laugh.”
  • 冗談. Noun. “Joke.”
  • を. Particle. Marked every noun that precedes it into a direct object.
  • 投げっていた. Verb. Non-present continuous form of げる. “To throw.”
  • あいつ. Noun. “That dude.”
  • が. Marks the previous part as a subject.
  • The marked subject, 「ついさっきで動き、笑い、冗談を投げっていたあいつ」 is a verb-noun construction that then could be translated into “that dude who was just now, move, laugh, and throwing jokes,”
  • 次. Noun. “Next; Following.”
  • の. Particle.
  • 瞬間. Noun. “Moment; Instant.”
  • 生暖かい. Adjective. “Lukewarm; Tepid.” A combination between なま “raw,” and あたたかい “warm.” This adjective will modify the noun that follows it.
  • 肉. Noun. “Meat.” Explained by the previous adjective to becomes “lukewarm meat.”
  • の. Particle.
  • 塊. Noun. “Lump.”
  • に. Particle. Target particle.
  • なる. “Becomes.”
  • The phrase then becomes “the next moment, turns into a lump of warm meat.”
  • And finally the whole sentence becomes “that dude who was just now, move, laugh, and throwing jokes, at the next moment, turns into a lump of warm meat.” Pretty grim.

というやつは、とうとつで。あっというで。ようしゃらない。

  • 死. Noun. “Death.”
  • という. Expression. “That was called.”
  • やつ. Pronoun. “That guy; That dude.”
  • Therefore, 死というやつ “that guy who was dead.”
  • は. Particle. Marks the previous phrase as a topic.
  • 唐突. Adjective. “Abrupt.”
  • で. Particle. In this case, gives a “by” nuance.
  • あっという間. Expression. “A blink of time.” Interestingly, this expression literal meaning is “the time it takes to say あ.”
  • で. Particle. Similar to the previous で particle, gives a “by” nuance.
  • 容赦. Noun. “Mercy.”
  • を. Particle. Marks 容赦 as a direct object.
  • 知らない. Negative form of a verb 知る “to know.”
  • 容赦を知らない then could simply be translated into “not knowing mercy.”
  • And this give the whole sentence a translation of, “that guy who was dead, abruptly. In a blink of time. No mercy.”

それでも、かんがえるもなくいのちうばわれるしゃこううんである。

  • それでも. Conjunction. “But still; Nevertheless; Even so.”
  • 考える. Verb. “To think.”
  • 間もなく. Adverb. Continuation form of 間もない. “Without time to…; Soon.”
  • 命. Noun. “Life.”
  • を. Particle. Marked 命 as a direct object.
  • 奪われる. Verb. Passive form of うばう. “To steal; To rob.”
  • 者. Noun. “Person.”
  • 命を奪われる者 then becomes verb-noun construct that translates into, “the person whose life was stolen.”
  • は. Particle. Marked 命を奪われる者 as a topic.
  • 幸運. Noun. “Good luck; Fortunate.”
  • である. Formal/literary form of “to be.”
  • This 幸運である then explains the topic that “the person whose life was stolen was lucky.”
  • Why? Because 考える間もなく “(it was stolen) without time to think.”
  • And overall the whole sentence becomes, “even so, he whose life was stolen without time to think (as in quickly), was the lucky one.”

 

Kanji Disassembled #142: 算 “Calculation”

Calculation Calculation top Calculation middle Calculation bottom

Calculation. On its own, this kanji represents this meaning. Although you don’t get to see this kanji on its own fairly often. This kanji usually a part of another compound and lent its “calculation” meaning into it. Examples are:

  • けいさん “Calculation.” Combined with 計 “to measure,” this compound gives a stronger sense of calculation. Should invoke an image of doing the actual calculation.
  • さん “Estimate; Budget.” Combined with 予 “prediction,” it is fairly natural to goes from “prediction” and “calculation” to “estimate.”
  • さんすう “Arithmetic.” Combined with 数 “number,” this kanji represents the nightmare for most students. Maths. Calculating number? Maths? Obvious connection.

This kanji is probably divisible into three separate parts shown at the top of this post. The top part of this kanji is a radical for “bamboo.” Basically, whenever you see this on a kanji, it almost always represents a “bamboo” meaning. Observe its resemblance to an actual bamboo from this image.

Bamboo

The middle part of this kanji is said to represent a picture of an “abacus.” And the bottom part of this kanji is said to represent fingers that were using the said “abacus.” It is probably too complicated to draw the individual beads on the abacus and the ten fingers that were using it, so they were simplified as such.

Abacus

To this day, abacus were still used as a calculator in China. I personally think that the merchants purposely kept this practice of counting with an abacus because it looks cool, and it exudes a certain mystic aura that may help their business. Who knows?

Now because there are still demands for this little thing, some people are undoubtedly made a living by making them. Chances are, you name a material, wood, plastic, stone, metal, even gold, there’s an abacus made from it. But back then, during the time when kanji was invented, abacus was maybe mostly made by the most common material found back then. A bamboo.

And there you have it. An image of fingers, using an abacus, made from bamboo to indicate the meaning of “calculation.”

“Final Fantasy IV – Advance”: Let’s Play #3

“Let’s Play” is a yet another attempt on my behalf to actually learn Japanese. Through game.

The game I’m covering this time is a “Final Fantasy IV – Advance” for Game Boy Advance platform.

See other part of this series.

Final Fantasy IV Advance 2015-12-25 23.03.27

いったいなにこっているのか?

  • いったい. Adverb. “What?” Now you have to say this word with a conviction not unlike when you’re saying “what the heck?” in English.
  • 何. Pronoun. “What.”
  • が. Particle. Marked 何 as a subject.
  • 起こっている. ている-form of 起こる “to occur.” ている-form is generally used to indicate progressive.
  • の. Particle. Nominalized 起こっている.
  • か. Particle. Question Marker.
  • This sentence then simply translates into, “Just what is happening?” Although don’t forget to insinuate “what the heck” when saying it.

Final Fantasy IV Advance 2015-12-25 23.03.44

でんせつのクリスタルはただ、しずかにひかりをたたえていた

  • 伝説. Noun. “Legend; Myth.” Kanjis for this compound are つた “transmit” often found in verb つたえる “to tell; to convey,” and せつ “opinion.”
  • の. Particle. Possessive. Representing an English’s “of” here.
  • クリスタル. Noun. “Crystal.”
  • 伝説のクリスタル then would translate into, “Crystal of Legend.”
  • は. Particle. Marks 伝説のクリスタル as a topic.
  • ただ. Adverb. “Merely; Only.”
  • 静かに. Adverb. “Calmly; Quietly.” This adverb will add quality to the noun that follows it.
  • 光. Noun. “Light.”
  • 静かに光 then translates into, “Calm/quiet light.”
  • を. Particle. Marks 静かに光る as a direct object.
  • たたえていた. Non-present ている form of たたえる “to praise.” ている form then gives this a progressive quality.
  • The whole sentence then becomes, “The Crystal of Legend merely shedding its calm light.”

Final Fantasy IV Advance 2015-12-25 23.03.50

あたかもすべてをっているかのように…。

  • あたかも. Adverb. “As if.”
  • すべて. Noun. “Everything; All.”
  • を. Particle. Marks すべて as a direct object.
  • 知っている. ている form of 知る “to know.”
  • の. Particle. Nominalized 知っている.
  • ように. I found that this expression ように and its counterpart ような is rather difficult to explain. A lot of times I would peg these as “just like,” or something similar. But, other that these could also mean “in order to,” or “hoping,” or something else entirely. The only way to grasp its meaning is just practicing it a lot.
  • The whole sentence of this part could loosely translated to, “As if they know everything.”

“All You Need is Kill”: Let’s Read #3

“Let’s Read” is an attempt on my behalf to master Japanese language by reading Japanese texts found in books, magazines, newspapers, etc.

In this edition, the text is from “All You Need is Kill.” A military sci-fi written by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and has been adapted to what I think as one of the better sci-fi films with Tom Cruise in the lead, “Edge of Tomorrow.

See all previous posts on this series from its dedicated category.

つちぼこりげる。

  • 土埃. Noun. “Cloud of dust.” Kanjis for this compound are つち “soil” and ほこり “dust.” You could maybe use けむり “smoke” instead of 埃 as in 土煙 to deliver the same information of “cloud of dust.”
  • を. Particle. Marks 土埃 as a direct object.
  • 巻き上げる. Verb. “To roll up.” I found 巻 here is an interesting kanji because it invokes an image of rolling something flat with your hands into something that takes 己 shape. Just like a rice roll sushi which was colloquially called “maki sushi.”
  • 巻き上げる is a transitive verb so it requires a direct object. On the contrary, 巻き上がる is an intransitive verb with the same meaning. The rule of thumb is perhaps that if a verb ends with an える, it is most likely a transitive verb. The same could be said with intransitive verb and ある.
  • This sentence then becomes a simple “A を B” sentence that translates into, “cloud of dust rolled up.”

ほこりのカーテンにつぎいちだんこうける。

  • 埃. Noun. “Dust.”
  • の. Particle. Possessive.
  • カーテン. Noun. “Curtain.”
  • 埃のカーテン then translates into, “curtain of dust.”
  • に. Particle. Marks 埃のカーテン as a target for the next action.
  • 次. Noun. “Next; The following.”
  • の. Particle. Possessive.
  • 一弾. Noun. “One bullet.”
  • が. Particle. Marks 次の一弾 as a subject.
  • 孔. Noun. “Hole.” Probably an alternative kanji for あな.
  • を. Particle. Marks 孔 as a direct object.
  • 開ける. Verb. “To open.”
  • This sentence then translates into, “the next one bullet opens a hole in the curtain of dust.”

そらがすいくせんいくまんのうちたったいっぱつゆびほどのかたまりからだとおけるだけでヒトはぬ。

  • 空. Noun. “Sky.”
  • を. Particle. Marks 空 as a direct object.
  • 焦がす. Verb. “To burn; To scorch.”
  • 空を焦がす then translates into “burning the sky.”
  • 幾千. Noun. “Several thousands.”
  • 幾万. Noun. “Several ten thousands.” Combined with 幾千, this actually doesn’t add anything except to over exaggerate the “a lot” meaning.
  • の. Particle. “of.”
  • うち. Noun. “Within.”
  • 幾千幾万のうち then translates into “from a lot of.” Combined with 空をこがす, it then becomes verb-noun construct meaning “from a lot of (things) that burn the sky.”
  • たった. “Only.”
  • 一発. Noun. “One shot.”
  • This first phrase, 空を焦がす幾千幾万のうちたった一発 then could be translated into, “only one shot from a lot of (things) that burn the sky.”
  • 指. Noun. “Finger.”
  • ほど. Adverbial noun. “Degree; Extent; Bounds; Limit.”
  • Aほど is a fairly common occurrence in Japanese and could be taken to mean “as much as A.” In this case, 指ほど then translates into “as much as finger.”
  • の. Particle. Possessive.
  • 塊. Noun. “Mass; Lump.”
  • Together, 指ほどの塊 then translates into “lump as big as a finger.”
  • が. Particle. Marks 指ほどの塊 as a subject.
  • 体. Noun. “Body.”
  • を. Particle. Marks 体 as a direct object.
  • 通り抜ける. Verb. “To pass through.” A combination of とおり “road,” and ける “to come out.”
  • だけ. Particle. “Only; Merely”
  • で. Particle. Instrumentation particle often translates as “by.”
  • 体を通り抜けるだけで then could be translated into “by merely passing through the body.”
  • ヒト. Noun. “Person.” Written with katakana here perhaps to highlight its importance.
  • は. Particle. Marks ヒト as a topic.
  • 死ぬ. Verb. “To die.”
  • All these then, combined and came out as a relatively simple translation, “only one shot from these many that burns the sky, a lump no bigger than your finger, merely passing through your body, a man is dead.”

“Final Fantasy IV – Advance”: Let’s Play #2

“Let’s Play” is a yet another attempt on my behalf to actually learn Japanese. Through game.

The game I’m covering this time is a “Final Fantasy IV – Advance” for Game Boy Advance platform.

See other part of this series.

Final Fantasy IV Advance 2015-12-25 23.01.58

いま、このくにぐるまくるはじめている。

  • いま. Adverbial noun. Also written as a kanji, 今, it usually means “now.”
  • この. Pronoun. “This.”
  • 国. Noun. “Country.”
  • の. Particle. Often used as a possession marker.
  • 歯車. Noun. “Gear; Cog-wheel.” Kanjis for this compound are 歯 “tooth,” and 車 “car.”
  • この国の歯車 then would literally translates to “this country’s cogwheel.” Which doesn’t make much sense. However, the cog-wheel here is not to be taken literally. Similar with how “cog-wheel” functions in English, it could mean the way things work. Take an English sentence, “like a cog-wheel in a big machine” which means that it’s a moving part of some bigger things. Therefore, “this country’s cogwheel” could be taken to mean as “this country’s ways” or something similar.
  • が. Particle. Marks この国の歯車 as a subject.
  • 狂い. Noun. “Deviation; Disorder”
  • 始めている. ている-form of verb 始める “to begin.” ている-form is usually translated as a progressive form.
  • The whole sentence then translates to, “this country’s ways, as of now, has begin to deviate.”

Final Fantasy IV Advance 2015-12-25 23.02.24

きつかげかいおおう。

  • 不吉な. Na-adjective. “Ominous.” Explains the noun that follows it.
  • 影. Noun. “Shadow.” Explained by the previous adjective to become “ominous shadow.”
  • が. Particle. Marks 不吉な影 as a subject.
  • 世界. Noun. “The world.”
  • を. Particle. Marks 世界 as a direct object.
  • 覆う. Verb. “To cover; to hide; to conceal.”
  • This kind of sentence is perhaps the simplest form of Japanese sentence. “A が B を C” which translates to “A is C-ing on B” or in this case, “an ominous shadow, covers the world.”

Final Fantasy IV Advance 2015-12-25 23.02.48

ほうせいつちけむりまどひとびと

  • 砲声. Noun. “Sound of a gun; Roar of cannon.” Kanjis for this compound are ほう “gun,” and こえ “sound.”
  • 土煙. Noun. “Cloud of dust.” Kanjis for this compound are つち “soil,” and けむり “smoke.”
  • 逃げ惑う. Verb. “To run about trying to escape.” This verb could be separated into げる and まど う both of which could stand on their own as a separate verb that means, “to escape,” and “to be perplexed; to be puzzled” respectively.
  • 人々. Noun. “People.”
  • 逃げ惑う人々 then becomes verb-noun construct where the verb explains the noun. Therefore this construct then translates into “people running about trying to escape.”
  • The whole sentence is just a series of words. “Sound of guns, cloud of dusts, people running about trying to escape.”

Final Fantasy IV Advance 2015-12-25 23.03.01

なぜバロンはクリスタルにしゅうちゃくするのか?

  • なぜ. Adverb. “Why.”
  • バロン. Noun. “Baron.”
  • は. Particle. Marks バロン as a topic.
  • クリスタル. Noun. “Crystal.”
  • に. Target particle, marks クリスタル as a ‘target’ for the following actions.
  • 執着する. Verb. “Attachment; Obsession.”
  • の. Particle. In this case functions as nominalizer, turns the preceding クリスタルに執着する into a pseudo-noun.
  • か. Particle. Question marker.
  • Thus, the sentence simply translates into, “why does Baron obsessed with Crystals?”

“The Hateful Eight”: Movie Review

The Hateful Eight - Poster“The Hateful Eight” is a kind of film that could only be made by someone with a high reputation. It’s three hours long, it has lots of dialogues that literally the first ninety minutes is filled almost completely with dialogues, and it demands stellar performances from each and every characters involved. And stellar performances and cheap rarely goes the same road. No, sir, you need someone like Tarantino to convince some businessman to hand you their investment money for this kind of film.

And boy, what a film it turns out to be.

“The Hateful Eight” is easily my pick for the best film of 2015. In fact, given time, I could see it as my pick for the best film of all time. It was that good.

At least for me.

A disclaimer. If you think that Tarantino’s films are a bit on the extreme side of violence, and/or involves too much dialogues, and you don’t quite fancy it as such, then this film is definitely not for you.

“The Hateful Eight” rightfully involves (at least) eight different characters, huddled together in a confined space, which eventuality would dictate that these characters are going into something… chaotic.

Now in order to enjoy this film you had to be invested in the characters. If you can’t find yourself remotely interested to any of its characters during the first few minutes, you might as well leave the film be as you won’t like this film a bit.

The characters, in turn, had to be at their absolute best in order to carry the script. It doesn’t going to matter how good the script was if the characters aren’t going to deliver. There are sayings that some directors are able to pull the best from some actors. I find it to be true as far as Tarantino and his few regulars here. Samuel L. Jackson is an ever commanding presence. Every scene where he leads, he does so in a convincing and menacing demeanour that you had no other choice but to pay attention. Tim Roth draws too much semblance with Christoph Waltz in “Django Unchained,” but still is a unique presence. Kurt Russell was at his best, and I think only Tarantino who could make Michael Madsen into a fierce method actor as is evident here. Heck, even the actors who portrays Señor Bob and O.B. who each had a very limited screen time exudes their own best here.

However, I had to give it to Walton Goggins and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Goggins’ character had a complete arc from being what appears to be a “clown token” at the beginning of the film progressing into something else during the entire film and finally turning into something else at the end of the film. You had to watch it to understand but it has been a pleasure to watch.

Jennifer Jason Leigh’s role in this film, however, will draw a separating line. Arguably, the main plot of this film revolves around her character and some will undeniably see her merely as a victim of abuse whose existence is nothing but becoming an object for the other male characters. This of course, won’t bode well with feminists. Can’t really do anything about that. However, as have I, some will see her as the scariest character to walk this film. She had it coming, and she brings it home with such force that both terrifies and awes me. Her resolves at the end of the film which involves a hatchet is a marvel to watch. This, in my book, makes her as one of the strongest female character I’ve seen in a film this year.

All in all, “The Hateful Eight” might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think this is Tarantino at his most smug, and most pretentious. And I am absolutely okay with that. You’re either going to love it as much as I do or not at all. It depends on how you perceive Tarantino. Although love him or hate him, he is still undeniably one of the great directors left active today.