My December 2013 Reading List

Last November/December, I read five insanely great books: Oblivion by Anthony HorowitzOn Writing by Stephen King, and The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games trilogy was one of my most favourite reading experiences in a long time – you can read more about it in my review of the trilogy here.

So with yet another long holiday, I’ve decided to set out a list of books I aim to get through. Being an avid reader with limited time during most of the year, I’ve been looking forward to devouring these titles for some time now.

So without further ado, here’s the 2013 December Reading List:

  • Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
  • Russian Roulette by Anthony Horowitz
  • David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Story Physics by Larry Brooks
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling

I’ve been wanting to read Fight Club ever since I saw the film; Russian Roulette is a must, being a die-hard Alex Rider fan; David and Goliath stems from my interest being piqued by Gladwell’s writing and insights after reading Outliers; Story Physics is a must after reading Story Engineering, and I hope to learn more from it about the intricate process of crafting novels. And then there’s The Cuckoo’s Calling, a surprise entry which I have to read after finding out that J.K. Rowling, one of my all-time favourite writers, was behind the mask of Robert Galbraith. Oh, and it’s apparently a brilliant thriller too.

This list is as much a public commitment and a tracker for myself, as it is a way of sharing my reading interests with you, dear reader. Be sure to check back on this blog to read my thoughts on these books as I finish them. Also, if you’re on Goodreads, you’re welcome to add me (https://www.goodreads.com/rahuldowlath <– that’s me on the reading social network ;)). And leave a comment below if you have any suggestions for good books to read.

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It’s been a while

It seems like I’m writing this type of post too often, but I find it a nice way to get back into the flow of writing after a gruelling term filled with coursework and general university angst.

So without further ado, and without attempting to make any promises about being regular on this blog (since I am, after all, majoring in Procrastination 101), here’s a small update on what I’ve got planned for the next few weeks, time permitting:

  • Reading: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz. I’ve been meaning to get into this book for over a year now, but many distractions have got in the way – from university, to other projects, to even other books (I’m looking at you, The Casual Vacancy and The Hunger Games). Horowitz is one of my all-time favourite writers; he, along with J.K. Rowling, really drew me in to reading insatiably, and it’s thanks to their words and love of books and the craft that I have been inspired to pursue this thing they call writing.
  • Writing: I’m still pushing through with the fabled manuscript. Yes, it does exist, and I’ve managed to break past 35 000 words. It’s still very slow-going, and being me, I’ve already got ideas for another book (unrelated to this one). No, I can’t reveal anything about it for a very long time. Hopefully you’ll find out about it soon.
  • More writing: I’ve become fascinated with gothic horror recently, and so I want to try my hand at writing a short story in this realm. Short story writing is always fun; maybe it’s because as humans we’re wired for instant-gratification, and so writing short-form pieces such as these blog posts and short stories are an affirmation-act for my writing life. Whatever it is, I am excited to get back to this type of writing, and also to explore a new piece of fiction other than the manuscript that has occupied much of my writerly life and thoughts recently.
  • Learning: I never stop learning. And so I’m hoping to continue my studies in server-side web programming and database design, in preparation for bigger things in the future.

Oh, and there will be many films watched between all of the above, and I really hope to write about them on this blog. Here’s a short list of films I’m looking forward to:

  • Now You See Me
  • This is the End
  • Kick-Ass 2
  • Thor 2
  • Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • … and, of course, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

All for now!

Descent into Inferno: Thoughts on the new Dan Brown book

After eagerly anticipating the new Dan Brown novel, I finally finished Inferno recently. It was the first time I read a Dan Brown novel over a few weeks (I usually devour these books in a few days, if not less). However, I was busy with a few other things, and I think this fragmented approach to a story that commands attention might be why I initially didn’t enjoy it too much.

However, after completing the 600+ page novel, I must say that I’m impressed. Brown hasn’t lost his touch of edge-of-your-seat action and suspense. Inferno is fast-paced and its backstory is interesting enough to keep your compelled. It even got me thinking deeper about some of the implications hinted at in the story, and I’ve been searching and reading up on the artwork and science that inspired Brown’s storyline.

Inferno is both just like, and unlike, his previous works. That’s a paradoxical statement, I know, but here’s the explanation: firstly, like every Langdon (or, in fact, Dan Brown) novel, we have a hero who’s an expert, brought into the midst of some deadly plot that has serious consequences for humanity. This plot is usually based on some arcane historic artefact or knowledge, and there’s usually heavy religious undertones. The conflict between religion and science is set against this backdrop, and the hero, assisted by an attractive secondary character (also some expert inextricably linked in some way to the initial upset that instigates the hero’s involvement in the plot) is hunted by either the authorities, the bad guys, or sometimes even both. The villain bases his/their plan on the arcane history, of which the expert is indeed able to understand and thus search for clues that get the duo (and the reader, foolish enough to get themselves lost in Brown’s suspenseful writing style) closer to understanding what the hell is going on.

Ok, that sounds a bit mean to Brown – his books are, after all, enormously successful. But you can’t deny that this structure is evident in all four (including Inferno) Langdon books.

But then, Inferno adds a level of twist to the Dan Brown Formula: firstly, it’s not so heavily religion-based as, say, Angels and Demons or The Da Vinci Code. Instead, it sets a health crisis against the landscape of one of the greatest poems ever written, a definitive epic of the Italian language: Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Specifically, the first part – Inferno. 

Then, the entire plot is laced with elements that just don’t seem to tie-up, until you get the the ending: a conclusion that, for me, made it worth trudging through some of the sometimes predictable scenes. And, as for the scientific angle: it’s to do with world population dynamics.

So, a Dan Brown book about population, Dante’s Inferno, and some plot that involves hunting down Robert Langdon because he knows something that could be potentially lethal (even though the professor can’t recall why he’s even in Florence…)

Sounds intriguing?

Without wanting to give anything away, here’s the basic premise of Inferno: Robert Langdon wakes up in Florence with no recollection of how he got there. Assisted by the pretty but incredibly enigmatic Dr Sienna Brooks, he is on the run from soldiers belonging to someone that is hell-bent on getting hold of him – by any means necessary, it seems. The only thing Langdon remembers is a vague image of an underground cavern with a dark lake filled with writhing dead bodies, and the spectral vision of a woman with silver hair calling out to him: “Seek, and ye shall find.” Oh, and he discovers he’s in the possession of mysterious object that points him to Dante’s Inferno poem, instigating the duo’s search for clues from the Divine Comedy that can give them an idea of what’s going on.

There’s a lot more to the story than that, of course (this being a Dan Brown novel, its full of twists and surprises). It combines secret organisations, the World Health Organisation, Renaissance art filled with symbolism pointing the way, copious doses of references to Dante’s Inferno, and, of course, a serious threat to our planet. In other words, your typical Dan Brown novel, just with a few more twists that make it a very interesting read.

Parts of it were a bit slow, but despite reading it in bits and pieces over a few weeks, I couldn’t put it down as I got to the final quarter. That’s when things started to get… exciting. Inferno is also set in some great international locales, and the settings themselves add a dynamic that engrosses the reader in the entire storyline. Brown’s managed to make all these seemingly disparate elements of storytelling – setting, plot, the complex science and art that forms Inferno’s framework, intriguing characters – sing together. That’s some skill.

I don’t want to write anymore about this novel; if you’re a Dan Brown fan, you’ll want to read this as soon as you possibly can. Highly recommended for those who enjoyed his previous Langdon novels, although it doesn’t have any references to the previous ones (it could be read as a standalone book).