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Omnilogikos: literati

I'll post here all the book related content that I usually share on my blog, be it comments, reviews, quotes or whatever else.

Currently reading

L'Assommoir (The Dram Shop)
Robin Buss, Émile Zola
Dicionário de Lugares Imaginários
Carlos Vaz Marques, Ana Falcão Bastos, Alberto Manguel, Gianni Guadalupi
Progress: 60/1040 pages
Centuries of Change: Which Century Saw The Most Change? - Ian Mortimer

(this review was originally posted and has a portuguese version on my blog.)


With this work, Ian Mortimer intends to a analyse the last ten centuries and determine the changes in human civilization - focused on the so called western world - with the purpose of finding the one which saw the biggest changes.


The author starts by explaining his approach, justifying the option for the western civilization, and then, chapter by chapter, describes each century taking into account the changes and the agents of those changes at the time. This method ends up becoming a good way to remember history and the pathway our civilization has treaded before it became what it is today.
After this, the author looks back and uses some criteria to be able to determine the main changes and agents and the centuries that saw them happen.
I didn't always agree with the author's choices or opinions - something that is obviously related to individual values and perspectives, as the author himself refers - but he does explain his options showing sound logic and justification.

The main relevance of the book, in my opinion, much more than finding out in which century we changed the most, is what the subtitle asks - "Why it Matters to Us?"


"Breaking down the overarching concept of change into smaller facets has allowed us to glimpse the dynamics of long-term human development. We can see that not all change is technological: it includes language, individualism, philosophy, religious division, secularisation, geographical discovery, social reform and the weather."


Mortimer ends with a very relevant analysis of our civilization's evolution and a prediction of what our future can hold.


The winning century? It is but a detail.

I had free access to this book through NetGalley.

Über, Volume One [Enhanced Edition] by Kieron Gillen ans Caanan White

Uber, Volume 1, Enhanced Edition - Caanan White, 'Kieron Gillen'
I've been following Kieron Gillen's comics ever since I read his Journey into Mystery. I haven't read Phonogram - yet - but I've read his Uncanny X-Men, his Young Avengers and now his Iron-Man (and his Avengers vs X-Men: Consequences, which was the best part of the event) and I'm going to read The Wicked and the Divine. There is something about his take on the story or the characters, something about what he likes to explore and how he explores it that appeals to me. Reading Gillen, much like Jonathan Hickman, Brian Wood or Haden Blackman, makes for a different view of a recognizable marvel universe. This led me to pay some attention to the announcement of Über, though it ended up showing me a new Gillen.


I like art that references Nazism and the Second World War, it's something we still need to learn from, with suffering that we need to bring to the present, to each one of us humans. Few events on our recent history are so full of revelations on what humanity is and how far each human is able to go in pursuit of what he wants or believes. On the other hand, I fear that too many fictional pieces about it may turn it into a story, more than history, possibly creating a barrier to a recognition of ourselves as its agents.


Treading on the edge, Über wins its gambit, because Gillen and White take it seriously. The story starts with history and becomes alternate history, at a point where the creation of a kind of super[über]-men is able to change the course of the war before Berlin falls. The reader follows what happens to certain people key to the creation and deployment of these human weapons and they take us right to the top of the hierarchies driving the war in Europe, Churchill and Hitler, as they deal with these unpredictable events. Meanwhile, three developments stand out:
 - the military types, as the war effort is forever changed, how they follow or betray principles, what drives each one of them and how that is reflected on the battlefield;
 - the war, as much as it is changed with the übermensch, being just as it always is - suffering, sweat, blood, tears, fear, terror, death - war;
 - the übers themselves, as the authors explore being living weapons in the middle of a world war and how that relates to each one's previous life and personality.


Simultaneously, we get espionage and then some science fiction, as we get to know what is behind the creation of these super-men, something we know is going to keep being developed at the same time as, historically, the Manhattan Project would be on the go.


Caanan White's art - one I'm sure wouldn't call to me if I looked at it randomly - ends up being an essential part of what makes this such a good depiction of a fictional war that started with a very real conflict. There is no special effect in the representation, no minimalist drawing, no metaphorical death or character. Caanan White gives us people, far too real people, as they do and suffer the worst humanity has to offer.
The enhanced edition I got (because some friends really know what kind of presents I like) brought with it a few other surprises, including interviews with the authors, a text about Über, some of Kieron Gillen's thoughts about each of the pages, and finally some of White's art before coloring - I'll tell you this, I think I'd buy Über illustrated only by this original drawings, it's that good.

The only real negative point I can speak of is that the difference in storytelling from the first to the second half of the book is far too noticeable. The good news is that it keeps getting better.
I highly recommend Über as an alternate history and sci-fi World War II comic that has a lot to teach, to explore, to make the reader feel as it tell an enticing story. This first part ends as... well, prepare yourself for the end of the first volume. I'm waiting for the second.
Source: http://omnilogikos.blogspot.pt/2014/08/uber-volume-one-enhanced-edition-by.html
East of West, Vol. 1: The Promise - Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta
In East of West, Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta find a way to mix a few science fiction themes with a major typical fantasy plot - the beast of the apocalypse - in a very interesting way. This first volume is a presentation of the characters, their general background and drive and where they stand in this weirdly time displaced, wonderfully confused, alternate history Earth. The reader follows Death who is against his three apocalyptic siblings (here incarnated as children) and his quest for a human woman he seems to love. "I love you to death" gets a whole new meaning and scope in East of West, as a few characters get to murder entire armies or determine the results of a promotion by killing off the unwanted "candidates".
This is exactly what I enjoy in introductory volumes: a story that piques my curiosity without revealing itself too much, characters I really want to get to know, and a world intriguing enough (both technologically and politically) that I can hardly wait to see it further explored.
I got to read this first volume from NetGalley, but I liked it so much that I bought the paperback and will order the next ones This is Hickman at his usual best and Dragotta making me a fan, while their characters live between apocalypse and armageddon. 
Originally published in PT and EN on my blog.
Source: http://omnilogikos.blogspot.com/2014/02/east-of-west-vol1-promise-by-jonathan.html

Pela Sua Saúde de Pedro Pita Barros (Ensaios da Fundação #33)

Pela Sua Saúde - Pedro Pita Barros
A Fundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos tem publicado nesta colecção "Ensaios da Fundação" trabalhos interessantes sobre temas relevantes para pensar e repensar Portugal de uma forma informada. Fiquei logo com vontade de ler alguns, de várias áreas, com algum destaque para a saúde, a economia e o estado social. A Daniela ofereceu-me o Pela Sua Saúde, pelo que foi por este que comecei a explorar a colecção. O autor - Pedro Pita Barros - é um economista, professor catedrático e investigador nessa área e editor de revistas de Economia da Saúde, pelo que se propõe a olhar para o Serviço Nacional de Saúde analisando os seus problemas, as possíveis melhorias, os caminhos para a sua evolução tendo particularmente em conta a limitação de recursos do estado português.
A leitura deste pequeno ensaio foi bastante enriquecedora, mesmo tendo em conta que já parti com bastante informação sobre o tema. O autor aborda de forma lúcida e relativamente isenta as principais questões de relevo na discussão da dita "sustentabilidade" de um serviço de saúde financiado pelo estado. O livro começa por uma descrição geral do SNS, segue para a análise directa da sua sustentabilidade financeira, examina a organização e funcionamento do SNS e por fim a relação entre o cidadão e o SNS, terminando com algumas considerações gerais.
Como ensaio curto, este não é um livro em que os temas são explorados à exaustão, com bases científicas e ideológicas explicitadas e bem destrinçadas. Um exemplo disto é a sua abordagem das taxas moderadoras, que discute tendo em conta o seu aumento e aplicação diferencial mas nunca analisando as provas (ou ausência delas) da sua eficácia como factor redutor de desperdício em saúde ou dos seus efeitos de criação de desigualdade e potencial impedimento de acesso a cuidados que se querem universais. No entanto o autor consegue atingir o seu objectivo: fornecer ao leitor as bases e os pontos fulcrais para que possa pensar sobre o assunto, informar-se mais detalhadamente e participar activamente na sua discussão.
Assim sendo, recomendo a leitura de "Pela Sua Saúde" como ponto de partida para quem quer participar activamente na discussão eterna sobre o SNS, sabendo desde já que terão que progredir de seguida para outras leituras no sentido de criar e fundamentar opiniões. Pretendo ler mais livros desta colecção e agradeço recomendações a quem já tenha lido alguns.
Source: http://omnilogikos.blogspot.pt/2013/12/pela-sua-saude-de-pedro-pita-barros.html

The Victories Volume 1: Touched by Michael Avon Oeming

The Victories Volume 1: Touched - Daniel Chabon

I knew Michael Avon Oeming from his work on Powers and some Marvel stuff and that's why I started following him on twitter. Through his account I was able to follow the creative process of The Victories, because the author often spoke about it. He got me interested enough in checking something that he wrote and illustrated himself. Oeming didn't disappoint. The Victories is a pessimistic view of a society with "super-heroes". The story is told through the heroes' point of view, themselves far from the usual exemplary people one would expect, are after all quite flawed. The author uses their status as super-heroes to further amplify and analyse such human flaws.
The context is a futuristic and rather dystopian civilization, where people are constantly spied by drone cameras but corruption is still ubiquitous, young people are addicted to some new kind of drug and super-heroes seem to be the only hope of cleaning it all up and saving society. It's as familiar as if one was looking outside the window (television?) in a rainy day and actually paying attention. Of note is the author's use of the drug, which far from the traditional cliché is presented here as a substance with an understandable appeal. Faustus, the main character of the first volume is interesting to follow because the author left him with an immature personality, somewhat incomplete and with unfinished business (sometimes reminding me of the typical anti-hero with past issues), a young man in a process of self-discovery and definition.
This is how Oeming sets out to explore the place we give to these supposed exemplary figures, at the same time dealing with what people have best and worst, their reactions to extreme situations where they risk winning or losing everything they care for. The Victories is a comic wrote for mature readers and will probably be enjoyed the most by those who have read the more typical comics with their traditional superheroes, idealized worlds and self-discovery epics because they will see here a smart counterpoint.
The illustration is so adequate to the setting and tone that I can't really point anything wrong with it. Whoever knows and likes Michael Avon Oeming's art won't be disappointed.
My only negative criticism towards this book is that, as an introductory volume, the storytelling often looses momentum with the flashbacks and some infodumping that disturb an otherwise enjoyable read.
I'm now waiting for the next volume!

Source: http://omnilogikos.blogspot.pt/2013/10/the-victories-volume-1-touched-by.html

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

Os Leões de Al-Rassan - Guy Gavriel Kay, João Henrique Pinto

After being widely recommended, finally a friend lent me her copy of The Lions of Al-Rassan translated to Portuguese. I am quite thankful. Though it didn't become an instant favourite, as was the case with some of my friends, it still was a very interesting and rewarding book to read. This is often considered a historical fantasy work, for its indirect depiction of the wars of reconquest of the Iberian peninsula from the Moor occupiers by the Christians of the north. Al-Rassan represents the Moorish Iberian territory, Asharites are Muslims, Jaddites are Christians, Kindath are Jews and there is even a character based on El Cid.
Because I don't have enough time to write a very detailed and thoughtful review, I'll try to talk about some moments and themes that not only make reading it mindfully worthwhile, but also convinced me to try another of Guy Gavriel Kay's works.

I must start with the first event that showed how rewarding reading this book would be, a conversation between Jehane and Velaz where one easily understands that the author won't just fantasize an alternative history, but will mostly use it to make the reader think. Jehane is in a situation in which she feels the opposing forces of loyalty to her people, her professional obligations and her individual moral and ethics. As Velaz tries to convince her not to risk herself, their conversation brings forward the consequences of being neutral or passive before injustice.
In order to share them with those who read the book, but avoiding spoilers, I'll just enumerate the other key moments where Guy Gavriel Kay's prose is specially well accomplished: the massacre in Orvilla - where the author explores the contrast between the glory and the tragedy inherent to war; the Carnival in Ragosa - probably the epitome of the book's prose; and the fire in Fezana - because of each characters decision, of the transformations forced upon them by the event and the use of the fire as a weapon both of purification and terror.
Last, I must highlight the epilogue, not only because it closes the plot beautifully, but specially for the way the author made the storytelling accelerate with the approximation of the climax and then, as if experiencing an anxiety crisis, makes the author loose some of the crucial moments, being only able to look at and analyse them in retrospective. A mark of a great writer.

As for the themes explored in The Lions of Al-Rassan, they include as expected, religion and the consequences of war, but there is also a well accomplished analysis of a person's story taking into account and confronting her cultural background, her mutating context, her self-image and her idea of valour and personal fulfilment.
On religion, the story of Al-Rassan illustrates quite well how it can unite groups and communities but on the other hand do it while isolating or hurting others. Its use as an excuse for war, as a motivation to get people to follow their leaders' greed and lust for glory. There is still time for the characters to be forced to question their beliefs and morality by all the events happening around them.
On war, its obviously all over the place, as expected of an interpretation of the reconquest, superficially as a motor for geopolitical changes, but more deeply explored from the point of view of its impact on people, not as a group but as individuals, as lives, as stories, plans, dreams, feelings.

There is still more to highlight in Guy Gavriel Kay's work, as for example the perspective of the doctor as a person who helps a patient in need with no regard for his country or religion; the person who dreams of becoming a soldier in search of glory but looses heart before the carnage inherent to real war; the manipulation typical of war, be it when the characters are the manipulators be it when they are the ones manipulated by events around them; the choice characters are put upon, between friendship and honour, oath, loyalty or belief; and people who are forced to submit to their enemies, current or past, in order to live, to save someone they care for, to be with those they love.
A final note for the translation (by João Henrique Pinto, published by Saída de Emergência) that is generally quite well done but with some mistakes mostly focused on few chapters which were slightly spoiled. As I said above, reading The Lions of Al-Rassan convinced me to read more of Guy Gavriel Kay's books, probably Tigana or Under Heaven, but, as is usual with English speaking authors, I'll try getting the original versions.
Originally published in Portuguese and English on my blog.
Source: http://omnilogikos.blogspot.pt/2013/10/os-leoes-de-al-rassan-de-guy-gavriel-kay.html
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
"It's probably fair to say that in all the years of Hitler's reign, no person was able to serve the Führer as loyally as me. A human doesn't have a heart like mine. The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I'm always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugliness and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both. Still, they have one thing that I envy. Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die."
Source: http://omnilogikos.blogspot.pt/2013/09/quote-citacao-16.html
Against the Day - Thomas Pynchon
"“So of course we use them,” Scarsdale well into what by now was his customary stem-winder, “we harness and sodomize them, photograph their degradation, send them up onto the high iron and down into mines and sewers and killing floors, we set them beneath inhuman loads, we harvest from them their muscle and eyesight and health, leaving them in our kindness a few miserable years of broken gleanings. Of course we do. Why not? They are good for little else. How likely are they to grow to their full manhood, become educated, engender families, further the culture or the race? We take what we can while we may. Look at them—they carry the mark of their absurd fate in plain sight. Their foolish music is about to stop, and it is they who will be caught out, awkwardly, most of them tone-deaf and never to be fully aware, few if any with the sense to leave the game early and seek refuge before it is too late. Perhaps there will not, even by then, be refuge.
“We will buy it all up,” making the expected arm gesture, “all this country. Money speaks, the land listens, where the Anarchist skulked, where the horse-thief plied his trade, we fishers of Americans will cast our nets of perfect ten-acre mesh, leveled and varmint-proofed, ready to build on. Where alien muckers and jackers went creeping after their miserable communistic dreams, the good lowland townsfolk will come up by the netful into these hills, clean, industrious, Christian, while we, gazing out over their little vacation bungalows, will dwell in top-dollar palazzos befitting our station, which their mortgage money will be paying to build for us. When the scars of these battles have long faded, and the tailings are covered in bunchgrass and wildflowers, and the coming of the snows is no longer the year’s curse but its promise, awaited eagerly for its influx of moneyed seekers after wintertime recreation, when the shining strands of telpherage have subdued every mountainside, and all is festival and wholesome sport and eugenically-chosen stock, who will be left anymore to remember the jabbering Union scum, the frozen corpses whose names, false in any case, have gone forever unrecorded? who will care that once men fought as if an eight-hour day, a few coins more at the end of the week, were everything, were worth the merciless wind beneath the shabby roof, the tears freezing on a woman’s face worn to dark Indian stupor before its time, the whining of children whose maws were never satisfied, whose future, those who survived, was always to toil for us, to fetch and feed and nurse, to ride the far fences of our properties, to stand watch between us and those who would intrude or question?” He might usefully have taken a look at Foley, attentive back in the shadows. But Scarsdale did not seek out the eyes of his old faithful sidekick. He seldom did anymore. “Anarchism will pass, its race will degenerate into silence, but money will beget money, grow like the bluebells in the meadow, spread and brighten and gather force, and bring low all before it. It is simple. It is inevitable. It has begun.”"
Source: http://omnilogikos.blogspot.pt/2013/09/quote-citacao-14.html

Saga Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Saga, Volume 2 - Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples

After loving the first volume, I didn't hesitate in ordering the second and reading it as soon as I got it. Is spite of being an interesting continuation of the story began in the previous book, this lacks that "wow factor" that made the first one spectacular. I specially liked getting to know Marko's parents and also enjoyed the final part of this volume. Other than these, this book does seem like a filler. However, one must admit that Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples still manage to keep the reader interested and enthusiastic with their story.

I still recommend reading Saga with no reservations and I'm looking forward to finding out how they are going to explore that royalty with TV set's for heads.

Source: http://omnilogikos.blogspot.pt/2013/09/saga-volume-2-by-brian-k-vaughan-and.html

Great Pacific Vol.1: Trashed! by Joe Harris and Martin Morazzo

Great Pacific Volume 1: Trashed! TP - Joe Harris

I had access to Great Pacific Volume 1: Trashed through NetGalley. The concept of a guy trying to turn a heap of trash into a nation really raised my expectations ever since I heard of it, probably too much for a beginning that, though far from bad, didn't really make my day.

Joe Harris has a lot of ideas for this work and maybe he just tried to use too many right from the start, resulting in a protagonist that is exposed to too many odd situations before I even know who he really is and that seem to have no palpable impact on him. I also had some trouble with the strange mixture between ecological utopian science fiction items and a series of events and elements that reminded me of post-modern narrative, something that could have been awesome but ended up uninteresting, perhaps due to some failure in storytelling, lack of flow or of a consistent and convincing beginning.

Martin Morazzo's illustration  is competent, specially in terms of background and some specific elements, but is mediocre when considering some character's characterization, ending up with some very good panels and moments where it fails to help the storytelling.


This is an average comic, that would neither convince me to keep reading it nor really advise people to avoid it. In spite of this, I have heard that the next issues are much better than the one collected in Trashed, so I am actually considering giving it another go, if for nothing else, because I really want this concept to work out.


Last but not least, I must remind anyone reading this that the Great Pacific garbage patch is quite real and should probably, by itself, be making us change how we do a lot of stuff, shouldn't it?

Source: http://omnilogikos.blogspot.com/2013/09/great-pacific-vol1-trashed-by-joe.html

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

When this book got to me, the sky was grey and tearful. The owner brought it together with another one that she had promised to lend to me, because she thought I should read it. We ended up both soaking wet. She was right, much more at that than what we both could have guessed at the time.



This book shows the story of Liesel, a German child living near Munich in Nazi Germany as the World War II and the Holocaust unfolded that was able to pique our narrator's - Death - curiosity. Through her experience and Death's "eyes" the author tells a story that at the same time is absolutely believable but also has the reader wishing it wasn't credible at all. Liesel and her family's extremely difficult life are explored in parallel with terrifying episodes of that time, such as the general installation of anti-Semitism associated with the economic problems and the transformation of Jews into lesser creatures, the attempt to convince Germans that a war was needed to get what is rightfully theirs and even the forced conscription to the army. As one follows and falls for the girl, one can't escape a constant terror of what can at any point happen to these people (I can't bring myself to think of them as just characters) that we feel we know and like. Beyond the allusion to the war, The Book Thief explores in more detail what affects each person, in this case the consequences of political dissidence, the need to appear totally supportive of the regime, the problems of wanting to survive as much as wanting to be true to oneself. The symbology interwoven through the narrative adds to the reading experience, from the association of words, writing, reading and books with ideas, hope, salvation and freedom to the use of basements to place a parallelism between Germans taking cover from air raids and Jews hiding from Gestapo. However, Markus Zusak doesn't simply deliver a mesh of dramatic events, as the context might have lead him to. He has subtlety in how he conveys ideas and emotions and he knows to intersperse drama, everyday life and even humour and sweetness giving complexity to a work of art that is already one of my favourites.

Finally, I must write about Death, a narrator with whom I immediately related and whose comments the author emphasizes graphically and comically, that go from historical data to simple opinions sometimes even spoiling future events and often surprising be it for their easiness be it for their crudity.

There would be much more to say about the events, the symbols and the writing in The Book Thief, but I don't want to give more details. I hope that what I wrote is enough a recommendation to this book, one that I send out to anyone that enjoys reading.

The day I finished reading The Book Thief the sky was blue, clear but for some smoke from forest fires around Vila Real - I was the one crying.

"I am haunted by humans."

Thank you Catarina.

Source: http://omnilogikos.blogspot.pt/2013/09/the-book-thief-by-markus-zusak.html
Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
"Droll thing life is - that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself - that comes too late - a crop of unextinguishable regrets. I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine. It takes place in an impalpable greyness, with nothing underfoot, with nothing around, without spectators, without clamour, without glory, without the great desire of victory, without the great fear of defeat, in a sickly atmosphere of tepid scepticism, without much belief in your own right, and still less in that of your adversary. If such is the form of ultimate wisdom, then life is a greater riddle than some of us think it to be."
Source: http://omnilogikos.blogspot.pt/2013/09/quote-citacao-11.html
Against the Day - Thomas Pynchon
""Trying to kill somebody like Vibe," it seemed to Dally, "best take your lesson from the famous attempt fifteen years ago on Henry Clay Frick, the Butcher of Homestead, which is never go for a head shot. Aiming for Frick's head was Brother Berkmann's big mistake, classic Anarchist mistake of assumin that all heads contain brains you see, when in fact there wa'n't nothin inside damned Frick's bean worth wastin a bullet on. People like 'at, you always want to go for the gut. Because of all the fat that's built up there over the years at the expense of poorer folk. Death may not be too immediate - but in the course of probin around in that mountain of lard lookin for the bullet, a doctor, especially one that treats the upper classes, bein more used to liver ailments and ladies' discontents, is sure to produce, through pure incompetence, a painful and lingering death.""
Source: http://omnilogikos.blogspot.pt/2013/08/quote-citacao-9.html
Against the Day - Thomas Pynchon
"Whoa there now, Detective Basnight. It was routine to have these, what were known in the business as Grumpy Thoughts now and then, and he guessed he'd known socially or worked alongside of more than enough Pinks and finks who'd ended up clocking out before shift's end, and who's to say how far Lew might have taken his own contrition at working as long as he had on the wrong side, for the wrong people - though at least he had tumbled early, almost from the start, to how little he really wanted the rewards his colleagues were in it for, the motorcars, lakefront galas, introductions to desirable women or useful statesmen, in an era where "detective" was universally understood code for anti-Union thug... somewhere else was the bilocational version of himself, the other, Sherlock Holmes type of sleuth, fighting criminal masterminds hardly distinct from the sorts of tycoons who hired "detectives" to rat on Union activities."
Source: http://omnilogikos.blogspot.pt/2013/08/quote-citacao-8.html
""There's a new Puccini opera," she said. "An American betrays a Japanese woman. Butterfly. He ought to die of shame, but does not - Butterfly does. What are we to make of this? Is it that Japanese do die of shame and dishonour but American don't? Maybe can't ever die of shame because they lack the cultural equipment? As if, somehow, your country is just mechanically destined to move forward regardless of who is in the way or underfoot?

Thomas Pynchon, Against The Day (2006)

Source: http://omnilogikos.blogspot.pt/2013/08/quote-citacao-7.html

Immersion by Aliette de Bodard

Immersion - Aliette de Bodard

I finally got to read Aliette de Bodard's Immersion, a short story that won the Nebula and the Locus awards and was nominated to the Hugo and BSFA. Ever since I heard of it I've been willing to check it out and kept a tab in Chrome with Clarkesworld where it was initially published. I found out it was also available in audio version, so I decided to listen and share it with a friend. Though the reader's interpretation wasn't particularly to my liking, I ended up really enjoying the story.
Without revealing too much and spoiling it, it's enough to say Immersion is a quite interesting exploration of the interaction between cultures when one of them is dominant and of how it can aggravate problems such as prejudice or need for acceptance and more so if people start considering its only natural to assimilate the dominant culture. In this story the issue is addressed through a machine that allows not only to automatically translate language but also to completely transform a person into what is expected in the culture that created it.
With this short tale, Aliette de Bodard makes us think on multiple problems that our civilization is going through right now and with which we must deal with in the best way, such as the assimilation of american culture by most developed countries - for example through cinema and literature with massive marketing - the confusion in Europe between belonging to the European Union and obedience to the decisions made by the economically dominant countries, the communication through social networks that not only give us false avatars but also define the ways we communicate - for example, the absence of intentional silence: or you comment a post or no one knows that you read it and decided to ignore it - or the limitation that one can feel when adapting to another culture - how can a person express herself fully, actually be her real self, when using a different language, in different daily situations, with different traditions and interpretations and how can that person recognize herself after a long period holding this culturally accepted avatar?
I can't recommend Immersion enough and I'm now looking forward to reading more from this author.

Source: http://omnilogikos.blogspot.pt/2013/08/immersion-by-aliette-de-bodard.html