Jumaat, 11 Oktober 2013

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

The Things They Cannot Say


IF life is a concoction of paradoxes, then nowhere can we see this better than in the life of a soldier. The title of this book itself is a harbinger of paradoxes to come.

In The Things They Cannot Say, Kevin Sites – an award-winning journalist who has experienced the reality of war zones with his own senses – explores the impacts of wars on human beings.

Delving into the stories of 11 combatants who returned from wars in Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and Lebanon, Sites sheds light on the different triumphs and struggles that they have to face before, during and after their stint of duty in the military. These accounts certainly showed me – and will show most people, I think – just how little we really know about the life of a combatant.

This book made me realise that soldiers are very much human beings like the rest of us. Killing does not come automatically to the average soldier, and for most soldiers, their first time in taking the life of another human being comes with a shock at the magnitude of their action. Some overcome the trauma by vowing to never kill another human being while others find a way to live with themselves by numbing their emotions.

If we thought that soldiers were fearless warriors for their country, one of them whom Sites interviewed would disagree and tell us that it is not bravado that spurs them into amazing war actions most of the time, but rather, the pure practicality of a need to survive the moment.

Such paradoxes are rampant in the life of a combatant. Individuals in the military show us human nature at its strongest and weakest. The toughest soldiers who have killed many combatants could return home and watch their own lives crumble as they fail to come to terms with their past actions.

If we thought that a soldier is all about seriousness when out attacking an enemy's base, the soldiers give you accounts of comical moments of clumsiness peppered within these life-and-death situations.

The life of a soldier is almost never how we expect it to be.

This is not a book for the faint-hearted, for there are many instances of violence, of spilled blood and lost limbs and lives of fellow comrades that the soldiers have had to face. Even upon returning safely to the life of a civilian, many soldiers continue to face loss when post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) make them difficult people to live with. It is heartbreaking to see a soldier who has sacrificed so much to defend his country unable to defend his own marriage or happiness, but this is a story too true for many of them.

Whether a man volunteers himself or is drafted into the army, these soldiers prove that none can come out of a war zone unaffected in his worldviews and perceptions of life.

Sites has done an outstanding job in bringing to life the story of the 11 combatants. The accounts in this book are a result of Sites' interviews with the individuals as well as his own eye-witness accounts. His storytelling allows us to feel for these individuals as they experience losses, traumas, victories and hopes for their future. Sites even tells of his own battle with his inner self as a witness to the many traumas of war.

Most importantly, through his stories, Sites makes us ponder whether the world is in greater need of a solution through war or a solution for the consequences of war.



THERE is a glut of supernatural romance stories for young adults on bookshelves these days, which is not necessarily a bad thing – but some variety would be nice.

There are vampires, werewolves, fairies, witches, trolls (apparently they're not only beautiful, they have magical powers too) ... the list goes on.

Cutting through all the saccharine-sweet nothings and frustratingly-fraught cross-species romances comes Amy Tintera's Reboot, a futuristic sci-fi take on zombies that blends fast-paced action, mystery and some – just some! – romance.

Thanks to films like Day Of The Dead and 28 Days Later, we're used to the idea of zombies as drooling animated corpses or mindless humans, either fiendishly bloodthirsty or rotting and eager to feast on human flesh.

But in Reboot, zombies are closer to superheroes than anything else.

Set in the near future, a mysterious virus known as KDH has killed a large number of the human population.

However, some don't stay dead. Certain individuals – the strong, the young – are "lucky" enough to rise from the dead, only now they are stronger, faster and able to heal from grievous injuries in moments. The longer they've been dead, the nearer-invincible they are.

Although I say zombies, it's worth noting that Tintera has put her own spin on the urban horror figure.

Reboots bleed and keep ageing even after reanimation, they aren't rotting, and are capable of human emotion.

These "reboots" are tracked down by what passes for a governing body in this dystopian world, the Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation (HARC).

HARC kills all adult reboots, claiming they are dangerous. But teenagers and children are used to form HARC's army, ostensibly to protect humanity's future.

They are sent out into the slum-like cities to apprehend or kill criminals, KDH survivors who don't turn themselves over to HARC, adult KDH survivors, and other supposedly unsavoury figures.

Reboot focuses on HARC's deadliest soldier, teenager Wren Connolly, who died five years ago for 178 minutes after being shot in the chest.

Being dead for that long makes her incredibly strong, cold and emotionless – the perfect soldier.

But, that changes when she meets Callum Reyes, who was dead a pathetic 22 minutes; he's practically still human, Wren notes. He's uncoordinated, goofy and disarmingly friendly, but Wren takes a shine to him and decides to train him, hoping her tutelage will lengthen his lifespan.

The lines of good and evil are clearly drawn in Reboot, especially for fans of any post-apocalyptic film: the corporation is always the bad guy.

The book is a real page-turner, and Tintera is excellent at world-building, adding in little details and human nuances that make the book a pleasure to read.

The plot really comes to a head when some of Wren's less-talented peers mysteriously fall ill after visits from HARC staff, and become feral, craving raw meat, and acting sluggish and bad-tempered.

When her best friend dies after a bout of strange behaviour, Wren decides something is amiss.

But only when her superior officers order her to kill Callum for asking too many questions is she spurred to stage an escape with him.

She teams up with human rebels who want to return democracy to the world and begins a mad scramble across New Texas to an almost-mythical "Reboot reservation", where her kind live undisturbed.

Reboot has all the elements of a great read: mystery, a realistically-paced romance, action, a window into the hardiness of the human spirit, and a commentary on accepting others and yourself.

Although the novel leaves many questions unanswered – What exactly is the KDH virus? Who runs the Reboot reservation? What is HARC really up to? – the promise of answers lie in the sequel, out next May.

In the meantime, Reboot is a rollicking, well-paced story that leaves you wanting more, while still being a self-contained adventure that will please readers who just want to veg out with a fun book.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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