The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura

I completed listening to this award-winning debut novel by Funimori Nakamura as an audiobook narrated by Brian Nishii. It is fast in trying to build up the suspense and it has some interesting characters even if they never really stood out including the main character himself. It has a good beginning, average middle, and a good and very quick ending. While listening I was imagining the what if scenario if Raskolnikov discovered a gun instead of a hatchet in Fyodor Dostoevsky's masterful classic novel Crime and Punishment. But this is a modern crime fiction and the main character Nishikawa is different from Raskolnikov as much as the author Nakamura is far from the skill level of Dostoevsky. I would have given this 2.5 stars if not for the unexpected I-cant-do-it scene and then the quick return-to-the-original dark scheme of finally giving in under the spell of the Gun.

I just could not stop thinking about the self-imposed limits of using a gun in a traditional crime fiction and it left me asking if there is anything else aside from just tiptoing the boundary between being a bad guy or a good guy and back? I was hoping that Nakamura could break the cliche of good-or-bad only dichotomy and wished that his protagonist, the budding sociopath could have traversed the boundary of being grey than being just white, or black. I was just thinking what could be the outcome if Nishikawa became an accidental hero instead of being just a murderer? A situation where he is forced to use the gun to protect his own or somebody else's life (?the police investigator) and not just to murder somebody who is a child beater? How will that change his feverish, murderous obsession with the gun when he accidentally used it and saved an innocent's life instead? Would that alienate him more and drive him worse than before? Will it force him to shoot himself? As a reader i would like to find out more.

There's a lot of room for improvement but I think the quality of this book (as seen by the ones who gave this book the Shincho Award for New Author in 2002) lies within the context of being written and situated in the present-day Japan. As a gaijin reader (outsider) I learned something about  the current Japanese opinion and sentimentality regarding the Americanization of Japan. This is a good attempt as a debut novel for Nakamura but as a reader, I wanted something more in a crime fiction like this.

Genre: Noir, Crime Fiction
Rating: 3 black cats out of 5


A Final Goodbye to Shelfari

Any bookworm who is active online knows that Shelfari wont last that long ever since the owner (Amazon) bought Goodreads in 2013---a worthy, independent, and direct competitor at the time. Only last year, I joined Leafmarks in an attempt to look for a home in keeping track of my book reads and book-reading friends even if discussions were not active and the diversity of reading groups not yet established. After seeing active or rather, hyper updates in my gmail inbox from Leafmarks did I realize that the numbers of refugees are serious as a repercussion of that decision made by Amazon to shut down Shelfari. I can say that this diaspora of forum members who have no home online and do not want to be part of Goodreads is greater than substantial and I am sure that they have something (sad) to say about the move by Amazon.

As I see it, the move will benefit both parties (commercial-vs-independent online groups) because Amazon can now focus promoting everything they have on Goodreads while private readers and authors (including programmers) who choose an independent platform and forum can now help in improving Leafmarks. I sympathize with those who loved Shelfari with all its simplicity and clean-looking UI and I miss those days when we can talk about anything regarding books. One of my favorite discussion was in the Flips Flipping Pages group (a Filipino group) talking about how to protect your book shelf from parasites and I had a lot of real fun in giving my own sarcastic view and also in reading different kinds of wise and intentionally not-so-wise suggestions. The fun part of being a forum member is that you can talk to a lot of interesting characters and personalities and you can also learn a lot from them. Another memorable group was the Sci Fi group where I can always find a worthy sci fi reading recommendation. Those are just my own experiences with Shelfari and I am going to miss them (if not missing them already). I have an account in Goodreads but I was never active in any group I joined and I heard a lot of not so good things regarding trolls, fake reviewers, propagandists, and cyberbullies targeting not just the readers but real book authors themselves. That is so UNcool. I am looking forward for Amazon to improve Goodreads (because I have an existing account there)  and I also hope they stay away from Leafmarks.

October 2008 - January 2016


Rey, I am Your Cousin

It's a little bit loose if you describe Episode VII as a rehash of tried and tested formula. As long as the Force exists, the Skywalker family affair remains the center of gravity in leading the dark or the light side. But if it ever was intended then it is still understandable given the existing canon, given the same constellations in a far away galaxy 30 years after the Evil Empire was crushed. It's a big task on the shoulder of J.J. Abrams to deliver the goods and I think he just passed the test. The Force Awakens is better than A New Hope (Episode IV) and just below The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi on my overall ranking of the Star Wars Episodes. It's just sad to see the brutal demise of a template space cowboy---an icon that span generations of movie geeks and nerds. Who would have thought that Han Solo is now gone? He has a higher magnitude of awesomeness than Chuck Norris and if legend tells that Chuck Norris cannot die (I feel sorry for the cobra that bit him) then I thought Han Solo can't also die but I was wrong.

Still, the force is strong in this one.

Farewell, Cowboy Bebop!

Genre: Fantasy, Sci Fi
Rating: 9 out of 10 death stars


Arnold Arre's Halina Filipina

Whether the author admits it or not, Halina Filipina is actually a good respite from the current crop of superhero/mythology tales in the local graphic novel scene. More than just about the title character, it's also about a beautiful love story between a Filipina-American learning to appreciate her roots and a local who despise things that destroys the Filipino. Together they learn and relearn what it means to be a Filipino. I personally like how Arre portrays "entertainment" as a cure and also a disease of our national consciousness. A simple jab to the jaw of game shows peddling instant high and temporary help just to earn ratings and millions of pesos in product endorsements.

Overall, this book deserves the accolade it currently earns.

Genre: Modern Fiction, Graphic Novel
Rating: 4.5 strands of straw hat