Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tolog Review: The Long Walk

The Long Walk
by Stephen King
reviewed by Ana Cristina Bailey

In Stephen King’s literary fiction novel, The Long Walk, he illustrates a gruesome narrative of one hundred boys under the age of eighteen who walk until all except one perishes. The boys, who gain the insight of young men during the “Long Walk,” must walk at a constant speed of four miles per hour. If the boys do not continually walk at this speed, the soldiers warn them with the feared phrase, “Warning! Warning.” Three warnings result in a “ticket,” a euphemism for death. After receiving a ticket, the ruthless soldiers shoot the “Walker” who fails to meet the required pace. However, if a “Walker” manages to walk at four miles per hour after being warned, his warning is revoked. Although it seems inconceivable that the young men would voluntarily participate in the “Long Walk,” the reader learns that the boys compete in this horrid event for “The Prize”-anything the boy’s heart desires. Through King’s use of similes and metaphors, the reader cannot help but agonize over the plight of these young men as they walk to their death. King’s narration of the walkers’ changing attitudes during this competition urges the reader to ponder how he or she would act in this situation.

The protagonist in the novel, Ray Garraty, has the life of a stereotypical American teenage boy: a beautiful girlfriend, decent grades, and an overall seemingly carefree life. Despite this, Garraty still risks his life for the highly sought-after “Prize.” While using descriptive imagery and comparing Garraty’s lighthearted life to the torturous competition in which he partakes, King instills the reader with a belief that taking risks is not always the most sensible idea. However, Garraty is assuredly not the only young boy who jeopardizes his life in hopes of winning the “Prize.” Although Garraty does not initially intend to make friends throughout his arduous walk, he is acquainted with Peter McVries, Hank Olson, Stebbins, Arthur Baker, and Gary Barkovitch. Though Garraty is reluctant to become friends with his competition, he ultimately realizes that he needs a group of people with whom he can talk in order to stay sane. King’s vivid descriptions of the heartbreaking stories of these young boys compels Garraty to almost pity them; however, Garraty knows he must keep walking and show no remorse in the event of their death. Garraty and McVries particularly become close companions, for they save each other from receiving a ticket on numerous occasions. This large group of boys, who call themselves “The Musketeers,” not only discuss abstruse topics, but they also converse about everyday things that help them maintain their sanity. 

Throughout the entirety of the novel, I found myself pondering if the advantages of being a winner outweigh the cost of being so. Stephen King does a phenomenal job of inspiring discussion for the reader and leaving the reader to ponder the major themes of his novel after reading it. His blunt writing style enables the reader to feel connected to the characters because of its similarity to a conversation with the characters. Through similes and hyperboles, King compares the “Long Walk” to other things that appear to be of great exaggeration; however, the reader is able to determine that the “Long Walk” is truly as ghastly as it seems. King leaves the reader with a lasting idea that the horror is not in death itself, but in watching the mental and physical state of someone deteriorate. 

I would recommend this novel to people who are keen to delve deeper into the mind of a sixteen-year-old boy. King uses literary devices to portray Garraty as a “wild animal,” which can often be an accurate representation of a teenage boy. Although King describes Garraty extremely well, he uses profane language and introduces other inappropriate topics. Moreover, the novel can be repetitive, for it solely consists of the death and survival of the “Walkers”; I would recommend The Long Walk to those who prefer a more straightforward plot. King’s use of suspense and foreshadowing appeals to people who revel in cliffhangers. Because King is typically a writer of horror fiction novels, The Long Walk contains content that can make the reader feel petrified; I would not encourage those who are easily frightened to read this novel. In sum, I would recommend this novel to people who are eager to learn about the physical and emotional struggles of these one hundred boys as they walk for their survival.

Tolog Review: Lock In

Lock In
by John Scalzi
reviewed by Sophia Wilson

John Scalzi’s Lock In is not your average dystopian sci-fi novel. It follows Haden’s Syndrome affected, brand new FBI agent, Chris Shane and his feisty partner, agent Leslie Vann. The novel opens with an article on Haden’s Syndrome, providing important information that is needed to understand the plot.

Let’s get in the mindset of this book: Haden’s syndrome has affected “more than 2.75 billion people worldwide… during the disease’s initial wave.” (Scalzi 9). But a small amount of those who were sick experience “lock in”, meaning that they are paralyzed but still able to use their brains. These people, called “Hadens”, are able to participate in society by way of robots (threeps) or by way of Integrators. Integrators are able to let Hadens use their body as an alternative for a threep. On his first day, partners Shane and Vann are placed in charge of a Haden-Integrator murder, which can get very complicated. As the novel progresses, more murders ensue until they find out what is really going on inside everyone’s head. 

Chris Shane and Leslie Vann’s relationship is one of a kind in that Scalzi seamlessly ties their personalities together. Agent Shane has a quick-witted nature and is not at all slowed down by his use of a threep. Agent Vann is an ex-Integrator, therefore she has a lot of experience with the kind of case they work on. This was a smart decision by the author because it allows the novel to flow by continuing the progress of their investigation. Although the plot is over a short period of time, the growth of their connection is visible. Scalzi uses Vann to push Shane, and by the end of the novel, it seems that they work like a well-oiled machine to find the criminal.

Lock In has an underlying tone of political turmoil, which could even be related to today’s recent political struggles. Scalzi swiftly ties it in by showing the different effects government decisions can have on each person. He writes “‘Ah. Right. The one person at the table whose business isn’t affected by [the] Abrams-Kettering [Bill].’” (Scalzi 97). There is that slight acknowledgment to the reader’s world that helps make this book even more enjoyable.

Overall, Lock In brings together the aspects of a fun free-read and critically acclaimed work. 

Tolog Review: The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood
reviewed by Isabella Durand 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood reveals an insight into a world where the population is dangerously low and women are deprived of all rights. In this dystopian novel, where women do not have control of their actions, bodies, or lifestyle, it is still relevant to today’s society and will be for years to come. Readers are informed of the events that happened in the city of Gilead by the narrator of this story, only known to us as Offred, and from her, we saw her world through her own perspective. Because of this, we are not even sure that what Offred is describing to us is completely true, but from what we can gather, that world is a place where no one wants to belong. This piece of dystopian-science fiction is dangerously close to a reality that might not be so far away and in reading this piece, really changes your perspective on our world today.

In the Republic of Gilead, the regime believes in a government where religion and politics come together, and this theocratic society, it mainly affects the women who inhabit this terrifying area. Because of these beliefs and style of government, women are not allowed to vote, read, write, or love, and for the Handmaids, life is even worse. To society, they are only vessels to carry children and help increase the population; they have no control over their lives. They are assigned to a distinguished couple and the Handmaid’s job is to conceive a child with the male, in Offred’s case, the Commander. They are forced to succumb to the wishes that other people have implanted into their minds and have to do exactly as they are told. This is why Offred is so important. Besides being the heroine in this novel, she realizes that what is happening is wrong, even if she can’t express the dialogue thoughts to actually come to this conclusion. Offred leads the plot of the story into different directions and through her actions, alters the course of her life. She went through ups and downs, accomplishments and failures, saw horrific events, made some mistakes, and eventually, took control of some of her actions. She was able to take the reigns of her life and actually make some choices for herself, even if they are not the best ones.

Laced throughout her novel, Atwood uses similar themes and motifs relating to the corrupted world in which the novel takes place to help the story flow. While reading The Handmaid’s Tale, women’s bodies and political opinions became a common theme throughout the story. Handmaids have no control over their bodies, and as previously mentioned, are like a vessel. Also, the regime running Gilead don’t care about women, only as long as they help the population increase. The events during the 1970s, when feminists made huge accomplishments for all women, were quickly forgotten and The Handmaid’s Tale shows the result of the depravity of these said rights. What is upsetting is the fact that, because women are only seen for their role in helping the population, they forget the joys of their previous life and only see themselves as a carrier. We the realization of her old life, Offred criticizes herself for wearing shorts or a swimsuit because, in Gilead, women seen dressed in clothes that were “revealing” are considered disgusting for the fact that they took appreciation of their bodies. Another theme is the titles and their roles, especially for women. Men have are given a military rank, for example the Commander, while women are reduced to stereotypical gender roles, such as Wives and Handmaids. They have been deprived of their names and are reduced to their position, not allowing any self-identity. Children who are deformed are given the title “Unbabies” and feminists are called “Unwomen”; these derogatory titles make you forget that they are human. Finally, an important motif in this theocratic government is the use of religious teachings and the way they change them to reflect their desires. The Commander reads Bible passages to Offred before they are to go to his room, but they are all passages twisted to reflect the needs of the government, almost as to justify their actions. Offred realizes this and even recognized that some of the passages that were told to them are not even from the Bible. The use of religion and politics is thoughtfully displayed and exemplified through the words of Margaret Atwood.

The tales of Offred seem so far-fetched and yet, in their own way, reflect today’s world, ultimately making this story so horrific. The Handmaid’s Tale is the story of Offred, a slave to the government, forced to play their rules. She is treated like an object who is only useful if she can become pregnant, and who also has to forget her old life. She remembers the days she would be with her husband and daughter, but now, everything is different. Her view on the world has been completely rearranged and her life is altered. This novel is her reflection on her own life, narrated by herself because her story is the one aspect of her life that she can control. We don’t know Offred very well because what we do know about her is based off of her description of herself, seen through her own opinion. In this dark tale, Offred finds comfort and nostalgia the memories of her life which helped her guide her actions. 

In my opinion, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone living in today’s world because of the fact that is was made to reflect our own society. Thankfully, I have never experienced any of the traumas that Offred has to endure, but when reading this novel, it is hard not to picture yourself living in her situation. If you want another look at what the world could be like, or feminism is your thing, I believe that this is a novel that you will appreciate. One of my favorite lines comes from Offred’s “reconstruction” of some of the events in her life, speaking to herself in her head and addressing whoever would listen, she says, “...please remember: you will never be subject to the temptation or feeling you must forgive, a man, as a woman… But remember that forgiveness too is power. To beg for it is a power, and to withhold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest.” She just wanted to leave her life as a Handmaid and was willing to forgive. Being the narrator of the story, she would tell it to herself and always hoped that someone would listen even though nobody could, or so she thought.