books | reviews

REVIEW: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

October 24, 2017

Dear Caraval Master Legend,

I’m sorry I got your name wrong in those other letters. I hope that’s not why you haven’t come to Trisda. My little sister’s birthday wasn’t the only reason I’ve wanted you to bring your amazing Caraval players here, I’d love to see them too.

Most Hopefully, Scarlett, from the Conquered Isle of Trisda

Caraval is the story of two sisters, lost in the mysterious world of Caraval, a once-in-a-lifetime magical event where one lucky participant will walk away with a precious Wish. Scarlett, the elder sister, has been writing to the Caraval players for seven years, and only receives an invitation after she writes that she is getting married, and therefore cannot go. Her sister, Donatella (or Tella, for short) is a rebel, who will stop at nothing to escape the little island where the sisters live and their abusive father, who is the governor.

But when the pair arrive at Caraval, they soon find themselves separated, and what seemed like the experience of a lifetime soon begins to feel like a twisted game of life and death.

 

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books | reviews

Dark Cities: How NOT to arrange an anthology

August 6, 2017

(Full disclosure: I received this book for free.)

(Also, content warning.)

You know when you pick something up, read a couple of pages and just think ‘yikes’? Well, that’s what happened when I picked up Dark Cities.

Don’t get me wrong – Dark Cities is on the whole a really good collection of stories. Tananarive Due’s ‘Field Trip’ was the highlight for me. ‘Field Trip’, in my mind, was exactly what the anthology was about – the horror, both supernatural and mundane, that lurks beneath the comforting hum of the cities we live in.

Before I talk about my other favourites, though, I’ve got to ask one big question.

What were they thinking when they made Scott Smith’s ‘The Dogs’ the first story?

‘The Dogs’ is a 44 page story about a promiscuous young woman who becomes embroiled in a supernatural tale of murder, dark magic, and bestiality. Yep. You read that right.

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Bullet Journaling for Fun and No Profit

March 22, 2017

My New Year’s Resolution, way back in January, was ‘be more organised’. It’s something I’ve tried and failed to do again and again, but this year I’m making a really good go of it, and it’s all thanks to Bullet Journaling.

I realised back in high school that the more time I spend making notes the way I want them – with doodles, colours, and my trademark sense of humour, the more information I absorb. It’s the same principle with bullet journaling. I find it really difficult to stick to a strict planner layout, and the Bullet Journal system gives me a little more freedom.

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The Library of Babel

February 3, 2016

Imagine a library. In this library is every word that has been, and will ever be, written.

If the concept seems familiar, perhaps you’ve read a short story by Borges, called ‘The Library of Babel’, which revolves around a similar collection of volumes upon volumes of every word ever written in every possible permutation.

Borges’ Library is a hypothetical. A thought experiment. The notion that a colossal library filled with every work of literature, every hastily scrawled love note, and every council tax bill ever written is an entertaining thought, but is surely, sadly, an impossibility.

It exists.

Libraryofbabel.info is the brainchild of Jonathan Basile, a computer programmer and self-described ‘librarian of Babel’. Within the virtual stacks of the library, a program whirrs away, frantically tapping out letter after random letter, filling books and neatly tidying them away upon the shelves. Unlike Borges’ Library, which features books which are, although bizarre, at least somewhat comprehensible, the vast majority of the ‘books’ in Library of Babel are absolute gibberish, occasionally interrupted by legible words, or even entire paragraphs. Perhaps a better comparison would be to the proverbial room full of monkeys, eternally striving to type the works of Shakespeare.

Of course, unlike those poor immortal monkeys, Library of Babel actually has typed the works of Shakespeare. At least, it’s typed 3200 characters worth of the works of Shakespeare.  It’s also typed The Aeneid.  And the wikipedia page for ‘The Library of Babel’. And this very blog post.

It’s not a trick, Basile explains. Anything you find while surfing the Library’s shelves will remain exactly where you find it, forever. ‘We do not simply generate and store books as they are requested – in fact, the storage demands would make that impossible.’

So I’m left to ponder a couple of pretty tough questions.

  1. If everything I will ever write has already been written by an insane typing robot, can I truly say that anything I write will be ‘original’?
  2. If the next bestseller is lurking somewhere in this huge collection of text, could I steal it, publish it, and make a killing?

I’ll address the Question #2 first, because I’m feeling too upbeat to tackle Question #1, and because Question #1 is a concept that’s already been tackled at least a dozen times.

So anyway, Question #2. The ‘if’ is not a hypothetical – there is no question that somewhere in the Library of Babel, the next Harry Potter, the next 50 Shades, or the next horrible amalgamation of the two, is waiting to be discovered. The sheer number of iterations of different words and letters almost guarantees that this will be the case. And should someone discover the magical sequence, copy+paste it, and ship it off to a publisher, it would be impossible to prove that they had in fact stolen it from a virtual room full of monkeys. It would be the perfect crime.

Of course, all of this supposes that someone will actually be able to find that bestseller. A quick skim through the first few pages of the first book on the first shelf in the first room of the Library (entitled tig .xswfor the curious) reveals that most of what you will find in the Library will be complete and utter gibberish. It would take somebody a lifetime, maybe ten lifetimes, to sort through the books in the first room alone. Which is why Basile built a program to do that exact thing in the first place.

Which brings me to the big failure of the Library of Babel. I’m reminded somewhat of a question I ran into on willyoupushthebutton.com that went: ‘You can have infinite knowledge on every subject, but you will never be able to tell anyone what you know.’ That situation is embodied in the Library of Babel. One of those books will be 409 pages of random letters and 1 page of a snippet from the Library of Alexandria, and we might never know. Now that the Library of Babel is (probably) complete, there’s been a substantial effort on the forums to collate and analyse what information (if any) there is to be found. They have some pretty cute ASCII art. There’s also a guy searching for his own obituary. So far, no bestsellers. So far, no library of Alexandria.

So far.

 

 

 

 

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