Book 10: World War Z

Courtesy of Goodreads

Title: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

Author: Max Brooks

Genre: Sci-fi, fantasy, horror

Summary: 

Born out of a 12-year-old boy in the village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, the virus spread like ink in water across the world and nearly decimated all of human population and wiped out humanity as we know it. Max Brooks, in the wreckage that began from Patient Zero, to the Great Panic, and finally to full-out war, traveled across the world to collect individual testimony from men, women and children who witnessed, experienced and was submerged in the war against the undead, in an attempt to capture the horror, desperation, bravery and humanity in the war and of its survivors.

Eaten Thru On: July 2, 2014

Thoughts:

What a page-turner. It had me shivering in fear and dread for its entirety.

I’m not one for zombie-themed anything, books, movies, series. No, I’m not a fan of the Walking Dead and I’ve never seen Zombieland or Shane of the Dead. The closest I’ve gotten to this genre was the feel-good film, Warm Bodies. Even then, I was grossed out and half covering my eyes in fear.

So I was surprised when I voluntarily picked up this book. A friend of mine had recommended it, passing it off as more a journalist-type compilation of personal testaments rather than zombie book. I thought it was just a ruse to get me into the genre. A year later, here I was, unable to put it down once I picked it up.

My friend was right. It really was most about the personal accounts, the individual stories that came out of a war-torn world. The zombies formed merely a backdrop. If I didn’t know any better, I thought I’d picked up a book of stories from a real world. I read this book over the course of two and a half days, and when I reemerged from it, for a moment, I believed I was still in that world. The accounts are written in a brilliantly realistic manner, integrating real world events and conditions. They came from a whole array of believable characters from all over the world in different professions and roles, ranging from military personnel to civilians and businessmen. It gave a well-rounded depiction of what was happening. Let’s you the reader, put everything together into a complete picture with just a tinge of great journalism in the mix.

Although these characters are not interconnected on a personal level, and their stories fragmented in a way that presented a variety of perspectives from different personalities, they carried the entire plot along extremely well. You felt the initial shock and confusion of what was happening. You felt the slow descent into madness and chaos. You felt the desperation and misery at the bottom. You saw no light, until you rose up with humanity and fought back. You saw the end approach, “the beginning of the end” as was well-put in the book. And finally, you saw the tail of the catastrophe. You would release that breath you didn’t know you’ve holding since the undead began to rise.

Gripping. Ferocious. And an absolute delight to read.

If you are like me, and don’t like the undead but do love a fantastic read, please, give this book a shot. It will blow your mind.

Final Verdict: 4 out of 5 Zacks

Recommended for: zombie fanatics, sci-fi lovers, journalist aspirers, and those who love a good journal-esque read

Next Potential Target: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

38. Summertime Sadness

After a two-month hiatus, I have finally regained free time, a flood of it. This last extended period of absence has been jam-packed by a graduating thesis, its defence, last-minute travels, packing, bureaucratic lines, family, heartbreaking dinners and goodbye drinks. My sincerest apologies for being so tied up with life to blog about it. But I’m back!

It has been a whirlwind of activities and time well wasted. I have acquired a great deal of experiences, not least of which is how to properly write and complete a thesis which should help me survive London. On personal matters, I have had to say goodbye to a few wonderful people I’ve come to cherish in my life. As is with my last departure from Japan only a year ago, this one was no less filled with tears. And even though I will be seeing a majority of my fellow classmates again this coming September in London, it does nothing to soften the blow of farewells.I’ve never been good with goodbyes, so instead, I’ll commemorate.

Here’s to all the incredible people I’ve encountered in Beijing, and above all, to all the dearest (and enduring I hope) friendships I’ve been able to cultivate there. I’ll remember our lunches together and our coffees afterwards in the garden, our miserable study sessions at the Bridge and the library, our panic attacks (mostly mine and your calm, assuring presence) during those final days of thesis, our days in the sun and the smog-less air, our travels together, and our nights watching movies and munching on fried chicken, or dancing away until sunrise. And if we never meet again, if our contact fades with time, I don’t regret one single second we spent together, physically or over technology. You have made this year in China comically bearable and unforgettable. I wish you nothing but happiness in your future. I sincerely hope we will meet again someday.

I’ll always be happy to hear from you.

So keep me posted.

37. A Story Somewhere

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There is this bulging, pulsing, growing yearning inside me. It expands a little more every time I arrive at the end of an amazing book, every time I read or hear or watch something about an author I look up to, every time I lay my hands on a freshly acquired piece of literature.

It is the urge to pen my own story.

But it is a mess up there in the literary, creative part of my brain. There are partial, undefined, crippled blobs and pieces of plots and story lines shooting off in every direction, smashing into each other, entangling the entire space into a spiderweb-like pandemonium. Some spin off into the dark, never to be seen again. Others in such a primordial state, I don’t even know if they will ever develop into anything substantial. And then there are those that spiral so out of control it doesn’t even make any human sense.

There are characters with half-formed faces and bodies, with one-and-a-half arms flailing about, and hopping on one leg, blindly trying to find the other missing parts of them. They have immature, flat, underdeveloped personalities. Their hair and eye colours undergo continuous, nonstop metamorphosis, flip-flopping between black, brown, blond, red, pink, blue, green, and otherworldly shades. They fight each other like two hungry alpha lions over the last gazelle on Earth, punching others in the gut, screaming at the top of their lungs, creating a mess on the walls with crayons of every imaginable colour.

Then there are the landscapes. One minute it’s a sprawling metropolis of bustling cars and busy people, and the next it’s some terrain filled with gurgling, flesh-eating trees and winged pandas and pigs. There are wide-open spaces of distant mountains and never-ending grasslands. There are houses filled with antiques and strange sounds and an attic that contains infinite possibilities.

Finally, there are the words. Those mischievous, conniving, sly, elusive blocks of letters that are the keys to locking down all this mess as well as my Achilles’ Heel. They are their own brand of creative hell. They are never there when I need them, especially those more bombastic, high-minded vocabulary like cantankerous or phantasmagoria. Instead of being at the ready, they leave my outreached hands empty and me, desperately gasping for air. They are like supersonic fast little rug-rats. One minute they are sitting innocently and adorably on that baby chair with a big toothy grin. You turn around for a split second and the next minute their giggles dissolve with the distance they’ve gained from you.

So all I can do is endure nights of restless tossing and turning, and days of endless glazed looks out the window, daydreaming about that one magnificent day when I would emerge victorious, from putting the final touches to my story, a complete work of fiction that encompasses all of who I am and what I believe in, characters and landscapes that blossomed from the deepest recesses of my mind, a legacy born from my own time, sweat and tears.

A tale that is all my own.

36. Self-Help

On most days, you can catch me watching Youtube videos, strolling to infinite and beyond on Facebook, or reading articles with titles like “It’s All The Little Things” or ones with titles that says it all, such as “I Don’t Want It To Be Love At First Sight — I Want To Learn About You Over Time“. If you click on those links, you will be redirected to Thought Catalogue, which is my default go-to blog whenever I need a large dose of self-help advice and manageable numbered lists.

The other day, when I should have been spending my afternoon working on my graduate thesis, I found myself, instead, reading one article after another on everything from relationships to loving myself. It was at a point during this physical manifestation of my uncontrollable obsession that a question popped into my head: what am I really looking for in the words of others? God knows I won’t follow 99% of their suggestions and well thought-out counsel.

Courage.

I was searching for courage, for words that describe exactly what I am going through and then for the advice that inevitably follows. In the back my head, I already know what to do, but I need validation. I need to know that others have experienced what I’m going through and recommend the same steps I was thinking of taking. I need someone else to take responsibility if disaster ensues from my actions. I need some sort of sign, words of reassurance that everything will turn out alright, that I won’t be brutally rejected.

So I keep on flipping page after page, collecting bits and pieces of courage. I don’t know how much would be enough. I don’t know if all of the articles on Thought Catalogue combined will be enough to push me over the edge, enough to get me to confess, to take action, to be brave.

I know. I know in the darkest corner of my mind that it will ultimately have to come from within. But perhaps, there will be that one article, those final words of wisdom that will allow my courage to spill over the rim, to break through the self-erected walls of protection against rejection, heartbreak, and joy, to open myself up for fresh air, roller-coaster experiences, and all the world has to offer, to propel me forward into the Great Perhaps.

This hope is what has kept me reading, searching, shaking from the potential that one day, it will explode into a constellation of heart break, disappointment, humiliation. Or maybe, just maybe, there will be a love returned, a risk worth the taking, a new journey beginning.

35. One of Those Days

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Find a comfortable bench to sit down.

Put in those earphones.

Select Some Other Place by Arcade Fire.

And press play.

Today’s AQI was a healthy 87. And a friend of mine unexpectedly pulled me out to sit in the courtyard of the residence compound. After she had left, I continued to soak myself in the clean air and last few strands of sunlight.

As I pressed play to the album on repeat on my phone, the music transformed the world around me, just as it always does.

The soft rise and fall of the piano accompanied the light breeze as it ran its hands across the garden, sweeping past a kaleidoscope of green. The leaves, from the ones hanging barely off the ground to those on the highest peak of the tallest tree, waved merrily as the wind fluttered by in its translucent spring gown.

The last bits of willow whiteness, the latecomers, the last to leave their homes, they kissed my cheek in farewell as they drifted pass. Homeless. Unbound. Free.

The spring gust also brought around people, fleeting glimpses into unimaginably complex and amazing lives. Behind those faces are hundreds and thousands of untold stories and secrets. Pain. Heartache. Love. Joy. Hope. Dreams of a future that might never be.

When the melody reached a crescendo, I closed my eyes like the shutters of a camera, letting every detail of that moment be imprinted behind my eyelids and itched forever in my memory box. I breathed it all in, letting the beauty fill my lungs and flood my veins to every corner of my body. I become that moment, wholly and completely.

In an instant it was gone, slipped through my fingers faster than fine sand, evaporated so quickly its ghost of a silhouette was all that the light could catch. And I run to a pen, a keyboard, anything so I can jog it down. I hope against hope that putting it in ink will somehow make it last just a little longer. I want so desperately to preserve that flash of rare and refined tranquility, that twinkling of feeling completely blessed and at peace, of seeing the world around me as a miracle, as a place of infinite possibilities for happiness.

Oh the extraordinary little moments we unexpectedly live through.

These are the ones that matter.

Special: This Mother’s Day

She endured nine months of swollen ankles and feet, of morning sickness, of uncontrollable hormones and cravings, to finally bring a new life, your life, into this world.

Then, for the next two decades, she slaves away every day, without fail, to raise you up. She gets up before dawn and doesn’t rest until well into the night after she has tugged you in and reassured you that she will protect you from the monsters under your bed. She leaves your bedroom door slightly ajar because she knows you are afraid of the dark and can’t sleep unless you are lulled by the soft murmurs of late-night conversations between her and your dad.

She patiently sits by you as you frustratingly get through schoolwork. Someday, you might discover she doesn’t know everything, that she isn’t omnipotent. But it doesn’t matter because she stands by you no matter what. She does to the best of her abilities and beyond, to lessen your burden. And if she can’t, she cooks you your favourites to bring comfort.

She fights harder than you’ve ever fought for opportunities to create the best future for you, even if that means sacrificing her own comforts, well-being and happiness. Even if it means giving up her childhood dreams and her own opportunities. Even if it means she has to put up with petty humiliations and embarrassments. She will never fail to do what she thinks is best for you.

Her heart breaks into smaller pieces than yours when she watches you go through the wrath of this world. When that first love shatters your whole being, she will be there to pick up the pieces and put them back together with the upmost care and attention. The pain of seeing you shake under heartbreak will reflect tenfold onto her, crushing her body. But she will stay strong for you. She won’t tend to her own wounds until yours have been mended and you are whole again. But when you are not around, when you are unaware, that’s when she cries. She cries for her baby, whom she swore to protect since before she was born. She cries for all the turmoil that will inevitably descend upon her child. She cries because she is only human, and there is little she could do.

For all this, there is no monetary or physical reward. To her, you are the reward. Your first breath, your first word, your first step, your first day of school, your first dance, your first graduation, your first paycheck, your first house, your smiles, your laughter, your dreams, your loves, these are what she frames and puts on the wall. These are her pride and joy. These are what sustains her.

So this Mother’s Day, I would like to acknowledge and send a deep, heartfelt appreciation for everything my mother has ever done for me. I saw you go through hell for me. I saw you sacrifice for me. I saw you cry for me. I saw you give up time for me. I see what you do for me, every minute of every day. I feel your unconditional love and support for me. I can practically touch it.

If you have ever doubted yourself, let me reassure you once and for all, that you are the best mother I’ve ever known and ever will know. You have shown me what it is to be kind, to be loved, to be happy. You have taught me how to laugh, how to live and how to love. There is no one and nothing I love more in this world than you.

I am sorry for all the times I’ve been impatient toward you. I am sorry for all the times I’ve disrespected you. I am sorry for all the times I’ve made you think that I hated you. I am sorry for all times I’ve brought you pain. I am sorry for the all times I’ve broken your heart. You deserve none of it. And yet you never stopped loving me.

Thank you mom.

I love you.

Always.

84

33. Friday Night Rain

Last Friday night, Beijing served up one of its rare wet weather phenomena.

That’s right, it rained in the desert.

My friend and I were caught in the middle of it, cycling back while the droplets pelted us down. It reminded me of just how fertile, lush and rainy Vancouver is.

I used to hate gloomy days, and in Vancouver, that’s a dime-a-dozen. Most days, I stay indoors. If I’m forced to endure the outdoors, you’ll see me trying my best to make that journey as short as humanly possible.

The rain in Vancouver doesn’t come in sudden, short bursts. It drags out over the day, in the type of irritating drizzle that if you use an umbrella, you look like a wimp and if you don’t, you end up looking like a drenched cat and most likely just as annoyed as one.

But last friday night, I was biking in the downpour with the biggest smile I’ve sported on my face in a long while. It was magical, especially considering the acidity of the rain here could probably give you special powers if you are exposed to it long enough. And even though my face was burning slightly from it, and I had to immediately throw all my clothes in the wash and jump into the shower myself, I was happy to be caught in the midst of a scarce meteorological occasion.

I miss rain.

I am as surprised as you to see those three words typed out. But…

I miss that cozy feeling of the privileged, of having a roof over my head, of clean blankets and a queen-size bed to snuggle into, of having good books and a cup of rich warm hot cocoa for company.

I miss being able to let myself go, get drenched while dancing away outside and laughing the entire time like a carefree lunatic.

I miss wearing red rain boots and having puddles to jump into, especially a street full of them so I never need to be on dry land.

I miss calming my nerves by leaning my head against the cool window glass and listening to the drumbeats of raindrops.

I miss seeing the trashcan full of broken umbrellas, graveyard after graveyard as testimony to the strength of nature over us, and then the inevitable exacerbation when my own instrument fails me.

I miss staying at home and having the entire day to pester my parents until they just can’t take it no more, and gives me a kiss on the cheek and cooks me my favourites.

I miss taking in the scent of freshly-soaked grass and the delicious sight of vibrant, luscious green that only comes after an abundance of rainfall. I can almost see the joy of the plants around me after a particularly long shower.

I miss home.