Friday, November 6, 2009

Things I've Noticed: World-Wide Genre books are definitely worth a look

Looking over my bookshelf this morning, I notice that I'm actually starting to get a noticeable collection of genre books that come from around the world. In addition to books from my own country, I have a lot of British and US fiction (remember, I'm from Canada) but today I'd like to focus on the books I've got which were written in other languages and translated into English. These three books are definitely genre fiction, but the fact that they come from entirely different cultures adds to their appeal for me.

Battle Royale, by Koushun Takami (Japan)
Sometimes when I read the premise of a book, I think - that's pretty cool, I'd like to check that out sometime. Every once in a while though, the premise itself demands that I find and read the book. Battle Royale's premise: In a dystopian future where youth gangs were once a serious problem, the government takes one grade 8 class (13 and 14 year olds) from the country out to a secret location once a year, and forces them to kill each other until only one kid remains as an object lesson for the Nation. Think about that a little, imagine all of your friends in junior high (or middle school), and think about how difficult it would be to decide what you would do in that situation. The novel took me less than a day to read because I could not put it down, the tension was simply too high.

Blindness, by Jose Saramago (Portugal)
It begins with one man. Sitting in his car waiting for the light to change, his vision simply fades to a milky white. Blinded, he is taken by a not-so-good Samaritan (the man ends up stealing his car) home, and then to on Optometrists office by his wife. The doctor can find nothing wrong with his eyes, but wants him back in the morning for tests. The next morning, The Doctor, the nurses, the not-so-good Samaritan, the wife and all of the patients from the doctors office are also blind, and this is just the beginnings. The novel shows us, through this plague of blindness, how quickly society can fall apart. When you read Lord of the Flies, there is a part of you that thinks - yeah, but they were kids, in a real emergency things would be better. The speed with which society falls apart in this book chilled my blood.

The Night Watch (Watch Series #1), by Sergei Lukyanenko (Russia)
This book is packed with different supernatural creatures and moves effortlessly from a personal to an epic scale. I would best describe it as Russian Urban Fantasy. In it, we follow a young wizard, Anton, as he is promoted from research to field work in the streets of Moscow. Basically this world has the concept that the supernatural forces of good and evil are locked in a cold war, and both work to maintain a balance until one side can figure out a way to completely take over the world. The theme of the importance of balance is brought up again and again in this book, as well as in the remaining three books in the Watch series. Each novel is broken up into three shorter stories, usually connected by the main character or a main event. They are definitely dark, definitely Russian, and definitely some of the coolest Fantasy books I've read in a while.

All three of these books were adapted to film, Blindness being the best, Battle Royale being freakiest, and Night Watch being hard to understand if you haven't already read the book (kind of like David Lynch's Dune). As far as genre fiction from other countries go, all three of these books are a great place to start and definitely get me thinking that I've got to find more.

1 comment:

  1. I've now added all of these to my LT wishlist - thanks for the recommendations! The last especially is new to me and looks very interesting.