Showing posts from March, 2013

On the nature of Literary Hype: Part 1 – Vampires, Billionaires and the Rise of Dystopia

Every once in a while I ponder why some books go viral and what it takes for a temporary obsession of a literary hype to take over even the most resistant and skeptic of us.

Until of late I was one of those hype-resistant types.

I was a university freshman back in the early 2000s Russia, a country rising from the ‘91 socio-political fiasco followed by the ‘94 default, when nearly everyone around me was going nuts about Harry Potter. Some people I knew were even learning English just so they could read Harry Potter in original (by contrast, in the 1970s Soviet times the main reason for learning English was John Lennon as an obscure Russian song suggests).

Why setting matters: on cities in novels

I’m a believer that a story’s setting is as important as its plot or the characters’ development. 

As I look back at what stood out for me from the overabundance of the YA and non-YA ParFic(ParFic=Paranormal Fiction, yes I’m introducing a new term here) in my last three years of überreading, often the answer is – novels with appealing and uniquely written settings.
I first read The Catcher in the Rye when I was thirteen, and though I didn’t get to see New York with my own eyes until (many) years later, the city held me in its thrall effortlessly the whole time in-between. There are other fascinating books set in New York, of course, but only a few have the same soul-moving effect on me as does The Catcher. In fact, the Catcher’s NY impressed me so much, I’m still likely to become interested in a novel by its mere virtue of being set in New York. 

On Zombie Lovers and (Im)mortal Envy

If persistent overabundance of the assorted immortal undead in contemporary fiction is an expression of our not-so-subtle wish of immortality, what exactly are we expressing through our current fixation on zombies, the glorified immortal undead’s ugly cousins?
What’s the first image that comes to your mind when you think of zombies? Mine used to be a band of misfits forced to hide together in a shaky house. They are boarding the windows and locking the doors, while an army of recently reanimated marches on, hunting the living. 

Now, when I think of zombie, I think of this book (its cover scares me but also makes me giggle):

A lazy Goodreads search confirms my suspicion that most full-on zombie books are written by men. But women writers are catching up on all the zombie love, with Lia Habel, self-described ‘zombie anthropologist’ leading the way. Amanda Hocking also pitches in on the topic with her Hollowland and Hollowmen novels. Rachel Caine spins the Death Becomes Her’s concept of a