The Handmaids Tale left me conflicted | 2022 Book Reviews 36 – 40

today we’re talking about why i thought
the handmaid’s tale was badly written
we’re looking up to the stars get lost
in time and wonder if humans are
inherently good or evil hey my name is
nicolas and my goal for this year was to
read and review 100 books so that you
know what to read next let’s continue
with book number 36
sea of tranquility by emily st john
canadian author md saint john mandel is
best known for her post-apocalyptic
novel station alum which recently got
turned into a limited series by hbo max
her newest book sea of tranquility got
released just a few months ago in april
of this year and was received with rave
reviews upon publication as with the
absolutely fantastic novel piranesi
which i talked about in my last video
this book also gets better the less you
know about it beforehand so in short
it’s a tale about art
love and a pandemic virus that takes the
reader through several time periods from
vancouver ireland in 1912 up to the
space colonies of the far future bit by
bit we as the reader get

introduced to
these seemingly unrelated characters all
wrapped up in stories of their own and
we’re wondering what a tie-in between
these characters might be i really
really liked sea of tranquility so i
will grant it four and a half stars it’s
intelligently written serene in its
tonality and the story structure is very
well thought out given that this is a
story playing out over several time
periods with a multitude of characters
it would have been easy for the reader
to get lost but mandel paints her
characters so differently from each
other that you never really lose touch
as i’ve mentioned earlier there’s a
pandemic subplot in this book which felt
a bit too heavily inspired by current
events as the story beats read like news
headlines from march 2020. this small
criticism aside though this is a
brilliant sci-fi novel for those who are
open to the concept of time travel want
to explore a calculated and intertwined
story with a multitude of characters oh
and by the way the eponymous sea of
tranquility is the landing site of
apollo 11 the mission renowned for
giving mankind its first ever walk on
the moon it’s a wonderful title for this
book as you will find out once you’ve
read it infinity in the palm of your
hands by marcus john and we’re staying
up in space as a few days before
recording this video nasa published the
first photos of the recently inaugurated
james webb space telescope these are
images from the carina nebula about 7
600 light years away from earth a
turbulent cloud of gas birthplace and
graveyard for some of the milky way’s
hottest and most massive stars if you’re
fascinated by these images chances are
you will like infinity in the palm of
your hands the book’s author marcus chou
is a british science writer and
journalist he studied under renowned
physicist richard feynman and is now a
cosmology consultant for new scientist
magazine what a cool job title that is
in this book he presents 50 short essays
about some of the wonders of our
universe it’s a fairly short book with
each essay usually not being longer than
a double page spread he goes from the
most microscopic aspects of life up to
the weird and bizarre world of quantum
theory trying to make the letter as
understandable as possible for us mortal
human readers it lends itself perfectly
for the quick read tonight before
snoozing off or the short tube ride you
have to take in the morning to get to
work i will rate this book three stars
town is using a trick that what’s
charming in the beginning can get a bit
annoying over time he begins each essay
with a catchy one-line description or
question that they twisted out of the
topic he wants to explore for example he
begins one chapter by saying that babies
are powered by rocket fuel and then he
elaborates that we as humans need oxygen
to power ourselves as do we need it to
power rockets hence babies are powered
by the same fuel as rockets namely
oxygen it therefore all feels a bit
click-baity you take the science behind
it less serious because it’s wrapped up
in this pop-art approach to it i reckon
it’s his way of trying to make physics
and space as interesting and easy to
understand as possible but i do wonder
if this was really necessary still for
the science geeks of you this could be a
nice little book to keep on your bedside
pananka by ronan hashion
the so-called panenka is a technique in
football used while taking a penalty
kick in which the taker instead of
kicking the ball to the left or right of
the goalkeeper gives it a light touch
underneath causing it to rise and then
fall within the center of the goal it
was this technique that gave the main
character of this novel this burden of a
nickname as 25 years ago he was the last
taker in a penalty shootout between his
club and its biggest rival the stakes
were super high the whole city was
watching him as he took a run up tried
to outsmart a goalkeeper by using a
panenka and the goalkeeper simply caught
the ball aged 50 now penenka is still
struggling with the burn of his past
with his town still turned against him
and with daily headaches he describes as
the iron mask he tries to navigate life
nevertheless as best as possible between
living with his estranged daughter and
grandson as well as finding love and
purpose in unforeseen places the premise
of this book is very unique a faltering
football idol having to deal with the
consequences of a lost match 25 years
ago is a setting i haven’t thought about
wanting to explore before unfortunately
the story doesn’t go as in depth and
isn’t as emotional as i wanted it to be
so the book lands at three and a half
stars in the end set in a sleepy little
town somewhere on the british isles the
setting feeds on a lot of cliches of
sleepy little towns and sparks about as
much joy as your local tesco meaning
it’s a bit dry the book overall has its
moment of deep prose of intelligent
thoughts in between but it also doesn’t
fully know what it wants to be as the
story bounces between different story
arcs like a pinball giving none of them
the emotional weight they deserve in the
end ponenka has a strong premise that’s
not fully developed it’s still somewhat
of slow burn though as by the end you
are invested in the characters of this
sleepy little town
humankind by rhodgar breckman
are humans good by nature this has been
the mother of all philosophical
questions for millennia now and the
debate reached somewhat of a high point
during the 17th and 18th centuries it
was jean-jacques rousseau who argued
that humans are born good by nature and
is only civilization that ruins them his
counterpart thomas hobbes argued the
other way around and said that mankind
was born greedy and wicked and that only
society can change them for the better
there wasn’t and will probably never be
an end to this discussion but many
philosophers ever since tried to chip in
and give their point of view like dutch
author rita bregman does here in his
most recent book humankind you might
know him from a ted talk that he gave a
few years ago arguing in favor of basic
income or when he prompted the world’s
billionaires at the economic forum in
davos to pay more taxes in this book
then breckman makes the case that humans
evolve to be good that we are social
animals thriving in the community which
is what set us apart from neanderthals
back in the day on the basis of several
case studies and single examples he
argues in favor of both rousseau and
hops picking arguments as he sees fit to
paint a picture of homo sapiens evolving
to become a wholesome and social animal
to homo puppy as he calls it the book
sets off to a very strong start but it’s
losing its momentum a few chapters in
could it have held the pace from the
beginning it would have ranked much
higher but in the end humankind lands on
four stars for me it makes a compelling
case for the good side of the good
versus evil discussion but this case is
hanging on thin threats as the author is
too fixated on single studies or
isolated anecdotes and thereby crafting
a one-sided argument in my mind you
still get some interesting scientific
tidbits and insights into well-known
experiments from the past and given the
current political social state the world
is in the message this book tries to
convey might be directly needed so if
you’re up for a bit of optimism give it
a try the handmaid’s tale by margaret
i’m recording this video a few weeks
after the u.s supreme court overturned
roe vs wade and thereby ended the
constitutional right to getting an
abortion for millions of u.s women in
the heat of the ruling protesters
compared the america they live in today
to that of gilead a fictional dystopian
state from margaret atwood’s
groundbreaking novel a handmaid’s tale
published in 1985 the book was provoking
and progressive for its time as it
openly touched on sensitive and
subjective topics such as sex religion
reproductive rights feminism and
fundamentalism it got banned in several
states as its anti-christian themes and
provocative underlying message offended
fundamentally religious groups to the
point that they saw the book as an
attack on their religion the world of
the handmaid’s tale is unlike any other
dystopian setting i know following a
military coup the united states became
the republic of gilead a land that
suppresses women in every conceivable
way and boils them down to being pure
breeding machines or handmaidens for
their overlords the so-called commanders
the women in this world are wearing
special clothing that prevents them from
even looking left and right they are not
allowed to read or to talk to each other
unnecessarily every now and then they
are part of a reproductive ceremony in
which they are forced to sleep with
their commanders in order to produce
offspring in this sinister setting we
follow alfred one of the handmaidens as
she navigates this grim world every now
and then catching a glimpse of her past
life long forgotten she’s not fully
broken by the system just yet and her
inner rebel tries to circumvent the laws
of gilead as fast as possible in hopes
to come out alive on the other side on
paper this all sounds like the
groundwork for a thrilling and
captivating story but if i take the
importance and relevancy of the book’s
message out of the equation what is left
over will get three stars from me in my
mind the book is mediocre in its writing
and storytelling almost a bit clumsy at
times it has no real flow and lacks
actual story progression to me the
author needed about 80 of the book to
set up the world and prepare the reader
for the final story beats at this point
you’re already 190 pages in she also
doesn’t seem to care about when to use
quotation marks as sometimes you can’t
tell whether a character is actively
talking or just thinking something every
now and then we also make sudden time
jumps when offred remembers details from
her past life which can also be
confusing their positioning and
introduction within the story so overall
the writing feels a bit like a mess
which is a shame as the tension of the
world itself also suffers from this
nevertheless the patriarchal setting
drenched in overly religious and
cult-like symbolism can make you sick to
read at times which is exactly the point
of course unfortunately the author
leaves so much potential untouched to
make the book more captivating the
question remains of course whether it
needs a more thrilling story to begin
with as its dystopian setting is
shockingly relevant and at least because
of that the handmaid’s cell is probably
still worth a read in 2022 read it for
the underlying message though not so
much for the expectation of a
captivating story i would love to know
what you thought about the handmaid’s
tale down in the comments below don’t
forget to check out my description for
links to all the books i’ve talked about
today and for more book reviews have a
look at this playlist right here thank
you and see you next time

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