And the Mountains Echoed

And the Mountains Echoed is yet another excellent book by Khaled Hosseini, chronicling the story of an Afghan family. As a whole, it isn’t as cohesive or moving as Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner, but it is nonetheless a compelling story.

The book was a little confusing to follow at first since it time skips and jumps perspectives each chapter; however, the payoff for this is significant since it gave us a holistic view of the family through three generations, three continents, and seven decades. At the same time, it is hard to really resonate with one character because there are scores of characters introduced. But, it is a moving story since it illustrates the struggles of a family. At the start of the book, the story was heartwrenching because the family went through so much in Afghanistan. As the story moved to France and America, the story became heartwrenching for different reasons. The family’s struggles became more relatable to me, specifically the pain of losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s.

The meta metaphor in the book that resonated with me was: “A story is a lot like a train, it doesn’t matter where you get on, the destination is always the same”. In the book, Saboor told this to Abdullah and Pari while telling stories, but it is also true of this novel. There are a million ways to tell the story of this family; each version would focus on different characters and themes. But, at the end of the day, we are still telling the same story.

The Prince of Milk

It’s incredible how much the novel The Prince of Milk did: love, philosophy, sci-fi, nihilism, horror, thriller. The short chapters and intriguing plot made this a book I couldn’t put down till I finished it.

With all praise aside for the book book. I first picked it up because I found Exurb1a’s YouTube channel and I binged watched 20 of his videos, and I found out that he was also an author. Not all YouTubers that write books necessarily do a good job at it. However, Exurb1a definitely has a way with words, and it is reflected in both his YouTube channel and his novel The Prince of Milk.

Similar to the novel This is How You Lose the Time War, The Prince of Milk is a story that spans both time and space, but this book mostly focused on a small town in England. There is a rather long list of characters in this book, and it is hard to pin down if we have any “main” characters at all since the narrative is spread out among a dozen people. This sacrificed deeper character development, but it paid off since it managed to tell a vaster story in a shorter amount of time. This is juxtaposed to This is How You Lose the Time War, which only had two really fleshed out characters.

A similar thing could be said for the themes of the book. It was definitely a science-fiction book at its core, but it also had romance, horror, mystery. This amalgamated something very unique and interesting, but it lost its focus, likewise with the science-fiction concepts. The Prince of Milk wasn’t a single science-fiction concept explored to its max and crafted into a grandiose story like a Neal Stephenson novel; Exurb1a gleaned a giant heap of spaghetti science-fiction and threw it on paper to see which would stick with the reader. Not to say that this was a bad thing, I found this aspect fascinating. But, for a relatively short book, it is hard to cover this grandiose vision while giving the reader something salient to walk away with at the end.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip Dick can definitely go down on the list of things you must read to be cultured. This was a short book; however, what it does with those pages, achieves more than several novels that I have read.

This book is popularly known as being the base material for The Blade Runner films. Although the general premise is the same in both the book and movies, there are significant differences between the two. The biggest difference is that the book focuses on a religion called Mercerism. I don’t think focusing on this would have made the movie more interesting; however, it certainly made the book more interesting. Nevertheless, the core discussion of the book revolves around the morality of killing a robot that has human-like consciousness. This discussion is made even more interesting because the main character, a bounty hunter hunting robot, is himself a robot and yet not aware of it.

According to the main character(who is a robot), androids have no empathy making them cold machines that need to be put down. Additionally, he believes that robots don’t have any love for animals -which are held sacred in this post-apocalypse world- and robots won’t do anything to help each other. The test used to determine if someone is a robot measures their reflexes to emotionally stimulating questions. However, this notion of human vs. robot breaks down as the story progresses. If robots don’t have empathy for each other, why is a group of escaped robots protecting each other? If robots can never care for animals, why does the main character spend an absorbent amount of money buying a goat that he spent years dreaming about– to replace his electric sheep.

If robots are empathetic like humans, what rights do we give them? What rights do we give other people? In the book, “specials” were people with mental defects due to the radioactive dust on the earth. These specials were treated as outcasts in society and barred from having kids. Like the androids, the Specials were treated like trash because society views them as inferior to humans. In the book, Mercerism (their religion) suggests that what makes a human is our common plight. To fight adversities by climbing the metaphorical mountain, constantly getting pelted by rocks, yet continue.

At the end of the bounty hunter’s ordeal of killing the newly escaped robots, he ends up questioning his own morality– he is still unaware he himself is an android. Isn’t questioning morality and other philosophical debates the most quintessentially human thing to do?