October 16th, 2012


Book 130: Hello Kitty Must Die by Angela S. Choi

UK cover
Book 130: Hello Kitty Must Die.
Author: Angela S. Choi, 2010.
Genre: Black Comedy. Chic-lit. Satire. Serial Murder.
Other Details: Paperback. 250 pages.

"I hate Hello Kitty. I hate her for not having a mouth or fangs like a proper kitty. ....She can't even scratch your eyes out. Just clawless, fangless, voiceless with that placid, blank expression topped by a pink bow." - pps 16-17 'Hello Kitty Must Die'.

Fiona Yu is a San Franciscan lawyer pulling in a six figure salary and regularly working an 80 hour week. Underneath her composed exterior she feels torn between the traditional Chinese values of her family and the social mores of 21st Century USA. She decides to take her own virginity so that she can be free to date without the impediment of an intact hymen and makes a surprising discovery. This leads her to a reunion with her old school friend, Sean Kilroy. Sean had been a teenage delinquent though now was a very successful surgeon.

US cover
Fi soon learns that Sean has a rather dark hobby though as she has a picture of Ted Bundy as her computer wallpaper at work her response is perhaps not all that surprising. Meanwhile, her parents continue to set her up with various suitable young Chinese men. Determined to thwart her parents' plans to marry her off into Asian suburbia, Fiona seeks her freedom at any price. Yet how far will she go to bury the Hello Kitty stereotype forever?

Although I knew from the title and some publicity material that this novel was about an Asian-American woman's journey to free herself from what she considers the stereotype of the pretty, passive Asian women that she terms a 'Hello Kitty', I had no idea that its dark humour would be laced with lashings of murder and mayhem.

There were certainly echoes of Bret Easton Ellis' “American Psycho" and Jeff Lindsay's Dexter novels, combining very dark goings-on with social satire. I enjoyed it very much for its strangeness and charm.

Excerpt from 'Hello Kitty Must Die'

Books #37-38

Book #37 was "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Husseini. This was a best-seller, and after reading it, I can see why. It's a terribly compelling book, despite the fact that it's violent and sad. It's the tale of two boys who grow up in Afghanistan together, one a young privileged boy, the other a household servant. It's about their friendship, how it falls apart, and the consequences their actions, and their fathers' actions, have later in life. Of course, the modern politics of Afghanistan play a role, but it's mostly a very personal, rather than political, novel. I felt there were a number of coincidences that seemed to convenient, and this threw me out of my "willing suspension of disbelief" a few times. HOwever, it also made it feel more like a fable, which is, I think, what the author was going for. It is beautifully written and full of compassion. I recommend it highly.

Book #38 was "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West" by Dee Brown. Brown covers just 30 years in the American west, 1860-1890, but puts it in context extremely well, starting each new historical period with a timeline of other important world events - presidents elected, famous novels published, advances in women's rights, etc. This was a difficult read, not because of the language, but because it was so unrelentingly depressing and I was so angry the whole time I was reading it. It's also very dense with information, so I could only read 10 or 15 pages at a time before I had to digest it. It's very well organized, though, and the supplemental photos and reproductions of Native American songs really added a lot of context. There are a few stories of Native American triumphs, and a lot of depressing stories of whites pushing them out of their lands, taking away their livelihoods and then blaming them for their own poverty. I don't think any American History class covering this period should be allowed to omit this book as source material, since it's America's history told from the viewpoint of Native Americans who experienced it.

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Book #62: Eye in the Sky by Philip K. Dick


This book opens with the hero, John, getting sacked from his job because of his wife supposedly being a communist, shortly before both characters are involved in an accident involving the "Bevatron" machine. Not surprisingly, with this novel being written in 1957, it is heavily influenced by the paranoia in those days (around the same time as the notorious McCarthy hearings), and the book satirises both the anti-communist regime of 1950s America and also religious zealots, as Philip K. Dick creates a disturbing version of reality, where both communists and atheists are shunned, with occasional references also to racial discrimination.

The first few chapters of the book are increasingly confusing, as reality appears to be somehow different, and John gets involved in various bizarre religious sects; it gets increasingly bizarre, with a Mary Poppins-like flight on an umbrella, and the appearance of the Eye in the Sky (I suspect this may have been symbolic of the whole Orwell-style idea that "Big Brother is watching you").

[The book starts to make more sense half way through - SPOILER]
Eventually, the reasons for all the weirdness are revealed with the fact that all of the book's main characters are still unconsious inside the Bevatron machine, and the version of reality they are experiencing is created by the mind of a religious zealot; this results in various trips through worlds created from the minds or other characters, in an attempt to actually escape from the fake versions of reality. One of the characters is obessed with order and starts eradicating everything she hates (she eradicates sex and everyone ends up without sex organs, much like Barbie and Ken dolls), and the sequence where the other characters talk her into eradicating lots of things, which end in her eradicating her own oxygen supply, are actually surprisingly amusing.

At times, the story is very dark and shocking though, one particularly gruesome scene involves a cat being turned inside-out in the alternate reality.

I found this book to be compelling, and although it seems a bit wordy and confusing at first, it is worth sticking with.

Next book: Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James