Tuesday, August 31, 2010

finnikin of the rock

Last Read: Finnikin of the Rock, Melina Marchetta

I've heard about Melina Marchetta for awhile now, so when I saw two of her books on the Dymocks shelf for the 3-for-2 sale, I grabbed them. Marchetta writes Young Adult, which I don't read much of. That probably accounts for my hesitation with her contemporary YA On the Jellicoe Road; I was much more willing to try Finnikin of the Rock because of its fantasy setting. So it's a bit ironic that I ended up liking the former more than the latter.

This is not a proper book review. If you want to know more about the book, I've linked to the author's webpage at the start of this entry. Moving on...

There's a lot to like about Finnikin. Evanjalin -- a main character whose POV we never get in the book -- is one of the more kickass women I've read, and we all know how much I love a strong female lead. There aren't any overtly Crowning Moments of Awesome (not like a certain Cordelia Naismith I've also read recently - oh my, so much to fangirl over <3), but the way she's manipulated people and events into falling into place around her throughout the book (with a little divine assistance), leaves no doubt as to who is really in charge -- titular Finnikin's character arc notwithstanding.

I suppose I like the characters in Finnikin, but not as much I'd liked them in Jellicoe Road. Maybe having an overarching plot inevitably detracts away from character development, as opposed to a book in which nothing happens much of the time. If so, Finnikin should make up for it with its setting. But it doesn't. The worldbuilding in it is nothing spectacular. In fact, the kingdom of Lumatere initially reads like a classic fairy tale with its black-and-white morality and its perfect rulers and perfect inhabitants. It's as if Marchetta then came along with this thought experiment: 'What is the worst possible thing I could have happen to these people?' And thus Finnikin was born.

So the world of Finnikin came off to me reminiscent of the Grimm tales in its setting and atmosphere, except it's...well, grimmer. I feel that Marchetta only really used the fantasy setting as a backdrop, to spur her what-if scenario. Hence, while it was a pretty good read, I cannot commend Finnikin of the Rock as a fantasy novel. I definitely think it better than a lot of the (admittedly little) YA I've read, but even then it loses out to her other books.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


WARNING: Uninteresting shit ahead. More navel-gazing yay.

(Personal) reasons I stopped with the Mercy Thompson series after Moon Called

Friday, August 06, 2010

On victim-blaming

The other day, a friend Zoey shared a link on facebook to an article about people's tendency to find a relationship between rape victims and how they dress. This got me talking to Young about the oft-cited pedestrian analogy that people bandy about to justify their victim-blaming and/or give themselves a sense of security against the idea of it happening close to home.

You've probably heard it all before - that women should watch how they dress to avoid getting raped. That it's a sensible precaution, being realistic; same as how pedestrians should look both ways before crossing the road, whether or not there's a zebra crossing.

This is a stupid analogy. It's stupid because it's not even representative of how rape occurs. What would be more apt is this: You want to cross the road. There's an overhead bridge a mile down the road but you figure it's not worth the extra walk. There aren't many cars on the road anyway. Before you step out, you look both ways. No cars. Or maybe you're a little careless and don't look both ways, because you didn't glimpse any headlights from your peripheral vision. You walk. And as you're in the middle of the road, a car zips out from around the corner where it has presumably been lying in wait, guns the accelerator and - this is important - does everything they can to run you down.

Oh, and most of the time, you know the driver. Hell, there might even be a split second where you wave and smile in recognition before you realize they want to hit you.

The victim-blamers ask, Why didn't you pay attention to your surroundings - you might've heard the low hum of an engine in wait. Why didn't you go for the overhead bridge? Why cross the road at all?

I suppose we should treat all cars on the road as potential maniacs who want to run down pedestrians. Or never ever cross roads.

There is nothing wrong with wanting someone you love to be careful, but people should realize that saying things like these, especially after a rape has happened, reinforces all those views that have been expressed in the article I linked above, and really, do you not find that harmful? Everyone who's crossed roads in Australia and Malaysia should know the difference that putting the onus of prevention on a pedestrian/victim makes.

Here's to demonstrate how pervasive this idea of 'what you wear causes you to get raped' is. My parents were telling me about a friend whose house got robbed one night, when everyone except the niece was out. The niece was in the shower when she heard something, and stepped out to investigate. She came downstairs wrapped in only a towel to find five Malay men in the midst of burgling the place. What do you think happened next?

Okay before your cynicism consumes you, this is what happened: They tied her up, finished burgling the place, and left.

Now, I am just as grateful as the next person that nothing happened to her, but what puzzled me was how everyone, my parents and their friends included, kept emphasizing on her lack of dress. Of how amazingly ethical the robbers must've been to refrain. I thought it should have been apparent to anyone then, that what she wore didn't mean anything. Clearly, they were men who'd decided not to rape, and the only effect of her being wrapped in a wet towel should have on the situation was that it probably made her feel horribly vulnerable (I'd hate to be her). She could've been wearing a burqa and they, outnumbering her five to one in an empty house in the middle of the night, would still rape her if they had a mind to. What is cloth to a sharp knife?

Note that this is not a victim-blaming situation. I'm just pointing out that people are so ridiculously hung-up on what (potential) victims wear when they should be focusing on what the (potential) rapist did (or didn't do).

tl;dr Rapists don't fucking care what you do or do not wear.