Marshmallow reviews Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Marshmallow has been reading some classics on and off. Today she talks to Sprinkles about Lord of the Flies by William Golding, first published in 1954.

Marshmallow reviews Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
Marshmallow reviews Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow, it’s been years since I have read this book. So can you tell me a bit about what it’s about?

Marshmallow: Sure. This book is about a couple dozen British school boys whose plane crashlands on a deserted island. The boys try to set some rules and they use a conch that sort of represents order and civility. One of the boys named Ralph is elected leader, and another boy named Jack takes on hunting duties. The boys start a fire so that there will be smoke for ships to see.

As the story progresses, Ralph tries to encourage the boys to make shelter and keep the fire going. So basically what is essentially logical to do given the circumstances. But most of the other boys do not obey him and start to act like feral animals. At some point they start thinking that there is a beast in the island and they are terrified. Jack promises to hunt it down. And hunting and killing animals makes the boys become wilder and more violent and bloodthirsty, and eventually most of the boys join Jack and his hunters, which becomes a separate tribe than Ralph’s group. And they come into conflict, and things escalate very quickly after that.

S: Okay, I think this is a good summary of the plot and some of what happens in the book. Before saying much about what happens in the end, can you tell me if you thought it was tied up well?

M: I am not sure I’d say it was tied up, but the message of the book was well delivered and the moral is conveyed. The story is probably not really finalized. But it ends in a way that is still satisfying.

S: Though not quite happy, right?

M: Well, I can’t say too much without spoiling everything. But some things happen in the book that make it kind of impossible for a fully happy ending.

S: I do remember some of the book and definitely agree with you there. So what is this message or the moral you are talking about? Can you tell us that?

M: I think the moral of the book is that when humans are left to their devices there is potential for great evil. The children represent untouched innocence, but they eventually go feral and become morally corrupt. I think the author was probably trying to depict the violent side of humans and that it can lead them towards evil. The boys’ hunting leads to further violence and bloodthirst.

S: But how come do human societies ever go beyond violence then if humans left to their devices can easily go feral? There had to be some time that some humans decided to do things differently.

M: I think that the author is not claiming this always happens. I think that he is trying to show that there is a potential in humans for this kind of darkness, that there is a dark side of human nature.

Marshmallow is reading Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
Marshmallow is reading Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

S: Okay, that is heavy stuff. Tell me about the writing a bit. Did you think the author made the island visually come alive? Could you see the locations? How about the boys and how they looked and behaved? Could you visualize them?

M: Yes, but I think he focused a lot more on how they felt and their emotions and their transformation through the story. It is more psychological than physical descriptions, I’d say.

S: So would you say the characters were vividly created? Or were they more like archetypes, like Jack representing the violent tendencies and Ralph perhaps representing the inclination for law and order?

M: Well, I am not sure individual characters represented specific characteristics. In fact I think nobody represented a specific vice or virtue, because they all were pretty fleshed out as real people, who were basically mixed in virtue and vice. But you could see some changed in different ways than others.

S: Alright. That makes sense. So how did this book make you feel after you read it? It is a bit of a dark book, don’t you think?

M: Yes. Just as a narrative, just as a story, it is good, maybe like an adventure that has gone bad. But when you think about the ideas behind it, it enhances the reading experience. It definitely made me think about human nature. And I like that. And it is a classic so that is another reason why people should read it.

S: Did you know that about a decade after this book was published, a similar thing actually happened and a bunch of boys were stranded in an island by themselves? They did not become feral however, and they actually built a functioning mini-society.

M: I did not know that before we checked out the Wikipedia article for the book. but again, I think the book is not claiming this has to happen this way, but that there is a possibility that humans might give in to their violent and dark tendencies.

S: I guess so. The story of the Tongan boys makes me a lot more optimistic, but Golding’s book, even though I know it is fiction, is always a reminder for me that civil behavior or a safe and functioning society are not automatic or natural.

M: I’d agree.

S: Okay Marshmallow. Let us wrap this up. How would you rate this book?

M: 100%.

S: Wow! You liked it that much! Cool. I do recall it being one of my favorite books from high school, too, though I cannot bring myself to read it again, because I worry I’d get too depressed.

M: Well, then you can always reread the real story of what happened ot those Tongan boys.

S: You are right! Anyways, what do you want to tell our readers?

M: Stay tuned for more amazing book reviews from the book bunnies!

Marshmallow rates Lord of the Flies by William Golding 100%.
Marshmallow rates Lord of the Flies by William Golding 100%.

Marshmallow reviews The Adventures of Tintin: The Calculus Affair by Hergé

Marshmallow likes graphic novels. And today she is talking to Sprinkles about a comic book that was published many years ago in 1956 though she only read recently: The Adventures of Tintin: The Calculus Affair by Hergé.

Marshmallow reviews The Adventures of Tintin: The Calculus Affair by Hergé.
Marshmallow reviews The Adventures of Tintin: The Calculus Affair by Hergé.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow this book was apparently published in 1956. Can you tell?

Marshmallow: I can tell that it is not contemporary. But I cannot really tell exactly what time the story is supposed to be happening.

S: That’s not too bad then. Tell me about the story.

M: What happens is that Tintin is visiting his friend Captain Haddock when suddenly everything in the house starts to break. They eventually learn that Professor Calculus has invented a device that can shatter glass. And soon this puts Calculus in danger because some people want to use his invention to make weapons.

S: And the book is about Tintin and Haddock trying to protect Calculus?

M: No. Calculus gets kidnapped so they have to find and rescue him.

S: Oh my. That sounds dangerous.

M: It does get a bit dangerous.

S: But of course since Tintin is the main hero, and Professor Calculus is apparently a recurring character in the series, we can imagine that he will be saved.

M: Yep. But no spoilers!

S: Okay. You are right.

Marshmallow is reading The Adventures of Tintin: The Calculus Affair by Hergé.
Marshmallow is reading The Adventures of Tintin: The Calculus Affair by Hergé.

S: I think this is the first Tintin story you have read, right?

M: Yes. I looked at it before but it did not seem too interesting for some reason. But when I picked it up this time, I was kind of drawn into the story much easier. Maybe it is more appealing to older readers.

S: Maybe. My sister really liked Tintin, but I never read his adventures. As you know I am not very good with graphic novels. But I knew there are a lot of fans of Tintin all around the world. So I am glad you read this. According to some, this is one of the best books in the whole series, and there are about 23 or 24 books.

M: Well, I am glad I read it, too. I really liked the drawings. I felt like they were really detailed and you could see or even feel the movement in some of them. When I was reading, I felt enveloped in the world of the story.

S: I think, given that you have read a lot of graphic novels, Marshmallow, that is pretty high praise from you. Especially for a book that is older than even me!

M: Well, what can I say? I think it is very well done.

S: Do you think you might want to know more about Tintin and maybe read more of the series?

M: Yes. I did read the Wikipedia article about it a bit and learned that Tintin is a Belgian journalist who solves mysteries. But I also learned that at least one of the earlier books was eventually seen to be seriously racist.

S: I can unfortunately imagine that something written about Africa in 1930s by a Belgian could be racist about Africans.

M: You know, the back of the book I have read does not even list that particular adventure. So I am guessing they do not want to even bring it up.

S: I can understand that too. I don’t think we will be reading that book any time soon.

M: Definitely not. But I might want to read some of the other books.

S: Alright. We will look into that then. Let us wrap this up now. How would you rate the book Marshmallow?

M: I’m rating it 95% because of the really awesome drawing and the interesting story.

S: That’s great, thank you. And what do you want to tell our readers?

M: Stay tuned for more amazing book reviews from the book bunnies!

Marshmallow rates The Adventures of Tintin: The Calculus Affair by Hergé 95%.
Marshmallow rates The Adventures of Tintin: The Calculus Affair by Hergé 95%.

Caramel reviews Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Today Caramel reviews Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. The first of several Wayside School books written by Sachar, this book was published originally in 1978. As usual, Sprinkles is asking questions and taking notes.

Caramel reviews Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar.
Caramel reviews Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar.

Sprinkles: So Caramel, I heard a lot about these Wayside School books, but I have not read them myself. Can you tell me a bit about what they are all about?

Caramel: Well, at this point I only read this first book. So I can only talk about that.

S: That’s okay. Tell me about this book. What is it about?

C: It’s about these kids in this place called Wayside School. It is a weird school, and all the students and teachers are also weird, and very strange and interesting things keep happening.

S: How is the school weird?

C: First of all, it is thirty stories high, like a skyscraper. Because they built it sideways. It was supposed to be one story high and with thirty classrooms, but the builder messed up and put all classrooms on their own floors. I think it is a waste of space.

S: Hmm, I think on the contrary it saves space, it takes only the area of one classroom for the whole school. No?

C: I guess. Anyways the students are weird and the teachers, too, and there are some dead rats that seem to be alive.

S: Oh yes, I think I heard about a student made up of a rat or something like that?

C: Well, it was one dead rat, but I am not going to give away too much.

S: Okay, I can see that could be a spoiler. So what do you mean by weird when you say teachers and students are weird?

C: Some of the teachers have a strange way to discipline students. There is one who turns students into an apple when she is angry with them, and then she eats them!

S: What? That sounds pretty terrible and irreversible!

C: Yeah. I told you they are weird.

S: But wait, then there is magic in this book?

C: Not sure. It is not described as magic, but just that these people behave this way. Really weird.

S: I see. So it is kind of absurd then.

C: I think you could say that.

S: But is it also funny?

C: Yes. I think the stories are pretty hilarious. Except when they are kind of scary because I would not want to be eaten as an apple by my teacher. But on the bright side, she gets eaten too.

S: Wait, don’t tell me everything!

C: But I want to!

S: Alright, why don’t you tell me something else instead? Tell me more about the book.

C: There are thirty chapters, one for each story of the Wayside School. But I think everything is happening on the 30th floor actually. And also there is no nineteenth floor. In fact that is the nineteenth story. It is about Miss Zarves who is supposed to be the teacher of the classroom on the nineteenth floor, but since there is no floor, there is no classroom, and so there is no Miss Zarves.

S: That almost sounds like a logic riddle!

C: Kind of.

S: But it is also kind of like how a lot of building in the United States don’t have a thirteenth floor.

C: Wait, I did not know that. Why is that?

S: A lot of people think 13 is an unlucky number, so they don’t like to be on a floor labeled thirteenth.

C: But after the twelfth floor comes the thirteenth, no?

S: True, if you are counting from the bottom, but it is not labeled 13, it is labeled 14.

C: That is strange.

Caramel is reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar.
Caramel is reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar.

S: Everything you are telling me reminds me of my favorite series from childhood: Le Petit Nicolas, about a little kid and his classmates and all kinds of funny things happening to them. In that world, too, sometimes really weird things happened, but nothing quite like a teacher turning children into apples.

C: Yes, I think you read a couple of those books to us when we were little. But I don’t think we understood all the jokes.

S: Yes, I think they seem to have aged quite a bit. The childhood they were talking about is very familiar to me, but it seems quite far from your experiences somehow. Okay, let us get back to the book. Did you like the book overall?

C: Yep. They are really funny. So I want to read the other books about Wayside School.

S: Maybe you will then. Did you know that Marshmallow has already reviewed a book by Louis Sachar?

C: Yep. I know she reviewed Holes.

S: Did you read that too?

C: Yep, and I also watched the movie. And it says on the cover of the book that the author is the author of Holes.

S: But of course Holes was written after this one, and you read this one after Holes.

C: True.

S: Did you also know that the author used to teach in an elementary school named Hillside and some of the ideas in the book might be related?

C: I did not know that! But it makes sense actually. There is a teacher character in the book named Louis.

S: But according to Wikipedia, his teaching days were not too exciting, so he had to make up a lot of stuff.

C: Well, that makes sense too. I’m guessing the teachers in his school did not turn students into apples and eat them.

S: I agree. So how would you describe this book in three words?

C: Short, sideways, outrageous.

S: I see what you did there! Okay, then. I think we can wrap this up now. What do you want to say to our readers?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel enjoyed reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar and is planning to move immediately on to the next book in the series.
Caramel loved reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar and is planning to move immediately on to the next book in the series.

Marshmallow reviews Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

As many young bunnies her age do, Marshmallow has been reading some dystopian novels. In these past few months, she has read and reviewed the recent Shatter Me and Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi, as well as the classic Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. Today she reviews another classic dystopian novel: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, first published in 1932. Sprinkles is asking questions and taking notes.

Marshmallow reviews Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
Marshmallow reviews Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow, I’m so glad you have read this book. It was one of my favorites when I read it, and I was only a bit older than you I think.

Marshmallow: I enjoyed reading it too! I found it fascinating.

S: That’s big endorsement from you! Okay, tell us a bit about the book.

M: Okay, let me set the stage: The year is AF (After Ford) 632. Technology is so advanced that humans who are citizens of the World State reproduce solely in artificial wombs, and everyone is conditioned to perfection. That is, if you’re in the right caste. Even before you are born, you are assigned a caste. If you are an Alpha or Alpha Plus, you will receive the most attention and care while in the incubator machines. If you are of a lower caste, say a Delta or an Epsilon, you will get less space, and your growth will be intentionally stunted by alcohol infusions. No matter how hard you work, you will always be working the job you were assigned at birth. Despite this inequality, no one ever complains because complacency and contentment with the system are essentially brainwashed into citizens while they are children. In this sea of conformity, individuality is diluted. On the one hand, everyone is happy, but on the other, this happiness is attained only at the cost of their humanity. 

S: Okay, that is pretty dismal as a setting. Go on.

M: So in short, when the story begins, the society is in harmony, but a couple people start to realize that the things that make us human are being lost. Two citizens, Bernard Marx, an Alpha Plus, and Lenina Crowne, a Beta, are vacationing in a reservation where humans still reproduce the natural way. Such societies are rare, and their residents are regarded by basically everyone else as savages. Here they meet John, a man whose mother Linda came from the “brave new world”. When they bring him back to their world, he is horrified by what he sees.

S: That is a good summary of the plot, Marshmallow. I know you thought a lot about this book and even prepared a report of sorts for your English class. So maybe you can tell us a bit more about the three main characters.

M: Sure. Bernard is an Alpha Plus who is at the top of the society. But he is different from others because he isn’t very cheery whereas everyone else is always happy. This is probably because he doesn’t take soma, the drug that everyone else does. Soma gives people a sense of euphoria and makes them unconcerned and joyful. Bernard’s refusal to take it is one example of his peculiarity. Bernard is a bit shorter than other Alpha Plus males, and he feels a bit bad about this.

Then there is Lenina, a very typical member of the World State. An average Beta, she is content with her status and is very disturbed by the comments made by Bernard and John that vilify the World State. 

Finally there is John. John’s mother Linda came from the World State, or the “developed” world. Linda actually got pregnant at some point and gave birth to John. This is highly unusual in the World State, as biological reproduction is regarded as a taboo in the brave new world. However, in the reservation, natural birth is just natural. Still, the tribe does not completely accept Linda and John, and so they feel like outcasts. When Bernard gets the permission to bring John to “the civilized world”, he is called the Savage, and people treat him almost like a celebrity. However, as an outsider with beliefs completely orthogonal to those of others, he finds this brave new world repulsive. 

Marshmallow is reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
Marshmallow is reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

S: Thank you Marshmallow. I think you summarized the main features of these characters well. So I can see that Bernard might not be too happy because he does not feel confident about his stature, and I can see John finding it difficult to adjust. But tell me more about what is wrong with this world. Why do you think this book is so important? What is its main message?

M: I think that the main problem is that everything is supposedly perfect, and the fundamental struggles that make people human are long gone. John the Savage argues that people need to have problems to live properly like humans. Without them, they are not fully human. They become passive, complacent, and no longer crave for progress, creativity, new ideas.

S: When I was in school, we read this book in tandem with Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. You read and reviewed that book, too. Did you see any parallels or significant differences between the two books?

M: Well, I did like both books a lot. But both books had a little bit of adult content, a bit more than I like to engage with in the books I read. Other than that, they are both dystopian, telling us about a possible future where life as we know it is replaced by some very unpleasant and almost hopeless system. But when I was reading about Huxley and Brave New World for my class report, I found a very insightful quote by Neil Postman, who wrote in a 1985 book titled Amusing Ourselves to Death the following:

Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture […] In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

Neil Postman

The Wikipedia article on Brave New World has this quote, in its context, and the full quote is also very good. But this part is enough for me here. I especially like the last two sentences. Aldous Huxley delves into the psyche of humans to look at how easily they can be reduced to passivity and complacency.

S: Are there other themes that show up in the book?

M: According to Britannica, Huxley was always preoccupied “with the negative and positive impacts of science and technology on 20th-century life”. So there is that of course.

S: I see. The technology that allows the World State to govern one of the most fundamental processes of human life is awesome and scary, and the government, or any other entity, having such a power is bound to be dangerous.

M: Yes.

S: Any other themes that you would like to bring up?

M: Yes, the book is really rich. In Brave New World, humans have become passive and complacent under the eye of the World State. Brave New World presents a different type among the many terrifying futures that could occur. Most dystopian books have governments that are feared, but in this book the government rules by giving citizens everything that they could ever want. 

S: What could be wrong with that?

M: As I said before, I think one of the central messages of the book is that people are not fully human if they are not striving to be better; they are not fully human if they are completely satisfied and complacent.

S: How about bunnies? Would you not be a happy bunny if you got all the nice food and all the books and friends you wanted and so on and never needed anything?

M: Given all the terrible things happening in our world today, this kind of a possible world actually sounds nice initially, but I think I’d eventually get bored. I’d probably want to do something different, something new. I’d want a purpose in my life.

S: I can see that.

M: I do wonder if a lot of people would be better off or happier in that world. But they would all be pawns of the establishment. They would not have a purpose or even a choice in this way of living. I don’t think either of those is good.

S: I agree. So what would your rating be for this book?

M: I think I’d rate it 97%. I think this is a very provocative book, made me think a lot, but again, I don’t like too much adult stuff in a book.

S: I agree that there is some of that stuff in the book and some of it is truly disturbing. There is even a scene where they expect children as young as seven to engage in what they call “erotic play”.

M: Those kinds of things make me think that younger bunnies should probably not read this book.

S: Agreed. So a very good book, very thought-provoking, but definitely for older bunnies.

M: Yep.

S: Then we are done. Let us wrap this up. What would you like to tell our readers Marshmallow?

M: Stay tuned for more amazing book reviews from the book bunnies!

Marshmallow rates Brave New World by Aldous Huxley 97%.
Marshmallow rates Brave New World by Aldous Huxley 97%.