Friday, June 16, 2006

Malay Mail and NST Review

It's amazing how different everyone's tastes are. A lot of people have come up to me and said they liked a particular story, and that particular story varies so much from one person to another.

Just read these:

Books: Terror in this dark city -by Ahmad Azrai -

Dark CityXeus(Must read) What is it about?
It is with great pleasure that Books presents its first local feature – a mix of the macabre, twisted and bizarre that will change the way you see Malaysian city life.There are twelve diverse stories which run the gamut from the bizarre to the bittersweet. The kidnapping of a female bartender that doesn’t go quite the way her assailant expects it; the prisoner who is forced to solve a murder mystery or become the next victim; and the man who wakes up in his own coffin are just some of the stories that will get you hooked.

Particularly poignant and haunting is Trashcan Child, which looks at a current, disturbing trend and fuses it with a heart as big as the Twin Towers. We won’t spoil it for you; but one read of this, and you’ll be bound to shed a tear or two.

Why you should read this bookIt’s really good, that’s why. Xeus has tapped into urban paranoia and everyday life in KL to produce situations that will leave you uneasy, yet are not too fantastic to be brushed aside as merely unrealistic.

What is amazing is that the author has managed to slip in subtly sly comments on social issues alongside observations that will make any Malaysian nod – such as when it says “cars from either side streamed to avidly trail it; no better way to get out of a jam than to chase an ambulance”. Meant for mature readers, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea – but it’s one local effort that anyone can be proud to support.

Available at major bookshops – also check out for more from the writer.

Xeus speaks!How did you end up writing this?I have an agent who was contacted by several Western publishers interested in Asian erotica. But I can’t write straightforward erotica, so what I delivered was this.Erotica?!Yes. My agent told me to get it out of my system and do the psychosis thing.You have issues...Doesn’t everyone?

By Xeus
Venton Publishing (M) Sdn Bhd, 353 pages

AT first glance, it looks like just another one of those lame Malaysian horror books, or a pathetic Singapore Ghost Stories wannabe.If you bother to flip through the pages, though, you’ll find that it’s not quite what you expected (you might want to read as you’re flipping).On the book cover, it’s written “Expect the unexpected”. But if you expect the unexpected, then it’s no longer unexpected, is it? Of course, that’s irrelevant to this book review. Kinda. You see, you’d expect a book of Malaysian horror tales to include pontianaks or toyols, maybe a hantu kum-kum or two.

Surprisingly, this book has none of those. I know. I could hardly believe it myself.The short stories in here are more on the realistic side, revolving around pain, rape and murder. It’s about issues that could actually have happened to people you know; heck, it could have happened to me.Most of the stories are rather twisted and for some reason, left me feeling slightly disturbed.Prisoners are dropping dead in a jail for no apparent reason. A man finds himself attending his own funeral – in his coffin! Buried alive? Maybe. A man disappears without a trace. Could spiritual forces be at work here? A woman stabs her maid and finds herself bleeding instead. Why?

My favourite stories from Dark City are The Scarlet Woman, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Coup of the Century. They had especially ironic twists in them that I enjoyed immensely.

Another tale, The Resistance, confused me a little as the plot went round and round in circles without really going anywhere – exactly like a rabid dog chasing its own tail. The rest of the book was mediocre; moderately interesting but nothing to shout about.The stories, though well-written, are rather disjointed as they skip from one scene to another, mainly from present occurrences to flashbacks.

Xeus is a bit of a pervert, though, as his/her (the pseudonym doesn’t exactly clarify which) sex scenes are a little too graphic for my taste.This precise trait of his/hers can be turned around into a compliment when it comes to non-sexual scenes – detailed writing is obviously Xeus’s forte.One thing that really drove me insane was the endings. This is one of those guess-your-own-ending books.Each tale comes to an abrupt stop and leaves you hanging in mid-air, trying to figure out what happened after that. Talk about aggravating.All in all, this book was an interesting read. I still feel disturbed every time I look at it, though, so I doubt re-reading Dark City is going to be on my to-do list anytime soon.


Yvonne Lee said...

Xeus, every new author needs publicity but for every new author, a review can be a double-edged sword. But eventually, every author learns to receive bouquets as well as brickbats.

The two reviews have their own points but honestly, I never expected Dark City to touch on hantu-hantu, so I was not disappointed.

I particularly enjoyed the twists, especially Scarlet Woman. To me, being shocked with the unexpected endings instantly revealed what a clever mind the author has, but to some others, what a disturbed/troubled mind. But knowing Xeus personally, Xeus is absolutely normal, not an axe-yielding kind and very affable.

I congratulate you for being brave enough to let your imagination explore the other realms of possibilities.

I look forward to more reviews.

Xeus said...

Hi Yvonne. Actually, my agent thinks the NST one is also a good review because the bottomline is the book is interesting! He says they can't be all raves.

The Sun reviewer likes The Resistance and Monster.
Many people have told me how much they like One if By Land.
My brother and the Malay Mail editor like Trashcan Child.

At least everybody likes something!

Lydia Teh said...

Xeus, getting your book reviewed properly (as opposed to those capsule reviews where they just pluck out part of the blurb from the jacket cover) is great. And it's reviewed by all the major English newspapers at that. Not every book has that privilege accorded to them (believe me, I know) so I'd say both reviews are good for you.

Way to go. Now I've really got to go get a copy. Haven't seen it yet at the bookshops in Klang or maybe I didn't look hard enough.

Xeus said...

Dear Lydia, did you decide on a book title yet? I definitely think anything with Desperite Housewives in it is a good sell!

I'm sure the book is in Klang Parade MPH. Or Popular somewhere in Klang. Just ask the counter staff.

So far I have gotten 3 main reviews (MM, NST, Sun) and 1 capsule review. All are actually positive, and the most 'negative' one has been the NST one so far.

Anonymous said...

Hey Xeus!

I'm in Kuching but cant find your book anywhere!!! Is this only released in Semenanjung and Singapore? Don't forget your Sarawakian/Sabahan cousins! - we could use something not Stephen King or Dean Koontz or Kathy Reichs for a change.

BTW those are excellent reviews. Thanks for posting them on your blog. It's good to read different takes on a book and make your mind up on whether it's worth picking up or not. There's so many good books out there and so little time to read (esp when you have a big family and commitments) and ofcourse, theres our wallets too. But this is one guy wh'll be picking up Dark City! (Or at least tried to!)

Interesting that from the buzz I was expecting something with pontianak or toyol/or the equivalnet in Chinese common with local horror books. But it appears Dark City's something a bit more different; more urban/contemporary horror and I gather more cerebral to the usual buckets of blood and gore.

(Though buckets of blood and gore is always a good thing in my book!)

Ok that's all, I'll pass the mike to someone else now. But do let me know where and or when I can get your book. - this side of the pond OK?

Kuching, Sarawak.

Xeus said...

Dear Alex,

Thanks for the comments. I'm surprised you can't get it in Kuching because I was told the East Malaysian distributor rep took 400 copies. Anyhow, I shot off a note to my agent and publisher already inquiring why.

Xeus said...

Dear Alex,

You can get the book at MyBook Store and Sinar Suci, to name a few. Hope that helps!

Argussimo said...

Hey, Xeus. My friends and rellies who have picked up a copy of 'Dark City' are having a good read. My sis-in-law tells my bro every few pages: "Hey, you've gotta read this!"