Vampire Nation by Thomas Sipos

Spoilers!

It is said by many Conservatives that Communism is an ideal in which the government lives off the lifeblood of the people. To simplify, the state is a parasite, sucking the blood of its host till there is nothing left. One author took this idea and took it to the next level, both in scope as well as in satire. In Thomas Sipos’s Vampire Nation the Communists are in fact vampires, drinking the blood of the populace to survive. This book is a rich mixture of Ayn Rand, Van Helsing, and documentary on life in a communist country.

The book takes place during the Regan Era just before the fall of the Soviet Union and its satellite countries. It tells the story of an American sent to Communist Romania to scout future locations for a movie about witches he has written. He isn’t in the Romanian capital of Bucharest for long before he discovers that he is not only being constantly watched and bugged, but also that his hosts are more interested in what’s running through his veins rather than helping him make his movie. He falls in with a supposed CIA agent/vampire hunter, who brings him along in her independent mission to kill the king of Romania’s vampires: Nicolae Ceausescu. During their mad dash across the broken and lifeless city of Bucharest they encounter many of the real horrors that were Romanian Communism. They see scores of orphans starving in the streets, numerous attempts by the government to hide the level of poverty the country is experiencing (in one case plants are painted green to look fresh, even though it’s winter), and horrific abuses of power by the upper echelons of the Romanian government.

It should be mentioned that while the vampire aspect of the book is completely false the other aspects and descriptions of starving masses and abuses of power are not. Much of what is described by the Sipos actually happened or, in the case of the orphans, is continuing to happen to this day. Much of the historical facts about Ceausescu and his regime, are taken from the book Red Horizons: The True Story of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescus’ Crimes, Lifestyle, and Corruption by I.M.Pacepa. Pacepa was a foreign intelligence chief for the Romanian government during the fall who defected. His work helped to document many of the abuses of power that took place in the Ceausescu Regime as well as many of the problems that regular people experienced every day. When one looks at Communist Romania it is easy to see a parallel with what is happening in North Korea today.

This books is exceedingly well written and it’s a very easy read. One should take note, however, that many Conservatives views are expressed by the characters. If you like your books politically neutral this book may be a bit of a hard sell for you. As an action and horror story, though, it is quite amazing. It may also appeal to history buffs who enjoy a comical twist on the usual historical events.

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The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Picture Credit: Wikipedia

Picture Credit: Wikipedia

 

Spoilers!

My Significant Other suggested this book to me while we were discussing the subject of “practical love” with a friend of ours. I mentioned how odd it is when in many cases people’s’ grandparents often didn’t marry for love, but because a person could give them the best chance of survivability in the real world. This is in contrast to today’s world where people can truly marry out of love rather than survivability. To simplify, let’s explore the following situation: You have two people in your life you can marry. The first candidate is rather beautiful and you’re truly in love with them. The catch is that the person is rather unskilled so while you’ll be married to the person you love they may not be able to adequately provide for you and your future children. The second choice is someone you may not be fully in love with, but they can provide for you and you’re future family. Who would you chose?

The Good Earth tells the story of a young Chinese peasant, Wang Lung and his arranged wife, a former slave from a great house named O-Lan. It goes on to describe their life together as their fortunes go up and down from destitute poverty and famine to extreme luxury. Throughout the story various aspects of Chinese Culture Pre-World War Two is described in beautiful detail.

Wang Lung is the main hero of the story and his character is a testament to an almost Ayn Randian vision of hard work and success. Throughout the story he is constantly striving to better the fortunes of himself and his family through perseverance and hard work. At some points famine and hardship severely hamper his fortunes, but again through perseverance he overcomes these hardships to become a wonderfully rich man. Despite all this at times he loses focus on his family which later comes back to hurt him.

O-Lan is his quiet wife. She is a former slave and it is mentioned how rather average she is when it comes to looks. Despite all this she is an immensely strong character who endures any hardship with barely a word. At one point in the novel she gives birth by herself and later in the day is back in the rice paddies harvesting the crop. She also is reminiscent of an Ayn Rand character in that she is the strong female helping to support the hero with little to no attention to her own needs. She was hands down my favorite character as she seemed to be one of the strongest female characters I have ever encountered in a story. She did this all with barely speaking a full sentence in the entire story!.

The story is absolutely breathtaking in its scope. The writing is beautiful. The story is written so simply, no large or complicated words are used, this fits with the story of poor uneducated peasants. The authors description of the home village of the charachters in the Anhui Province of China as well as the description of the people who inhabit it and who come into contact with the main characters show a startling realism rarely encountered in most stories.  One of my favorite aspects of the story was the authors description of the various Chinese Traditions that are performed throughout the story. Her descriptions of the traditions are simple, but while keeping the simplicity she manages to explain the purpose of the tradition without losing the gentle flow of the tradition’s place in the story. All these aspects as well as many, many others come together to create a beautiful tapestry that actually brought tears to my eyes at times.