Short stories for a fast new year

By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/32_03/shelf_indignation.jpgThe Indignation of Haruhi Suzumiya
By Nagaru Tanigawa
Little, Brown and Company, 2012

The SOS Brigade is back. This time around, they’re up against a student council president bent on shutting down the literature club — and by extension the SOS Brigade as they have commandeered the club’s room for their own purposes.

This eighth installment of the Haruhi Suzumiya series is made up of two short stories chronicling the continued misadventures of our favorite brigade.

In “Editor in Chief, Full Speed Ahead!,” the gang comes together to publish a literary newsletter to prove the legitimacy of the literature club and avoid displacing not just themselves but Yuki Nagato, the literature club’s sole member and the SOS Brigade’s resident alien-slash-bookworm.

In “Wandering Shadow,” a classmate asks the brigade to investigate a dog park that has her dog and the rest of the local dogs spooked.

In typical Haruhi fashion, the title character faces these challenges head on with her usual enthusiasm and fervor, while the rest of the brigade goes along with things to keep her happy, ensuring the world’s continued existence.

Having read the entire series so far, I have to say that I’ve really come to admire Haruhi’s can-do attitude and how failure is not an option. If Haruhi wants something, she goes for it, and possible goddess or not, that’s something all of us could use every now and then.

As with the previous Haruhi books, we continue to learn more about the brigade’s various members.

The stories they’re assigned (forced) to write for the literary newsletter give readers a bit of insight into what’s going on in their heads.

“Indignation” will also keep readers questioning the motives and missions of Yuki, time-traveler Mikuru Asahina, and esper Itsuki Koizumi — especially the latter, as he seems to be pulling a few strings here and there. Koizumi is the brigade member we know the least about, and this book will have readers wondering whether his organization is as benign as he says it is. I guess only time will tell.

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/32_03/shelf_diverse.jpgDiverse Energies
Edited by Tobias S. Buckell and Joe Monti
Tu Books, 2012

The world is not perfect. There will always be those who set out to take advantage of others, wreak havoc, and destroy whatever — and whoever — gets in their way. But just as there will always be villains, there will always be heroes to challenge them.

“Diverse Energies” is a collection of short stories by 11 different authors featuring a diverse set of heroes, including a boy growing up in Japan during World War II, a young man working at a frozen yogurt shop, a young

woman on a quest to find her brother who disappeared a year earlier, and child laborers in China trying to escape their current life.

Throughout all of the stories, one common thread is the major role technology plays in the characters’ lives. “Diverse Energies” is a mix of science and science fiction, but will have readers questioning whether all of the technological advances we have made and continue to make are really for our benefit.

After all, is it really a good idea to create robots that can serve our every need only to have them turn on us and attack us? And while the idea of time travel seems exciting, is it really worth it if it gets in the wrong hands? And what if those hands use the technology to create a world filled with war and violence, where just stepping outside your house may result in death?

While the heroes in these stories face almost insurmountable obstacles and very bleak odds, there is still hope. They don’t give up on their fight until the very end, and, if they do reach the end, they look forward with hope that others will continue to fight after they are gone.

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/32_03/shelf_drifting.jpgDrifting House
By Krys Lee
Viking, 2012

Family. Whether you love them or hate them, they are always a part of our lives. Even if they are not in our lives, that absence has a way of shaping who we are and the choices we make.

In “Drifting House,” Krys Lee tells the stories of individuals and families living in Korea and the United States. She highlights the struggles they face in their everyday lives and in extreme situations. While the characters in each story are confronted with different obstacles — be it a man who loses his family and ends up on the streets in the wake of South Korea’s financial crisis, a son dealing with his father’s second marriage after his mother’s death, or a group of young siblings escaping famine in North Korea — it is clear that they get to where they are as a result of their families.

This will have readers thinking of their own families and wondering how much of an influence they really have on our lives. Because as independent as we may think we are, there will almost always be a voice in the back of our minds thinking about how our parents, siblings, and other loved ones will feel about the things we do.

“Drifting House” also gives insight to the Korean and Korean American experience. Having not been exposed to much Korean culture previously, I found this particularly interesting. There were themes of family expectations and honoring and respecting one’s elders, which are common themes among Asian American literature. There were also stories about religion — Christianity in particular.

I found the characters that had such close relationships with their faith the most interesting, especially when they experienced things that would make them question that faith. The emotions they experience while questioning their beliefs are as real as if they’d fallen out with a loved one. And seeing that type of strength in one’s faith and beliefs is something to be admired. (end)

Samantha Pak can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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