Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rick Riodan's The Last Olympian

In the fifth book of the Percy and the Olympians series, Percy Jackson and company are forced to defend Mt. Olympus, which can be found above the Empire State Building. The forces of Cronos have regrouped after their defeat in the battle of the Labyrinth the previous summer and are using the rising of the father of all monsters, Typhon, as a distraction while they attack Olympus. All gods but Poseidon are present merely attempting to hold Typhon away, whereas Poseidon is busy fighting off the sea titan, Oceanus. The climax of the series draws nigh, as Percy, hero of the prophecy, must make a choice that will destroy or save Olympus, possibly at the loss of his own life. Rick Riodan's The Last Olympian kept me spellbound from one page to the next with constant action and thrilling suspense.

This book's plot appears quite complex and confusing while reading the book, but in retrospect everything fits together in an easily summarizeable way. Annabeth, a very close friend of Percy's, suspects that Cronos' army will soon attack Olympus, and takes the entire entourage from camp half blood along to protect the seat of the gods' power. The entire camp save the Ares cabin, whom are angry because they did not get a flying chariot from a raid. Percy also makes his own preparations. Awhile back, the son of Hades, Nico, made him an offer. He told Percy that if he were to bathe in the River Styx, he could become like Achilles, nearly invulnerable. Percy must make a choice then at the river, after being warned by Achilles' ghost about the so called "curse of Achilles." Either way, with the mountain to defend, Percy makes his choice and is quickly off. Arriving at Manhattan, Percy and his friends must face Cronos' army, but somehow Cronos knows their every move, every plan, and every position. He even admits to having a spy in their camp. With the disarray and fear caused by a spy, and the seemingly futile battle ahead against the lord of time, how can Percy ever win this one?

This novel holds deep themes settled in the last stand of the defenders. Once, Prometheus came to Percy in a diplomatic mission in an attempt to con him into stopping the fighting. After being unsuccessful, he gave Percy Pandora's Box, which actually is a vase. He told Percy that if Percy were to open the vase and release the last being inside, hope, the fighting would stop, the action would be considered a surrender, and Percy and his friends would be spared. Basically, give up hope, and everything will end. The vase also appears whenever Percy feels lowest, when he would like to give up hope. In the end, Percy entrusts the vase into a trustworthy person's care, cementing his faith that everything will turn out fine. Just as the vase shows up when Percy would like to give up, so does the vase appear with us. Whenever we are at our lowest, we are tempted to give up on whatever is causing that low, correct? We wish for an easy way out, and giving up would be the equivalent to flight in the fight or flight approach. However, unless the situation is utterly hopeless, the correct choice is to fight, not flee. To make a stand just as Percy chose, for better or for worse, and to let everything play out. Basically, and as I used to say myself, "The only way to lose a battle is to give up hope in victory, for whenever hope is given up, the battle is truely lost."

Between the page turning brawls, and the curiousity driven by suspense, I must say, this book is quite the read. I fully recommend the novel to any and everyone. People that like Greek Mythology probably will also enjoy this book, and series. I must say, this book is one of my all time favorites, and that is not a statement to be taken lightly. The Last Olympian commands all of the elements of other books in the series, and improves upon them, as well as posesses new and addicting characteristics which improve the overall quality of the book.

381 Pages

Robert E. Lee Day?

A few days ago, I was talking to a friend about all of the different holidays, and about how we get out of school for so few of them. She brought up one that I had never heard of, Robert E. Lee Day. Supposeably, some people in the south celebrate this day in place of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, for they fall so close together. Officially, the unofficial Robert E. Lee Day falls on the Nineteenth of January, his birthday. King's holiday falls on the third Monday of each January, typically around his birthday, January fifteenth. Click here to find out more about Robert E. Lee Day.

Celebrating Robert E. Lee Day out of sheer spite for the North seems quite childish and immature to me. This practice occured somewhat recently, as the friend I mentioned earlier had heard about the holiday from her step-father, who had got out of school for Robert E. Lee Day, not Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I mean really, the civil ended over a century ago! The South lost and the North won, end of story. So we cannot have slaves anymore, big deal! Personally, owning another person seems rather pointless and idiotic to me, especially since slavery was probably always involuntary. But those are just my feelings on the matter.

However, not every reveller celebrates Lee's birthday just to show their unending spite and immaturity to the world. Some people honor Lee for the man he was, a courageous and brilliant general. He did not keep the Union army busy in Virginia for three years on sheer luck after all! However, this man was more than just a military might, for after the war, he lived a humble life as an example to all. Being such a brilliant man, he was given many offers that would have substantially increased his wealth, and yet he settled in as a public educator. This man truly shows that humility brings the highest form of admiration. To get to a detailed story of his life, or at least the war related parts, click here.

No matter how or why people celebrate his birthday, Robert E. Lee was a great man. He probably would not have enjoyed his life being celebrated in spite of the North, but I am more than sure that most people still spiteful of the civil war would beg to differ. Either way, this unofficial holiday has found a way into my calendar now, to give honor to a humble man that devoted his life to serving others, be his role protecting what and who he cared about or heading a teaching institution. Robert E. Lee, as a great man, not as a great southern general, deserves our respect and admiration.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rick Riordan's The Battle of the Labyrinth

Assume for a moment that all Greek myths were actually true. That minotaurs and centaurs, sirens and titans actually exist. And that most of mankind cannot register their existence because of a magical force known as “Mist.” However, some people can naturally “see” through the mist for no reason. Some other people can see through the mist for another reason; they are half-bloods, the result of a cross of a Greek god and a mortal. One such half-blood, Percy Jackson, has seen quite a lot in his fifteen years of life. His achievements stretch from recreating the some feats of Odysseus, and his own namesake, Perseus, to making his own name as a hero by recovering Zeus’s favorite weapon, his Master Bolt. Percy has been through a lot thus far, but all of that is nothing in comparison to what lays in store in his fourth adventure, Rick Riordan’s The Battle of the Labyrinth.

In this novel, the armies of the titan Cronos attempt to find a way to navigate the Labyrinth, a complex maze once used to house the Minotaur. However, the maze has a habit of driving those intrepid, or stupid, enough to enter insane. One material object, Ariadne's string, can safely guide the user(s) through the harrowing hallways. Cronos wishes to destroy a summer camp known as Camp Half-Blood. Camp Half-Blood houses many half-bloods during the summer and acts as a training facility. Percy, a regular attendee at the camp, goes on a quest to stop the army from finding the string. Along the way, the Labyrinth separates his group, causing Percy to be anxious and worried about his friend’s safety. Percy and company make good time in the great maze, but will it be good enough?

Despite the fact that I enjoyed this book, I do have some qualms regarding it. For one, the setting always seems quite vague. The writer describes the setting, but never with vivid words. I admit, the words paint a picture, but based purely on the text the picture typically is not ornate. Much of the imagery is left up to the reader’s imagination.

One affinity this book possesses lies in the style in which the novel was written. To be specific, I like the author’s sense of humor. Oftentimes, the author puts a sarcastic understatement or an ironic jest in at the most unexpected times. He also writes the chapters to have strange, funny, random names.

Because of the great humor and nearly unending action, this book nearly tops the chart of my favorite books. The plot can be addicting, and the book can be hard to put down. So this book can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone, given that they have read the first three in the series.

361 pages

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Stand Once Taken

In my nearly sixteen years of life, I recall taking many stands. However, upon recollecting, they all seem either unimportant or idiotic. For instance, the stands that I have taken against bullies do not carry much gravity, or because of the sheer futility. So instead I will speak of a stand that I have always taken, not just once. One that surely should be considered a given, if I am more than an acquaintance. I stand for rectification, setting things straight, or, more specifically, making everything that I possibly can better.

As a broad example, practically all of my closest friends come to me with their problems, at least to be ear to hear them out. However, sometimes I can directly assist, in which case, I offer my help. Whether they accept my offer or not does not matter, I typically do what I can either way.

As a specific example, one of my closest friends once came to me with a problem concerning some people that absolutely hate her. They had told her that they were going to beat her up, or send some people to, if she did not comply with their demands. She was completely distraught, and almost in a complete panic. So after I calmed her down, I logically explained that they were obviously bluffing. No self-respecting guy would attack, or send some people to attack, somebody nearly two years younger. Moreover, he was over eighteen at the time, meaning he would face jail time. Finally, I explained to her exactly how fast word would travel concerning his part in the occurrence. His wonderful reputation would be tarnished permanently. And I told her that if all else failed, (against my better judgment) that I myself would be there to protect her. After awhile she began proclaiming how she was not afraid anymore, and about how she was then sure that he would not do anything. Honestly, I was a bit afraid then, being half afraid she would run up and kick him or something! Half joking!

Another instance in which I tried to make everything better occurred at a church camp I attended one year. This attempt failed miserably. As I was exploring the campus in my free time, I stumbled upon a group of people surrounding someone that appeared to be crying. I immediately ran over and asked the person weeping what was wrong. Everybody in the crowd started looking at each other as if they were thinking, “What the heck?! Who’s this guy?” Then somebody in the crowd told me the truth of the matter. They were practicing for their skit. Feeling like a fool, I apologized for interrupting, and went on my merry way, being sure that my cheeks were redder than a beet with embarrassment. I heard them laughing behind me.

So why do I want to help basically anyone, random or friend? The fact is, I hate seeing people in mental anguish or distress. I also enjoy the feeling of seeing someone overcome whatever obstacle they face. I suppose the effect of doing this so much is that the action has become a part of me, just one mere facet of my personality. So all in all, I suppose that I stand for the solution, or perhaps the way to get there.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Another's Inspiring Stand

Throughout time, millions of people around the world have surveyed the conditions around them and then took a stand reflecting their views on the matter, causing theirs and others’ destinies to change dramatically. For example, the forefather’s of our country went against the odds, risked their lives, and began possibly the most important war in American history, just based on what they believed to be right. These people deserve respect and admiration for taking the stand that became the first step down the long road that brought America to what the country has become.

These people, including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and George Washington, played their deadly game with a deck stacked against them. Their opponents, the Britons, were a highly trained, highly skilled, and highly feared superpower. The Thirteen Colonies however were just a bunch of backwater settlements, unheard of and supposedly weak. The game began with the high taxes bringing on peaceful protests. When the taxes were raised further, the protesting became wilder and more ingenious. Really, where in the world would a Boston Tea Party happen, other than in, what would become, the United States?

Soon the British influence and laws become intolerable, causing a full-scale war. British soldiers met the “American” opposition and, against everyone’s expectations, the Colonies’ forces dominated the British at first. The Colonies had advantages the British could not match. North America and Britain are separated by the Atlantic Ocean, causing to resupplying and reinforcing to take a long time. The French also bore a grudge against the British; after all, France had just lost Canada to Great Britain. Because of this, the French lent the Colonists their support. Spain also lent the Colonists a hand. With Britain facing war on multiple fronts, they could not help but to ration their troops on all of them, therefore dividing them and making them easy to conquer.

During all of this, patriots held their ground and literally fought for freedom. George Washington led the troops as a general, Thomas Jefferson gathered support as a diplomat, and John Adams set the people’s hearts ablaze with his powerful, eloquent speeches and his piquant retorts toward British supporters. Their actions have had a direct effect on history itself, and for that they deserve our admiration. After all, where would we be without them?