Lord of the Flies by William Golding – Book Review

Title: Lord of the Flies

Author: William Golding

Publisher: Penguin Books; originally published in 1959

At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate. This far from civilization they can do anything they want. Anything. But as order collapses, as strange howls echo in the night, as terror begins its reign, the hope of adventure seems as far removed from reality as the hope of being rescued.

I think your favorite books may be the most difficult to review.

My first encounter with Lord of the Flies was when I spied my mom’s copy in her bedroom. I picked it up and asked her about it. She said, “That’s not a nice book. Don’t read it.” Or, at least, it was something like that.

Ah, the allure of a banned book! I didn’t read it just then. But years later, as a senior in high school, I decided to finally read it. I’d picked up the copy again and again in the intervening years, but had never actually cracked it open. When I did finally read it, I found it difficult to part with. I read it very quickly, and only set the book down a few times–something which is perhaps more commonplace for other readers, but is very rare for me.

Golding’s book is loaded with meaning, yet still flows easily and moves quickly. As the blurb says, boys are stranded on an island. At first, it’s an adventure. Eventually, it’s a nightmare. Why? Because of human nature. Of the novel, Golding said, “The theme is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on an political system however apparently logical or respectable.”

When the boys–British schoolboys–are first stranded on the island, they form a simple yet rule-structured society. Ralph, one of the older boys, is to be the chief. He has a large, beautiful shell–a conch–which he can blow like a trumpet to call a meeting. When gathered at the meeting, only the person holding the conch may speak, and the conch is passed about to allow all voices to be heard.

They quickly decide that the most important thing is being rescued, and that the only way to be rescued is to keep a signal fire going, in hopes that a passing ship will see the smoke.

The problem is that there is more than one boy who wants to be in charge, and not all the boys are agreed on what the priorities ought to be.

The other problem is the presence of the beast–a monster who shares the island with them, but whose existence is never confirmed.

Now what about that title? Why is it called Lord of the Flies? “Lord of the Flies” is a translation of the Hebrew word Ba’alzevuv, or Beezlebub in Greek, one of the names or titles of Satan or the devil. The hunters in the book kill a pig, remove its head, and place it on a stake as an offering to the island’s Beast.

Later, a boy named Simon, dehydrated and hallucinating, has a conversation with the severed pig’s head, which by that point is covered in flies. The head–the “Lord of the Flies”–speaks with the boy in a pivotal scene, confirming Simon’s prophetic fears he had voiced earlier in the novel.

“Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!” said the head. For a moment or two the forest and all the other dimly appreciated places echoed with the parody of laughter. “You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?”

As the boy’s civilization further crumbles, the Beast’s words become more and more true.

What Genre is it? You’ll find it classed as YA often. It’s a bit odd in that classification, because none of the characters are very old. YA tends to focus on people about 16 years or older, whereas Lord of the Flies doesn’t have any character older than 13 (and it may only be 12, actually).

It’s a story of lost innocence, the darkness of the human heart, and the fallen nature of man. And it’s excellent.

5/5 – Will certainly read again.

 

Have you read Lord of the Flies? Did you have to read it in high school? Do you agree that society’s problems are problems inherent in human nature? If you were on a paradise island with a bunch of your same-gendered peers, do you think you could keep things civil, or would you start killing each other?

Happy reading!

I Survived & Progress Update

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. My family always takes the week to go to the beach in California–one final burst of warmth and sunshine before the dreary Midwestern winter sets in. We meet up with all the family on my wife’s side and snuggle into a little beach house together.

This year there were 16 people in the house–fewer than on some other years, but still a good number.

Now, remember in high school history classes, when they talked about industrialization, migration, and urbanization? People crowded into apartment buildings. Then, when they got sick, the sickness could just spread like wildfire, the people were so cramped.

Well, I suppose you can see where this is going.

On Wednesday, the first person got sick.

On Thursday night, three more people were sick.

On Friday, six more people were sick.

On Saturday, one more person got sick, and we all went home. That makes 11/16 people sick, a pretty decent infection rate. I’m sure it will remain the defining feature of this year’s Thanksgiving vacation.

Miraculously, I was not one of the ones who fell ill, and neither were my two children. We still had a lovely vacation, even though it we were haunted by the fear that one of us might be the next to fall victim to the plague. Because, seriously, that’s kind of how it felt to watch it spread through the house.

Anyways, enough about that.

Being on vacation, I didn’t do much writing, but instead devoted some time to checking out other people’s book/writing blogs. Met some wonderful folks. Seriously, the book-blogging community is a lovely place, generally speaking. Sometimes things can get a bit heated, but that’s because it’s a community made of people who are passionate about the things they blog about.

In other news, I finished Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. I might just write up a proper review for it. It is, I’m coming to realize more and more, my favorite novel. I find it deeply meaningful and symbolic, without being remotely stuffy or pretentious. A masterwork. Can’t decide if watching the movies would be a good idea or a dreadful one.

Final news is that, although I didn’t do much novel writing this week, I think I did strike upon a story idea I want to run with. It won’t be my next novel, or the one after that, but perhaps the third novel release from now (and my fifth overall). Hooray!

Hope everyone else stayed healthy out there!

Evolution of a Cover – Home To Roost

Hello!

A couple of weeks back, James J. Cudney did a review of Cleaving Souls, my second novel. There were quite a few comments praising the cover art, which was lovely to see since I’d created the artwork myself.

A few weeks before that, my cover art for both Cleaving Souls and my debut novel, Home To Roost, won 1st place in a cover-art contest for their respective genres (thriller and horror).

Between those two things, I thought: Hey, maybe I should do a little post about cover art creation.

And so here it is.

Now, first thing’s first: If you are self publishing, the recommendation you will find 100% of the time is to NOT do your own cover art. I think that is good advice. Does that make me a hypocrite? Yes. Do I care? No.

I didn’t follow that advice for a number of reasons.

  1. I’m a control freak? Could be this.
  2. I genuinely like the idea of producing the artwork on my own.
  3. I know a little bit about how to do that, and am not afraid of messing up.
  4. I have the time to make it look decent.
  5. I don’t have money to spend on professional help at this juncture.

I used a program called “Inkscape.” It’s completely free, and is used for creating Vector Art images. You can get it here, if you want to try it out. Vector Art is a bit different from the stuff you might have worked with in Microsoft Paint. Pro Tip: Unless you are trying to be ironic, do not make any cover art in Microsoft Paint.

I took a design course in college. It was taught by a graduate student, who was fired three-quarters of the way into the semester. Never found out why, but it hasn’t made me feel incredibly confident in the things I learned there.

Regardless, I try and apply the simple principles I learned in that class, as well as things I’ve observed by looking at other book covers. I fiddled around in Inkscape until I’d learned the ropes–or at least some of them. There are plenty of semi-helpful tutorials that can guide you through the things you can’t figure out alone.

I started with a few sketches. Unfortunately, I couldn’t include those here, as they’ve disappeared. They were hideous anyways, and not incredibly interesting, so I think we’ll manage to get along without them.

Once I had some ideas, I got to work in Inkscape. Mind you that my ideas had to be tempered by my abilities. Therefore, a more simple design was essential.

For those who haven’t read Home To Roost, it’s based on a the true story of a chicken my family owned about a decade back. Yes, a whole novel based on a chicken. It’s rather serious, too. Deals with a number of different issues, and has an ending that’s darker than people often expect. Those were all things I wanted captured in the cover art.

Without much further adieu, below are the different drafts of the cover art for Home To Roost, with a bit of commentary in the captions. They are listed in order of their creation, so as to give you an idea of how it evolved.

Title 1: I was hoping to show some of the duality of the characters–ergo the black rooster and white hen, inverted against one another on a horizontal plane, with their silhouette’s in an oval that I hoped would be reminiscent of an egg. The egg is cracked, alluding to some of the drama that occurs in the story.
Cover 2: I decided to scrap the hen and put the rooster in an obvious egg. The crack was changed as well, with the hopes of making it look like both a crack and a lightning bolt, as there are several storm scenes within the book. Which, if you’ve never seen a Midwest lightning storm, they’re pretty amazing.
Cover 3: Versions 1 & 2 had a border which I decided to ditch here. Part of the reason for that was that Amazon Print-on-Demand services are not perfectly exact. A thin border could look bad if it isn’t exactly on–one side would be noticeably thinner. I’ve also set the egg/rooster upon a hill. There were a few other renditions of this same design, mostly just fiddling with the hill’s slope.
Cover 4: Placing the rooster/egg upon a hill made me consider the idea of a sunset. Initially, I wanted to maintain the cracked egg while adding in the setting-sun look. To do that, I darkened the “sky” in the picture more.
Cover 5: As you can see, I decided to ditch the egg, realizing that having a chicken is probably chickeny enough. I went further with the sunset idea, adding in a very big and very yellow sun. The yellowness was intentional: I was still holding onto the egg idea dearly, and the yellow sun was an allusion to an egg’s yolk. The sun is further important as the chickens in the story are actually sun worshippers–like Aztecs, but without the human sacrifice! You may also notice the quote at the top from a “Jane Doe.” I decided (after reading some different opinions) that the quote on the book cover is something many readers expect. I therefore adjusted the book cover to allow room for one.
Cover 6: I reined in the title on this version, because before it was much too close to the right edge of the cover. I also added in the taller grasses. The added grasses where a better reflection of the story, created a bit more complexity and depth on the cover, and made a nice cradle for the sun.
Cover 7: By Cover 6, I was quite pleased with the picture. It wasn’t quite there yet, but I could feel that it was close. For the next rendition, we dropped the idea of a quote on top, and instead just threw up some text to give people an idea that this really was a serious novel. (Also, I had no big name “Jane Doe” reviewer’s statement to use.) The other thing was adding the dipping red hue to the sun itself, turning it orange towards the bottom. The flat yellow, it was decided, looked too fake.
Cover 8 – Final Cover: And here’s the final cover. All we did was adjust the text at the top to give it a more balanced look. I was quite pleased with the final product.

So there you have it. The one part of this process I haven’t yet mentioned is my wife. I saved her for last, because she’s the most important. Not every idea she has is golden, just as not every idea I have is any good. But we can bounce ideas between us, shoot down one another’s bad ones, and let the best ones rise to the top.

What do you think? Anybody prefer one of the earlier cover images?

Stay great.

Bookstagramming, almost….

I’ve never posted anything to Instagram. I have an account, but haven’t touched it. Earlier this week I decided to change that, and tried my hand at Bookstagramming.

Probably, you already know what Bookstagramming is, but in case you don’t, it’s quite simple. It’s a celebration (via Instagram) of the visual beauty of books. People setup their favorite (or prettiest) books  in little poses alongside other stuff–sometimes other pretty things, or sometimes little things related to the plot or subject of the book. They take the picture, then post it online, and everyone oohs and aahs over the books.

It’s kind of weird, but humans are, as a rule, a rather strange species.

Since my phone’s camera is two steps away from garbage, I borrowed a much nicer camera for the pictures I took. Check ’em out!

I felt rather silly doing this, but sometimes it’s good for me to step out of my comfort zone. As you can see, it takes more than a good camera to make a good picture, but it certainly helps.

Did I end up posting these on Instagram? No, I did not.

Apparently you can only upload pictures to Instagram through the app. Since I have no Instagram presence, and since I don’t plan on having an Instagram presence anytime too soon (owing to my next-to-rubbish camera), I didn’t bother downloading the app. Besides, my phone has no space.

I’ll just share some of the photos with you. Perhaps someday I’ll invest time in Instagram, but not now.

Not Today

My last post was all about how I have this microphone, and that it sits on my desk as a constant reminder that I need to do an audiobook recording.

Well, today I tried. Again. And was rebuffed by the universe again.

I tried to convert a motor home into a recording studio. Anyone who knows a great deal about audio recording is probably laughing at me for even bothering–but then again, maybe a motor home is actually a great place to record, and I just have no idea what I’m doing.

It took a while, but eventually I could get a recording whose quality I felt good about. But see, this is how it always goes: I set things up, get a good audio sample, and then figure I’m ready to dive right in. Then afterwards, go back and realize that what I recorded does NOT sound like the audio sample I pulled immediately before recording. It’s a strange, inexplicable thing, but it’s what always happens.

So anyway, in I dove.

I recorded for several hours. It ended up only doing 25 pages of Cleaving Souls, because I had to contend with the freakishly loud traffic, my neighbor deciding it was a great time to putt-putt around on his tractor, and a splash of rain pelting the top of the motor home.

Then I listened to it, and it all sounded like rubbish anyways. I’ve come to this conclusion: not now. Not today, or anytime soon. As much as I would love to create an audiobook to share with people, I can’t. I lack the expertise, funds, and possibly talent. Someday, those might change, but not today.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow. Fortunately, I could choke it down with some comfort food–delicious potato wedges. I’m a simple man, with simple tastes.

I ate the wedges with a frown, but feel much better now.

If there is to be an audiobook anytime soon, it will be rife with background noises. Heck, I might even leave in the sounds of me sniffing and stumbling over words. It would be free, but I’m not quite sure I should bother bothering.

Judgmental Looks from R2-D2

There’s a microphone on my desk. It’s the illustrious Blue Yeti. Yesterday, my little boy pointed out that it looks like R2D2. He’s right. He’s also of an age where saying “R2D2” is still a bit of a stretch, so he just said “D2.” (C-3PO, by the way, he simply calls “threep”)

R2-D2, the most famous astromech droid. C-3P0 says he does “an excessive amount of thinking for a mechanic.”
My microphone. Hopefully you can see the resemblance.

I’ve felt like the microphone has been giving me judgmental looks for a while now. Why? Because I’m supposed to be using it to make an audio book of my first two novels, but I haven’t yet. Just like some people have a face made for radio, I’ve started to think I might have a voice made for print.

It probably isn’t true, but then again, it just might be.

At any rate, I’ve procrastinated doing the recording for a long time. When the microphone first arrived, I just assumed I couldn’t get it working right. Tons of hours trying to set it up perfectly went down the tube. Then I sent it in for repairs, assuming that the microphone was faulty. More time (and money in shipping) gone. It was sent back (none too promptly) with an assurance that the microphone was fine.

Okay, so the next hurdle was finding either a quiet place or time to record. With two little kids at home, quiet is an abstract idea, not something ever known. The solution is to record outside the home. But I live in the middle of beautiful, rural no-where-land, and don’t fancy losing an hour to travel time for something that likely wouldn’t end up being ideal anyways.

The solution is to record in a quiet place outside. Sounds like a stretch, but I’ve actually picked a great spot. Final problem is that, since I’ve procrastinated so long, it is now winter. If I go to record right now, the audience is likely to hear my teeth chattering throughout.

But I’ll need to do something. Either do the dang recording, or put R2-D2 back in his little box. Because having him just sitting there, staring at me…it’s kind of distracting.

Book Review – Watching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney

Every family has problems. Every family has secrets. The Glass family, however, is exceptional. Beneath the facade of perfection lies a web of lies and false faces. When their patriarch dies and the facade breaks, a perfect storm of family drama threatens to swallow the Glass family whole. They might survive, but they’ll need more than honesty and a little courage to see it through the tempest: they’ll need each other.

I give Watching Glass Shatter a 4-star rating. While it may not be for every reader, there are many (and I do mean many) who will find this book to be a literary treasure.

Why This Book

I like finding quality book blogs to follow and contribute to. It was through the book-blogging community that I found the writings of James J. Cudney, in the form of his blog, “This Is My Truth Now.” I enjoyed his honest, open, and prolific writings on his blog, and was curious how his work would translate into novel form. When he asked for early readers for his debut novel, I answered the call. Since I’ve enjoyed his own book reviews so much, I’ve decided to mirror his style in my review of his own book.

My other reason for reading Watching Glass Shatter is that I am experimenting with new genres. This book is outside of my normal reading genres, and so it seemed like a good opportunity to try something new.

Plot, Characters & Setting

Benjamin Glass has been harboring a secret from his wife—a secret he’s kept close to his heart for a lifetime. One of their sons is not their own. The secret has eaten away at him for decades, but no matter how he’s tried, Ben simply cannot summon the courage to tell his wife the truth: that he switched their stillborn son out for another baby while she was unconscious.

But then Ben dies, and a letter he left behind discloses the truth to his wife, Olivia, leaving her with the burden of telling her unknowingly-adopted son the truth. But there’s a catch: Ben never said which son was switched out. While the trusted family attorney tries to seek out the woman whose baby Olivia has raised, Olivia is determined to spend time with her five sons, reconnect with each of them, and try to determine which one is not her own, before the attorney finds the missing woman and reveals the truth.

But the apple never falls far from the tree, and Olivia soon discovers that her husband wasn’t the only one keeping secrets: each of her sons have secrets of their own, secrets that are forcing the family apart. Secrets which, once revealed, may shatter the Glass family irrevocably.

Set with extravagant detail in the lavish homes, offices, and retreats of the wealthy, Watching Glass Shatter follows the six remaining members of the Glass family and their partners.

Approach & Style

Watching Glass Shatter is written with a third-person omniscient narrator. I read an advanced copy, and the narrator may have switched to be third-person limited between my draft and the final draft. Head-hopping was fairly limited in my copy, but did occur, and was distracting once or twice.

The story’s chapters were focused on specific characters, with each character getting a few dedicated chapters. The characters were introduced very quickly at the beginning, and all at once. This usually doesn’t work, and it didn’t come off super great here, either. However, it made perfect sense for it to happen that way in the story, and my early worries about not getting to know the characters well were soon washed away. Perhaps Cudney’s greatest strength in this book is creating a fairly sizable cast of well-managed, well-defined, recognizable, and consistent (but growing) characters. Not all of them were likeable, but they were unlikeable for the same reasons I don’t like some real people. Many of the characters were likeable, though, and all of them felt genuine and fleshed out.

The other thing that stood out to me was the depth of Cudney’s descriptions. A few times early on, it felt a bit heavy handed. This may have been addressed in the final copy. Either way, the issue largely disappeared after the first few chapters, at which point the descriptions were rich and often poignant.

Key Thoughts

This story had a number of different secrets waiting to be revealed; if one didn’t suit your fancy, another one might strike a chord with you.

I believe my own family heavily influenced my perception of this story. The main secret is that one of the boys was adopted (in a slightly clandestine manner, though not an immoral one). The mystery of which son it was had perhaps less appeal to me than other readers, but I attribute this mostly to my own experiences. I come from a large family (I’m talking more than 10 siblings, folks) and many of them, though not all, are adopted. Many of my cousins, too, are adopted. So, personally, the adopting issue wasn’t as interesting. But knowing the characters, I didn’t feel like their reactions to the issue were disingenuous. The other secrets—the ones the sons have—I personally found much more engaging. Perhaps that’s because many of them are in the same life-stage as I am. Who can say?

Another thought that I had for this is more a critique of the publisher than the author. The author knew his target readers, and knew them well. This book, I have little doubt, will please those readers. The cover art, however, seems evocative of something more sinister than the family drama (albeit an intense family drama) that this book is. I personally feel like the cover art is a bit misleading as to the nature of the novel, and may draw in some unintended readers, while perhaps alienating some of the target audience. But I’m no expert in such matters.

Author & Other Similar Books

James J. Cudney—Jay to many—is a prolific blogger and debut novelist. Watching Glass Shatter is his first book. He’s currently working on Father Figure, a new novel whose details and progress can be found on Jay’s blog, thisismytruthnow.com. He’s very reachable and approachable, and will quickly earn your respect—not only as a writer, but also (and more importantly) as a gentleman.

As for similar books, I’m largely at a loss. As I said before, this was me delving into a new genre. While I’m sure there are similar books, I’m also equally sure that this one is unique.

Summary

If you like family dramas, you will love Watching Glass Shatter. The plot is complex, personal, well crafted, and deeply moving. The characters are relatable, real, and down-to-earth. Cudney’s writing starts out strong, and then transitions into a natural storyteller’s flow.

If you’re curious about family drama’s, this book is a great one to experiment with—a solid, quality read.

Watching Glass Shatter is available for purchase on Amazon.com.

About Me

I’m Chauncey Rogers. I’m (supposedly) qualified to teach history, government, geography, psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Aside from my education degrees, I also studied linguistics and editing. My first novel, Home To Roost, was published in March 2017; and my second novel, Cleaving Souls, was published in October 2017. My third novel will (hopefully) be published in January 2018.

I believe in the power of storytelling and in the importance of quality writing—both in content and style. You can follow my adventures as an author at chaunceyrogers.com.