Wednesday 16 December 2015

#bookreview: Faith and the Machine by Fadzlishah Johanabas

Faith and the MachineFaith and the Machine by Fadzlishah Johanabas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay. I'm conflicted about this one.

I started reading the book the day I got it and fell in love the way Fadzlishah brought together science fiction and faith. Definitely a five-star book, I thought.

Then I got home, left the book aside, did a lot of other stuff and continued on, only to find that somewhere between when I put it down and picked it up again, the stories veered off science fiction into... supernatural horror stories. That's not to say that his writing turned bad or horrible. Just that I didn't like the subject matter any longer. This is just a generic three-star, I rated, upset about the half of the book that I didn't like as much as I wanted to.

And then I started writing the review and figured that if half of the book is 3-stars and the other half is 5-stars, then the final rating should be an average of four.

I love the way faith and local beliefs are weaved into the stories unapologetically. In Act of Faith, the Imam questions if an android can really be a Muslim; the villagers in Kuda Kepang seek a boon of the Mistress of Gunung Ledang to save them from the invading Portuguese; Blood Debt dances the line between Islam and black magic.

Fadzlishah's medical background shows up in many of the stories both in the way he translates medical terms for us lay people, and in the way he empathises with those who are ill and hurting. Grief and difficult choices are shown in all their rawness in In Memoriam, A Long Sigh Goodnight and Picking Up the Pieces .

Faith and the Machine is a glorious Malaysian mess that merges everything we love of this multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-streams-of-upbringing into one anthology of short stories. The pontianak take their place beside vampires and witches. Bomohs fight spirits alongside doctors who save lives. Beauty and the Beast and Puteri Gunung Ledang alike have new stories added on to their legends.

I would just say read it. And decide for yourself.

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