Wednesday 20 September 2017

#bookreview: The Worthiest Kiss by Birsilah Bakar

The Worthiest KissThe Worthiest Kiss by Birsilah Bakar

In terms of imagination, The Worthiest Kiss makes for an enticing read. Despite promises on the back blurb, not all the stories were retellings of beloved fairy tales (or maybe some were not recognisable enough?) and not all of them had science fiction twists, but all fairy tale-ish, so yeah.

It starts off well with De-Cinderellalized, a sci-fi retelling of Cinderella where our titular character has been duped into working as a prostitute on the moon and needs to get to the castle for her one chance of freedom and ends with the hilarious The Lamest Super Power which isn't quite a fairy tale but is a battle between two superheroes, one with awesome powers and the other with... frankly, the weirdest power ever.
Other stories that appealed to me include The Worthiest Kiss (Snow White), Knock on Glass (The Little Mermaid), Pinocchio, and Bon Voyage (Peter Pan).

In terms of readability, The Worthiest Kiss is an absolute disaster. As in I'm-internally-editing-every-single-sentence kind of disaster. A disaster I probably should have clued in to if I'd actually read the back blurb properly, instead of going OMG BIRSILAH FINALLY HAS AN ENGLISH BOOK.

Language-wise, it's worse than the OTHER disaster I once reviewed (no linkies! But you can find it if you decide to search), though since these are all shorts, there are no continuity issues. Actually, the plotting may have been weak in places, but they're over so quickly anyway. (Also, the advantage of retelling fairy tales is that most of the back story/plot is assumed knowledge until you twist it.)

Some of the not-so-appealing stories are probably not so much due to assumed meh-ness, but more of an I'm-too-tired-to-figure-out-this-bit skimming. It's not to say that it's not understandable. It's pretty much Malaysian English with all our strange grammar quirks which work fine in speech but are incredibly confusing in writing, further complicated by shifting tenses. (Malay doesn't have past/present/future tense? You kind of just add another word if it needs to be indicated)

The only excuse I can possibly give is that this is an ESL writer working with a newish (I think?) English imprint of a Malay language publisher.

So yeah, while I think locals (or ESL persons) may like it (especially if they can close an eye to non-standard English), it's really not going to be a break-out bestseller. Not until it's fixed.

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