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Book Review

Saving the world and other extreme sports

In the movie Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Co had a jolly good time messing with our minds as the protagonist suddenly discovered that his entire life was nothing but an implanted memory, and that everyone familiar to him was a potential threat. If you like psychological gymnastics of that sort, the premises of the third Maximum Ride novel are sure to please you.

In the first two books, we meet Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gazzy and Angel, mutant bird-kids who are on the run from the covert research institute where they were born. We also meet the wolf-kid Erasers, who are assigned to hunt them down. These are led by Ari, who bears a grudge against Max, and during the course of the Flock's encounters with the Erasers and their bosses, we also come to learn that the institute the kids know as the School, is part of a large global empire. Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports takes up where Book 2 left off, with the Flock arriving at Texas and debating whether or not to go watch a football match, and Max gets outvoted by the others, who are in favour of living dangerously. This is how they encounter the new breed of flying Erasers, which are mechanical, the mutants having been 'retired'.

After they escape, the Flock splits into two, with Max and Fang heading out to look for some answers about what's going on, while the rest remain in hiding. On impulse, Max visits the human vet we met in Book 1, to try and get rid of the microchip in her shoulder, which she fears is a tracking device. The surgery costs Max the use of her arm. Meanwhile, the others in the Flock are captured by the Erasers, and it is found that one of them is a traitor. When Max and Fang are also captured and brought back to the school, the reunion isn't as hopeful as their previous ones had been. This time, they have to deal with a turncoat in their midst, as well as a few more shocking discoveries that lie in wait. You'll have to read the book to find out what the surprises are.

Compared to the previous books, this one runs a little low on steam halfway through, before picking up again at the very end. There is very little character development, which gives the narrative a bit of a tired feel, and the reversal of one certain bleak situation somehow reads as too convenient. Nevertheless, there are twists and turns galore, and that hint of burgeoning chemistry between two of the characters which will keep you flipping the pages until the very end!

By Sabrina F Ahmad


Writing Tips

I've got a plan

You are melting under the heat of Dhaka summer, playing tic-tac-toe with your imaginary friend as the proctor hands out your English final exam. You are wholly unflustered. You breeze past the comprehension section, dance your way through the multiple-choice, and find yourself at the essay. 'Describe your happiest memory.' It is generic, no doubt, and as open-ended as the breadth of the Atlantic. You have all of one hour to pen down a 500-word masterpiece. You feel smug. You can do this. 500 words can't stand up to you. So you doodle a little on the margins, maybe play a little more tic-tac-toe. Then, with 30 minutes on the clock, you decide to pop your knuckles and get to getting.

You write the essay. You are aware as you write the essay that you have no clue what you're really writing about. By the time the proctor announces that you have five minutes left, you proofread your work the one last time and realize that what you just spat out has nothing to do with what the question asked. Cue dramatic music. It is time to panic.

No self-respecting student writer is a fan of worst case scenarios, yet one of the worst things that can happen is when you run out of time, and there is nothing you can do about it. Student writers, who enjoy not the luxury of benign publishers and faithful fans, can curse their fates all they want. Harsh reality is that you can't escape it. There will come a day when you will have to write under a time constraint, and you will be expected to deliver, and no amount of family drama or farfetched excuses will compel your graders to smile kindly upon you and pass off your mediocre essay as an A minus.

How to one-up the time limit, you ask? Ah, one can never stress the importance of pre-planning enough times. Pre-planning should become your mantra during exam time. Leave literary geniuses at the back of your mind. Not all of are capable of fleshing together a masterpiece in the throes of an opiate dream. For us lesser mortals, the task of coming up with a good piece of writing has to begin at the tedious beginning.

Thus, remember to Plan Ahead. When you get your prompt, the last thing you want is to start writing and get carried off in an unending river of stream-of-consciousness garble. Rambling essays may be amusing to read when you run out of 'American Idol' reruns to watch, but when you're a grader and shot on caffeine the last thing you want to read is an essay that goes from nowhere to nowhere.

Take five minutes of your time to break down the prompt. What is it asking? Is it argumentative? Is it expository? Are there accompanying documents? Once you get that out of the way, move on to the next step: fleshing out the skeleton of your essay. Fall back on that golden essay rule: introduction, body, and conclusion. Remember to include at least three statements in your body paragraph, your strongest one sandwiched between the other two. If you can think of outside information to include, great. Think of pop culture, mythology, ancient history…anything that will give your essay flair. If you think you can get away with quoting Clark Gable from 'Gone with the Wind,' hallelujah for you. Jot down your points, split up your essay accordingly, and start to write.

If, by some grace of the heavens, you decide midway between your Clark Gable quote that you're going to go with Captain Spock and thus change your essay, DON'T DO IT. No matter how irresistible it may be, bite down on the temptation to switch gears. Stick to the plan. You may not feel superb about it, but a well-planned essay goes a long way. Could you have come up with sheer genius, had you gone with your gut? Maybe, but what are the chances that with minutes flying by and an obnoxious bespectacled individual coughing away two seats down, you'll be able to come up with a spur-of-the-moment masterpiece?
Yes, we thought so, too.

By Shehtaz Huq

The wedding crashers

Life is generally a dreary business after exams. You make all these really cool plans instead of reading up on the formation of ketones and none of them ever seem to come true. After a while, you end up bored out of your mind. There's only so much PS2 you can play, so many different places you can hang out and drink tea or coke. You end up wanting more. And so, with dreams of hot girls and good food, Buro, Tanvir and I decided to do what Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn pulled off so easily on screen. We decided to crash a wedding.

The plan was quite simple. I brought the polar ice-cream box, into which Buro stuck a brick and Tanvir packed it up in red wrapping paper. We put a card on top - “with best wishes to the happy couple” - and added the names of three of our friends who we sort of hated and who also happened to be out of the country. Then we dressed in our best and went wedding hunting.

Which proved to be surprisingly tough. Tanvir had the theory [which he brainwashed us with] that on any given Thursday there were at least three to four weddings going on in Dhanmondi. It turned out to be as true as the theory about the Earth being flat. We combed Satmasjid Road, we peeked into restaurants in Road 27. We kept up a stream of bull about how we are never again forgetting the card at home, or forgetting to keep the phone number of the person who invited us, just to keep Buro's increasingly agitated, out of the loop, driver pacified. Finally, we ditched the car and started roaming around Dhanmondi in a rickshaw, looking for a wedding. None of us had eaten much during the day in anticipation of the free food. We all realized things were starting to feel a little empty in the abdominal region, so we stopped to get some alu-chops and piajus at Dhanmondi 10A. You rarely see three guys looking like they just came out of Radisson, stand around at the roadside shop, counting the number of begunis they had.

Finally when we had given up hope of finding anything, we stumbled upon the best sight a hungry desperate band of wedding crashers can see: a restaurant decorated with lights. We stopped the rickshaw, took a look at each other, heaved a couple of deep breaths and walked in. Tanvir took out his phone and made a blank call, asking his mother where she was in a loud voice and informing her that we were already at the restaurant. The guys at the gate came forward eagerly to take the bulky, and satisfyingly heavy, packet from Buro's hand, while I tried my utmost to hold a straight face.

When we finally went inside, we were a little taken aback. The place looked nothing like a wedding. We couldn't see the bride and groom. In fact, there weren't ANY women around. Another thing that caught our eyes was that our dress up [no suit-tie mind you] easily outshined the most well dressed of the people there, most of whom were sporting Punjabi and topee. We shared a panicked look, before Hisham noticed that there were separate spaces for the women. It was a wedding alright, just not one where you can get frisky with the bridesmaids, given the fact that you can see them in the first place.

Things were certainly not ideal. We stood out too clearly. That's the last thing we wanted. As we sat with the first batch for the food, Tanvir almost wet himself as he realized there was a cop sitting with us. He was probably a constable, a Sub-Inspector at most. But a real freaking policeman! With a gun!!

While Buro and Tanvir started to sweat, food was served, and I ignored pretty much everything. They however, had trouble swallowing their food. But hunger got the better of them and eventually they followed my suit. Tanvir later said he was looking over his shoulder every two seconds because he thought someone might just put a hand on his shoulder and say, “bhaiya, how is the food? By the way, I can't seem to place you.” We had a vague plan of claiming to be junior to the groom in university. But that wouldn't hold much water, since we didn't know the name of the groom anyway.

But the whole operation came through without a hitch. As we walked out of the restaurant with the firni in our hand, we let out a deep breath and started laughing. “Let's do it again sometime,” said Tanvir. Buro and I, however, are skeptical about how many times one gets lucky before getting caught. If we do crash another wedding, we are doing proper research like Owen and Vince. And making sure it's a wedding with girls around.

By Kazim Ibn Sadique
Note: Names have been changed to protect privacy. Nyaah! Just kidding! Buro is Oeshwik Ahmed, and Tanvir is Hisham Bin Mustafa. You can find them any day at Dhaka University.



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