About Parker K.

Born and raised in California, but passionate about the world.

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

The world of Dune is vast, with the first book barely scratching the surface. Leaving many fans asking author Frank Herbert for more. 4 years after the release of the first one, Frank delivered Dune Messiah. Taking many of the criticism of his previous books and proving them wrong, by introducing us to the dark side of destiny. If I were to describe the book in one word, it would be sinister. Everything about it, from the villains, the heroes, the politics, and the philosophy. There are moments when you will feel dirty as if you participated in some evil plot. But this is exactly what Herbert wanted, he wanted to show how power is corruptive, and how even the noblest of heroes have a dark side.

He broke the mold of the classic “hero’s journey” and focused on the hero’s psychological transformation. As Paul Atreides struggles to deal with his “horrible purpose”, visions of destruction, and a horrific injury. Despite this intriguing concept, the book is not without its failings. Unlike its predecessor, the book has hardly any action, focusing almost entirely on dialogue. This can lead to parts of the book coming off as filler, or self-aggrandizing philosophical nonsense. However, it makes up for it in the best endings I’ve ever read. The final act of the book is simply breathtaking, hard to put down, and yes, it’s incredibly sinister. In many ways, it’s the complete opposite of its predecessor, which had an incredibly lackluster ending. Leaving me with only one question, what could the next book have in store?

-Parker K.

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby

Why I Love A Series of Unfortunate Events

There are 13 books in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Each one looks at a different part of the 3 Baudelaire siblings’ lives and misfortunes as they grow and learn more about the strangeness of the world. It’s a story about finding one’s moral compass, the failings of guardians, the wickedness that plagues society, and the importance of associating with good people. 

In the first few books we learn about the tragedy that took the Baudelaires’ parents, and about their nemesis/first guardian, Count Olaf, a wicked man who cares about nothing but getting his hands on their fortune. We are also introduced to the siblings: Violet, a genius inventor; Klaus, a genius researcher; and Sunny, a baby with sharp teeth who eventually becomes a genius chef. As the siblings grow in their strengths and move from failed guardian to failed guardian, they begin to learn more about a secret organization known as V.F.D. As the books progress and the children grow past the need for awful guardians, they begin to dive into this organization and the story becomes filled with more secrets and mysteries. It is at this point that I think the series really gets going and becomes phenomenal. The last 6 books in the series are particularly amazing, gripping stories that leave you asking more questions than you get answered.  I often dislike endings, whether it’s in movies or in books, even music. For this reason, it’s high praise for me to say that A Series of Unfortunate Events might have my favorite ending of any book series. It’s a perfect culmination of character growth, surprises, and just enough answers to leave you satisfied. With the Baudelaires finally finding somewhere that seems safe, they learn that safety comes with a steep price. 

While the stories are certainly amazing, I can’t overstate how important Lemony Snicket’s unique style of writing and narration is to the story. His tone alone is fascinating, with the stories being a sort of optimistic melancholy. His vocabulary is interesting, with him often explaining what words mean or having characters explain it. The way he inserts the narrator’s story into the series without ever explaining who he really is is simply remarkable. Lastly, he will repeat words and phrases to the point of boring you, just for you to realize that in the middle of his repetition he has left a secret message. It’s just wonderful how he manages to incorporate so many things into his storytelling and narration, that you can’t help but smile while you read it. Whether you are a child, a teenager, or an adult I’d highly recommend reading the books, or at least watching the amazing Netflix adaptation!

-Parker K.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Book Review: Children of Dune

Minor spoilers for other Dune books

Children of Dune is the 3rd book in Frank Herbert’s Dune series. It was published in 1976 a whole 11 years after Dune, and 6 years after Dune Messiah. The story follows Paul Atreides’ children, the twins Leto II and Ghanima as they navigate political plots, religion, and mental turmoil. Both twins are “pre-born” meaning they have the knowledge of all those who came before them. This causes them to struggle, as they navigate physically being children, but mentally being thousands of years and thousands of people all in one. The Bene Gesserit are incredibly afraid of pre-born believing that they could turn into abominations. This simply means that they can become possessed by the evil people of their past who haunt their minds. Ideas like this are what make the story so interesting. Herbert always shows the dark side of power and the consequences of losing your humanity. The twins acknowledge and know about this dark side, seeing it in Alia, and in Paul’s supposed death. Yet, they are forced to use their powers and risk their humanity for the greater good. In Leto II’s opinion, they must go where Paul never could go, where he even was afraid to go. 

Many would consider this blasphemous to say, but it’s a bit like Star Wars Episode 7. By this I mean the story is a bit of a retelling of the original story. But it’s more fun and has enough new and interesting content to make it a great read. Some might even find it superior to the original. I probably would if it wasn’t for a few specific issues I had with the story. I dislike the ending of the story; it’s too similar to the first book and doesn’t show enough of Leto II’s potential. Perhaps this is on purpose to get us excited for the next book, but I’m not a fan. I also dislike how little Herbert does with Ghanima. I find her far more interesting of a character than Leto II (who in many ways is the same character as Paul) yet she hardly does anything. That being said I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what the next book and the books after that have to offer. 

-Parker K.

Children of Dune by Frank Herbert is available at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket

The Ersatz Elevator is the 6th book in the Unfortunate Events series by Daniel Handler, pen name Lemony Snicket. Published in 2001 the book tackles the problems of wealth, the phoniness of pop culture, and the necessity of arguing. Similar to the previous novels it does this whilst exploring the lives of the Baudelaire orphans as they are passed to yet another guardian, who inevitably turns out to be a disappointment. 

The book immediately starts with the children meeting their new guardians, Jerome and Esme Squalor. They quickly learn that Esme only cares about what’s “in” and what’s “out” or what is popular and what is not. Lucky for them, orphans are in, thus they are allowed to stay in the roughly 76  room penthouse. Jerome on the other hand is an incredibly kind man who doesn’t care about popularity, but also hates arguing. To the point that he does whatever Esme says even if it involved eating salmon, a food he despises. Inevitably their enjoyment in the penthouse is short-lived after they spot Count Olaf, who is once again attempting to get his hands on the orphans and their fortune. From this point onwards the book is filled with mystery, adventure, and emotion. 

The book is by far one of the greatest in the series, as it walks the fine line between fiction and reality. It teaches the Baudelaires about the failings of adults and why the world is as bad as it is. Yet it also teaches them about how important it is to be brave, even in the face of total darkness. As well as expanding upon the mystery that has been growing throughout the series. You are left asking even more questions, and wondering why the Baudelaires are in the predicaments they are in. 

-Parker K.

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

My Favorite Rock Song-Mighty K.C.

I’ve always loved rock music, particularly grunge. The loud, lazy, purposefully incorrect, flannel-ridden music has a special place in my heart. Yet my favorite rock song was released a year after Kurt Cobain died, often called the day grunge died. Yet it serves as an ode to grunge music, and as a reassurance of the future. 

The song is Mighty K.C. by For Squirrels. It was their breakout song, and tragically their only major song as their lead singer, bassist, and manager died in a tour bus accident. In many ways, the song reflects this tragedy and the lives taken before they could reach greatness. 

He lies in an empty room

With his hair burnt to the back

It sure sounds funny

When you say his name like that

Within the first 10 lines of the song, we reach the subject of Kurt Cobain’s death. His suicide is portrayed in these lines, a man alone, with hair burnt to his back. They find it ironic to refer to him in this way when his name meant so much more. To them, he was and will always be Mighty K.C. 

Ship me off to the morgue

I’m ready to be buried

Away down in my bed, bed

And I’m alone without the sun

Please just take one

Here they describe how the grunge movement felt, both in general and after his death. They are suffering, some want to die or copy him, others feel dead and alone suffering from depression in their bed. They don’t have their light anymore, they are without hope.

And by the grace of God go I

Into the great unknown

Things are gonna change in our favor

And if we gather, if we fall

Over the great unknown

Things are gonna change in our favor

Yet despite their struggles, despite the all-encompassing depression, For Squirrels have faith in their future. The world is lost, grunge is lost, but they can escape this unknown. It’s a very optimistic outlook on an otherwise depressing topic. The song becomes a sort of happy grunge, which seems like an oxymoron

100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600

Oh they are found dead, dead

And I am numb from watching TV

100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600

Oh they are just there, there

And I am numb from watching TV

Please don’t break me

This references many events of the time, and many argue what exactly it means. To me, he is referencing how it feels to hear about the many artists and legends who have died. Or the many fans who copied Cobain and committed suicide themselves. It could also simply reference the negativity of television, how it can break our spirits. Yet again it could be referencing the Rwandan genocide that occurred around this time. How hundreds had to watch but could do nothing to stop it, they were just there. Despite all of this they still sing.

And by the grace of God go I

Into the great unknown

Things are gonna change in our favor

And if we gather, if we fall

Over the great unknown

Things are gonna change in our favor

I’ll always wonder what would have happened if God had allowed them to go past the great unknown. Things were already changing in For Squirrels favor, but now they’re just another number, another life cut short on the road to greatness. But their words will always resonate with me. This is why Mighty K.C. is my favorite rock song. 

-Parker K.

Dune and its Iterations

Dune: 10 Biggest Differences Between The 2021 and 1984 Versions
Dune 2021 and Dune 1984

I love Dune or at least two versions of it. My love of it has led me to constantly talk about it, which has caused my friends to ask me what it’s about. It’s a bit hard to answer, I could say “Published in 1965, Dune is a space epic by Frank Herbet that went on to change the face of science fiction.” Or I could say “It’s like Game of Thrones, Lord of The Rings, and Star Wars had a baby, but with a lot more sand.” But if this fails, I use my last resort “The movie has Zendaya and Timothee Chalamet in it” which usually works. 

This is a good thing because I think the 2021 movie is by far the best way to introduce someone to Dune. The movie tackles the first half of the book and introduces you to the world, you learn about the Bene Gesserit witches, the secretive Fremen, the all-powerful Emperor, the powers of Paul Atreides, and most importantly you get to see the planet of Arrakis or Dune. It does all of this while showing you amazing visuals. Through both practical and CGI effects the planet of Arrakis is stunning, a wasteland beaming with possibilities, with hostile giant sandworms that attack anything that moves. The director, Denis Villeneuve does a masterful job staying true to the book whilst using incredible cinematography.

The book itself is a masterpiece of science fiction and world-building. It’s a massive book that’s absolutely jam-packed with details and interesting concepts. At some points, you feel like you’re reading a science textbook when learning about how “spice” is created, or how the Fremen stillsuits retain your body’s moisture. However, it keeps itself interesting by guiding you through the planet through the eyes of various characters. Whether it’s the main character Paul, his mother Jessica, or even the evil Baron Harkonnen, you are constantly interested in how the story is unfolding and what motives are shaping each character’s actions. 

Despite all this praise I have to discuss the awful monstrosity that is Dune (1984). Directed by David Lynch, Dune (1984) was the first attempt at transferring the behemoth book onto the big screen. It fails miserably, the intriguing characters become flat, the massive world seems small, and the science turns silly. All while the directing remains boring with the same transitions being used over and over. Granted it has some awful CGI that keeps it somewhat entertaining. Some scenes from the book remain but most of the movie seems to ignore the book entirely. To Lynch’s credit, the movie was plagued with issues and was supposed to be 2 parts instead of the 1 movie. But in my opinion, this still doesn’t make up for the absolutely awful translation of the book. 

If you want to learn more about Dune I’d recommend starting with the 2021 movie. If you love it like I did you’ll love the book. Be warned that both the book and the movie are long, they have to be in order to explain the world. Chances are the time will fly by while you read/watch it. But whatever you do, stay away from the 1984 version.

-Parker K

Son: An Ambitious Ending, or a Massive Misstep?

Written 19 years after the first book, Son is the fourth and final book of the “Giver Quartet” by Lois Lowry and it undoubtedly had a weight to live up to. As with each book in the series, the audience is thrust into a world of questions. Only unlike its predecessors, Son has answers.

The story follows a girl named Claire as she fights to be reunited with her son (hence the book’s name). She lives in the same community as Jonas from The Giver. Because of this community, she gives birth to a son that she is banned from being with. While she originally tries to be with her child, the events that end “The Giver” drastically affect her as she winds up in a new colony, with no memories but her name. It is here that she is taken in by a village elder and nicknamed “Water Claire.” She steadily gains her memories, particularly those relating to her lost son, and gains her strength. The village is surprised that she has never seen mammals, pets, or even seasons. But she’s surprised that the village doesn’t have any knowledge of written language, electricity, or medicine. While she does enjoy her time in the village and builds connections with several characters, she eventually embarks upon a daring climb to meet with an old villain and makes a dangerous bargain to be reunited with her son. This part of this story is amazing, particularly Claire’s relationships. She’s a remarkably well done and relatable character, risking everything just being reunited with her son. Lowry is truly the best at creating mini-worlds filled with enjoyable and believable characters.

However, from this point onward the story starts to unravel. We get to see the colony her son lives in and his relationship with old characters like Jonas and even Kira. Yet unlike my previous praise, these characters don’t have that powerful relationship or believable attitude. Then we get to see her son’s battle against an old villain, but it’s just weak. Claire climbing a mountain carries more weight than a battle against an embodiment of evil. I don’t understand what happened, it was as if Lowry had a single day to write the ending of the book. It failed to be as powerful or emotional as any of the previous books when it desperately needed to, resulting in a book that is three-fourths fascinating and enjoyable and a final stretch that’s remarkably bland and an overall disappointing end to a wonderful series.

-Parker K.

Son by Lois Lowry is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

“Ohio” by Neil Young: The Greatest Protest Song

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming

We’re finally on our own

This Summer I hear the drumming

Four dead in Ohio

This is the introduction and hook of Ohio by legendary musician Neil Young. It was released a month after the Kent State massacre, an event in which the Ohio National Gaurd opened fire on a group of anti-war protestors. It tragically killed 4 of the protestors, paralyzed one, and wounded 8 others (History Channel, 2021). The event cause mass outrage and there were many responses, the greatest was from Neil Young. 

Young starts the song by referencing Tin soldiers and Nixon, the men who carried out and allow the attack. But there’s more to the ‘Tin soldiers”, firstly Young is calling them out for being pawns to their masters, following orders without any empathy. But he’s also calling out the fact that many in the national guard were young, inexperienced, fake soldiers parading as real ones. Next Neil explains the feeling of his generation, on their own, the older generation and the government have abandoned them. They spend their summers hearing the drumming of marches, and the drumming of guns. Which eventually culminated in four dead in Ohio. This leads into the verse,

Gotta get down to it

Soldiers are cutting us down

Should have been done long ago

What if you knew her

And found her dead on the ground

How can you run when you know?

This of course describes the event more, but it also pleads for empathy. Neil wants the soldiers and those in charge of the war in Vietnam to imagine if they knew one of the victims. He accuses them of cowardice, running away from something that should have never occurred. He also informers them of the protestors’ message, that the war in Vietnam should have been done long ago. 

The bridge of the song is a repetitive chant of “na na na na na na na”, which allowed the song to easily sang at protests. The recording of the song itself uses multiple voices for this portion of the song. The ending is also repetitive, with Young sounding more and more desperate as he echos out

Four dead in Ohio

-Parker K.


History Channel Article https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/national-guard-kills-four-at-kent-state