Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Review: The Plain of Bitter Honey by Alan Chin

The Plain Bitter of HoneyThe Plain of Bitter Honey by Alan  Chin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is no mere flash-in-the-pan "novel" that one can read through hurriedly in one sitting. This book should savored like fine wine, something to appreciate so one can get the full experience of the subtle layers of flavors that can further intensify the pleasure.

The Plain of Bitter Honey by Alan Chin is about twins Aaron and Hayden Swann who are fighting a corrupt government taken over by ultra right-wing Fundamentalist Christians in 2055 America. Each brother fights in his own way, Aaron with bullets, Hayden with words. Then one night their world is turned upside down when they are caught in a government sting and they must both flee north into the badlands between San Francisco and Canada, where the only safe haven is a place called The Plain of Bitter Honey, a refuge where heads of the Resistance operate. But the brothers don’t know that government agents are tracking them to the hiding place of the Resistance. Can they find the inner strength to survive?

How does one even attempt to write a review on a book that is essentially larger than anything I have read of the MM genre?

For starters, the title confused me because there was an obvious play of words involved and it was only towards the end of the book did I realize, belatedly, the why's of this play. Then there was the genre: MM. Why this is this genre escaped me again for the longest time, as this did not fit the general picture I have in mind based on the hundreds of MM books I had read. Again, it was towards the end of the book did I realize the whys.

This book took me some time to read not because of the length of the story. Instead, I found myself putting it down from time to time whenever I encountered something that was thought provoking. There were so many philosophical ideas and ideals thrown when turning the pages. I started comparing Hayden to Rizal, a national hero who brought down a government by the mere strength of his pen and Whitehall to Al Capone.

This is, for me at least, the story of Aaron who is caught in a dystopic world of a futuristic hypocritical America. This is really his journey from a plain soldier of the resistance to maturity. He has an idea, but really knows nothing, of philosophy or how words can be mightier than a sword. His actions result to a disastrous turn of events that lead his and Hayden’s life to danger, along with the rest of the resistance. His continued struggle with guilt and how to make up for it spurs him to go on, even if it meant risking his own life to ensure his brother’s safety. It was through their journey to The Plain of Bitter Honey that he finally realizes that sometimes, in order to win a war, using counter-violence may not be the most obvious and easiest choice. It is through this learning that Aaron finally finds his resolution and through this process, realizes his potential.

The Plain of Bitter Honey was bittersweet and, although I did not initially like how it ended, I found that it would not matter that it ended where it did. There was no other way but to end it that way. It is only after this end and some time to think things over would the readers eventually realize why I say this.

This is the first time that I have read Alan Chin and I am very happy that I have finally done so. I now see the reason why he has won literary awards. His words are thought provoking, if I may repeat myself. That may sound cliché, however, no other words come to mind presently.

Do I recommend this book? The 5 Stars rating is an obvious recommendation.

Warning: The Plain of Bitter Honey is not for readers who are looking for an HEA or an HFN ending. The heat rating is zero (0) so do not expect the usual scenes.

Review based on ARC from Netgalley

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