How to survive the end of the world : Defender by GX Todd

I’ve sometimes wondered what life would be like if all I had left were the boots on my feet…

With recommendations from Lee Child and John Connolly, Defender is British author GX Todd ‘s extraordinary debut novel.

Defender is set in a dystopian future where most humans have succumbed to a disease that makes people crazy – hearing voices that tell them to kill others and then themselves.

In the first book of a four-part Voices series, Defender sets the scene as protagonists Lacey – young, cheeky but calculating and Pilgrim – tough on the outside but with a seriously soft heart – meet for the first time.

In Defender, Todd sets up the relationship of Lacey and Pilgrim, who she only knows as “Boy Scout.” Pilgrim’s character is world weary. He reminds me of Bruce Willis. Perhaps this is because he was The Last Boy Scout but I’m already imagining the movie.

Lacey is desperate to find people. But not so desperate that she doesn’t use her wits. Or the shotgun she’s very competent with.

Not at all stupid, Lacey is a young woman to be reckoned with. Pilgrim would do well to listen to her instincts. She soon finds that the escape and community she had hoped for will not be easily won: not all survivors want community; many want power.

Pilgrim dispatches these human predators with expertise. Pilgrim just keeps moving. Wary, he keeps to himself. He relies on his wits, avoiding others who could slow him down or worse.  He hasn’t counted on picking up two women and a cat in the first few chapters.

He keeps the Voice in his head to himself as well.

Over a glass of lemonade Lacey cleverly tricks Pilgrim into taking her away from the home town she’s been stuck in for seven years.

Some of the content in this book is brutal: it’s a brutal world – yet Todd conveys characters’ suffering with sympathy; the brutality is integral to the plot. Yet there is a layer of female self-awareness in the text. GX Todd writes with feeling without being sentimental. She writes with a mastery of language: her physical, descriptive passages are so well written that they aren’t flowery or wordy, but give the reader a clear perception of events:

(Pilgrim) eased lower into the seat, his eyes heavy-lidded. “Get off the highway at the next off-ramp…and don’t stop for anybody.” He sank down, down into the seat’s foamy embrace, until he was encased on all sides, as if lying in a plush, slumberous coffin.” (p. 130)

Chapters alternate between the points of view of the two main characters, often replaying a scene from each character’s point of view. Until the lines become crossed…

This book brings to mind Stephen King’s The Stand ; a classic post apocalyptic battle of good vs evil. In this story there is also a man collecting people he deems special to master plan…

It Defender also makes me think of Bird Box – another great dystopian story in which most of the world have not only been driven murderously crazy, but also blind…

Dystopia : a community or society that is undesirable or frightening …

Defender
by G. X. Todd
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9781472233097

Learning Chinese in Context 功夫在字外

Chinese is one of the most spoken languages in the world. It was created and developed in a rich social, cultural and historical context. For people growing up in a different environment like Christchurch, learning Chinese can be challenging. Fortunately there are resources and strategies that can help.

Combining learning resources 整合学习资源

In Christchurch, there are diverse Chinese learning resources available, thanks to online resources and international migration. Some examples are as follows.

Local Chinese language schools 中文学校

Free Chinese Learning resources at Christchurch City Libraries 免费图书馆资源

Mango languages logo Rosetta Stone logo Dragonsource logo

Cultural Events

The combination of the three types of learning resources will create an ideal environment for learners to immerse in the social and cultural context of Chinese learning. Especially, Mango Language and Rosetta Stone Library Solution are good complements to class learning and enable learners to be independent in the learning process

Learning Chinese characters with stories 通过故事学中文字

Unlike English, Chinese writing is a logographic system with each character simultaneously encoding sounds and meaning at the level of the syllable. For example, the Chinese character “word”, 字, is explained as follows.

字: 篆体: , 乳也。从子在宀下,子亦聲

The seal script of the Chinese character “word” is  , referring to bringing up a son in a house so that he can become well-educated and literate (be able to read and understand words). The semantic part宀 represents the house, and the sound of 字 (zì) encodes that of the phonetic part 子 (zǐ).

Cang Jie’s creating Chinese characters ,仓颉造字, is a widely accepted explanation of the legendary origin of Chinese language. It is believed that Chinese writing was invented by a legendary figure Cang Jie, 仓颉,a court historian of the powerful Yellow Emperor. Inspired by the patterns of the tracks left behind by the feet of birds and other animals, he created Chinese writing with basic strokes as follows.

8 Strokes of Han Characters
8 Strokes of Han Characters, Wikimedia Commons.

Xu Shen 许慎,a scholar of Han dynasty (206BCE-220CE), compiled a dictionary entitled “On graphs and composite graphs”, 《说文解字》. It explains the meaning, the sound and the composition of Chinese characters. Publications based on the dictionary, such as “Pictograph of Chinese Characters”, 《画说汉字》, are also useful resources for learners to understand the composition of Chinese characters and familiarise themselves with the historical origin of these characters.

When Lu You, 陆游, a poet of Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279) taught his son to write poems, he suggested, “if you want to learn how to write a good poem, you must go beyond gaining techniques on poetry writing”, 汝果欲学诗, 功夫在诗外. The idea can be applied to learning Chinese; that is, 功夫在字外. We should not only focus on gaining linguistic skills but also put an effort in broadening our knowledge on the social, cultural and historical context of the origin and development of Chinese language. Then, learning Chinese can become effective and fun.

Find out more

Hong Wang
Network Library Assistant

Hang gliding – Port Hills: Christchurch Photo Hunt 2017

Photo Hunt 2017: Plains, Port Hills & Peninsula – Finding our way

This year the theme for Photo Hunt is Plains, Port Hills & Peninsula – Finding our way. However, the photos you submit are not limited to this theme. We invite you to share any of your photos and help grow the city’s photographic archive. All entries must be received by 31 October.

Christchurch City Libraries has produced a set of four postcards promoting the competition which are available from your local library. Each week during October we’ll be featuring one of the postcard images on our blog.

Hang gliding – Port Hills. Kete Christchurch. Hang_gliding_-_Port_hills_2966945852_o. Entry in the Christchurch City Libraries 2008 Photo Hunt. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License.

Unknown group hang-gliding on Port Hills.  We were passing by and saw them.  It was a relatively new sight in Christchurch in 1976.

Photograph by Irene Absalom.

Date: 1976.

File Reference: HWC08-SO100

Entry in the Christchurch City Libraries 2008 Photo Hunt.

About Kete Christchurch

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.