Sunday, March 15, 2015


By Mansor Puteh

Mindgames by Yang-May Ooi, is set in Malaysia. But I am here in Malaysia and have been in most of my life.

But I can’t figure out which parts of Malaysia is the author referring to. She maybe Malaysian (I’m not sure of this) but a Chinese and residing in England.

And what is mind-boggling is how she could invent things that were not there and creating states which are not there, to push for her plot into the realm of fantasy forcing everybody with her words, and sounding unMalaysian and like someone who tries to be English or western.

What I hate the most about this novel is how far away from reality the plot and more so the locations are.

Am I the only person who has read the novel in its entirety?

This novel should rightly be set in a totally fictitious country and it would have done justice to the plot.

The characters are mostly non-Melayu living in a Malaysia which cannot exist in the way the author had described it.

And all the time I read this novel, I can’t fail to realize how unrealistic it is, the Malaysia that I know and can see even when I was reading the book.

It is closer to Singapore or Hong Kong and even Taiwan, but it cannot be Malaysia, and the novel would have become much better.

Setting it in Japan won’t be too bad.

Best of all it if it set in Chinaland, where most of the people are Chinese!

I was distracted by what I read so much so that I could hardly ever appreciate whatever that the author is trying to say.

It could even remind me of the many sci-fi novels and later films that were produced from them that had been produced by Hollywood studios in an earlier time.

And it is not even satire. It could be one. And it also did not come on as an absurdist novel. It could be one too. 

But what I was not comfortable the most is how the author was imposing herself too much and trying to impress her imaginary readers in the west by including or littering so many of the four-letter words wherever she could and also having homosexuals to spice up her plot, like it could not be created without them.

If Mindgames is a feature film it deserves an X rating and could not be shown in the cinemas in Malaysia.

I also find the characters to be too wooden and unreal for my liking.

And the sets are all too stagey, with everybody already or almost sitting and appearing like they are on a stage playing out their roles with limited movement and business or other activities.  

Character development is lacking as much as scene development. And no one knows how the Center could have been established in Malaysia without anyone realizing its presence and why Malaysia was chosen over the other countries especially Singapore or the Philippines or Thailand where the security breach if it happens can be allowed to happen.

But not so in Malaysia especially if the Center is operated by some English persons with Chinese collaborators.

And there is also a severe lacking in details of the local scenes and features, so a Malaysian reading the novel can appreciate them, to know that the author is talking about the place and time that the reader who is Malaysian and in the country called Malaysia can also agree to and to take the Malaysian reader along.

But this did not happen.

I was lost in the space and time that the author had tried to create with no historical, cultural and social as well as religious perspectives that I can relate to.

Kuala Lumpur the capital city of the country is not given due recognition in the novel; it is not described well except for it to be as the confluence of two rivers, which the author had also failed to mention – the Gombak and Kelang Rivers, where Masjid Jamek, the first mosque in the city was built and where it still sits.  

And that bothered me a lot as much as the many four-letter words that are littered everywhere and the description of sexual encounters, especially those between women. 

It is a fat book no doubt and I like fat books…but the color of the pages had turned brown in the copy I have which I bought at the bookstore long ago but had neglected to pick up to read until recently.

The one thing that also bothered me when I was reading the novel is how the author drummed what she wanted into the readers without ever allowing them to decide for themselves what they are reading and who the persons in the story are; everything is drummed into them and all the characters appear to be what the author wants.

This is not fair to the readers who can make that sort of decision for themselves.

If this had been done and if the author had used a different way of telling a story and especially to describe the characters to build them, then surely, the novel could be less trite to read and to comprehend what caused the characters in it to act in the way they did so that one can feel like they are in full control of themselves and not guided by the author-goddess.

The ending is reminiscent of some early Hollywood action films copied also by those produced in Hong Kong and by Bollywood even to this day.

What it means is that it is not original. It could succeed if it is meant to be a satire. But it wasn’t.

The news reporting style used by the author is what is coming in the way for the readers other than what has been described above.  

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