Book: Manila Noir

"Manila Noir"

Manila’s a city of survivors, schemers, and dreamers… A city of extremes. Where the rich live in posh enclaves, guarded by men with guns. Where the poor improvise homes out of wood, tin, and cardboard and live by their wits. Where five-star hotels and luxury malls selling Prada and Louis Vuitton coexist with toxic garbage dumps and sprawling ‘informal settlements’ (a.k.a. squatter settlements), where religious zeal coexists with superstition, where ‘hospitality’ might be another word for prostitution, where sports and show business can be the first step to politics, where politics can be synonymous with nepotism, cronyism, and corruption, where violence is nothing out of the ordinary, and pretty much anything can be had for a price–if you have the money and/or the connection, that is…

To be perfectly honest, I have a very vague notion of what noir is. So whatever I was expecting Manila Noir to be, it definitely wasn’t what I got when I read the stories contained in the anthology. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Except when it is.

I liked some of the stories. I loved the Trese short. And a couple of the stories bored me to the point of putting me to sleep. Thrice. Yes, three times. In the span of a dozen pages. More or less.

And at the end of the day, I have nothing to take away from reading said book. Except, maybe a question.

How do editors decide on which writers to invite for collections such as Manila Noir?

There’s usually a foreword written by the editor to introduce the writers included in the anthology. I don’t remember if this had one. Not that it should matter. Right? But there’s a couple of writers who I have already read outside of this book… And I was surprised that I didn’t care much for the stories they wrote for Manila Noir, when I enjoyed their separate work.

Maybe the collection was limiting? Or maybe it was too expansive? I don’t know. All I know is that, while reading the book, my enjoyment levels fluctuated. I would enjoy one story, only for it to be followed by one I wouldn’t enjoy as much, before it would be followed by another I wouldn’t like at all.

Maybe I should stop reading books like this, since you never really know what you’re going to get. And I actually wouldn’t have picked it up if it weren’t for the Trese short.

It’s a good thing that the Trese story alone was worth the price of the book.

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