Saturday, September 4, 2010

Reading Roundup



The Hunger Games might--to somebody who was giving it a perfunctory glance--seem yet another entry in the Twilight-wannabe roster.  It too has a rabid fan base of young people, many of whom are the same young women who swoon over the passive Bella and her struggle to choose between two cuter-than-humanly-possible suitors.  But walk away from The Hunger Games merely because you have a preconceived idea about it based on other recent young adult phenomena, and you will be doing it--and, more importantly, yourself, a disservice.

The short version: In the post-apocalyptic future the former United States has rebuilt itself as twelve districts ruled by a Capitol.  Originally there were thirteen districts, but when the districts revolted three-quarters of a century earlier one was destroyed.  After regaining control the government in the Capitol instituted the Hunger Games, to remind the people who holds the power.  Each year two young people between the ages of twelve and eighteen are chosen to represent their districts in the games.  Thrown into a wilderness arena, the twenty-four children must battle to the death.  Katniss Everdeen, our heroine and narrator, volunteers to take the place of her little sister when her name is drawn.  Unlike Bella, Katniss is strong and intelligent and enterprising.  She will win the games, and she will do it in a way never before seen in their seventy-four year history. 

The action of Catching Fire picks up just months after the first book ends.  In a twist to ensure the populace knows who's in charge, each quarter century's games--called the Quells--adds an extra sadistic twist.  This time around, the tributes from each district are to be chosen from the winner pool from past games--traditionally, a population exempt from the lottery.  Katniss, as the only female survivor from her district, must endure the ordeal of the games again.  But this volume is no rehash of the first one.  It is fresh, as new alliances are forged and the growing rebellion in the districts--and Katniss' influence on the rebellion--is explored.

Mockingjay opens with Katniss both physically and psychologically broken by her experiences of the previous two years.  Her district has been burned to the ground, and she and her family have relocated to district thirteen, previously thought to be a myth.  Despite all she's done, for her district and for the nascent rebellion, more will be required of this young girl who has yet to reach her majority.   

Suzanne Collins' trilogy is beautifully plotted and nicely written.  The action is heady and, it must be admitted, extraordinarily violent and graphic.  But the violence is never gratuitous, and the rebels' revolutionary ideals of freedom and equality are always the driving force.

Death of a Poison Pen, a Hamish Macbeth mystery by M.C. Beaton.  The ladies love Hamish Macbeth, and in this installment of the series Jenny, a friend of his old flame Priscilla, makes her way up to the Highlands to nab him so she can make her friend jealous. 


The Reapers Are the Angels by Aiden Bell was my surprise of the week.  Temple is a fifteen year old girl who's never known a world other than the post-apocalyptic, zombie-ridden one through which she moves.  She is illiterate, with the heart of a warrior and the soul of a poet.  Although this book is not lacking for the gore, guts, and flesh-eating one expects in a zombie novel, it is so gorgeously written I had to stop reading every now and again to remind myself exactly what I was reading.  The prose soars as Temple struggles with the big issues: day-to-day survival, good vs. evil, and how to reconcile the two existing simultaneously in one person.  The ending is so tender and heart-breaking and surprising you'll think about it for days to come (and probably unfairly compare all other zombie novels to it).


Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.  Can't stop reading dystopian fiction, and how lucky am I to have found yet another fine literary example of it, so soon after finishing the last one? 


How lazy am I?  I did not write a single book review this week.  Not a one.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.

After my book adventure last Saturday (you can read about it here) I thought it best to back off the book-buying for a little while.  So, nothing new this week.  

1 comment:

EnriqueFreeque said...

If it hadn't been for that all too tempting 40% off coupon from Borders, I'd of acquired nothing new this week, either. Sigh. But I did save $14 on Joseph Frank's massive, Dostoyevski.

And while I was there I happened upon a post-apocalyptic title I don't remember being discussed before in the PA group:

Are you familiar with it? Almost grabbed it ... had it not been for Dostoy.

Can't wait to hear your perspective on Never Let Me Go!