Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Catching Fire (Requires a secluded room so people don't stare when you gasp out loud)

As if the first Hunger Games wasn't spectacular enough, Suzanne Collins outdid herself on my personal favorite of the trilogy. Catching Fire from start to finish is gripping and near impossible to put down. I was actually glad of a client cancellation for the chance to get through more of this amazing read. Following the racing pace the first book set, this one continues to rise in tempo with all the mounting threats becoming greater and greater until the devastating and simply stated end. This book had me so engaged you'd have to grapple it out of my hands and even then, I might bite you in the arm. My favorite thing about this book though were the constant twists and surprises.


WTF Moment #1 The Victors tour when they visit District 11. Their appearance there started off awkward and fumbly. Katniss desperately wanted to keep attention away from her and Peeta because Snow had threatened her so early on in the book. Peeta's own kindheartedness gets the better of him and he unwittingly one-ups Snow. But when Katniss speaks out to the families and they respond with rebellion? From that point on, you know the rebellion sunk in and she'll never be able to act as Snow wants her to. Especially when they all salute her and the man whistles the four notes. It was an absolutely bone-chilling moment.

WTF Moment #2 Thread's reign as Peacekeeper sent tremors of change through District 12. More notably, what he does when Gale's caught. Gale and Katniss have been tense through the whole beginning half of the book, but moments of their deep friendship poke through even if they're stolen away seconds later. The scene where Gale's being flogged made my jaw drop. Not only was the beating so brutally described, but you felt the extreme emotions of their changed home along with Katniss. Everything Thread did, from tossing  Darius over to become an Avox, trying to trick Katniss into getting caught beyond the fence and Gale's beating drives in a personal sense of how desperate these times have become.

WTF Moment #3 The 75th Annual Hunger Games. Every second of this was a constant surprise from the horrifying announcement that demanded the victors return to the games to the fierce reactions of everyone around them. The scenes that had me shouting, cheering and literally yelling out 'what the fuck' were all regarding this part of the book. First off, Cinna's mockingjay costume. He's a side character, but a constant sense of support for Katniss and seemingly someone who has a calm sort of vibe surrounding him. So when he pulls out this ballsy 'fuck you' to the Capitol via Katniss, I was floored. It made the scene as Katniss was leaving him all the more devastating when he's dragged away and you know there'll be no return for him. From there, Finnick Odair stole the show. He was a constant puzzle that surprised you in the end. All their time figuring out this Hunger Games led to the amazing moment where Katniss discovers where to aim her arrow. And breaks open the arena so they can escape to District 13.

But of course Suzanne Collins couldn't leave her ending on something like that. Katniss wakes up to discover Peeta's been taken to the Capitol and Gale's by her side to tell her that District Twelve is gone. This was the Empire Strikes Back of the Trilogy and by far my favorite book I've read in a very long time. It was dark and brutal, but the fierce flames of rebellion build to such a blaze by the end that all explodes in the final installment.

Rating: 5

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mallorean (Belgariad, the remake)

So, I went into the Mallorean with the thought that it can't be as bad as the Belgariad, since at least they're all grown up. I was right. Because we didn't have the first half of the series through the fumbling eyes of Garion--dolt boy turned Rivan King and Child of Light from prophecies, the Mallorean actually was a much better read. Garion's in it, but he shares perspective with more intelligent and apt characters. Don't get me wrong, his practical Sendarian perspective comes marching through at times and even has some great uses, but this book enjoys characters that are actually two dimensional over the one dimensional blobs from before. (Although, it beguiles me why being practical and from Sendar means sex makes you run into a bathroom like a frightened schoolgirl to cry. CeNedra and Garion have marital issues because Garion is too busy for sex. Man card, denied.)


Improvement #1 Liselle

The intriguing character moves the pace along and works wonderfully with Silk. But she's not the average woman and goes into combat along with the men, even participating in one of the bigger battles. Her manipulations are what I enjoyed reading since they brought some enjoyment and life into the story. While the twists involving her weren't particularly surprising, (aka blatantly shoved in your face) at the very least, watching Silk squirm was well worth her inclusion.

Improvement #2 Mostly adult perspective
Thank god. Not that I have anything against young adult---in fact, I love it---but David Eddings is old school in his YA. In the sense that children must be talked down to and explained things very simply. Rather than writing through a realistic young perspective, he falls prey to the old trend of writing young adult as an older person telling a story to a moron of a child. Seriously. Garion in Belgariad is so stupid I wondered how he didn't drown early on. Granted, he's not much better here, but the characters like Zakath and Liselle drown out his one-dimensionality, whereas before he only had the cardboard cutouts of Mandorallen and Barak to balance off of.

Improvement #3 The same story as before, but better
Now, this seems like a ridiculous thing, considering I just read Belgariad. Why read the same story over again? Don't. Just skip Belgariad and go straight to the Mallorean. The characters are better, the plot's....well pretty much the same, so you won't miss anything. This comes as one of the revelations midway through the series. I'm serious. They stop and realize "everything's replaying the same way as before." It's like David Eddings made his masterpiece of a dish, realized it was crap and is now trying to save the leftovers with spices and microwave magic. I'll give him this. The second series was better than the first. But it brings to question, why couldn't he come up with a different plot then? The only thing I got from it is that maybe he realized how droll the first one was and wanted a do-over.

So, the Mallorean was decent. Better than the Belgariad, even though it follows the Jane Austen school of marriage and babies at the end. Because after a rollicking adventure through the lands, settling down is all there is to life. No message, or philosophical ideal.....just popping out babies. Thanks, David Eddings. You're a real winner.

Rating: 3