The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins – Review

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – another review in the Eclectic Readers Challenge 2012

Hunger games.jpg

I was loaned these books from a friend – The wife saw the movie recently and wanted to check out the series that inspired it and I needed a book for the Eclectic Readers Challenge – Young Adult.

This genre is one that I like – Susan Cooper, Cory Doctorow, Scott Westerfeld among others are hiding out on my book shelves. I like the easy readability of these books as well as the adventure and feel that most young adult books have. If you haven’t read one of these since teenage-hood I highly recommend you jump back in – and abandon yourself to the story.

Back to the review… many may be aware of the series from either the books or the major movie – so I will keep this first part fairly short.

This is set in the future after some catastrophe has turned North America into mostly a wasteland with humanity held up in 12 districts which support the Capitol, in a quasi-salve state.  Many years earlier a 13th district existed but after a failed attempt to seek independence from the Capitol it was bombed and in retaliation the Hunger Games started as a way to remind the remaining districts that the Capitol rules. The Hunger Games require each district to send 2 tributes (aged between 12-18) to fight it out – with only 1 winner allowed – the rest must die. The series follows Katniss, Peeta and Gale (the teenage triangle often found in the young adult genre – just get with the program!) as their world is turned apart and seemingly innocent actions cause the whole world to start to change.

This immediately made me think of the Japanese film Battle Royale (and I am not the only one… however, I am not going to enter that debate.) I am happy to believe that the author really didn’t see the movie before writing this – and after all it is a very different story with only slight similarities. Here endth the debate.

I have also chosen to review the whole series of three books – not to make out that I am some genius at reading but that fact remains with large font and spacing these books might be 400 pages each but probably contain less words then one George RR Martin !!! Man that guy can write!

So what did I think of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay? I think firstly it is well written – the target audience will be able to read this easily – it deals with some difficult issues, death, family, separation and acceptance of your role in the world. The main characters, while being flawed, show strength that comes from something real – by this I mean they are not glowing vampires or love struck werewolves but normal (ish) teenagers who are made to extraordinary things in dangerous times. Worlds are turned upside down, loyalties are questioned and in the end a choice must be made.

I understand why this series is well liked and would encourage any read or any age to read this as it is a great story with good characters, action, love and all the other good bits… without being too graphic or “grown-up” (with that I mean no sex and remorse over the violence).

Suzanne has done a sterling job with this series, so often young adult books can feel ‘dumbed’ down, Suzanne has managed to keep the heavy subject matter true to younger readers while still being enjoyed by the umm older/mature/experienced readers like myself.

I will give this series 4/5

Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

Third in the Eclectic Readers Challenge 2012

Third up in the Challenge is Romance… I put off just re-reading Time Enough For Love by Robert A. Heinlein oh it would be so easy to just stick with my favourite genre(s) of Fantasy and Science Fiction… but I must NOT!!! So instead I asked the wife… what romance book should I read… I expected something from Jilly Cooper – the horse porn lady (note: not porn with horses but soft porn involving people who also have horses… no bestiality at least that’s what she tells me…)
No instead she handed me Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. This book has special meaning to us as it was the reason we went to Japan for our honeymoon – wife’s choice after she feel in love with the Kyoto world of pre and post WWII through this book.
Memoirs of a Geisha: A Novel
At first I was intrigued by the writing style – this book is written from the POV of the Geisha growing up with poor, loosing mother, father, sister, being sold into a world that is alien to most European background people (isn’t the Sex trade?? – I realise it can be more than that but you can bid to take a girl’s virginity…). All these feelings and insight are written by an American man… and it was so well written I had to keep reminding myself that this was not an autobiography but a work of fiction – it just felt so real.
I think it also helped having been to Kyoto, having had a brief encounter with a Maiko (trainee Geisha), walked the street and stood in front of famous tea houses… I could almost taste again the wonderful ramen soups and hear the click clack of the wooden shod Geisha walking past us… 
Memoirs is not a true romance novel, or at least not the way I see them in my head (I’m thinking Clan of the Cave Bear here…) no this is a much more subtle book. Sayuri’s is often a sad one – torn from her family into a “better life” she takes the challenges on and shows her true potential becoming a phenomenal Geisha in a time when the world almost lost them forever.
Japan’s rich culture, which is often harsh to western eyes, has some many levels and is full of grace and depth. I enjoyed reading this book equally for the trip down memory lane and the story itself – yes a romance kept me interested and wanting to read more to find out what happens to Sayuri, while yearning that she finally gets the love she both wants and deserves.
I can’t say much more then read this – go to Japan then read it again… well worth it.

Killing Floor – Lee Child – Review

Another review in the Eclectic Reading Challenge 2012 – Crime / Mystery Fiction

Lee Child’s Killing Floor is the first of the Jack Reacher novels, which are international best sellers and very popular novels…
Killing Floor
I’ve never read anything by Lee Child and thought that I should start at the begin – the first Jack Reacher novel. I have dabbled in this genre before which some of the well know authors like Flemming, King (a lot of his are mystery’s and not just horror), Conan Doyle… etc. I also like Crime fiction even the ones writing by fictional authors like Castle… So I was not going into Killing Floor without some fore knowledge of the genre.
First thoughts of the book was – I know why people enjoy reading Child’s work, it was easy to read, fast paced with action and relationships. It was not high prose or complex characters this was a great read that let you enjoy the story (I think this is where I am suppose to write Journey – but I’m not on a reality TV show so I wont).
Basically if you are up for a quick read without too much thought or complex story lines to keep track of, this Child is an author you can go with.
I will be looking up more Jack Reacher novels as I think I could get to like this no nonsense, ex-marine, crime/mystery man… and I hope he one day gets to find someone to love…

Bio of a Space Tyrant – Piers Anthony – Part 1

This is a six part series that follows the Tyrant of Jupiter, Hope Hubris. The first five are written as journals by Hope each detailing an important part of this life. Each of these introductions and conclusions by Hope’s daughter. The sixth book details a story line from Hope’s sister Spirit and covers details when the siblings were apart.

Refugee – Begins with the Hubris poor family and there conditions on Callisto and follows their escape to Jupiter. The group is attached several times and most of the adults are either raped or killed by pirate raiders. The children are left to fend for themselves and try to survive.

LinkPiers has created a mirror to the world of the mid 1980’s in space. Many of the planets, moons, asteroid belts and locations represent different parts of the world (in the then) today. Wikipedia has a full listing of the locations and there worldly counter parts. He deals with many of the issues that are prevalent in the world, poverty, rich versus poor and even the Cold War.

In this first book we find our protagonist caught up between the rich and poor of the moon Callisto. His family are forced to move to the working dome after Hope and his sister Spirit defend there older sister Faith from the unwanted advances of a rich son. Choosing to escape to the prosperous Jupiter (based on North America) the family go on a daring trip across space in an over crowded bubble.

This journey is reminiscent of the current trips refugees take to get to Australian shore and probably more dangerous in the cold vacuum of space.

Piers details a new (to me) propulsion device a gravity drive – not great on the science but basically a field is created around the bubble giving that mass it’s own gravity apart and separate from the gravity around it. Thus the bubble can be propelled through space using only a small amount of energy (thrust) from a simple drive. The bubble also spins which is important for some of the action in this book and boy is there action.

For those weak of stomach or not into violence then maybe skip some parts of this book – however in it’s defence the violence and rape is about overcoming adversity and how the human condition can cope with tragedy and pain. It is about survival and the sacrifices people will make for family and friends in order for some to survive.

This book is well written and you move through it quickly, well paced scenes and insight into the mind of the boy who will become the Tyrant.

One thing you don;t have the any knowledge of the Tyrant and what he will become as these notes are written from the perspective of the boy at the conclusion of this book not from some faraway grandfatherly figure. At the end I wanted to know more about how this boy/man a refugee from the outer limits becomes the Tyrant of Jupiter.

Great read 4/5
I read the Kindle version available at time of writing for $2.99


OK I have read a few books in the last couple of months and I have not really mentioned them here. So I shall fix that problem – oh and I don’t propose to do an in depth review of them just give you my general thoughts on the readability of the books and my over all feelings etc on the stories themselves.

Raw Shark Text – by Steven Hall.
Conceptual fish… feeding on our memories and other thoughts and ideas… A great concept and a really brilliant read – well for the first 3/4 or so. I got dragged into the world very easily and I really enjoyed the concept behind this novel and the ideas that it brought up. The ending turned into a cliche and a Jaws tribute. Maybe that was intentional and it just goes to prove that in the end we all turn out to be a cliche of modern culture… or is all art just a derivative of other forms of art…
Aside from the ending which, didn’t spoil the read just seemed to be a little rushed and maybe not as well thought out as the rest of the book, it was an engaging and thought provoking read. I really wish someone else would read it so that I could talk about it with them… maybe I can convince someone soon.

Old Man’s War – John Scalzi
First try at John’s published work, well aside from a chapter or two found on the net. I held this book up to some really high standards. Having been a fairly long time reader of his blogs I heard a lot about his work, mainly from fans and blog fiends, so I kind of expected something really good. And I got what I wanted – this book I could not put down! Not only was it so readable but the world he created and the characters where believable and interesting, it reminded me of many Sci-Fi worlds but was not the same as one of them. A great blend of Sci-Fi and general fiction (speculative fiction is the term for this fiction I don’t understand why we need to place people into genres but there you go Scalzi writes speculative fiction!) Anyway aside from my rejection of genres and terms this book is a must for all fans of Sci-Fi (and Spec-Fi) I really recommend this read both as an introduction to John and to this particular take on Sci-Fi.

Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill
OK yes this is Stephen King’s Son, so what! I bought it not because of that, well OK maybe a little because of that, but also due to the great reviews it had. Horror novels can be so hit and miss with me, some of the greatest horror authors (at least those spoken about the most) don’t really do it for me. But Joe did, it was just a great read and I really attached myself to the characters and the situations that they went through in order to survive the ordeal or a ghost in a suit. Maybe I just connected with the main character – a rock legend just like myself ! (lol) Other people I have spoken to about this book have told me it scared the bejezzus out of them – not so with me, I mean I liked the book and the way the characters where slowly driven to more and more desperate acts, and yes I was a little shocked by the events, but not scared like I have been by books (or even movies and games).
So what did I think? I thought this was so good that I would buy it as a present for all my friends and make them read it – although some of them might get a little too scared if the others I have spoken to are anything to go by! Brilliant and a great read!

Neromancer – William Gibson
Some people might be wondering how I could if I enjoy Sci-Fi so much have not read William Gibson until now… well I live in Australia remember that – and we do not get that many good books at good prices like our North American and European Cousins. So I have had to be frugal in my book buying – but with a friend who recently went to the US of A I got her to grab me some books and William Gibson was one of them. OK now that I have gotten over the blurb about book availability in Australia (and I didn’t even mention the price differences like that it costs me as much to get a 2nd hand book as it does a brand new one in the US!! and new books cost more then twice as much as in the US).
Ummm now I should mention the book… The first thing that hit me was the writing style, it was short shape images, almost like I was watching a movie that had pieces missing, it didn’t take away from the story line infact I think it sped everything up and got the point quicker. Also I loved the way the technology was just taken for granted – a lot of Sci-Fi writers over explain the new wonderful technology but Gibson just tell us what it is – no explanation as to how it works because the characters are all ready intimate with the technology – it would be like a person now explaining how a light switch worked before turning it on. We already know so why would characters in a book do it to each other with things that they already know.
This story was really good – I loved the way that all these new technologies, which I take for granted as I have played Cyberpunk and Shadowrun, where introduced and if I read this before I knew about all the other things it would have shaken my world up! The characters where very well writing and very engaging and the story had enough twists and turns that I keep interested into the very end. I have the sequel Mona Lisa Overdrive and I intend to read that in a little while I might even re-read this one before I go on just to get back into the world again. Great read a must for all.

Well I guess that is enough for the time being! I have read a few more books then this in the last few months but I just wanted to mention ones that really hit it off with me and ones that are topical to me at the moment. More to come later!