Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Final Thoughts (With a Few Spoilers)

Finished it about two days ago, and I did quite enjoy it, but it wasn't as good as the first book.

The Orwellian overtones were greater in this book, although we start to see other influences creep in. I noticed some things that seemed along the lines of the Fallout games (Specifically District 13), and the Battle Royale influence just doesn't go away. It's a darker book as well, with a little more violence (Or should I say descriptive violence) and it's perhaps more shocking with who dies and how.

I can't help but begin to feel that the romances in this book are a bit wobbly. Katniss seems to be caught between Gale and Peeta, but I never felt that she had much of an attraction to Gale - He always seemed more of a best friend to her, and this emphasis on her 'not wanting to upset Gale' seems misplaced to me. She's also, for a character so selfless and clever, incredibly selfish about this, but I guess it might be due to the writing and how 'fake' her love for Gale is. The pregnancy plotline was also, in my opinion, completely ridiculous because it came out of nowhere and makes absolutely no sense. Yes, I can sort of see why it's been put it, but I don't think it was necessary as many of the outcomes for this series would eventually prove it to be false and cause even more trouble for Katniss and Peeta, and that's something they clearly don't need.

I'm not sure where Collins is truly going with this series. As it's teen/YA, I've a feeling we're going to have a somewhat happy ending, but part of me is craving an ending like that of We. The idea that a (now) seventeen year old girl and her badge can spark such a powerful movement is, to me, a bit on the ridiculous side, not to mention the Capitol is suffering from mild Villain Incompetence Syndrome.

So far I'm one chapter into the final part, Mockingjay, and we'll see where it goes.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Initial Thoughts

So from a book with a shoehorned-in romance to a book with a main character caught between two.

I read The Hunger Games less than a week ago (I think...) and thoroughly enjoyed it despite the slow start. The characters were human and the book was well written, and once it got going the page count flew by. It's best described as Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four for Teens, crossed with Japan's Battle Royale, although it thankfully lacked the bloodlust of the latter. I started Catching Fire last night and hit just shy of page 150 (That's pretty good going for me), and thoroughly enjoyed what I read. It seems like the series has taken a darker tone with this book, and I suspect at this point we're moving from an action novel to something more satirical and 'philosophical' like Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, although I strongly doubt action will be missing from this book.

At this point, it's a book about Katniss' personal conflicts. She's trapped in a number of Catch 22 situations, none of which seem to be resolved in a manner she would be comfortable with. Blood will be on her hands no matter what she does. We have an Orwellian villain, a Big Brother-esque situation going on and an ever-so-convenient twist to the games (One that wasn't mentioned in the first book, but it's understandable as to why).

Looking forward to see how this pans out.

Update: Turns out I finished The Hunger Games just over a week ago. Bloody hell.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Empire in Black & Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Possible Spoilers!)

I finally finished this book last night after about two weeks of on/off reading, and I have to say that I'm mostly impressed with it. As far as debuts go, it's very strong.

Basically, it's a story of conquest, rebellion and danger, with a little bit of politics thrown in for good measure. Generally these sort of books don't interest me, and I will admit that if I hadn't been given a copy of this book, I likely wouldn't have picked it up. The world is filled with races that hark back to classic ones we know and love. The Beetle-kinden are highly reminiscent of Dwarves, the Spider-kinden make me think of Dark Elves or Drow, and the Mantis-, Moth- & Dragonfly-kindens seem to each have parts of both High and Wood Elves, with the Fly-kinden being similar to Faeries and Halflings.

It's a world that seems to be a mixture of different influences, too. There's a Steampunk influence that rears its head every so often, along with bits and pieces Tchaikovsky has taken from other settings. It does come together fairly well, but like Col Buchanan's Farlander from earlier in 2010, the setting felt inconsistent and confusing at times to me.

I did have some gripes, though. There's a romance that becomes apparent towards the end of the book, but it's one that I felt was shoehorned in and completely out of place. In my hands I held a book that - for over 500 pages - had been very mature and had mentioned sex less than a handful of times, yet I was greeted with a very vague sex scene (No real details were given as to what happened) that was completely out of place and seemed to be at odds with the rest of the book and even the characters involved.

Overall, it was a good read and a great debut, but it was so easily tarnished for me by the inclusion of a certain romance and scene, and made me doubt whether I wanted to continue. However, I shall and we'll see what happens...

It Came! Yippee!

Yep! My Mistborn boxset came, and it's sooooo purty.

It got a little beaten up in the post by the looks of it as the corners are a little squished and the books aren't in the best condition I've ever seen (I've seen much worse being sold as new, however, so I don't mind), but it's still quite nice. It stands out nicely on my bookshelf, and I think I'll move it to sit with my Modesitt, Jr. books (All three of them).

The box is covered in the artwork of the books, but this is where I have a slight gripe with them. The quality on both the books and the boxset is kinda poor. It's a little blurry, a little 'grainy' (Like a film grain effect), and even the covers are a little inconsistent. Mistborn (Book 1) has the title in a pinky/purple colour, as does the box itself, but the other two titles have a blue colour. I'd say the art on the books is of a worse visual quality than the box. Another minor flaw is the box is slightly too big, and there's two 'flaps' inside it that cause the books to move around a tiny bit. The books also aren't 'level' with each other - Mistborn seems to be a little different in size, which only really stands out if you have the boxset right infront of you.

So, despite the flaws, it's quite a nice little boxset. I would have liked the art to be clearer and 'sharper' on both the box and the books, and perhaps a little more continuity between the books in terms of colour and 'size'.

Now all I've got to do is work out when I can read them ;)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thoughts on Fantasy Literature

I'd talk about sci-fi, too, but I've little experience in that field. I'm quite the fan of fantasy, and most of the books I read are fantastical in nature. The book I'm currently reading, and have almost finished, is Adrian Tchaikovsky's Empire in Black & Gold. It's got a fairly unusual (For me) setting, and I like the Steampunk influence that's crept in, but whilst I'm enjoying it, I can't help but feel it's leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Even at its fastest, it's a fairly slow moving book and I felt like the time I put into it gave little reward. I'll happily read the next book, Dragonfly Falling, though.

I think one problem in fantasy is this need to write serious books that can be described as 'dark' and 'gritty', and whilst it has its place, I think this rise of gritty fantasy is grating with me as I'm someone who prefers the romanticised and comical atmosphere of books like The Bard's Tale, a collection of loosely linked books based (Loosely, unsurprisingly) on the game series of the same name. Whilst the characters weren't the deepest, nor the plots the most complex, the two I've read were two of the best books that have ever graced my shelves because I loved every single moment of them. Another series I've absolutely loved to date is Jim C. Hines' Princess series, a series that uses the more Grimm Brothers-esque tales as a base. Yes, there's some darkness to the books, but mostly they're fairly jovial books with a good sense of humour. Again on the humour front, there's his Jig the Goblin series, but I've not had as much fun with it. I enjoyed the first book, Goblin Quest, but I'm struggling to get into Goblin Hero - and for no reason in particular. I'm sure I'll fly through it when I get around to concentrating on it, which should be in the next few days.

Also on my to-do list this year is Mark Charan Newton's The Legends of the Red Sun series, a series that has had a mind blowing amount of praise. The third book, The Book of Transformations, is out this year and everything I've heard about it makes it probably my third most anticipated title this year, behind Jim C. Hines' The Snow Queen's Shadow and Col Buchanan's Stands a Shadow.