11 December 2010

The Hunger Games, Left Hand of God

Written by Suzanne Collins

There's been a lot of press about THE HUNGER GAMES as of late, what with the trilogy now complete, its popularity increasing, and (of course) movie deals being struck. The good news is that HUNGER GAMES is quite worth the acclaim and interest, with a writing style that adheres to the young adults but simultaneously boasts complexities similar to, but not to the extent of, Rowling's POTTER franchise. It's no wonder this book, and the series, has gained notoriety these last two or three years: set in a unspecified but not-too-distant post-ruin world where the remnants of America has been transformed into a strict, divided society as Panem, there's a young girl, Katniss, thrown into a game of death with twenty plus other peers, who finds herself competing to stay alive and in the middle of a love triangle between the boy back home and Peeta, a man the rules dictate one will inevitably kill the other. Guns, action, romance, futuristic-like setting: all the ingredients of a interesting and addictive read. Include Suzanne Collins' brisk and nicely detailed style, HUNGER GAMES is most definitely a recommendable book.

Apologies for being one of 'those people', but the best comparison to the story of this book is the novel/feature film BATTLE ROYALE: teenagers thrown into the arena, charged to kill one another until last man standing. Same principle applies here. What Collins is more interested in, however, is the human element, the relationships, hardships, and choices that come out of Katniss being in the Hunger Games. That's not to say Collins refrains from embellishing in some combat and mayhem, as there's plenty of the narrative dedicated to that, enough to make fans of the horror genre quite pleased. First and foremost, Katniss is richly and beautifully developed. She boasts a fantastic personality: head strong, resilient to dying for nothing, independent and resourceful, opinionated, and all around charming at heart, Katniss is a brilliant lead character, and a far more suitable role model for young girls reading this than another hit franchise that is (hopefully) losing steam.

As mentioned, there are two love interests. Gale, a boy back home with whom she has at least entertained the idea, but hasn't seriously considered it, and Peeta, her fellow District 12 teammate who harbors a love for her that she believes is nothing more than a cover for the game. Of course, the role of the men play a important part in the narrative, but points to Collins, the romantic aspect doesn't overshadow the story, nor Katniss, at all. It's Katniss' book through and through. She doesn't stand idly by being pushed around as a result of plot necessity, she's a, as mentioned, assertive girl who does what must be done, and is brilliant to boot.

HUNGER GAMES is a highly recommendable book, and a worthy trilogy to invest in. If there's one complaint I have, it's this: it doesn't feel complete. Now before someone facepalms and exclaims, "Duh! It's the first in a trilogy stupid!", I recognize that, but as a self-contained novel, it has the feeling of being unfinished. Apologies for making yet another cliched comparison, but take Rowling's HARRY POTTER books - there are multiple(s) plot threads weaving through each book, but each and every one feels like one story, one full complete narrative that has a beginning to end that just happens to pick up again at a later point. However, this small glitch in fullness does not dissuade me from enjoying and, frankly, loving what Collins has given us. A brutally honest book of blood, sweat, and emotion with a subject and frankness I was surprised would gain such notoriety. Now, onto the sequel...

Written by Paul Hoffman

Taking a gander at the New Release wall at Barns & Noble a few months ago, the cover grabbed me at once. Even the premise, although highly reliant on the 'young man who doesn't know he he is gifted and has a greater purpose in this world' formula used a hundred times before, sounded interesting, with the introduction of religious overtones and a seemingly fresh take on the whole 'destiny' idea. The good news is that THE LEFT HAND OF GOD is a good book, and highly addictive once you're a good thirty pages in. Paul Hoffman's writing bridges young adult and mature readers quite effortlessly, making a book that would be genuinely pleasurable to all ages. Of course, the teenagers would find themselves more taken in by the protagonist, Cale, a teenager who is both brilliant and naive, defenseless and a weapon, and is above all trying to survive and find his role in the world. He's a interesting character, to be sure. Secretive, playing things rather close to the chest, yet rash and hot headed, he rings similar to Anakin Skywalker, even with the whole destiny thing at the end. Hoffman writes the character just right, and it's the excitement to see what happens to Cale and what is true function is that makes me eager to read the sequel, THE LAST FOUR THINGS (due next year).

A quick look over some of the other books I've reviewed show that I find myself grabbed in by books immersing themselves in religion, where it becomes a prominent aspect of the plot without specifying. Same goes here. The antagonists are the Redeemers finding a war against the Antagonists (gasp! originality name!) and plotting to go against pretty much the entire world. Devoted to their faith messed up in the head, abusive, and blood thirsty, these Redeemers are a great, lethal threat imagined by Hoffman, and the confrontation sure to erupt later in the series will no doubt be juicy.

Although THE LEFT HAND OF GOD is, by all means, a good and entertaining read, I can't honestly say too much about it. The book adheres to a monomyth formula with just a few character tweaks here and there to 'spice' the story up. I do recommend it for anyone; fun read, cool characters, first of a trilogy. Just don't go in expecting much. For a far more detailed review, I recommend you check this out.


Jess said...

I LOVED The Hunger Games. Just started Mockingjay and it's an amazing trilogy.

Andy the Time Lord said...

Glad to hear. Can't wait to get my hands on the others, but I'm Number 26 in line for CATCHING FIRE, so I wager it'll be awhile before I continue the adventure of Katniss. Unless I read in sporadically on my breaks at the local Mall's Barns & Noble...

Now if they ever make it into a film, I can be one of those people comparing & contrasting the whole time. Actually, I think the book lends itself to a cinematic adaptation quite well.