Posts Tagged ‘The Hunger Games’

The edition I got from the library. God, it was good! Blew my mind…and possibly a finger off. That explosive.

Some of you may remember from a while back I finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy and wrote a less-than-favorable review of it. It was around that time, I started to hear about a book that predated The Hunger Games and was considered by some fans to be much better than Suzanne Collins’ trilogy. And when I heard it was a Japanese novel, then I got really interested (typical me, I’m a nut for most things from Japan).

This past month I finally found the time to get the book, titled Battle Royale, from the library and sit down to read it. As I got about a hundred pages in, I started musing to myself that this was the sort of story I would like to write, well thought-out, exciting, and extremely well-written. About two-hundred pages in, I was so engrossed it was really difficult to put it down. And by three-hundred pages in I was staying up late just so I could read more! And today I finished Battle Royale, which has officially become one of my all-time favorite novels.

And of course, I had to write a review of it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the novel by Koushun Takami, the story takes place in a world where Japan is the seat of the Republic of Greater East Asia, which as far as I can tell is what would happen if Japan had come out much better from World War II as an authoritarian empire. In this Republic, junior high classes are selected randomly throughout the year to take part in survival games in which the classmates must fight each other until only one student survives. The novel tells the story of one particular class, Shiroiwa Junior High Class 3B and its 42 students, selected for the heinous Program and forced to fight each other on an isolated island in the Seto Inland Sea. The novel focuses mainly on the exploits of Shuya Nanahara, Noriko Nakagawa, and Shogo Kawada, three classmates who plan to escape the Program, despite the number of obstacles meant to keep them in the Program (not to mention classmates that are all-too willing to take part in the Program). The novel also looks at the lives of several other classmates, so that by the end of the book you feel you know at least a little bit about a majority of Class 3B.

And the twists and surprises in this story will keep you reeling until the very end. You can quote me on that and take it to the bank.

The author does a very good job managing a very large and diverse cast, giving most of the characters at least a little characterization so that those you meet seem at least well-developed, even those who only show up for one or two chapters. Takami-sensei (as he would be addressed in Japan) also manages to tell a very bleak story with engaging finesse, wasting not a single word. The action sequences are so terrifying you’ll be hearing the climax from Stravinsky’s The Firebird during the climax (at least I did), the musings on life, the government, and the meaning of the Program will pierce deeply, and the emotions of each character hit you pretty hard as you get to know these kids. And when you find out why a government would have a Program like this, you’ll think to yourself the same thing you’ll end up thinking when you read the resolution of the story: “That’s so clever! Scary, but clever!”

There was only two moments where I was dissatisfied with the story. One was I wanted to see more of a certain character that died midway through the novel. The other moment, later in the novel, was I had trouble believing that a certain character wouldn’t get treated for a potentially-fatal-if-let-untreated wound after he sustained it and the danger had temporarily passed. Why wouldn’t he get the bullet out before it killed him? There was time for it!

Other than that, I absolutely loved the story. Even the romantic subplot of the novel was woven in beautifully, and didn’t annoy me like it might’ve in a certain trilogy I could name (oh wait, I did name it! Never mind). The plot was quick-paced, terrifying, and left you with an impression that doesn’t go away.

All in all, Koushun Takami-sensei’s novel Battle Royale gets a 5 out of 5. I haven’t been able to immerse myself into the world of a novel in a long time, and after I was done, I didn’t want to leave because I’d grown to love some of these characters so much and so desperately wanted to see what would or had happened to them.

I’m going to go reserve the movie version from the library now. I doubt it’ll be as good as the book, but at the very least it should be interesting. Maybe even review-worthy (though that could also happen if the movie is incredibly terrible when compared to the book). Unless something else awesome happens tonight, I’ll blog on you later, Followers of Fear. Goodnight.

Two reviews in one post. That’s a new one for me. But what do you expect from me? Two very interesting series having two significant events on the same night, one after the other? Of course I’m going to do a double review! So without further ado, let’s start the analysis and reviews:

Now that’s what I call graphics.

Sleepy Hollow
Based on the famous short story by Washington Irving, Sleepy Hollow is an updated version of the classic tale, where Ichabod Crane is a Revolutionary War hero instead of a teacher. Get this: he’s the one who beheaded the famous Headless Horseman. Now the Horseman’s back, and Ichabod’s returned from the grave to stop him…and whoever’s controlling him. With some Biblical themes mixed in, some good ol’ fashioned American legend and folklore, and some superb acting, I think this could be the start of a great series.

So far I have only two complaints: one is that Ichabod, played by actor Tom Milson, seems not as culture-shocked as you’d expect for an 18th century man finding himself in the year 2013…or as torn up over the death of his wife Katrina, who appears to him in a ghostly dream. Also, I have a feeling that the series’ producers are trying to create a mythology from the first episode. While I admire that, let’s hope they don’t shove it down our throats. Give us the mythology too quickly and viewers may be turned off from it.

Other than that, the show seems really great. The characters seem very real to me, and the chemistry between Ichabod and Sheriff Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) is already strong, like Mulder and Scully in some ways. Also the cast is very diverse, which both brings a little humor to the show (Ichabod is surprised that Abbie, who is a woman and African American, isn’t a slave and is instead a lieutenant, making everyone rolls their eyes or laugh with a knowing smile) and makes me think we’re actually making some progress in terms of race relations. Not much, but some. And the show is filmed in the actual town of Sleepy Hollow, New York. Yes, there’s an actual Sleepy Hollow. It changed its name from Tarrytown a few years back to honor the original Irving story, in which Sleepy Hollow is a part of the Tarrytown township or district or whatever. Who knew!

All in all, I’m giving Sleepy Hollow a 4.6 out of 5. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, and seeing whether this show can keep up the momentum or…you know what, I’m not even going to finish that sentence lest I jinx it. Let’s hope for the best.

Purists hate this show, but most seem to love it.

Under the Dome
In so many ways this show, based on the uber-long novel by Stephen King, who executive produced the show, departs from the original story. And as we saw tonight, it can sometimes stay true to the original tale. In the meantime, we’ve seen an incredible season. I was skeptical when I saw the first episode this summer (see the review here), but the story got better and better with every episode, taking the story in new directions, developing very real characters, and throwing in as many mysteries as it could without overwhelming viewers.

In a way, it’s really amazing how the show weaves in so many ideas and subplots and characters in a coherent narrative. That’s something I’d like to be able to do someday, and do it with ease as well. In any case, I’m not surprised that Under the Dome will be returning next summer for a second season, especially based on that very strange cliff-hanger of a season finale. If you haven’t gotten into the show yet, I suggest you look it up. Dean Norris from Breaking Bad could easily win an Emmy for his work on the show as town councilman James “Big Jim” Rennie, especially now that Bad‘s over and done with (at least I think it is. The series ended, right?). And Dale “Barbie” Barbara, the show’s lead played by Mike Vogel, looks underdeveloped as a character at first glance, but you find this bad-ass charm, mystery, and kindness on the second. I think it’ll be interesting to see what they do with him in the second season.

For the season finale, I give UTD a well deserved 4.6 out of 5. And for the entire first season…I’m awarding it a 4.8 out of 5, for taking a complicated story and a not-so-good start and making it one of the TV events of the summer. Yeah, I said that. Weep, Miley Cyrus. Your little freak-out on MTV didn’t hit my radar.

Expect more TV show reviews as new and exciting series, like Dracula or Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. begin this fall, and a few movies such as Carrie and Catching Fire come out. Not to mention the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, comes out this November. I cannot wait!

Well, that’s all for now. Hope to do my weekly exercises tomorrow. Good night everybody!

Today we had a rather interesting discussion in my Science Fiction and Fantasy class (for those of you new to the blog, yes there’s such a thing. Apparently Ohio State’s English Department has been studying the foundations of nerd culture since 2007. And possibly there’s a grad student in the Sociology Department who’s studying the actual people of nerd culture, but that’s an investigation for another time). Anyway, we were talking about the differences between heroes in science fiction stories from pre-WWII and the stories written after WWII.

In the pre-WWII stories, the heroes were always larger than life, able to overcome evil and fight off any villain with ease. In a sense, they were Supermen without superpowers, and they still won every battle, got the girl, saved the world, and were home in time for tea. Some great examples were John Carter of Mars from the Barsoom novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Freder from the movie Metropolis.

But then you have World War II. There you see death camps, POW marches, bombings, jungle warfare, beaches that run red with blood, mortars and claymores and bullets, racism and nationalism, beheadings, and several other bits of Hell made incarnate. Those who came back from the war were given a darker outlook on the world, and those whose talents were more geared to the written word and who in turn enjoyed a little space travel incorporated that new world view into their work. The best examples I can give you of the sort of hero that became popular after WWII are Barton from the short story The Cold Equations and Han Solo from Star Wars. They are not Supermen. They are simply men. They have problems, conflicts, flaws. Barton is haunted by what his job requires him to do when he finds a stowaway on his ship. Solo is looking out for himself and his ship and nobody else, though the Expanded Universe of Star Wars says that he’s like that because his lover died leaving him cynical and jaded. And then he met Jabba the Hutt.

The point is people liked these characters. A lot. They’ve been around since then in some way or another. Look around at science fiction and fantasy stories today. Harry Potter admits he’d be lost without his friends, and as Hermione is fond of pointing out, he’s useless with girls. Katniss Everdeen is troubled by her feelings for both Peeta and Gale and her memories of the Hunger Games, and is only in the situations she’s in so that she can protect her sister and stay alive, in that order…though she does love a little revenge every now and then. Max de Costa from Elysium is trying to be a better man, but with his life on the line he becomes the definition of a survivalist, willing to do anything to live. And Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a host of issues that inhibit her life, especially in season six of the series. Jeez, that season was psychologically dark!

And it’s not just science fiction. Other genres of speculative fiction have these sorts of character. My own fiction has these sort of flawed characters:

Zahara Bakur (Reborn City): low self-esteem and a sometimes overwhelming timidity and fear of violence.

Rip (Reborn City): recovering drug addict with image issues.

Snake (Snake): highly disturbed serial killer due to abusive childhood.

Laura Horn (Laura Horn): pathological shyness, social anxiety and general anxiety due to sexual assault.

Why are these characters so popular when they are so far from perfect? I think it has something to do with the fact that’s what they are: imperfect, They care deeply and try hard, but occasionally they fail and they fall and the consequences are terrible. To the readers, that makes them real. We don’t want to read about infallible heroes, because we know all too well that they don’t exist. We want heroes who are a little more like us. They depend on people, they hurt, they need a good smack occasionally to see that what they’re doing is hurting both themselves and their loved ones. We’ve all been in positions like that to some degree in our lives. And that makes these characters relatable to us, and our problems, even if they don’t involve magic or spaceships or fighting in an arena with other young kids.

Not only that, but these protagonists tend to grow in the story. They tend to become better than what they were before. And I don’t mean better warriors or fighters or healers or wizards or whatnot. I mean better people. They learn what’s really important in life, or how to express their love for others, or they come back as true leaders who put the lives and interests of those who depend on them first. In other words, the sort of people we want to be.

I personally prefer using these characters with their flaws and warts and troubles. I used to be more into characters that were impervious, Granted, I was a kid at the time, and all my favorite TV, movie, and book heroes seemed impervious to me. But I’m older now, smarter, wiser, and a bit more aware that the world doesn’t usually produce such heroes. So I like to use the heroes with problems, with something that’s keeping them back. Along with the conflict of the story, it gives me something to grapple with and for the characters to grapple with as they fight onwards. After all, a story is not just getting from Point A to Point B, it’s also about letting the characters grow and become better people.

“I’m not even perfect, and I’m bloody brilliant in all my forms.”

Now are these sorts of characters here to stay? I’m tempted to say yes, at least for the meantime. If you look at the latest movies, TV shows, novels, and comic books, the main characters all have problems of some sort that makes life difficult for them. Watching them grow, take on these problems, and overcome them is part of the appeal of the story. And I certainly plan to use these flawed characters in the future, as do other writers I know. So yes, it’s quite possible these flawed protagonists will be staying for quite a while.

How do you feel about flawed characters? And are there any that you particularly like above all others?

Catalyst: like a line of dominoes.

According to Wiktionary.org, a catalyst is, when used in literature, “an inciting incident which that sets the successive conflict into motion.” In other words, fiction, which is reliant on a conflict of some sort for the story to occur, cannot exist without the catalyst that starts it all.

I’ve been thinking about the catalyst for a while now, and I’ve come to believe that the catalyst is actually a pretty interesting and underappreciated element in fiction writing. Imagine what would happen if Katniss Everdeen had never volunteered to take her sister’s place in the 74th Annual Hunger Games and instead of Peeta, Gale had gone to the Capitol? There would be no story. Katniss would somehow go on with her life after a period of depression, and maybe even still get together with Peeta at some point, but would anyone really want to read that? That single catalyst, Katniss volunteering to save her sister and Peeta being selected to go with her to the Capitol, is what makes the story interesting, that draws us in and makes us want to see how events unfold.

And the catalyst for a story can take many forms. It’s usually the first thing you learn in writing any story. In a romance story, it’s usually boy and girl meet for the first time. In a mystery, it’s the occurence of a crime that needs to be solved. In stories like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Hobbit, where a journey is prevalent in the story, it’s that inciting incident that causes the need to go on a journey that gets things going. In a zombie novel, the catalyst is (obviously) the appearance of zombies.

You look at any story, you’ll identify a catalyst. Heck, my own stories all rely on the catalyst. In my WIP Laura Horn, the catalyst is the titular character recieving a particular item that causes her to be the target of a government conspiracy. In Snake, the loss of something important to the main character is what causes him to beocme the Snake. And in Reborn City, events that happen to the founders of the Hydras about a year and a half before the story even starts serve as the catalyst.

And speaking of RC‘s catalyst occuring a year and a half before the story starts, you can find plenty of stories where the catalyst to the story occurs a long time before the story starts. For example, for years Harry Potter fans couldn’t identify why Voldemort wanted to kill Harry, thus causing the whole story that would be Harry’s life, but after Book Five, they realized the catalyst for all of Harry’s life was Professor Trelawney’s prophecy being leaked to Voldemort, thus setting his sights on killing Harry.

“Freud was half-right: the causes of all problems are mothers and prophecies.”

Of course if you want to get technical with it, the story began in 1925 when Voldemort’s mother used love potion on Tom Riddle Sr, leading to their elopement, Voldemort’s conception, and his birth. But I digress. The point is, a story can rely on events that occurred years, decades, or in some cases centuries before the start of the actual story to act as the catalyst (I’m thinking of The Lord of the Rings trilogy when I say centuries, by the way). It’s actually a little mind-boggling, if you think about it.

So what more can be said about literary catalysts? Probably a lot more than I could probably come up with, especailly in a blog post. But to finish this post, I’d like to say that without the catalyst, the fictional stories we love so much, despise so much, debate so much, examine so much, and write fanfics to so much, just wouldn’t exist, and I think our world would be a lot less interesting to be in.

I did a TNBTBH back in February (and yes, that is an abbreviation) for The Quiet Game: Five Tales To Chill Your Bones after being nominated by fellow blogger and author Lorna Douvaena. On Friday, my friend and fellow author Matt Williams did his own TNBTBH on his Whiskey Delta trilogy (check out the exact post here: http://storiesbywilliams.com/2013/03/23/next-big-thing-blog-hop/). As usual with these posts, he nominated several others to do this, including me. So I’m doing a Part 2 to my own TNBTBH…without Jason Voorhees behind me (anyone get the reference? If not, you need to watch the first two Friday the 13th films).

And what work am I doing this time? Reborn City, of course! Matt and I both seem to have a fondness for it.

What is the working title of your book?

Reborn City, which is the name of the city in the first book and the name of the trilogy of the whole. I wanted to do a different name for the trilogy, but guess what? Trilogies named after the first book series are on the rise. Might as well get on the bandwagon.

Where did the idea come from for your book?

I was walking home one day from the library back in high school and was listening to rap music on my Walkman (yes, I had a Walkman in those days). At that time I’d just seen and become enthralled with the movie Freedom Writers, which was filled street gangs. A stray thought went through my head that I should write a story about a street gang, and it took hold. At that moment an explosion went through my head and I went to the nearest Dairy Queen to eat ice cream and figure out how I should go about writing a gangster story. All the elements of the story–the science fiction element, the themes of racism and Islamophobia, the street gang leaders with their special powers–came later on. As they say, the rest is history.

What genre does your book fall under?

Science fiction. ‘Nuff said.

Which actors would you pick to play your characters in a movie?

If I had a choice…I’m not sure. I’ve such a firm idea of what my characters look like in my head, I’m not sure any current actors could play the characters. We might need to look for some newcomers.

Of course, I wouldn’t mind if Samuel L. Jackson played my main villain Jason Price. He’s the perfect actor for the role, and I actually based the character on some of Jackson’s best performances.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

“Street gangs in a post-apocalyptic future”. That’s what I tell people when they ask, anyway.

Is your book self-published, published by an independent press, or represented by an agency?

It’s going to be self-published. However, if a major publishing house wanted to give me a deal…well, let’s talke and see if it comes to anything.

How long did it take you to write your first draft?

About two years. I was in high school when I wrote it, so I had to take a lot of breaks for school, homework, my after-school job, the Sabbath, and just to find time to relax. I hope for the sequel I can keep it within six months, since I’ll hopefully have a lot more time on my hands.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I hate comparing one work to another, but I think that perhaps Hunger Games might be a good comparison. The government’s evil, and the fate of many rides on a bunch of disillusioned teenagers with a penchant for getting into deadly fights.. If that doesn’t sound like Hunger Games, I need to reread the books.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I think the thought that like Freedom Writers, both the book and the movie, inspired many teenagers to apply themselves through writing and words rather than fighting and guns. I thought if RC could help people, why not write it? That’s kept me going through the years, especially when I realized the book might also help combat Islamophobia.

What else about your book might pique readers’ interests?

I think that it’s a unique tale, involves street gangs in a post-apolyptic landscape, and that most of the characters have very real problems that resembles problems in today’s world might draw them in. But then again, read the book when it comes out and tell me what you think. You might like it.

That’s my TNBTBH. I hope you enjoyed it. And if you read this blog post today and you’re working on something, you’re nominated for a TNBTBH. Congratulations. Let me know when you’ve written your post!

Good night, everybody.

Suspension of disbelief is when we disregard the unreality of a story and dive into the story anyway. For example, we ignore the fact that you can’t bring a corpse back to life with lightning and funky-looking machines, or we let it by that animals don’t wear clothes when we’re forced to watch The Great Mouse Detective with our younger family members, or I ignore that there are so many people in the cult in The Following that there’s no way that sort of cult could exist in reality, no matter how charismatic a serial killer Joe Carroll may be.

So many sick people follow him, even he has trouble believing it sometimes.

We need suspension of disbelief to enjoy some of the more strange of fiction, and sometimes to even get through the craziness of life. We’re pretty good about this as kids, when most of the shows we watch are cartoons with all sorts of improbable things going on.

But why do I mention all this? Most of the people who read this blog are well aware of suspension of disbelief and what it is, especially the writers who read this blog. Well, sometimes our suspension of disbelief cannot help us with a story, especially when we become adults and sometimes prefer our entertainment a little closer to reality.

But even for those of us who are still able to do suspension of belief like when we were kids, we occasionally find a story that we can’t get past the craziness in. For example, one of the problems I had with Mockingjay, the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, was that after Katniss (spoiler alert!) killed President Coin for the murder of Prim, she wasn’t prosecuted or killed or thrown in the loony bin or held up as a hero by those who opposed both Coin and Snow. No, she was held in a room for several days and then dumped in District 12 for the rest of her life, with the only punishment being that she have counseling sessions on the phone for the rest of her life. If this were Egypt, China, Venezuala, Ukraine, or the United States (especially the United States!), any of the stuff I listed except what actually happened to Katniss would’ve happened. What makes Panem so different that the murder of the national leader gets you dumped in a coal-mining town that’s literally rebuilding itself from the ashes? Explain it to me, please!

“My country? Well, we’re hungry…and once a year 23 people die on national tV…and…that’s it.”

Another problem I had with the whole trilogy is that Panem had no character besides that of the Games and a capitol that oppressed the districts. Seriously, was that all there was to Panem? We only got brief looks into any sort of a national culture, with some district culture mixed in. And yet most culture is centered around the Games and the Victory Tour during the off-season. Is there anything else to Panem? There is so many questions left unanswered. Plus, what about the economy? It seemed the economy all depended on the Games and the oppressed districts. And did anyone in the Capital actually work, or did they all just party and do things related to the Games? I only know Panem as a nation of oppression and murder, and for Collins’ purposes, that’s all she really needs. But I have trouble believing that Panem could actually exist, especially when most of the nation is defined by oppression and a sick obsession with reality TV and the television in general.

I also have problems with other stories. I have a lot of trouble believing that Superman’s biggest problem in life is his love triangle with Lois Lane and himself (thank God it looks like Man of Steel might deal with that), or that a biologist might shy away from some skeletons of dead Ubermen but be attracted to a strange-looking cobra-worm in Prometheus. I’ve grown disillusioned with some Bond films because the villain’s super evil plan involves flooding the Earth or using diamonds as a laser beam or living in a space-station that nobody noticed until Bond pointed it out (you know I’m right). Why does Anakin go to the Dark Side just because he’s in love? Shouldn’t there be more darkness in him besides a fear of loss? And why in some fantasy films they can only get rid of a monster by sealing it away but hundreds of years later the very same magic used to seal the monster is suddenly able to kill it without any major innovation being mentioned?

I know I seem to be tearing into some very beloved stories, but I have to say, some of this boggles my already messed-up mind. Is there something I’m missing here? Or maybe the story is missing something and I and some others are angry enough or nitpicky enough or something else enough to point it all out.

I bit that guy because he didn’t like the skeletons but for some reason wanted to pet me.

It’s probably why when I write a story and there’s a chance it may get crazy or overly complicated, I try and have something to make it easy to understand and believable. I dumped a whole idea for Reborn City‘s sequel just because I thought it might be disbelieved by more than a few readers. I went through a lot of parts of Snake before I wrote and even while I was writing it just to make sure there was nothing that could be too hard to believe. And with the bajillion stories in my head, I often tinker with them in my inmagination for years just to see if there’s something that could be pointed out as too weird to happen (believe me, even in speculative fiction that’s a lot).

What do you have trouble believing, even in beloved stories that everyone else is cool with? And do those things make you examine your work differently?

Can I just say, I think I have a crush on that woman? I’m not kidding, I’m going to say it right now: I love Jennifer Laurence! Can I treat you to dinner, provided you come out to meet me here at OSU and any place we go is within walking distance of campus?

Anyway, I think this was one of my favorite SNL episodes ever, and not just because I fell in love again. Nope, the writers were just hilarious, and the actors were top-notch! My favorite skit was the Top Dog Chef bit, where every character looked positively adorable as they ate stuff out of a garbage bag! At the end of it all, I was laughing for two whole minutes, right as the commercials came on. In addition, there was a Hunger Games sketch that I couldn’t help but giggle about. And Taram Killan as an abnormally short Peeta Mellark was a hoot! Kudos to the make-up and costume artists as well, you made the actors really look like they came right out of the book. Plus, Laurence can rap and rhyme…sort of. It’s still hilarious. And check out the foreign film sketch Danielle: A Free European Woman, which catches all the cliches of old foreign films that are attempting to be the film equivalent of artsy, elite literary novels.

My one complaint was that Weekend Update was a little too short for my tastes, though I was happy to see Bobby Moynihan reprise his role as Anthony Crispino, who never seems to get the news right. Also, I expected some more coverage of the gun control debate, but instead they decided to make fun of Manti Te’o and his unfortunate hoodwinking by a conwoman. I’m not sure I would’ve gone that way myself, personally. I mean, the guy found out a girl he loved and whom he thought had died was all a hoax. Cut the guy a little slack.

Still, gotta say, I found the show hysterical.

Can’t say I enjoyed the Lumineers, but I’m not familiar with their music. Now if Lorne Michaels got Disturbed or Marilyn Manson, then maybe we could talk.

For this show, I give SNL a 4.5 out of 5, for bringing in the new year with an awesome episode that’ll definitely be remembered as a highlight for the season. Look forward to next week, when Adam Levine hosts and Kendrick Lamar sings. By the way, my sister is obsessed with Lamar, so is he any good? We’ll find out next week.

Normally I wait a week before doing another review, but I think this time I’ll make an exception.

I decided to read The Hunger Games books for a number of reasons. One, because m sister was upset at how many things got changed between book and movie (the movie I saw first) and I wanted to know if it was really something to be upset over (I decided it wasn’t, but actually very clever). Another was that the second film is coming out later this yea and I wanted to be prepared for what I’d find, maybe be as upset as my sister (though that usually doesn’t happen). But finally, I decided to read the books because Ohio State’s having this mock-Hunger Games thing called the OSU Honor Games, a nonviolent contest based on Suzanne Collins’s twisted imagination, and I want to be a tribute for my dorm (go Jones Tower!).

So I read the books. And without going into what I thought of each separate book, I’ll give you my thoughts:

First off, I don’t read a lot of YA, so I don’t necessarily know the conventions that are associated with it. Still, I thought certain moments in the story, Collins relied too much on telling rather than showing. For instance, at the end of Books 2 and 3, Collins ties up events in only a short few paragraphs. At the end of Book 2 I was like, “There’s a rebellion in progress and Katniss was apart of it without knowing it, and yet you expect to tell me that in four little paragraphs and that I’d be satisfied with that? Puh-leaze!” And at the end of Book 3, after Katniss (spoiler alert!) kills Coin while Snow expires from being a sick, bloody old man, I tought Collins was rushing a bit to finish up the story, to have everything resolve itself without doing too much writing or exposition or lengthy conversation. Too much telling, and maybe a little lazy.

Not only was that a problem for me, but at certain points Collins puts us into dramatic moments without putting on the drama. When Katniss and her crew go into the Capital in Book 3 to take down Snow, it seems Collins is deliberately under-dramatizing it, making the mission seem as drawl as possible. I would’ve cued in on Katniss’s feelings as she stepped into the Capital with a gun and bow and arrows, looking around the snow-swept streets and the rising excitement and tension as she awaits her chance to kill Snow.

But Collins decides to just put us smack in the middle of the Capitol, and things only get dramatic when she actually feels like telling us in detail what’s happening instead of summarizing it for us.

And finally, the ending for Book 3 left me stunned. I mean really, Katniss kills Coin just like that? A little out of left field, if you ask me. Where’s the dramatic build-up, the chance to let the world know what Coin did, to refute it so that the world will see how cruel war can make us and make it stick that we shouldn’t fight like monsters? Nope, just kills the old hag after agreeing the Capitol children should participate in a Hunger Games. And speaking of which, did that ever happen? Or after President Coin’s death, did they just decide not to let the Capitol kids not die?

Whatever.

I thought the first book fantastic, but Books 2 and 3 were not as good. Sure, Collins made an effort to make Book 2 more than just a bridge between Books 1 and 3, but at times it dragged, and I thought it took too long to get to the Quarter Quell. And Book 3 alternated between me being interested and me being annoyed and bored.

Plus the resolution of the whole Peeta-Gale thing…Oy Gevalt! I feel like there were so much more to those characters. They were both capable of being great political and military leaders, especially Peeta. But all we really see is their obsessions with Katniss and perhaps a darker side of Peeta after he’s been hijacked. And then the way Katniss finally picks her man…was that Collins’s way of saying, “Oh yeah, this is who she finally picks and how it happens.” I definitely wouldn’t have written it that way, and I think I would’ve gone into Katniss actually weighing her feelings and what each boy represents to her. You know, make it seem like they’re both dreamy and she just can’t choose?

And by the way, what do those guys do at the end of the book? Does Peeta become mayor of District Twelve? Does Gale find a new girl while leading reconstruction efforts in other districts? A little explanation please! God, now I know why the movie went into further detail of the behind-the-scenes stuff: it was needed to make up for what was left out of the novel.

So finally, how about my ranking? For The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, I give the whole trilogy a 2.6 out of 5. Great premise, great story overall, but there was room for improvement, if you ask me.

“Where is the one who killed me? I want my revenge!”

This evening after Thanksgiving dinner, some of my family and I settled down to watch The Hunger Games movie (which is kind of ironic, and not just because there’s a big metal structure in the arena called “the cornucopia”). All those in the room under the age of twenty had already seen the movie, while the adults–my dad and his wife, my uncle Tom and my aunt Tiina (and the “uncle” and “aunt” part is lowercase because I don’t call them “Aunt” or “Uncle” and they’re fine with that, for those of you wondering. And no, that’s not their real names)–had never seen this movie or read the books (except  my dad’s wife Michelle, but she hasn’t read the second book yet). The younger generation loved the movie of course, and most of them screamed during the scary parts, even if they’d already seen the movie. The older generation though…they didn’t get the film. Tina and Tom asked several times, “What’s the point of this movie? Why do teens find it so appealing?”

Well, if you don’t get dystopia’s appeal to teens and young adults, then there’s just no reason to explain it to you. But I’m digressing from what I really wanted to talk about in this post, and that’s indicated by the title of it.

During the course of the movie, some people like myself could handle the blood, gore and violence, while others who will go nameless were screaming or covering their eyes everytime someone died. What does this say? Obviously, that some people are okay with the macabre and terrifying, while others do fine without it. And it’s important to know that sometimes, but not because you should tailor your writing to suit their tastes. Heavens no!

What it teaches us is that, with those close to us, we should know whether or not they like something or not before we recommend it to them. I know some people, people close to you, will buy or read your work because they love you and they want to make you happy, but if you know someone’s not a fan of this or that and you put it in your work, you should give them fair warning before they read it. Safe to say, I think when Reborn City comes out, I’ll recommend it to everyone above the age of 15 who reads fantastic fiction, while I’ll tell everyone to be prepared for nightmares and terror when Snake comes out. Only fair, right?

Speacking of which, how do you guys deal with fear and terror? Do you really go for it, or not so much?

8th Floor Improv, to be exact. You see, this evening I went with some members of my dorm to see the campus improv-comedy group, 8th Floor Improv. I’d never seen an improv show before, so I was expecting the show would be awesome or a total fail. Luckily, it was awesome.

Of course, that’s not what I’m here to write about. I’m writing about something the members of 8th Floor did that was very special to me. You see, at some point during the show, the cast asked for a volunteer. Guess who got picked? ME. They sat me down for a candid interview al a Jon Stewart at the Daily Show to talk about who I was, my political impressions, and I got to plug my blog and short story Aasif (which may explain the sudden rise on my stats counter). I also got to show a little of my creepy side, perhaps a little more than I intended, but still enough to show that I’m serious about being the next big wave in horror, and I got to talk about Hunger Games, the book of which I’m reading for the first time, and how I would use economic warfare to bring the Hunger Games to a grinding halt.

It was pretty fun, and afterwards the actors used the discussion to “portray my dreams and nightmares”, which was pretty funny; the actress playing me nearly got me confused with Mitt Romney, couldn’t pronounce my legal name, tried to kill someone criticizing her by writing that person into a short story, and nearly got sued by actors playing Stephanie Meyers and Suzanne Collins.

To 8th Floor Improv, thanks for making me laugh till I nearly puked. In return, I’ll put the link to your website here for anyone who’s interested (http://8thfloorimprov.com/). And if anyone from the group wandered onto this blog, here’s the link to that child-soldier short story you sounded so interested in (http://mobiusmagazine.com/). It’s the fifth one on the list right under “Fiction”. Enjoy.

Oh, and to those who follow this blog and write also, I got a question or two for you: have you ever been interviewed? And if so, do you have any tips? Because like I said, I got to show my creepy side, but I worry sometimes that when I show it, I show too much of it.