Friday, June 29, 2012

The Hunger Games

It's hard not to like The Hunger Games.  It is a page-turner of a tale, loaded with action.  Katniss is a pretty likable main character, and even the minor characters carry their weight in the book.  If you are a character-driven reader or a plot-driven reader, it's hard to complain about The Hunger Games.

The same goes, of course, if you are a reader more interested in social critique.  The Hunger Games shares something in common with weightier books such as Infinite Jest, where the notion of entertaining ourselves to death comes under fire.  In The Hunger Games, the idea of a few wealthy individuals getting their thrills out of the hardships of the world's downtrodden is foregrounded.  If it isn't a message built to make those of us in a consumer-driven society think, I don't know what is.  (There's some irony, of course, in the typical entertainment-industry hype that's come to surround the book and film itself.)

I suppose if I had to point out a weakness in The Hunger Games, it would be the writing. While the story is gripping and the prose moves it along at a good pace, there were several spots in the book that I felt the writing not smooth.  And while I can see why both first person and present tense were the chosen modes of storytelling here, I did think that these techniques were not particularly well executed (especially the present tense).  Other complaints I would make about the writing might have more to do with stylistic choices, as I'm not a big fan of dropping conjunctions in order to make for fast-paced prose.  I'd rather see that done with real economy of language than with lazy shortcuts.

All in all, though, The Hunger Games is a fun read that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Poetry Collections by Erin Donahoe

I'm spending most of this month getting caught up reviewing books and movies I read/saw in May, and so I don't want to overlook Erin Donahoe's poetry collections Beast and Through the Woods.

Donahoe is especially adept at recasting fairy tales into modern poems.  I really enjoyed both collections (available from Sam's Dot).  They are short, and can be read in one short sitting, or stretched out poem by poem over several reads.  I read Beast in a single sitting in a waiting room, and Through the Woods more slowly, and found either way works perfectly.

If you like to see old fairy tales re-imagined for today's readers, or like seeing them mined for meaning that makes sense to contemporary thought, then you'll absolutely love Erin Donahoe's poetry.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Men in Black 3

I should have posted about this movie last month when I first saw it, but I got a little behind on these things.

I really enjoyed the movie.  Agent K was really well matched in his younger and older versions, and it made for a pretty fun film.  I wouldn't say I am exactly a Men in Black fan, but this third installment was pretty entertaining.

If you missed it at the cinema and are looking for a good DVD to entertain you for an evening, you could certainly do worse than this one.

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Cyberiad

I can't remember who first recommended The Cyberiad to me, but I ordered it a year and a half ago, and didn't get around to reading it nearly as quickly as I thought I would.  I did finally get to it last month, and finished it last week.  It is a really good read.  Very smart, and a little challenging at times.  It's a novel any sic-fi fan should pick up and take the time to read.

The collection of stories are all set in a world that is mostly robotic.  Though humans do still exist, they rarely make an appearance in these stories.  The tales all center around the work of two constructors, Trurl and Kapaucius.  It is their adventures in various parts of the galaxy that make up The Cyberiad.

Lem's tales are clever, and in them he manages to poke fun at all sorts of thoughts, customs, and habits that make up our every day lives.  He takes a tongue in cheek look at the development of our philosophy and where it has gotten us.

The stories are fun and the language games amusing.  It amazes me that the book was written over 40 years ago.  It is still very readable and relevant today.  It doesn't have the "dated" feel that much early sic-fi can have.

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