Category Archives: Books
Friends had been talking up Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy for quite some time so I decided to read them for myself. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, The Hunger Games, but did not think that it lived up to its excessive hype. The second and third books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay were just interesting enough to cause me to finish the series.
The story is presented through first person narration which completely stifled character development. Also, when your narrator is the protagonist, it’s a pretty clear giveaway that the narrator is not going to die, and any action that takes place away from her will obviously have to be relayed secondhand.
Character development is almost non-existent throughout the series. We learn very little about the background of any character, or reasons why they act and think the way they do. Over 20 child tributes die in the 74th annual Hunger Games and I hardly care about any of them, let alone know all of their names. The characters lack any personality or redeeming qualities, even the main female character, Katniss Everdeen, is sorely underdeveloped. She loves her little sister and is very independent and resourceful—that’s all I got from three books that feature her as the narrator. Katniss started as a very promising female character but ended up slipping into cliché love triangle fodder.
The one character that redeemed the series for me was Peeta—I genuinely enjoyed his character. However, the first person present tense delivery prohibited Collins from exploring Peeta’s character the way she should have. During a part that is paramount to his development, he is relegated to an image on a screen and the reader begins to forget that he even exists.
In each book there are extended boring parts. Collins writes her books in thirds, 9 chapters at a time. For the most part, the first third consists of lengthy plot dumps, which while necessary, were horribly executed. These dumps effectively kill off any momentum generated from the previous installment.
For a book with such immense promise, The Hunger Games trilogy lacked true heart and soul. The writing is not bad—it is simple and straight forward, but Collins lacks the innate story-telling ability that someone like JK Rowling has. Catching Fire and Mockingjay seemed like the were thrown together as money-making sequels rather than a well thought out conclusion to the original story. There was no WOW moment, no jaw-dropping turn of events that makes you go back and re-read the book to see how everything ended up happening.
Overall, an easy read of a series that just lacks the intrigue that makes a great book great. The book is characterized as young adult novels and I suppose that is accurate. The writing style definitely is more enjoyable for teenagers, while there is some adult-level violence and themes. Four out of five stars for The Hunger Games, two stars for both Catching Fire and Mockingjay. The book has a handful of redeeming qualities, but by no means is it a drop-everything-to-finish-it story.
Having ended his previous novel 6 Sacred Stones with one helluva cliffhanger, waiting for Matthew Reilly’s next installment in the Jack West Jr. series was excruciating. The third book of the trilogy was typical Reilly with non-stop action, exotic locales and unfortunately, the hint of disappointment.
The third part of a arcing trilogy, 5 Greatest Warriors was better than 6 Sacred Stones, but didn’t come close to capturing the magic that was spun in 7 Deadly Wonders. The advantage of a Matthew trilogy is you get to know the main cast of characters quite well and grow attached to them. On the disadvantage however, so many others are killed off that most of the villains are completely expendable and are therefore unmemorable. There’s no Darth Vader-type that permeates the entire storyline over three books. New book, new villain.
Reilly’s books are trademarked by their excessive action sequences. He readily admits (as many authors do) to trying to one-up his previous efforts and by these efforts, 5 Greatest Warriors includes far too much information for the reader to process in a light, fun read. Too many names, too many places and too many ancient mysteries and theories for one book.
I began reading Matthew Reilly when I picked up his first full-length novel, Contest, on a trip to Ireland a few summers back. I quickly finished that one off and moved onto Ice Station and Temple and found the books to be getting better and better. I felt that Area 7 and Scarecrow were a shade below the level of writing that I’d come to expect from the brilliant Aussie, but then 7 Ancient Wonders recaptured some of that magic, but the very underwhelming and confusing 6 Sacred Stones I felt was a letdown. And 5 Greatest Warriors, while certianly better than its predecessor, still lacks some of Reilly’s earlier magic.
That being said, the way that Matthew Reilly transposes his imagination from mind to paper is outstanding. If you want true-to-facts history, look elsewhere, but few authors do battle scenes better than Reilly and even fewer a mind half as cruel and brutal. While I understand that Reilly takes some severe liberties in interpreting history and is an author of fiction, his latest work contained some elaborate proposals, even for his own outlandish standards.
The last thing about the book that disappointed me was something that I never expected out of Matthew Reilly—he became predictable. In his books the good guys always win, but because of the twists and turns and back-stabbing in the plot, you never quite exactly could figure out how they’d come out on top until they drove a tank out of an airborne cargo plane and managed to ditch out of the plummeting tank with an air-powered hover pack. While the team of heroes is able to figure out in a matter of months, what historians, archaeologists and powerful leaders couldn’t do in millennia, they couldn’t identify their own leader as the fifth greatest warrior despite very obvious clues which the reader puts together in seconds.
Four out of five starts, but overall a slight disappointment due to the lack of cleverness and guile that Reilly previously proved capable of.