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Five books - Qualified Perceptions
Five books
*The Hunger Games (by Suzanne Collins)
Everyone and their brother has been reading this, so I did too, admittedly as an audiobook. Like most everyone else, I thought it was really quite good; the main character is competent but imperfect, the action is tense, and there are nice little pointed bits linking the dystopia to reality but it doesn't obsess over teaching you a lesson. I especially liked the evolving relationship between Katniss (narrator) and Peeta, which is Complicated. My only real quibble with the book is that, while I'm willing to suspend disbelief for the Hunger Games as an institution that gets treated more or less like a game show while being hated by most of the culture that it's inflicted on, the world suffers a little bit from what I have started to think of as Stargate Syndrome (where most planets have a population about the size of a village, conveniently located near the stargate - not that I can really throw stones here, as Oath had a tendency to have The Capital City as the only place on a given planet that anyone would bother to visit) - Panem seems to be one good-sized high-tech capital city, surrounded by twelve districts, each the size of a small town (in that everyone knows each other, they have "a baker" and "a coal mine"...), that provide all the resources. The districts are just too small to make sense to me. Perhaps it will become clearer in the sequels, or perhaps I will continue to be confused. (Listening to the sequel now, one answer is that the protagonist's district is the smallest.) Four stars.

The Heir of Night (by Helen Lowe)
I gave up about a third of the way through; too many Capitalized Things of Significance, which are waved at the reader but not explained, and one of the viewpoint characters is just too cranky about everything. It's not bad (if it were terrible, I might finish it just to rant about), but it didn't grab me, and I kept putting it down.

Debatable Space (by Philip Palmer)
This book was easier to read than it is to describe. It's larger than life epic, with a joyfully, shamelessly awful narrator (the viewpoint switches, but one of them is the main narrator), filled with a lot of flashback to the backstory of her life and the history of the setting (with a lot of unreliable narrator effect built in). There's an evil Empire, and space pirates, and aliens ranging from scary to scarier. The characters are reasonably well fleshed out; their personalities are different a bit more than their voices are, but that's a minor quibble. A sample bit of awfulness:
"I think having a baby was a humbling experience for me. It made me a much richer, more grounded person. I would recommend it to anyone. Even if it's only for a couple of years, it'll really change your life. Trust me."
Four stars.

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent (by Galen Beckett)
An odd book; imagine Pride and Prejudice with Illusionists, then Jane Eyre with Witches, and then take the first half of one and tape it to the second half of the other. If that sounds intriguing rather than disconcerting, then this is the book for you. I liked those two plots reasonably well, segue and all - the comedy of manners stuff is fun, and the weird bits added in seem to fit pretty well. I didn't as much care for the other subplot, involving the guy who kept his sister imprisoned in a room for her own good (and left her there while he went out spending their little money on drinking) because there was the evil bandit who had threatened to kidnap her and rape her until she was fit only to be a whore (not because of anything against her, but to punish her brother, to whom the threats are made in the first place). That whole plot was rather distasteful; obviously the bad guy was Very Bad, but that seemed to want to make his opponents (the junky brother, the authoritarian government) good by comparison, which I wasn't buying. Then, the sister was the least person-ish of all the characters. Even when fleeing for her life and being threatened in person, she barely has any lines; she's just there for the men to rescue and talk about. When being imprisoned and manhandled by her brother, half the time her complaints are about not having any new dresses. As always, I seem to have gone on at length about what I didn't like more than what I did, but it was a book I liked more than I didn't. Three stars.

Among Thieves (by Douglas Hulick)
Gritty and violent, with frequent forays into themes of loyalty and promises that I particularly appreciate, it gets a little muddly in the middle but pulls through at the end for a nice (but not really happy) ending. I sometimes get the feeling that there are more criminals in the thieves' "Kin" than there are honest people they prey on (an ecosystem of six pickpockets and one guy with a purse is as doomed as one with six wolves and one rabbit), but that's probably just that no real time was spent on the non-plot-relevant people. I like the idea of the ancient emperor who split his soul into three reincarnating parts to rule forever, and some of the descriptions of food made me hungry, which I give points for. Four stars.


2 comments or Leave a comment
chenoameg From: chenoameg Date: May 18th, 2011 02:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I had the same problem with Hunger Games and realized the same thing in the sequel.

Is Debatable Space borrowable?

Also, do you want pbs credits back from me?

Edited at 2011-05-18 02:04 pm (UTC)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: May 18th, 2011 02:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sure, and heavens, no!

(Does anyone else who's on PBS want credits? I have a lot spare...)
2 comments or Leave a comment