Friday, December 30, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Honestly, my mind is still racing to catch up. I haven't devoured a book the way I devoured The Hunger Games since right before fall quarter, the exhausting two-day stint wherein I completed both Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and Brom's The Child Thief.

There are a few reasons this parallel came as a surprise. I admit that at first I was a little resistant to reading The Hunger Games, though with 20/20 hindsight it was a foolish reaction. On some level I feared a sort of fiction-following rebound. In the gaping hole that the cinematic conclusion Harry Potter left behind in addition with the fact that the last piece of the Twilight saga is nearly at hand, part of me wondered if the fanatical attention given to Hunger Games wasn't just to fill the massive media vacuum both franchises have and will inevitably leave behind. To some extent I think the Hunger Games film is meant to do just that, but more on that front later.

This resistance was tough to shake, especially when I opened the book and was immediately confronted with not only first-person but also present tense narrative. I have close to no conception why, but either of these on their own is enough to shut me down to a fiction book, let alone both in tandem. As I said, I couldn't tell you why, though if asked I suppose I would answer that something in the cadence of it feels all wrong ninety percent of the time. That being said, just how hooked I was, and in such a short amount of time, is a testament to Suzanne Collins' sheer mastery.

The massive hooks throughout the book, and possibly the best aspect of Collins' writing, consist of tremendous amounts of suspense coupled with extremely visual, imaginative prose. It's little wonder the movie companies couldn't wait to sink their claws into it - turning this into a storyboard would be a piece of cake. Paring it down to the length of a single film? Maybe not so much.

***Now we enter the potential Spoiler zone. Read on at your own risk***

On the subject of the trailer, having watched it now that I'm in the know I completely understand all my friends and acquaintances who claim they're already bracing themselves for disappointment. The casting all along the board seems all wrong, Katniss seems hopelessly toned down, and the visual look of what the audience gets from the meager two minutes of trailer seems listing far off-course from the look and feel of the book. Danger! Here there be monsters!

Which of course comes back to the whole 'divorce the book and the movie so that you don't get mad' business.

My other reservations lie in how self-sufficient this first volume is. Not for a second did the conception even enter my mind that the entire games would be over and dealt with in the first novel. The suspense throughout its entirety was insane - the driving plot to stay alive, to kill or be killed, to keep up a farce in order to earn food and water - but what does that leave? The only remnant from the first novel which will inevitably carry over to the subsequent two is the love-triangle which is hardly even a triangle. I congratulate Collins on the portrayal of a girl who is confused and doesn't know what she wants, thinks, or feels - that she "can't explain how things are...because [she] doesn't know [her]self" (373). But is that really enough to go on for two more books, after the whirl, desperation and brutality of the games? It teeters dangerously close to that media vacuum I mentioned before - worse, the teen-romance portion of the vacuum that verges on the inane. I can only hope this'll be incorporated into that hindsight 20/20 bit.

In all I have my doubts, clearly, but I'm determined to reserve judgment. Suzanne Collins has impressed me once, and done a thorough job of it. I am more than willing to believe that she can do it again.

Interested in purchase? Say no more.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


It's been a while! In light of the fact, this might seem a bit more like a ramble than anything else. Or maybe a list. I'm not really sure.

Had the wonderful opportunity to see both The Santaland Diaries at Portland Center Stage and The Dimes at the Kennedy School. Both were fun, but The Dimes were phenomenal. If you haven't checked them out yet, shame on you. Go do so. However, the adventures for today were:

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

EXCELLENT. I was far more impressed with this film than I expected to be. Not to say that I had any doubt it'd be decent, only that I can't honestly say which film could be called "better," even with the first having the advantage of being, well, first. Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. give a grand show as expected, and the addition of the lovely Noomi Rapace as Madam Simza and the excellent Stephen Fry as Mycroft worked wonders. However, Jared Harris as the supremely chilling Professor James Moriarty must, inevitably, take the cake.

While diehard Conan Doyle fans will take issue with some of the choices, I think they are inevitably justified by the structure of the Holmes Adventures in the first place: they are only episodes. Yes, we are told that Sherlock goes away to become a beekeeper somewhere for his retirement, but that doesn't mean we are privy to every case - each story is open ended. That isn't to say that anything goes, necessarily, but this film has many nice touches, including the preservation of that openness which characterizes the serialized adventures. So, diehard or not, please go see this film. It's absolutely lovely.

Check it out on IMBd.


The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

It is the reason I am currently unable to sleep.
In retrospect, I have no idea why I didn't think of blogging a Skyward Sword diary. It would have been so much fun! And caused me to be even more sleep deprived than I already am, but whatever. In interest of not spoiling it for anyone, watch out for warnings.

First of all, the controls are great. Yes, the wiimote doesn't always respond correctly, but that's to be expected, really, especially when you're swinging it wildly, shouting "NO, HORIZONTAL SLASH, YOU--" etc. etc. Other than this slight (but predictable) setback, the only control issue is that the wiimote/nunchuck combination required drains batteries extremely quickly. Get thee some rechargables or Zelda fans will destroy the environment all by themselves!!

Gameplay is great. Everything about it that I was reluctant about - stamina gauge and upgrades, mostly - have been incorporated smoothly. Even the upgrade system (which normally makes me shudder under the brunt of never-ending RPG that usually goes with said function) is fantastic. The only mechanic which could have been improved was the controls for the musical instrument. There are no Ocarina-style command patterns needed, the game just identifies which song you've learned that goes with the location you're in and, essentially, plays it for you. A slight setback, in light of the rest of the game, but a bit of a let-down, nonetheless.

The story is great. After all, it is a prequel to the ENTIRE series, so I expected they'd have to come up with something good. There are plenty of little things (and big things!) to make long-time Zelda fans drop their jaws or throw up their hands in combined frustration and elation. This is coupled with a non-stereotypical Zelda main villain with a flair for the theatrical: the diamond theme was a nice touch in light of that. (SPOILER: A villain who, I hear through the grapevine, doesn't turn into a raging psychopath at the end, like Zant did.)

But the best is possibly the ART. This game is gorgeous and I can't even do it justice. So here. Have some concept paintings. (WARNING: snarky captions might be considered spoilers by some parties.)

Epona?! What happened to you?

I swear, if you tongue my ear one more time...

All in all? This game is completely addictive. Not recommended for young children or pregnant women.

Also, for those of you who have played/are working on it: the trials. Isn't it appropriate that the things you have to find in the Silent Realms are called "tears"? After all, when you're playing those parts you're CRYING THE WHOLE TIME.

But, massive time-challenge stress aside, this is a great game. If you want to check out official stuff, take a look at the website.

That's all for now, folks - I've got to get back to saving the world.