Friday, March 30, 2012

Who Is K.J. Parker?


K.J. Parker is a critically-acclaimed, best-selling author of fantasy fiction. However, K.J. Parker is a pseudonym, and unlike many pseudonyms that are essentially open secrets to anyone who digs, the identity of K.J. Parker remains a mystery. In fact, it is not even known if K.J. Parker is male or female. The Wikipedia entry and theories below go into more detail.

The internet being what it is and fantasy fans being who they are, conversations on K.J. Parker’s identity are somewhat common on forums, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. A recent Twitter conversation of such has led to this post, with several SFF bloggers offering up their ideas on who K.J. Parker is. Speculation ranges from very well though-out ideas that use what evidence is available to what are essentially wild-ass guesses. We tried to get a comment from a representative from Parker’s publisher, Orbit, to give a comment, but we didn't receive one in a timely manner.

Make of this post what you will. On one hand it’s a (small) internet campaign to figure out the identity of K.J. Parker, though it’s mostly just a bunch of fun speculation among a few SFF fans and bloggers. The truth is that we all respect the privacy of K.J. Parker and his/her desire to remain anonymous, however our curiosity cannot be denied.

On to the theories….



Jared @ Pornokitch:

Here's what we know:

The big stuff:

- Married to a solicitor (1)
- Lives in southern England (1)
- Worked in law, journalism, numismatics (1)
- Bit of a crafty geek: building things of wood, metal (1)
- First published (as Parker) in 1998 (1)

The more specific stuff:

- Not Tom Holt (2)
- Raised in Vermont (3)

The conflicting stuff:

- Male! (4)
- Female! (5)

Stuff I can add myself:

- Based on an inscription in one of my books, KJ Parker can use a semi-colon correctly (6)
- Parker gets both American and English idioms; something that comes across naturally in the work (7)

Oh, and the bit that everyone takes for granted:

- KJ Parker is a pseudonym (8)

However, we also know a lot about Parker from the primary sources. What we know about Parker appears in the books - the time in a foundry, the professional background, even the numismatics (The Folding Knife). So what if we stretch this a bit more. From the Scavenger Trilogy and Purple & Black, as well as the short stories, there's quite a bit in there about very old, very formal and very posh universities - including several instances of a middle class protagonist being surrounded by the scions of the upper crust. So why not put Parker at Oxford or Cambridge? (9)

Another fascinating twist - "A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong" - involves a creator (a composer) publishing the work of another composer, and feeling imprisoned, then freed by the experience. (10) Following on from that, KJ Parker's real name is, probably, a published writer - not a journalist, but an author. Following the "Birdsong" theory, the "real" Parker was possibly already famous before the first "Parker" book, but now "Parker" is the more popular name. Controversial! (11)

So, in conclusion:

I have no idea. (12)

----

Footnotes:


(1): About the author, UK editions of Parker's books
(2): Two sources - first, taking the Tom Holt/KJ Parker interview at face value. (http://subterraneanpress.com/index.php/magazine/summer-2010/interview-with-k-j-parker-by-tom-holt/) Second, a statement from William Schafer (Parker's publisher at Subterranean) declaring that Parker absolutely was not Holt.
(3): Have to admit, this one is new to me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K._J._Parker#cite_note-1 - but I'm not sure why an Australian SF/F magazine, no matter how reputable, would have/share more detailed information than anyone else. Incidentally, SF/F authors from Vermont that kinda fit the profile? Michael Stackpole (hmm) and Piers Anthony (YIKES).
(4): http://www.sffworld.com/interview/85p0.html - and many other reviews
(5): About the author notes on the Bragelonne editions of Parker's Fencer trilogy. (#YesIhavetheFrencheditions and #noIamnotcompletelyobsessed)
(6): Seriously, that removes, what, 99.885% of the English-speaking world?
(7): No, really. Anne spotted this, and it makes sense.
(8): Weirdly, not written down in a lot of places - but it is there on the US The Company, as well as in the Parker/Holt interview
(9): Holt, for the record, is a graduate of Wadham College, Oxford. The two say they met at their local blacksmith's shop, which could've taken place while they were students...
(10): It is a bit more complex than that, but, whatever. It is free online, go read it yourself. (http://subterraneanpress.com/index.php/magazine/winter-2011/fiction-a-small-price-to-pay-for-birdsong-by-k-j-parker/)
(11): A bit like The Dark Half, really.
(12): And you know what? I kind of don't want to, either. Not to go all "death of the author", but KJ Parker's work has made Parker my favourite author - there's nothing that Parker him/herself could add into the mix to make me appreciate the books more.  


I believe KJ Parker is none other than J.K Rowling. My reasoning... KJ is an obvious reversal of JK. Harry Potter was first published in 1995. In order to avoid the backlash of writing other things from hordes of unstable preteen psychos, Rowling published under Parker in 1998. I fully expect Rowling to admit this fact when her new adult novel is released by Little, Brown in 2013!

Bastard @ Bastard Books:

Robert Stanek (Bastard has not read any K.J. Parker books)

Ken @ Neth Space:

This falls much closer to the wild-ass guess than anything else. I blatantly ignore the known ‘evidence’ discussed here and elsewhere and use lots of second-hand ‘hearsay’.

My guess on the ID of K.J. Parker is that he is no other than best-selling author R.A. Salvatore. I’ve ‘heard’ from a couple of people who are friends with Salvatore that he writes other fantasy novels under a pseudonym, and that pseudonym is not known. I’ve been told that it would likely be a surprising revelation based on the fiction that Salvatore is best known for. And…this is the most damning evidence of all…both Parker and Salvatore publish under initials – K.J. and R.A., respectively.


Is K.J. Parker a man or a woman?

This is a question that seems to come up in online debates from time to time. Usually it ends up with a teneous conclusion that Tom Holt is K.J. Parker. I tend to think it’s a little bit more complex than that. I will come to my theory later, but first I’ll look into the relationship between K.J. Parker and Tom Holt.

That there is a close relationship between K.J. Parker and Tom Holt is clear from this interview: http://subterraneanpress.com/index.php/magazine/summer-2010/interview-with-k-j-parker-by-tom-holt/

Here’s an important passage:

TH: For the record, we’ve known each other for years, you showed me your first novel, I showed it to my agent, he sold it to Orbit. Is that about right?

KJP: Yes.

Of course if Tom Holt is K.J. Parker, this is completely made up. But let’s look at the two authors biographies. (Some of this is also in the interview.)

According to Holt’s official biography, http://www.tom-holt.com/about.htm , he’s married, has a daughter, and lives in Somerset in the UK. According to Parker’s official biography (the one printed in the books), Parker lives in southern England.

So, they both live in the same part of England. Doesn’t really prove anything, but there is more.

Holt has been a solicitor...K.J. Parker is married to a solicitor. Which is basically the basis of my theory. Tom Holt is married to K.J. Parker. This would explain why, as in the quote above, Holt read Parker’s first book and showed it to his agent.

There is some more circumstantial evidence to supprt this. Namely Tom Holt’s books. I have the first six “Tom Holt Omnibus” volumes. They contain twelve novels. Five of the novels are copyrighted to Kim Holt. And four of the volumes, 1/3/4/6, are copyrighted to Tom and Kim Holt. So it seems that they are at least two different people. And my theory is that K.J. Parker is Kim Holt, Kim J. Parker may even be her maiden name. Parker does say in the interview sited above that “Unfortunately, I was KJP while JKR was still nursing a lukewarm latte in the coffee bars of Edinburgh.” The first K.J. Parker book was published in 1998.

An interesting aside to my theory, is that Tom and Kim Holt may have functioned as a husband and wife writing team, much like David and Leigh Eddings. They may still do, maybe all Tom Holt and K.J. Parker books are written by them together. Or maybe it even could be that Tom Holt is a front, and Kim Holt has written all the books. In the interview Parker says: “I don’t do interviews or publicity stuff with, well, strangers, essentially. Not the world’s most articulate person, with people I don’t know.”

I could off course be incorrect, and Tom Holt is really the man behind the K.J. Parker pseudonym. Giving his wife, or it may even be his daughter, copyright credit on his books for financial/inheritance reasons. But from the evidence I have, I’ll go with K.J. Parker being Kim Holt, Tom Holt’s wife.



Thursday, March 29, 2012

Priest Disembowels Award

I've been trapped in my office yesterday and today where Twitter is blocked. So, I missed the initial uproar and reaction to Christopher Priest's candid look at the recently-announced Clarke Award shortlist.

I wish I could have seen that reaction.

First, if you haven't already, read Priest's article yet, read it. I'll wait - it's long, but you need to read it all.

Done? Alright, good - no hellagood!

I'm not a big fan of awards, and I don't have the time or inclination to go into detail here. But I love Priest's reaction to the shortlist. I wish we had more of these - but only if they are of the same high quality as Priest's writing. It doesn't matter if you agree with him, think he was taking cheap shots and beating up puppies. It doesn't matter if the article invoked rage, sorrow, joyfull glee, or a reminder that you're behind on TPS reports again. It's good, balanced, writing, if rather sharp-edged. I very nearly laughed outload at times due to the harsh audacity through which Priest channels hs rage. And some of the quotes in this - priceless!

Miéville has already won the Clarke Award three times – which is not his fault...

For fuck’s sake, it is a quest saga and it has a talking horse.

Anyway, as you'd expect, reactions are stacking up around the intranets like lies on a political campaign (or comprises in a panel of judges?). [this is where I turn and look embarrassingly at the camera, or is that just insanely bad blogging fit for no award?]. I've gathered up a few of those reactions here, but I'm certian to be missing a few (EDIT: I'll be updating the list below as I find other reactions that interest me).





Monday, March 26, 2012

Giveaway: The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu

From time to time there are mix-ups and I get sent more than one copy of a book for review. Often I give away those books in one way or another, and this is one such case. Since I’ve got an extra copy of The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound), I’m going to give it away to a lucky Neth Space reader. 
Among inhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky. Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo's eyrie stands at the crossroads of world trade. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflict has erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and the fanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the past decade. Now, Khalakovo is to play host to the Nine Dukes, a meeting which will weigh heavily upon Khalakovo's future. When an elemental spirit attacks an incoming windship, murdering the Grand Duke and his retinue, Prince Nikandr, heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, is tasked with finding the child prodigy believed to be behind the summoning. However, Nikandr discovers that the boy is an autistic savant who may hold the key to lifting the blight that has been sweeping the islands. Can the Dukes, thirsty for revenge, be held at bay? Can Khalakovo be saved? The elusive answer drifts upon the "Winds of Khalakovo"...
Entry is easy – just send me an email at nethspace [at] gmail [dot] com. Remove the anti-spam measures as appropriate or use the handy link in the sidebar. Include WINDS as the email subject and make sure to include your full mailing address. Only one entry per person and this contest is open to anyone (though winners not from the US can expect that it’ll take a while for your book to arrive). The contest is open for about 2 weeks – enter by April 6, 2012.
Good Luck!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Whisky Review: Old Pulteney 12

Single Malt

Style/Region: Highland
Age: 12
Cask Type: Oak
Alcohol: 43%





Water added: Yes
Nose: Light with a honeyed sweetness and a hint of citrus fruit. After water was added, the nose is even more light with hint of honey and apricot.
Mouth Feel: Light at first with a moderately thick feel coming on with time.
Flavor: Relatively smooth and sweet. Light tones of honey and apricot, with a slight oak and brine flavor in the back.
Finish: Lingering smooth sweetness with a hint of brine.

Overall Impressions: A nice over all drink. Nothing really distinguishes it, but it’s a very good drink for the price.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Review: Acacia Trilogy by David Anthony Durham

Epic fantasy has traditionally tended to be a conservative genre at its heart. The overall goal of the quest to save the world is generally to preserve the status quo, not to create fundamental change for the better of people and their society. It’s typically a pretty standard hero, often of modest, rural (and therefore generally conservative) origins who saves the day and ascends to the role of the next monarch. And while this is perhaps changing the most, the hero is also quite often a young, good-looking white male.

Epic fantasy of the last ten years or so often seeks to subvert many of the tropes I just mentioned. Heroes are grey, often not quite so heroic. The worlds and people within them are often now ‘gritty’, darker and more dangerous. The term ‘realistic’ often comes about, regardless of just how absurd the concept of reality is to whatever the term graces. Perhaps some change is sought, or maybe the good guys don’t win, or maybe the world is set in a place where the bad guy has already won, or just maybe no real victory is won at all. But with the Acacia Trilogy David Anthony Durham goes in a different direction. Real, fundamental change occurs. Realization of the evils that the rule of the ‘good guys’ inflict is a key component. Class divisions, drugs, slavery, political elite, political movers and shakers, the corruption of power and magic, invading barbarians, ethnic tensions, and real ethical concerns dominate both the words of the trilogy and what’s written between those words. And there is actual discussion of whether outright slaughter/genocide of the ‘bad guys’ should be the goal.

However, the politics and ethics that I describe above are integrated seamlessly into the plot that drives the trilogy. They are often fairly subtle and things are never didactic. The trilogy is still epic fantasy – there are cool beasts and monsters, there are dragons (of sorts), there is magic, there are vast armies that meet in battle and single combat between champions. Acacia embraces many of the essential elements of epic fantasy, only through a different moral and ethical lens.

The trilogy follows a group of four brothers and sisters from childhood to adulthood and (in some cases) to death. The Akarans are the children of the King of the Known Lands and are the latest in a long ruling dynasty from the island and ethnic group of Acacia. The Akaran dynasty rules over what is essentially an empire of many subjected small nations and the reader soon learns that they rule through very disturbing means. Selected children of the population are sold into slavery in a distant and unknown land in exchange for a drug that the ruling elite use to mollify the population. After the initial set-up and introduction to the Akaran children, we follow them as they grow, as Akaran rule is usurped and regained, as magic is rediscovered and as people from the distant Other Lands invade and the world grows larger.

The series begins with Acacia: The War With the Mein (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound, my review) and something of a slow start. Durham’s roots as a writer lie in literary and historical fiction rather than SFF and he shows some of his naivety as he embraces tropes that often feel far too close to other epic fantasy works. Some of his characters come across as too great and achieve the status of Mary/Gary Sue. And Durham’s distinctive writing style is just a bit different than much of what is more common in the epic fantasy world – it’s not that it’s a hard style to read, just one that takes some adjustment. However, by the end of The War With the Mein, Durham finds his stride and the series quickly evolves into one of the most important epic fantasy series to be published in years.

The second, The Other Lands (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound, my review), and third, The Sacred Band (Book Depository, Powell’sBooks, Indiebound, my review), books are each better than what comes before. The series evolves in scope as it moves beyond the Known Lands and implications become even greater as the moral and ethical challenges grow in importance through in time. And, the series has another triumph to boast about – a great ending. All too often the end of a series just doesn’t work as well as the build-up would imply. While I can see a case for disagreeing with me, I think that Durham pulled off the ending in a near-perfect fashion. The ending is idealistic – the good guys win, though not necessarily survive. Hope for the future is real. Systemic societal problems actually seem to be solved. I think many may complain that the ending is too neat and pretty, too unrealistic. But I think this is the point – Durham wants to show what a progressive message in epic fantasy can look like. Not the conservative, nostalgic end so common and not a cynical response to that conservatism. He presents a truly progressive move forward rather than backward or a simple reestablishment of a status quo – a vision of hope that could translate into our own lives and society.

Durham’s Acacia Trilogy provides an encouraging departure from both the traditionally conservative fantasy and the increasingly common cynical response. Durham presents an epic fantasy that is hopeful and progressive – I would even consider the use of the word liberal if it weren't so politically tainted these days. In doing so, he never loses site of the goal to write an engaging story that fans of epic fantasy can embrace. Acacia is one of the most exciting and important fantasy series that’s been published in the last 10 years, and it’s a shame that more aren’t reading it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Books Received + Update

Well, last week was Spring Break - the kids were off and there was a small trip. In the past day and a half we've gotten around 2.5 feet of snow, so school was cancelled today. My wife is traveling for the next 3 days so I'm single dad until she returns. And I've got a major proposal due at work. All of this adds up to no real content in the next few days. Oh, and I see a lot of the blogs I follow are having makeovers - I don't expect one around here. I'm relatively happy with how things look, I don't feel the need to change, and I'm lazy.

Anyway, here are some books I've received recently.

Books Received: February 22 - March 19, 2011

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I'm a Winner! And an Update

Awesome! Some of you may recall when I (most recently) blogged about the Worldbuilder's charity drive that is sponsored every year by Patrick Rothfuss. It's a great cause and you can win books. Well, apparently my modest donation was still enough to make me a winner - apparently 3 times! I won two beautiful books from Subterranean Press - Two Worlds and In Between: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan Volume One (by Caitlin R. Kiernan if wasn't obvious enough) and Times Three by Robert Silverberg. I also won a children's book - Beatrice's Goat by Page McBrier and Lori Lohstoeter (Book Depository, Powell's Books, Indiebound). I've got 2 young kids and this looks like it'll be a great addition to their library. I encourage you all to donate to the next Worldbuilder's drive (and maybe win some cool books).


Update time (yet another update on why it's quite around here). I'm a broken record - I don't blog as much as I used to. I'm busy - I have full-time job, so does my wife, we have 2 kids (1 and 4) who we actually spend time with them, and I travel fairly often with work. That means I don't have much reading time and even less time for blogging. But I'll be carrying on at about the same rate as I've been over the last few months. I need to write-up a review for Arctic Rising by Tobias Buckell (Book Depository, Powell's Books, Indiebound) and I'm currently reading The Wood Wife by Terri Windling (Book Depository, Powell's Books, Indiebound). I've got a couple of whisky reviews in the queue and I still want to write up reviews for a couple of series/trilogies I've finished recently. I'm not yet sure what I'll read next, but we'll see in week or so.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Review: Orb Sceptre Throne by Ian C. Esslemont

Ian C. Esslemont and Steven Erikson co-created the Malazan universe, where Erikson has completed a massive 10-volume series of which I am a huge fan. Esslemont has supplemented Erikson’s series with three previous books and now with Orb Sceptre Throne (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) being the fourth. Esslemont has two more forthcoming books in the Malazan world that should function as a sort of extended epilogue to Erikson’s series (the next being Blood and Bone possibly coming in late 2012 o early 2013, Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound), Erikson has two more trilogies planned, with one set millennia before events in the main series (it’s first book The Forge of Darkness is coming in August, 2012, Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) and the second set after the events in the main series. Erikson has also written a number of novellas set in the world for extra kicks.

Orb Sceptre Throne is set right around the time of the events in The Crippled God (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound, my review) and most directly follows the events of Toll the Hounds (BookDepository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound, my review), and good familiarity with Gardens of the Moon (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) and Memories of Ice (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) will help. However, some of arcs of Orb Sceptre Throne also directly follow events in Stonewielder (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound, my review) and Return of the Crimson Guard (BookDepository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound, my review) and there are always references to people and events from all of the books set in the Malazan world – Orb Screptre Throne even features a cameo of sorts from the stars of Erikson’s novellas.

Confused yet?



It’s a complicated situation with story arcs dropped by one author and picked up by the other, a huge cast of characters often with slightly differing interpretations from each author and a few other inconsistencies thrown into the mix. This confused complexity of the Malazan world and its creators provides the appropriate backdrop for introducing Malazan’s latest entry, Orb Sceptre Throne (for better and worse). Of course if you are already a Malazan fan (and you probably are if you’re reading this review), then you probably know all of this and likely don’t find it so confusing. And this is equally apropos because Orb Sceptre Throne is both a confused mess and the next great fix for Malazan fans.

What it all simmers down to is this: Orb Sceptre Throne is a mediocre book in the Malazan world, however it is filled with juicy bits that fans will enjoy and it provides a few answers and a fair bit of set-up for the epilogue that Esslemont is writing for Erikson’s series.

Forget the plot summary – there’s a description that captures some of it on the back of the book, but more importantly, even briefly summarizing all of the different arcs of Orb Sceptre Throne would take a couple thousand words (only a slight exaggeration). And therein lies what is probably the biggest problem with the book – there are too many stories being told at once. This causes a bit of confusion and prevents a focused narrative from ever developing. This is hardly a new criticism for books in the Malazan world – both Erikson and Esslemont are guilty of this elsewhere. But with Erikson, there are always thematic threads that bind the various arcs together and bring a focus of sorts. Esslemont’s writing largely lacks the thematic depth, leaving things far too unfocused.

Another problem holding back Esslemont’s writing is his caginess. Yes, subtlety plays an important part in writing, information must be withheld to maintain interest and suspense, and not every arc can or should come to a complete resolution. However, Esslemont tends to take things too far, which results in more confusion and frustration and brings us to what is the other biggest problem in the book – the apparent lack of an end game.

Even the most die-hard Malazan fans (such as myself) are probably asking what is the end game? Where is Esslemont going with these books? Again, this is a common issue in Malazan, and I believe an intentional one. For example – what Malazan fan after reading the first 5 books in the series actually had an idea of where Erikson was going with things? My guess – none, and fans were loving the wild ride. But once again, Esslemont takes this important aspect of the overall concept of the Malazan books too far, reversing its effectiveness.

So far I’ve been all bad and no good – well, there is plenty of good to be had. But make no mistake, this good is for the fans (after all, it is essentially book 14 of a 16 book series). The fans get more Bridgeburner action – those few remaining survivors lie at the heart of this one. The Seguleh come alive and we see what they can do. Dassem and Caladran Brood are around, and some of those key people we first met way back in Gardens of the Moon are back in action. We get a creation story for the world of Wu and the fallout from the convergence at this end of this book should have some big implications to come. And there is ever-present aspect of Esslemont’s writing that fans either love or hate – the relative lack of philosophical musings that Erikson populates his books with.

Ultimately, Orb Sceptre Throne is a book only a fan could love – and that’s just fine. I consider it one of the lesser volumes in the Malazan world, but there is enough of a fix to keep us fans up until we get the next installment. Due to a few conversations I’ve been privy to over the years, I think I’ve got an idea of where Esslemont is going with all this. I just hope he’s up to it because I think that ending could rival Erikson’s.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

These days it seems that you can’t turn around without being bombarded by an advertisement, article or something related to The Hunger Games movie. It’s clear that with Harry Potter done, Hollywood is attempting to fill the void with The Hunger Games (though I like the idea of calling The Hunger Games anti-Twilight much better than the next Harry Potter). But the review is for the book that started the buzz – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Book Depository, Powell’sBooks, Indiebound).

Long before there was talk about the movie I was hearing good things about The Hunger Games and it’s been on my list of books to read since that time. I finally bought a copy, and copies of the other two books in the series – Catching Fire (BookDepository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) and Mockingjay (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound). I must admit that I can see why The Hunger Games has garnered so much attention – it’s good, it’s entertaining, it appeals to more than just a YA audience and I believe it’ll translate well into film.

The USA is long past, fallen in some not-quite-an-apocalypse calamity in a now distant past. The nation of Panem has emerged from the ashes, dominated by a single Capitol City that holds a dozen other cities hostage in a dystopian regime and very stratified society. Every year the Capitol reminds its subjects of the price of a long past revolt by holding the annual Hunger Games – a contest where a male and female representative from each of the 12 districts all gather for a battle to the death, crowning a single victor. Only these ‘tributes’ are children between the ages of 11 and 18.

Katniss is from District 12, a poor district that mines coal in a place once known as Appalachia. When her younger sister is selected to be the next tribute, she volunteers to take her place and is thrust into hypocrisy of the Capitol and the horror of the Hunger Games. The other District 12 tribute is Peeta, a boy who once gave her bread when she and her family were starving, and the two of them team up to battle for their lives.

The premise of The Hunger Games is one that shares many similarities with other works – in other words, it’s hardly unique. However, what it lacks in originality, it makes up in pure execution. Collins quickly and economically realizes the horror of Panem and the Hunger Games while creating a devotion to her main characters, particularly Katniss, whom is the sole view point in a wonderfully told first-person narration. Katniss is easy to relate to and equally easy to cheer for. She is a young woman who has been forced to lead an adult life through the harsh reality she lives in. As a result, she’s never had the time or opportunity to grow into a young woman and sexual creature. Now this book is not exactly a romance and there is no sex, but it’s as much a story of young woman struggling with her sexuality as it is a tale of survival in mad, dystopian world.

The Hunger Games is a perfect storm for the YA crowd – it’s about a young girl awakening as sexual being, it’s about rebelling against authority, it’s about a complicated relationship with parents, it’s about devotion to friends, it’s about a teenager thrown into stardom and it’s topped off with a good bit of gratuitous violence and death. And while these are the sort of things that appeal strongly to a YA age group, they are also just the sort of thing that those of us who have left those years behind us (even far behind) can also get behind and get excited about. In short, The Hunger Games is a near-perfect YA cross-over.

Combining the cross-over appeal with the relatively small cast and limited viewpoint, the result is a book that could translate well into film if given the proper treatment. Now, this is a review of the book and as of the time of publication of this review, the movie is not yet released. I have not seen the movie, nor have I been following the pre-release buzz, fan and author reactions. But it certainly appears that The Hunger Games is poised to be a wildly-popular book and movie. And while I’ve gone on record in the past bemoaning the potential consequences of books and similar media becoming movies and/or TV shows, it’s become clear that the positive aspects cannot be denied.

Knowing that this book is the first in a trilogy pretty much leaves the reader knowing the ending before they get to it. While I won’t spoil things directly, I will say that it ends more or less as expected – at least as far as Katniss is concerned. However, the ultimate ending (as in the last page or three) is a bit more complicated. While it’s tough to call it a cliff-hanger, it is somewhat abrupt and the reader can’t help but wonder about what will come next. And frankly, I think that the events in The Hunger Games will be very hard to top in the rest of the trilogy. This both excites me and makes me a bit anxious (in a negative way) – this either sets up the following books to be very rewarding as they top the first, or to be disappointing. And for whatever reason, I lean toward thinking I’ll be let down, making me want to leave the series now when I think so highly of it. I imagine that I will move on and read Catching Fire, but this (unfair?) trepidation is making it a bit of a lower priority.

The buzz surrounding The Hunger Games is deafening and in my opinion, deserved. Collins tells an engaging story full of near-universal challenges faced by teens across the Western world. It’s heartfelt and fun, in spite of covering some rather dark territory. It appeals directly to the YA crowd without excluding an older audience. And it presents a great template that could be a great movie. Read it now and endure the buzz, because it’s not going away.

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