Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Giver Trilogy

The Giver

The way Lois Lowry’s The Giver is continually singled out as a stand-alone novel will never cease to amaze me. On page size alone, it certainly qualifies as a novel, but the funny thing is that the content simply isn’t enough. When you read a story, you expect an introduction, maybe a little interesting stuff on the side, a beginning rising action early on, a climax toward the middle-end-ish area, and a finish. The Giver moves at a leisurely pace and easily gives you the first two requirements; and it continues on that stroll until it tosses a climax at you from nowhere and ends so abruptly that you’re not even sure what just happened. It doesn’t feel like you finished a book; it feels like you just finished a few chapters.

However, if it’s treated as if it really is only a few chapters, then the problem disappears. The best way to look at it as a novel, and frankly, the only way to bestow upon The Giver the justice that it deserves, would be to combine it with its two sequels, Gathering Blue and Messenger. By doing that, you get the rest of the picture that is so jarringly cut off in The Giver, and the three together easily fit as one volume when put together.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Good Thief

The Good ThiefEver since Hannah Tinti’s The Good Thief was published three years ago, the reader reactions toward the book have been mixed, usually in opposite extremes: either it’s the best thing since Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson (isn’t everything?), or it is the most grotesque, pointless narrative that the reader has ever read. As always, the truth is somewhere in-between those two extremes.

There is actually something to be said for a Dickens/Stevenson comparison. Unlike ninety-five percent of the cases where this comparison is used, here it makes sense because The Good Thief very obviously mimics both authors. Stevenson was an action/adventure novelist, and his name is probably the first thing to pop into your head when you read the summary on the book’s back cover. The real story, though, isn’t so much an adventure novel like Treasure Island as it is a wandering drama, and in that respect it is much more a Dickensian novel.

The Caves of Steel


I’ve been a fan of science fiction for a couple of years, and when and how that came about I couldn’t say; but the fantasy aspect combined with that bit of reality has always appealed to me.

When it comes to science fiction, those two things are really the only way to pinpoint what is science fiction and what’s not. Most people would consider any story with a spaceship in it science fiction, but according to science fiction writers like Ray Bradbury, even that’s not enough.

Isaac Asimov is a name that anyone familiar with science fiction would probably know; the chances are slim that a science fiction story written now, be it book or movie, could cover an idea Asimov left unexplored in his literally hundreds of books.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

When You Reach Me

When You Reach MeHere's the review I wrote for the April issue of Homeschooling Teen:

Genres can be misleading. Their sole purpose in life is to categorize stories into particular little slots, so that their labels can glisten from a utilitarian shelf. Of course, that’s not to say that they are useless, but most people tend to take them far more seriously than they should, especially writers. More often than not, recent books read like they were written simply to be organized. Every once in a while, though, you can still find the story that is such a hodgepodge of genres that you remember just how pointless the labeling exercise can sometimes be.

Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me could be considered a story like that. Most of its plotline is very similar to the typical children’s novel genre as it follows twelve Miranda in her day-to-day life. It is so similar, in fact, that it could be easily compared to other books of that genre, like Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, which is even set in the same time period as When You Reach Me, the mid 1970’s.

What sets When You Reach Me apart, though, is that as Miranda tells the story in her own words, she’s unsure if there’s anything to actually tell. Writing this book was not her idea in the least. Rather, she was ordered to write it by a mysterious correspondent.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Queen’s Thief series

This is my next review for Homeschooling Teen:

Gen can steal anything, or so he says. Of all the claims made by self-confident fools, in this case a common thief off the streets of Sounis, this one seems the most empty-handed; until the day Gen decides to prove it. He was quite serious when said anything, and he aims for nothing less than the king’s seal, which he steals right out from under the nose of the king’s right-hand man, the Magus.

Naturally, the first thing Gen does is gloat about his achievement in every wine-shop in the city, and it’s only a matter of hours before the Royal Guard apprehends him and locks him away in the dungeons. Luck is still on Gen’s side, though. Months after Gen’s capture, the Magus finds the survival of his career hanging on whether or not he can “steal” a stone known as Hamiathes’s Gift from a temple of the gods. The Magus is a scholar, he does not steal things; but, fortunately, he knows someone in prison who does.

While the Magus finally believes that he has everything under control, though, the arrangement makes his young apprentice, Sophos, uneasy; because Sophos insists upon asking the one question the Magus thinks is ridiculous. If Gen was really clever enough to steal the king’s seal unseen and unaided, then wouldn’t he at least have the common sense to keep quiet afterword?