Friday, January 20, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

After months of persuasion from many friends, I finally picked up The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I read it in five days which, for somebody who reads as slow as I do, is pretty fast. I made a point to learn absolutely nothing about the novel before reading it. Whenever my friends started talking about it, I'd find some excuse not to listen to them. In an unfortunate event, I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie when I went to the theater to see Courageous. That partially ruined my experience reading the book, but I still loved it.

In a bizarre future where North America was long destroyed and replaced by the tyrannous country of Panem, two teenagers, between the ages twelve and eighteen, are annually taken from each of the twelve districts and set into an arena, miles wide, to fight to the death. This tradition was started over seventy years ago by the government as a reminder of a long-past failed rebellion, and each time the entire country was forced to watch. The Hunger Games, as they were called, could take weeks, and the victor of each would live out the rest of their live in luxury. The losers... wound up dead, because they needed to be for the victor to win.

Katniss Evendeen is shocked when her twelve-year-old sister, Primrose, is of the selected to participate in the games. Out of desperation, Katniss herself volunteers in her sister's place. About a week later she finds herself in the arena—the beginning of which is a bloodbath, by any definition—fighting for her life. But that's just a quick summary. If you want to know what really happened in those terrible Hunger Games, you will have to read the book yourself.

I was shocked by the emotion in this tale. Though I didn't like it at first, the author was able to bleed emotion like very few can by writing the entire story in first-person present from Katniss's point of view. The story throughout the entire book was amazing and there are several times when you just think, that is so cool! The futuristic world is intriguing, and sometimes it's a little weird, but it makes for a great setting.

The Hunger Games is a wonderful read. It was very well thought out, and a great story. It is the first book in a trilogy, but it concludes with virtually no loose ends. It works perfect as a standalone, and I have no idea what the sequel could possibly be about. That's a good thing, because I don't want that book spoiled as well.

Never before have I had so much, emotionally, in common with a female main character. Sometimes Katniss can remind me a little of myself, with the thoughts that run through her head, and sometimes she's completely different. Overall, she made for a perfect protagonist.

If you haven't read The Hunger Games already, I highly recommend you do.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reuben's Ramblings: Silent Protagonists

You know what I find very interesting about some video games? Silent protagonists. An NPC (non-player character) asks the protagonist, "Will you help us?" The main character remains completely silent but gives some implication of consent. The NPC then says, "Thank you! Our fate is in your hands!"


You just handed the fate of the entire world (or possibly multiple worlds) into the hands of somebody who never learned how to talk and has probably had no training whatsoever in any sort of fighting? Okay, in the Legend of Zelda series, the protagonist often starts as a strong young man. One who grew up on a farm or training to be a knight or some other way that would leave him being quite strong and capable at the beginning of a game. But what about games such as Chrono Trigger, where the main character has no previous training before the story begins?

This is something I've pondered about for a long time. It hasn’t troubled me—frankly, I find it quite hilarious—but you just have to wonder why so many story-oriented games have almost or completely silent protagonists. I get that they want it to seem like the player fits into the character's role (heck, you can often name your own characters), but I really prefer games where the main character actually has a personality. It’s left for the player’s imagination, but frankly, my imagination really sucks. Games with silent protagonists often seem to me to portray their main characters as… kind of dumb.

In truth, I wouldn’t have it any other way. In the games I’ve mentioned and more, it just wouldn’t be the same with talking protagonists. But then again, look at games such as Tales of Symphonia or several of the Final Fantasy games. Those games could have had silent protagonists and still have been pretty cool, but because their protagonists were given voices and personalities, they were absolutely amazing. Of course, that was also due to the games having amazing plots.

I don’t know where this is going. I can’t imagine Link with a personality, and sometimes giving normally silent characters a personality is not such a good idea. Look at what happened to Metroid.

Monday, January 16, 2012

December 1941 by Craig Shirley

Though I couldn't spend as much time with Craig Shirley's book as I would have liked, December 1941 is a very interesting, day-by-day summary of all that went on in one of the most important months of all of World War II. Each chapter is an account of one day, and overall it makes for a very interesting book.

The amount of research put into this book is outstanding. You can understand that just from reading any part of the 544-page book. And then, once you get to the end, you find 94 pages of small print notes and bibliographies. That is a heck of a lot of notes!

December 1941 is best read a chapter a day. I would recommend starting on December 1, and finishing on December 31. Of course, you can't do that now, since it's January, but any other 31-day month would work as well. Or, of course, you could read it at any pace you like. I'm just giving a suggestion.

The book itself was quite interesting. I admit I wasn't able to get through all of it without any skipping around a lot, but it's the kind of book where that is easily allowed. Obviously, since it's non-fiction, it's not like you need to read every last part to be sure of what's going on. It's well-written and easy to read. The amount of research put into it is amazing, and it's definitely something I would recommend to anyone into World War II history or history in general.

December 1941 was publicly released on December 6, 2011.
This book was sent to me for free from Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Reuben's Ramblings: Cutting

There are some things I just find hard to understand. One of those things is cutting. Teens inflict physical pain on themselves in order to forget about emotional pain in their lives. I have been depressed before—some would strongly disagree, but I can hide my feelings well—but I have never had the slightest impulse to inflict that much pain on myself. Sometimes I've wanted to inflict pain on others, sometimes I just feel like breaking things, but I’ve never wanted to do anything quite as… painful to one's self as cutting is.

It could just be that I have an abnormal fear of physical pain—this fact is probably due to how physically weak I am—or it could be for some other reason. But whether or not I've had the impulse to cut myself has nothing to do with this. It's what has given the impulse to others that does.

Until a couple years ago I didn't know much about cutting. I knew it existed, but I didn't really think about it much. Then I read the Patrick Bowers Files by Steven James. Tessa, the daughter of the main character, was a cutter. Thankfully she changed over the course of the series, but it still scared me. It was the first time cutting was really explained to me, and I was exasperated that so many people would actually do it.

I now know several people who used to cut, and even some that still do. These people always try to hide it when you talk to them, and that in itself is depressing. I once told a friend, "Cutting won't help anything." She retorted, angrily, "I don't cut to help myself. I cut to punish myself for living." Seriously, what has this world come to that thousands or millions of people would inflict terrifying pain on themselves just because they hated themselves? Every person hates themselves at one point in their life or another, but sometimes I'm shocked by the degree people will take it to.

What is the point of this rant? There is none, really. Sometimes I just need to get things out of my system. If you're a teen and you cut or are tempted to do so, just stop! Isn't there some other way to bleed out your depression or anger? Start a depression journal or blog. Do something else. Just find some other way to release your anger. Cutting just saddens me.