Warning: this review is long and ranty and contains swearwords and possible spoilers (although I tried not to be too revealing).
So, for me, this book...moreWarning: this review is long and ranty and contains swearwords and possible spoilers (although I tried not to be too revealing).
So, for me, this book was pretty much just a big pile of unbelievable sprinkled with absurd and a generous helping of awkward inappropriate romance on the side. The heroine, Beatrice (Tris) Prior lives in a world where, following years of war, humanity (or, at least, Chicago, where the heroine resides) divided itself into five factions based on character traits: GryffindorDauntless, RavenclawErudite, HufflepuffAmity, Candour and Abnegation. Each faction lives separately from the others in its own compound/part of the city and embraces and promotes its trait above and beyond everything else. Yes, that is REALLY, the premise.
Apparently, the rational adults in the world of Divergent decided that all the endless war was caused by one specific character trait (cowardice, ignorance, aggression, I can't even remember what the one for Candour was, telling lies, I guess, and selfishness), the only controversy was which one, so they divided themselves based on that opinion and have since all devoted themselves to stamping out the chosen trait by dedicating themselves to its opposite and all war and adversity ceased immediately and unicorns started flying across the sky (hint: not really). Now, I don't think I even have to go into how patently absurd this premise is. Anyone with an iota of intelligence can surely understand that a complex phenomenon such as war cannot and does not have one single identifiable stamp-outable cause, FFS. How can anyone possibly argue that, yep, it is just cowardice alone and nothing else that causes wars, so once we get that under wraps by jumping on and off trains and beating up people who are much weaker than us, world peace will be upon us? Halleluja! Middle East conflict has been solved. Let's divide them all up into Hogwarts houses and hey presto! Peace for all.
And even if you did manage to convince yourself that all war is caused by cowardice/stupidity/whatever. How the hell do you get from that to the assertion that this must mean that everyone has to be brave (unless they are in another faction, in which case they have to be selfless, honest etc, as applicable) AND NOTHING ELSE. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater, much? If you think cowardice is the problem then why not get rid of, you know, just cowardice? But nooooo, not in this looney land. Here, if you are brave, you cannot possibly be anything else. Not clever or selfless or peaceful or honest. Because if you are, that would make you normallike so totally rare that there'd even be a special name for you – Divergent – and it would mean you are a total rebel and impossible to control, so immediate extermination for you. Whaaat? SERIOUSLY?
Unless Ms Roth wants us to believe that this world is populated entirely by morons? Which is a possibility, I suppose. They are surrounded by a fence which is locked and guarded from the outside. Perhaps, later books will reveal that this is in fact a colony where the world had sent it's delusional lunatics. That might actually be fun.
And while I am on the subject of that fence. The book is set in Chicago but for all we know nothing else exists on the face of planet Earth. There is no mention of anything outside of the fence. The city appears to be entirely self-governed and self-sufficient. Nothing comes in or out except for some Amity farmers. One has to wonder where they get shit that is not available in Chicago and its immediate surroundings. You know, like maybe oil and gas and coal and rice and sugar and coffee and tea and oh maybe about a gazillion other things. I mean, even assuming it is a harsh post-many-many-years of war austerity, they'd have to get at least some of those things from somewhere, otherwise how would their cars and busses run and houses be heated and I am pretty sure there was mention of coffee. Did the Erudite discover how to photosynthesize this stuff out of thin air? Who knows. For all her aptitude for intelligence, Tris just doesn't seem to be that curious about or interested in anything apart from herself and the immediate minutiae of her life.
Which brings me nicely on to our heroine. Tris may have been an awesome character had Ms Roth taken the time to flesh her out, given her some context, some depth, something. Instead, she is plucked out of a vacuum and is emotionless to a point where she could give Terminator lessons on how to be more robotic. What has Tris been doing up until the point we meet her at the start of the book? She doesn't appear to have any friends or have any emotional attachment towards her family apart from constantly resenting them. What does this girl actually enjoy, if anything, what interests does she have? Yes, I know she is in abnegation but surely she must have done something, thought something, had some interests for 16 years until we meet her. But there is nothing. No little childhood anecdotes, no memories, no nostalgia. Nothing except for what she is doing and feeling right now, right this minute. The only thing we know for definite is that she is not selfless and has not enjoyed being made to appear so. Yet, for someone supposedly intelligent, this appears a pretty poor basis to make a life-altering decision.
In Tris's world, you choose which "house" you want to belong to at 16. You can choose the faction you grew up in or one of the others. To help you decide, you undertake a highly suspect psycho-pop mumbo jumbo of a "test" which is supposed to determine your natural aptitude. However, notwithstanding the result of the test, you can choose whatever faction you wish, it appears.
Apart from this "test", the kids appear to be given no information whatsoever about what joining a particular faction involves, the initiation process, what the people there actually do, the fact that your survival chances are about 50% or that it might be kinda like moving in with these guys for the rest of your life:
You know, little details like that.
If you do choose a faction other than your own, the likelihood is you will never see your friends or family again. But that's nothing to Tris. Friends? She doesn't have any. Family? Family is for snivelling weaklings. Why would she give a shit when she can get tattoos, wear what she likes and jump on and off trains all day long instead. Yeah!
Oh, and that's another thing that bothered me. Given the initiation approach of half of you will die or be kicked out to become factionless to live in a cardboard box under a bridge, how on earth does Dauntless sustain itself? What was it, 10(?) initiates they were going to keep on? Which makes you wonder, with the off the charts mortality rate they must have with their adrenaline junkie mentality, how many Dauntless actually are there? How do they not become extinct?
My sense of disbelief absolutely refused to let itself be suspended and frankly, it is insulting to me as a reader that any author would think I should just swallow this preposterous world. And for the sake of what? An inexplicable, unexplainable, unexplained, flat romance between two emotionally stunted teenagers who appear to be unable to feel anything beyond their inappropriate attraction to each other?
Four (the romantic interest) is the fucking instructor (not literally) of the new initiates so should, really, concentrate on instructing them, instead of getting a boner for one of his students and whisking her off for additional training sessions giving her an unfair advantage over the others. Just a thought.
Four is also a complete cipher. I have no idea who that man/boy is, beyond a possibly abusive childhood, no qualms about hitting on students who look like 12 year olds and badass awesomeness which I am supposed to take purely on trust (hint: after that world-building, I don't have any) there is just a void of… of… well, nothing, really. I couldn't even tell you what he looks like. Or why he likesloves(!!!) Tris. Or why she likesloves(!!!) him back.
So why two stars? I would have given it 1.5 if I could but I can't so I settled on two because it wasn't totally hopeless. The pacing was good, it was nice to have a heroine with intimacy issues rather than one that melts into a pile of goo at the hero's feet (even if this did carry too far into emotionless automaton territory at times). The writing wasn't bad and I didn't detect any particularly offensive themes. Did that make it ok? Let's just say, I don't think I will continue on with the series but I can sorta kinda see how people might like it if they have a better behaved sense of disbelief.(less)
Little Brother is a story of Marcus Yallow, aka W1n5ton, aka M1k3y, who lives in San Francisco in a not too distant future. I was going to say that Ma...moreLittle Brother is a story of Marcus Yallow, aka W1n5ton, aka M1k3y, who lives in San Francisco in a not too distant future. I was going to say that Marcus is pretty much your average 17 year old but, on further reflection, I realised I have no idea what an average 17 year old is like these days, let alone what they will be like in a decade or two. I imagine they are not too dissimilar to Marcus. They like computer games, have a bunch of mates, a bit adventurous, a bit horny, a bit rebellious, that sort of thing. But then, in some respects, Marcus did strike me as not very teenager-like at all. Reading Kerouac, his diverse food tastes (he knows all about all these great food joints and just what to order there), love of coffee and hate of Starbucks, his extensive knowledge of San Francisco's history etc. I wouldn't have been surprised if he popped down to a farmer's market at any point (and in fact I think he does mention a fruit market somewhere).
In the world of Little Brother security and surveillance have been taken to the n'th degree and pretty much your every move (both in the real world and on the internet) is recorded, monitored and inspected, so it is, perhaps, no surprise that Marcus is a bit of a hacker and clever with computers, a necessary skill if one is to skip school from time to time to go on Harajuku Fun Madness quests. It is on one of these missions that Marcus and his friends end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and are picked up and detained by Homeland Security after a terrorist attack.
Little Brother is a manifesto as much as it is a story. Now, I'm usually not much into books that beat you over the head with their message but I didn't mind so much here. Partly because I wholeheartedly agree with the author's views and partly because I believe that we are actually not very far off the world described in the book already and it is important for us as a society to consider the issues of freedom and privacy and to what extent these should be sacrificed in the name of security and how our views are affected by the climate of fear and paranoia created by the government and the media in response to terrorism. It does get a little much at times, like the tone gets a bit lecturey and do we really need the same quote from the Declaration of Independence repeated at us three times. But somehow, it didn't bother mee too much.
Welcome to the present.
I live in the UK and don't know much about what it's like in America, but here, we are already very much a surveillance society. The UK supposedly has more CCTV cameras than any other country in the world. According to Wiki, the exact number is not known but one estimate is 1.85 million, which is an average of one camera for every 32 people with an average person making about 70 appearances on CCTV cameras every day. Other estimates are higher. The justification for all these cameras, public and private, is crime prevention. But the same Wiki article states:
"There is little evidence that CCTV deters crime; in fact, there is considerable evidence that it does not. According to a Liberal Democrat analysis, in London "Police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any." A 2008 Report by UK. Police Chiefs concluded that only 3% of crimes were solved by CCTV. In London, a Metropolitan Police report showed that in 2008 only one crime was solved per 1000 cameras. There are valid reasons for including CCTV as a component of a physical security program, but deterrence is not one of them."
And CCTV is by far not the only means for Big (or Little) Brother to keep tabs on you. Registration plate recognition cameras, mobile phones, travel cards, credit cards, loyalty cards, medical records, interenet use (social networking sites anyone?), DNA databases… these are all things that can be used to determine what you have been up to at any particular point in time. And it is astounding how many of us are completely oblivious or indifferent to the staggering amount of private information about them that is available to state authorities and, all too often, anyone else who cares to look. Your average Joe Bloggs attitude is still very much "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" and "If it prevents criminal behaviour or improves its detection, I am all for it." (actual quote from a BBC article). Well, the problem is, as mentioned, there is tonnes of evidence that it doesn't and there is lots to fear because, it seems, the government is unable to keep our private info safe (see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7449927... and this article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7690005...).
Anti-terrorism legislation in the UK, pushed through parliament in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks and the London bombings in July 2005, allows the police in certain circumstances to stop and search you without any grounds and to detain you for up to 14 days without charge (that period was 28 days until recently) and gives the police and other state authorities very wide powers of surveillance. Not worried because you are not a terrorist? Think again. Instead of using the anti-terrorism powers for, well, dealing with terrorism, there is much evidence to suggest that police use them simply as "an additional tool in their day-to-day policing kit" to stop and search people without reasonable grounds for believing they have done anything wrong, to detain lawful protesters and in other instances that have nothing to do with terrorism (such as walking on a cycle path http://news.sky.com/home/article/1345...). Local councils in the UK are using anti-terrorism legislation to spy on people in connection with horrific offences such littering, putting rubbish in the wrong bins, dog fouling and breaches of school admission regulations.
Online activism is also very much a reality these days. Think operation "Avenge Assage" by Anonymous in support of Wikileaks.
But I am getting carried away here. Back to the book. I loved the questions that it raises and Doctorow's obvious enthusiasm for the subject which pours off every page and is very infectious and I even loved the techie stuff, though I struggled to understand some of it. It is a great social commentary book, bang up to date, on point and relevant, but not without its problems as a work of literature, I think. I had a few issues: the sex stuff really made me cringe, some of the characters weren't very well developed, I struggled with the plot sometimes as it was a bit too convenient (if the Xbox universal was so great and already had all that free stuff and anti-detection software available for it, why wasn't everyone using it already; mum and dad just happen to be great friends with a major investigative journalist; why would an investigative journalist be put in charge of liberating a secret federal security prison, that sort of thing), Marcus was very much a stand in for the author (which is why he didn't really sound like a teenager most of the time, I think) and the whole "don't trust anyone over 25" thing was a bit silly and peed me off, though very teenager-like, I suppose. Overall, however, I enjoyed the book hugely and would highly recommend it to adults and teens alike. (less)
This series had such promise. It started off well with a fast paced tale of a necromance on a quest against all odds to complete an assignment for the...moreThis series had such promise. It started off well with a fast paced tale of a necromance on a quest against all odds to complete an assignment for the Devil and avenge her dead friend and, as it turns out in later books, lover. Dante was the kind of no nonsense, tough and practical heroine that, if not necessarily easy to like, at least does not get on your nerves immediately. Japhrimel was the enigmatic and surprisingly likeable (despite his radioactive eyes) demon assigned as Dante's familiar to help her on her task. And the endless repetition was easy to forgive due to the fantastic world-building.
This is a truly fascinating world that Ms Saintcrow has created. One that I have not seen before. Slicboards, hovercraft, plasguns, datbands and other sci-fi attributes here co-exist with shamans, demons, vampires (Nichtvren), werewolves (werecain), gods, magi and so on. It is a futuristic dystopian world that was transformed due to the insurgence (referred to as the Awakening) in the number of people with psionic abilities and the gradual exploration, acceptance (all be it reluctant and grudging) and development of those abilities and there is political social and economic history and theory to underpin this world which is glimpsed as the story unfolds.
I guess my biggest problem with this series is that Saintcrow takes a strong and independent female character and, essentially, destroys her, for no good reason whatsoever. A journey of empowerment and self-discovery this is not. Dante gets attacked, mind-raped, controlled, manipulated, restrained, subdued, eviscerated and so on (she even has a hovercraft smash into her and blow up!) until all that is left is a hollow shell of a person, unable to interpret anything logically or to trust anyone, barely able to function at all amid the nightmares and the shock of her experiences. And there is no bigger message on the nature of war or oppression or anything meaningful to justify this. There is no greater good that is achieved through her suffering. Dante is merely a pawn, of Lucifer, Japhrimel, Eve, basically anyone who has the slightest inclination to try to manipulate her, in a game that is not her own, is barely relevant to her at all bar her relationship with Japhrimel and (view spoiler)[ in the end, it is not even her that strikes the killing blow (don't even get me started on the whole Anubis and Sekhmet inhabiting her body to stop Lucifer killing her, just one massive what. the. fuck. there (hide spoiler)].
Combine that with the problematic nature of the relationship between the two protagonists (much of the manipulation, control and damage that Dante suffers is a result of Japhrimel's actions and, I am sorry, but I will act in what I deem to be your best interests, whether you will or not, while keeping you in the dark about everything that's going on, controlling everything that you do and physically overpowering you whenever I deem necessary and I am justified in doing so because I love you, I protect you and I know best just does not cut it for mes an excuse) and the mind-numbing repetitiveness of the writing and, I'm afraid, the main feeling that I am left with about this series is disappointment. It could have been so much more, but it just wasn't. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
OK, so what can I say about this that I have not said about the previous instalments? Not much, I'm afraid. And that's not a good thing.
Pacing is sti...moreOK, so what can I say about this that I have not said about the previous instalments? Not much, I'm afraid. And that's not a good thing.
Pacing is still good (though action scenes are becoming more and more confusing), world building good, plot ok (while I do have some beef with the whole Gabe and Eddie dying sideline as it seemed completely unnecessary and irrelevant, the overall story arch developed nicely here) but it falls flat on its face in the execution. Japh is still an abusive control freak. Dante is still a whining imbecile. And the repetition. Oh holyjesusmarymotherofgod, the constant repetition.
I have actually done a count for this one so, Ms Saintcrow's editor, please take note:
• in fifth place we have the emerald on Dante's cheek which is mentioned 7 times, with emeralds altogether (there are 3 necromances plus Lucifer and Eve all with emeralds on their faces) being mentioned 18 times;
• in fourth place we have a tie between Dante's molecule-drip nail polish and black-diamond flames of a demon's aura with a respectable 8 mentions each;
• in third place, Dante's rings winking, swirling, sizzling, rolling, spitting and sparking 18 times;
• in second place, things glowing green are mentioned 36 times, mainly Japhrimel's eyes which have turned from radioactive green to laser green.
In case you need an illustration, here's one of the first results that Google image search comes up with for "glowing green eyes".
• And finally, in first place, mentioned a mind boggling 76 times, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the mark. It pulses, it twists, it burns, it flares, it heats, crunches and flushes. 76 times. All I can say is if you are using this book for a drinking game, do not go with the word mark unless you want to end up at the hospital with a serious case of alcohol poisoning. (less)
The Dante Valentine hunting season is open an all bets are off.
Throughout this book I wanted nothing so much as to slap someone upside the head. And l...moreThe Dante Valentine hunting season is open an all bets are off.
Throughout this book I wanted nothing so much as to slap someone upside the head. And let me tell you, there were plenty of candidates needing some serious slapping in this book, including the two main characters and the author. Ranting and spoilers ahead.
After Danny and Japhrimel rode off into the sunset at the end of the previous instalment, I was expecting to see lots of hot sex (they did have several months' worth of catching up to do) but mainly I was expecting Japh to do a lot of explaining about what the fuck he made Dante into. Well, guess what? Not so much of the hot sex (it is referred to but it is all fade to black and here they are laying tangled stroking each other's faces scenes) and Japh says no, he is not comfortable talking about Fallen and hedaira. And Danny just accepts that and attempts to do her own research on the subject instead. Now, any sane person would see that there is some serious slapping required right there. He changed her , modified her genes for Christ's sake, without her informed consent might I add, and now he is not comfortable talking about it? Are you fucking kidding me?
It gets worse, though. As soon as the cheesefest idyll of the first few pages is over, it turns out that while he was stewing in the jar for a few months, Japhrimel has become an abusive, controlling, jealous asshole of epic proportions. Being crispy fried does not appear to have done any good to his character. His actions and motivations in this book basically come down to I am stronger, wiser and older so what I say goes. I don't have to discuss anything with you or tell you anything, I just expect you to trust me blindly and do what I say and, if you don't, I will force you. He dangles her by the scruff like a naughty fucking puppy and tells her to fucking obey. And guess what, she does not cut off his balls and feed them to the fucking hellhounds, she pretty much does as he says and apologises.
This, apparently is Dante Valentine's character development. She carries on loving a man who has made it clear that he most definitely does not consider her an equal, who will treat her as an imbecile child and is prepared to use force on her (other than the dangling episode, he does a lot of dragging and restraining throughout). Most of her internal whining (and it is still as repetitive as ever) comes down to he is not telling me things, he wants to leave me, how will I stand it, my heart is breaking, what am I gonna do. And in the end all is forgiven because he didn't agree to kill her and "Everything's going to be all right. He's here."
Way to go there Lilith. Other than, possibly, Charlaine Harris, I don't think I have ever seen an author fuck up her characters this much. You are not writing "Living with the Devil: a frank and unflinching look at abusive relationships", you are writing "The Devil's Right Hand", an urban fantasy with a strong(ish) romance theme. You romanticising this shit is really not fucking on.
Another candidate for slapping is Lucifer himself. For various reasons but mainly because one would expect the Lord of Hell to fucking man up and stop letting all these demons escape from Hell left right and centre or, if and when they do, to deal with it himself, instead of making stupid fucking bargains.
And it is all such a shame. Because in terms of plot and momentum this was much better than the previous book (which is why I gave it two stars rather than one), interesting new characters are introduced and the world building with its mixture of futuristic sci-fi and magic is still pretty good. We travel from Tuscany* and Venice in the Hegemony to freetowns of Prague and Sarajevo, see more of the Nichtrvren and Werecain and learn about other species (Swanhilds, Kobolds and Anhelikos, the latter being particularly fascinating) that inhabit this world, yet all of this is overshadowed by the abusive relationship between the main characters, the repetitive writing and a certain amount of discontinuity from the previous books (e.g. all of a sudden we find out that Doreen was Dante's lover, not just her friend, which, I am pretty sure, was never mentioned in the first book).
* The names of places and languages that Saintcrow uses are all slightly modified, e.g. American is Merican, Italian is Taliano, Tuscany is Toscano, Venice is Venizia and so on. To be honest, I am a bit ambivalent about this. It seems to be done just for the sake of it and I am not sure that place names/language evolve in this way.
I really enjoyed the first book in the series, the second was frustrating and this one is just infuriating. I'm wondering if I should cut my losses and drop it. I suspect that I probably won't. I'm more than half way through and I do want to see what happens. I dragged myself through worse books before (this attitude of soldiering on to the end no matter what is completely irrational, I know that, but still can't seem to help myself). What I would really like is for Dante to acquire some POWER so that she can show Japh what's what, cut off his balls and make him eat and re-grow them very slowly and very painfully. Or just put him back into the crispy fried jar for a few years to think about his behaviour. I doubt this will happen, though. (less)
Hmmm. This book was frustrating. It was much better than the first in many respects yet much more irritating in others.
The writing seems to have impro...moreHmmm. This book was frustrating. It was much better than the first in many respects yet much more irritating in others.
The writing seems to have improved considerably though there is still a lot of repetition. Dante's thought pattern sure is circular. She goes round and round and round with the same old "Japhrimel is dead/I can't love Jace/my hand is cramping/I don't want to think about anything" crap until you almost start feeling dizzy. It gets very tedious.
Being in Dante's head is a bit like riding on one of these:
One of the problems was that this didn't have the break neck speed of the first novel, so you actually got the time along the way to contemplate the characters, their actions and the reasons behind them.
Dante is a frustrating character. She is very self-absorbed, self-deluding and a bit of a coward to boot (despite the showy heroics). She will go out and fight villains and catch criminals but is completely unable to face anything affecting her own life and will bury her head in the sand and avoid facing things for as long as she can. Perhaps, this is understandable given her history (and we do get a lot of back story on her childhood in this book, which was good), but chapter upon chapter of her not doing very much other than going round and round and round in her head with the self-delusional bullshit was frustrating.
I detested the way Dante treated Jace. She was a bit of a prick tease in the first book gallivanting naked around Japhrimel (it's not like he will care, he is a different species from me. is he blushing? nah, must be seeing things again.) but this was much more morally suspect. I suppose this is yet another facet of her inability to face things. She knows that she will never return his feelings, yet she continues to string him along, allows him to move in with her, sleep in the same bed as her, tag along on her bounty hunts. Now, he is a big boy and can choose for himself but I still cannot condone this passive cowardly stance that she has, particularly given that she supposedly cares a lot for him as a friend (view spoiler)[and given that he dies for it (hide spoiler)].
There are also a couple of WTF moments, the biggest one by far being when she "destroys" the urn and torches down her house because (a) it is a very childish, not to mention selfish and irresponsible, action and (b) even an imbecile would realise what is going to happen as soon as she has done it. (view spoiler)[There is no subtlety to the resurrection, it just happens. And that was a huge disappointment. I would have much preferred for her to wrap up her past in this book and spend the time in the next book researching demons, her own nature and trying to resurrect Japh so that it would actually mean something instead of being some half-baked half-assed how fucking stupid are you accident. (hide spoiler)]
The ending made me cringe. They ride off into the sunset in a hover limo. Seriously.
On the plus side, I was still very much impressed with the complexity of the world that Saintcrow created. We get quite a bit more detail in this instalment and it is impeccably thought out. There is a historical, legal and even scientific context which is integrated into the story (although some of it is delivered as part of a couple of "research" essays and a glossary at the end, which some might consider a lazy approach, but I actually quite enjoyed that part, it certainly read very authentic). Nichtvren (vampires) and werecain (werewolves) make an appearance and we get a better understanding of the nature of some of the other types of psionic ability.
Overall, I still think this was a compelling and worthwhile read and am planning to continue on with the series. I am particularly interested to see how things will develop with Lucifer, who remained on the periphery throughout this instalment and how Dante, and her relationship with Japhrimel, will develop. I'm hoping there will be a lot more of her exploring her new half-demon powers and kicking ass, instead of moping about feeling sorry for herself and avoiding thinking about things.
What a ride. I have read the entire series in just under three days and probably need a few days to absorb the whole thing properly. Just wanted to jo...moreWhat a ride. I have read the entire series in just under three days and probably need a few days to absorb the whole thing properly. Just wanted to jot a few preliminary thoughts down.
The series as a whole was magnificent. Emotional, entertaining, challenging, provoking, gripping. An absolute joy to read. Why have I not come across this one sooner? I'm not really the target YA audience but this is easily on a par with Harry Potter and a million times better than Twilight and I heard of both of those.
I thought the first book had the best structure and pacing and was undoubtedly the best in the series. I raced to the end at breakneck speed and wanted to re-read it pretty much as soon as I was done. The world building was incredible - vivid, realistic and terrifying, it had interesting, likable and engaging characters, non-stop rollercoaster of a plot and the enchanting promise of more great things to come.
In the second book, I was expecting that we would learn more about the different districts and thet Capitol and the history of Panem. In fact one of the gripes I have for the series as a whole is that the political system is not really described in any of the books in any detail. We have President Snow and we have the Peacekeepers and that seems to be the extent of the political system. President Snow is the ultimate baddie here, the Hitler/Stalin of Panem and the peacekeepers are the brute force but he cannot be running the whole country single-handedly. A dictatorship requires a huge political machine to support and enforce it but, other than a single reference at the end of Mockinjay to some people being executed for their crimes in addition to President Snow, we see no description or mention of this. The second book with Katniss and Peeta doing a tour of the districts would have been the perfect opportunity to provide these sorts of details of the world that was so magnificently introduced in the first book and we did get some glimpses but I'm not sure I was entirely satisfied with a re-run of the Hunger Games instead. It felt a bit repetitive.
In the third book, Katniss and a lot of the other major characters spend most of their time in a state of complete shell-shock, unconscious and/or recovering from injuries. A lot of the story happens in a daze and I felt not a little dazed and shell-shocked myself by the end of the book. It was still a great book but, for me, not completely satisfying. I had a real problem with the attitude that Katniss had to Peeta's condition and the resolution of their relationship was a complete flop. I wanted to see Katniss realise that she loves Peeta just as deeply as he loves her. I wanted a real punchline to their story with some underlining and exclamation marks. Instead, all I got was Peeta's feelings being wiped away, a couple of sentences where the both "grow back together" and their kids playing together in the meadow. That was a real let down. I was disappointed that Mrs Everdeen and Gale would just fade out of Katniss' life. I can understand the latter but her mum dumping her to go back to 12 alone was just weak. There was no resolution for Haymitch. He simply goes back to drinking and herding geese. Perhaps this is realistic. That some things people never fully recover from. But it irked me nonetheless. What happens to some of the other characters we never even find out. Effie, Johanna, Enobaria? We learn that Annie has a son but nothing else. Also, I am glad that there was no rosy utopia at the end but it would have been nice to see a bit more of the brave new world that Katniss had helped to usher in.(less)