Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I don’t want to live in District 12. I never want to be chosen to participate in the Hunger Games. I do, however, want to hang out with Katniss Everdeen, one of the most valiant and determined female protagonists to hit the printed page in quite some time.

The girl’s got moxie.  Programmed for survival from a young age, and motivated to protect her sister Prim from the Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Her unlikely partner in these games is Peeta Mellark, who once saved her life.  The feelings of obligation and the instinct to survive create a dichotomy that Katniss tries to reconcile throughout the book.  Along the way, the pace of this gladiatorial-esque-SURVIVOR-style game is unrelenting.  I.COULD.NOT.STOP.READING!

The author includes strong commentary on society, on economic privilege, and government oppression within the dramatic tension, mixed alliances, and brutal combat of this story, leaving you to wonder: what happens after the games? What will Gale think of all of this? And how will life improve—or decline for the residents of District 12? 

Books two and three in this series should yield some answers…(Catching Fire, and Mockingjay)

Meanwhile, check out this fan-created audition/trailer that Amber Lansing, our Children’s Librarian, found for the movie. It features  Katniss and Rue….and is guaranteed to make you cry!

Post your comments below and join us for next week's book talk...

-Tina Panik

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Who Fears Death

Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death is a dark fantasy set in post-apocalyptic Africa, many years after the collapse of our current civilization. Members of the dark-skinned, agrarian Okeke tribe are dominated and enslaved by the lighter-skinned, urban Nuru tribe. In fact the Nuru consider themselves to be culturally, intellectually, and morally superior to the Okeke; justification for this relationship comes directly from the Great Book, a holy text filled with fables and myths.
The plot of Who Fears Death is fairly straight forward. Daib, an evil Nuru sorcerer, is planning a military campaign to exterminate the Okeke. Nuru soldiers raid Okeke villages raping and murdering along the way. A byproduct of this is Ewu children, mixed race children who are shunned by both tribes.
The protagonist, Onyesonwu (which means “Who Fears Death”) is an Ewu child. According to a prophecy, Onyesonwu is to become a powerful sorcerer and save the Okeke people by rewriting the Great Book. Naturally, her father is Daib, the evil Nuru sorcerer.

Most of the novel details Onyesonwu’s coming of age. Her female circumcision ceremony is described in detail, as is her discovery and exploration of her magical powers. She is an outcast in her society; she is refused formal magical training because she is a woman, the citizens of her Okeke village fear her because of her heritage, and her father regularly attempts to kill her in her sleep.
In the last part of the novel Onyesonwu leads a small group of friends on a journey into Nuru territory to stop Daib’s genocidal plan. Here is where the novel loses some of its appeal; once Onyesonwu’s teenage companions began having relationship troubles I wanted to stop reading. The book reads more like a young adult novel in this section. Unfortunately this is right when the climactic tension starts building.
Despite the odd teenage love triangle, this is a solid work of fantasy. Without sounding preachy or cliché the novel tackles some tough subjects: wartime rape, violence, gender roles, racism and more. It was refreshing to read such a compelling and creative work. I look forward to Nnedi Okorafor's future releases.

Stop by the library to place Who Fears Death on hold today.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Calculating God

Paleontologist meets giant, six legged, spider-like alien.  A marriage made in heaven?  Well Toronto; if you believe internationally acclaimed author Robert J. Sawyer.  And, that’s just the start of the lives-up-to-it’s-title Hugo Award finalist novel, Calculating God.

Having been a sci-fi fan for over forty years, it’s been a while since I’ve come across a novel that can stand toe-to-toe with Arthur C. Clark classics such as the imposing Childhood’s End, and with a sense of humor to boot.  Calculating God is no light weight, as is recognized by the sci-fi community.  Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine put it best, “Robert J. Sawyer seems to be content on revisiting all the classic themes of science fiction,  often with new twists that arise from a genuine rethinking of their premises…A writer whose willingness to give us new takes on the central questions of SF makes him a valuable barometer of the genre’s health.” 

It’s not just the ‘hard core’ sci-fi cognoscenti that appreciate Sawyer.  The short lived, unfortunately,  ABC television series FlashForward is based on Sawyer’s same titled novel.  Oh, and if you happen to enjoy international magazines;  the latest issue of the British based Philosophy Now magazine has an engrossing interview with Sawyer.    

Lastly, next time you’re surfing the net, you might want to check Sawyer’s complimentary (includes reading group guides for his novels) website:

Read On!
Tom C Smith

P. S. The Avon Free Public Library does not own this title but we will get it for you if you request it. Call us or stop by.