Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

The 4th book in the Percy Jackson series takes a departure from the central action of the series and focuses on the life-changing events of our characters - what's really shaping who they're becoming. Sure, Kronos is still rising and amassing a giant, angry army to descend on Camp Half-Blood before taking down Olympus and it is what propels our heroes into the Labyrinth but once down there the focus shifts just a bit. We see Grover, who's really under a time crunch, devote himself entirely to tracking down Pan, ignoring the coming doom of Kronos. Percy and Annabeth are really turning into teenagers and those overpowering emotions of first love and utter teenage confusion begin to surface. Even as the end of the world draws near and supernatural creatures start appearing around every turn the human characters still act appropriately human confronting what's going on inside of them as well as what role they'll have to play a demigods.

So, the plot. An entrance to the Labyrinth is discovered on camp grounds and if Kronos' army can navigate the Labyrinth successfully, they can use the entrance to bypass the camp boundaries and invade. Our heroes, Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson journey into the Labyrinth themselves to attempt to locate Daedalus who they believe is still alive and who can help them learn the secrets of the Labyrinth before anyone else. However, the Labyrinth is an organic place, ever-changing, presenting almost more obstacles than out heroes can survive. This isn't a quest our heroes can beat on their own and outside help comes from other demigods, mortals, Goddesses, and other assorted immortals, but it's the connection our lead characters have with each other that leads to victory. Knowing each other as only true friends can really proves to be the saving grace for all obstacles these guys run into.

One more book to go in this series and I almost feel like Percy's battle against Kronos will be overshadowed by his confusing teenage emotions for his female friends. I really can't decide which story line I'm more interested in reading, but either way book five is going to have an amazing battle to read and, I think, a great conclusion to this wonderful story.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2013 reread #3
I read this book for the first time in junior high, for fun, at summer camp (I know, I'm strange.) Then, when reading it again in high school, it inspired one of my favorite paper topics in my entire academic career. Now, I'm sort of just waiting for Gatsby to die (and if that spoiled things for you - start reading more!) as I read through the book. All of Fitzgerald's commentary on the opulence of the 1920's that was so interesting and insightful at my second read almost just felt like obvious fodder now. What, obscenely wealthy people can be extremely vapid? No? Can you hear my sarcasm?

I'm happy I reread this book though despite its ability to amaze me like it had previously done. This story takes place over just a few months and is really very tragic for so many characters - not just the ones that die - and I find it interesting how much sadness Fitzgerald was able to inlay between crazy parties and lush trips into New York City. You really don't feel like anyone but our narrator, Nick Carraway, lives in reality and yet all the other characters are looked upon as "normal." 

Ironic side note: Nick's last name, Carraway, like carried away, yet he's the only one who stays grounded.

This story is really very complex if you look at it analytically, which is how I like to look at literature. A million different paper topics could come form this book and because of that, with each read I see something new in the text. A book that changes with each read is truly a great work of art.

I'm curious to see how they shape each character in the movie version coming out soon. A lot of big names playing characters that don't always make good choices (alright, they characters are totally morally questionable.) While there's no real villain in the story, nobody is really good. It would be interesting to have a movie where none of the characters are totally likeable, where there's no actual hero. We'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson #3

The stakes are getting higher and the gods are stepping in more directly in this latest installment of Percy Jackson's saga. The situation on Earth is also getting more dire as the  Titans gain strength and followers. People actually die! Then, there's the looming prophecy that the child of one of the "big 3" - Hades, Zeus, or Poseidon - will decide whether Olympus rises or falls when they turn 16. Besides Percy, there's only one other candidate so there's a lot potentially coming Percy's way.

There's finally a continual sense of urgency in this book brought about not only by the Titans' increasing strength but by the pain and sacrifice being demanded of the demigods. They're getting hurt, sacrificing themselves for the cause - really fighting like hardened soldiers instead of teenagers. And yet, Riordan hasn't created teenage characters completely devoid of angst. It's an interesting combination that I find very appealing to read.

In book #3, Annabeth and the goddess, Demeter, have been kidnapped and it's up to Thalia, Percy, and two of Demeter's immortal huntresses to find them, rescue them, and derail (well really postpone) the imminent attack of Kronos and his minions. They travel cross-country again, making new pit stops in areas of the gods which are hidden among mortals. The gods are getting more involved so we meet Aphrodite, take a ride with Apollo, and get a hint of Pan in addition to Demeter. Our half-bloods also get to Olympus and actually talk to their parents which, to me, was a huge indicator of how serious our story is getting. Demigods are the mortal instruments of the gods, not people they typically interact with directly.

Only two more books left in this series although Riordan has many others. I'm really looking forward to seeing where this story goes and thinking about diving into another series once I'm done here. I know this is YA fiction, but it doesn't feel as young as a lot of other books in this genre. It hasn't hit a slump in the narrative yet as many other series fall victim to and it continues to stay steadily engaging. Percy Jackson is still a big recommendation from me.