M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review: Gregor, the Overlander -- Overcoming Genre Norms

Pity the poor boy whose two-year-old sister saves his life when he drops down the laundry chute into a strange underground world.  Fortunately, Suzanne Collins created a caring eleven-year-old boy in Gregor, the Overlander who managers to be the hero because he's able to work with a team rather than be a super-hero, who can take on all comers. Collins has Gregor using his brain more than his muscles -- even when one of the "good guys" turns into a traitor.

Think I like Gregor more than Collins' Hunger Games series, even though that work is a masterpiece. Why? My intro is one reason. The other is that Collins creates a complete, self-contained alien world out of the few elements that might exist in an interlinked cavern world. How would you do with a group of humans who disappeared into the independent underground world, giant cockroaches, giant rats, spiders, and bats?

[Cows are mentioned and explained briefly, but aren't concerned with the over all plot -- except to provide jerky which runs out. Fish also provide protein.]

Running out of food is the least of the problems Gregor faces. The book is basically a quest novel. Granted Collins has Gregor being the focus of a vague prophesy. But, once he learns his father is alive, Gregor's main problem to find his father, who is a captive of the rats. All in all, Collins kept coming up with twists on the obvious as Gregor built his team ... which had me amazed at her creativity.

More important, Collins left me thinking I should read more middle grade.  Only problem there? Too many books seem to have the hero/protagonists do most of the heavy lifting. Actually, it's a problem inherent in much of genre fiction. You know a good author, when they break the conventions. 

On the other hand, writers have come a long way from many genre limitations: Ilona Andrews a popular fantasy writer [and one of my favorites] wrote a blog on Rules for Mystery Writers. As I read through them, I kept thinking urban fantasy couldn't exist if writers still followed them. Of course, the Brit social life was once bound by all sorts of rules of conduct.

What do you think? Can you have civility of discourse with hide-bound rules of conduct?

Another lead from Andrews sent me to another discussion of "strong Women" by Shana Mlawski on Why Strong Female Characters are Bad for Women. Actually, Mlawski takes on the super-nerdy concept of females as they all too often appear in action movies. Made me feel bad for nerdy adolescents who dream of banging the cheerleaders as opposed to the human encapsuled in the body, which would entail making love rather than banging.

Which makes me wonder what kind of flaws you give your characters to overcome. Isn't that the key to writing memorable people? I know I struggle with it. Do you?
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