Don’t Judge a Book by it’s Cover – Even though we all do

17nc0rmlk0dcejpg.jpgThe old adage takes on a more literal message in the world of books. We may tell people not to judge a book by its cover but we all do it and there’s a good reason for that. More people choose to pick up a book based on its cover design. And this industry is only growing with the rise in self-publishing, indie print houses and e-books.

The book industry is a never ending one. Formats may change from print to digital but the cover remains. Most books are bought via browsing (either online or in a book store) and this means that covers become one of the most important factors in selling a book. Even a bad book can have an intriguing cover. Trends in covers come and go but the attraction of a good cover be it for design or familiarity is still a big driving factor.

Why is a good cover so important?

A recent online survey by thebooksmuggler.com revealed that when asked, readers responded to the question ‘Do covers play a decisive role in your decision to purchase a book?’ 79% of respondents said yes.  And according to the Self Publishing Advisor statistics show that ‘the average person will decide to buy your book within 8 seconds of seeing your cover’.

 Current Cover trends

In the New Yorker article by Tim Kreider he says ‘the covers of most contemporary books all look disturbingly the same, as if inbred’. This statement rings true in most mass market books. It seems publishing houses are relying on a sense of familiarity to create covers.

The rise of John Green’s novels have created a plethora of ‘handwritten’ text on super simple background style covers throughout the YA market. This simple approach to recreating a personal feel through fonts designed to look like the scrawled handwriting of the angst-ridden teen protagonists seems to work. Green’s books are best sellers and other writers are getting their work picked up for these covers.

The popularity of paranormal romance both for adults and YA have also created the trend of red and white images and text on a black cover trend. This is most apparent in the Twilight novels; many readers did pick it up because of the cover of white and red on black. The stark contrasts of these colours draw the eye. This theme can be seen repeated in many books in this genre.

twilightsagabooksSymbolism based covers are also very popular. A single striking image or symbol being the only image has become popular with the Game of Thrones and Hunger Games covers. This also stretches to other genres such as action adventure and crime.

The lone figure cover is slowly working its way back into the fiction area. Be it a man with a gun or a woman in a cloak, this trend did die down but has begun to lay claims in cover design again.

However, with the rise in independent publishing houses and self-publishing, this trend is being bucked. With authors having more control over aspects of their designs, more freedom to hire a cover designer that matches the aesthetic they want for their books, the styles are starting to expand. We are seeing a return to customised artwork both digital and traditional being used and the ability to twist old clichés into modern pieces that stand out from the cookie cutter covers of mainstream publishing.

In the world of nonfiction covers still follow this same trend in mainstream publishing. Plain white covers with simple text and maybe one small, hand drawn image is commonplace or alternatively full photo covers. This trend has been around for quite a while now and for the nonfiction world this will probably remain the same for some times to come.

In the independent world, most nonfiction book covers follow this same formula but this is where we find the subpar covers of people attempting to publish their own works and make their own covers.

Problems in cover design when following trends is that due to the heavy use of stock images (in both traditional and indie publishing) is that without significant artistic reworking we are starting to see similar images showing up on several covers. Without moving from the current trends, and without the use of cover designers willing to artistically render original pieces using said stock images, we run the risk of a market flooded with carbon copy covers.

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 What are the skillsets for cover designers of the future?

For future cover designers to keep pace with industry trends, a combination of artistic and technical skills will be critical. Digital art and photography are two skills at the forefront as to capture the perfect cover, stock images just may not be available, but also a return to traditional art methods could be on the cards. The more versatile a cover designer is the more work they will be able to do as trends change.

A good eye for colour is also important with foundations in traditional art and colour theory. This coupled with having a broad knowledge of what is out there in the industry is going to cement a designer in the cover design world.

Graphic Design and Art classes are a great foundation for the theory and technical aspects of the skillset required, but prior skills in art do certainly broaden the scope of work a person can do.

 The world of cover design is an unmapped piece of territory. With such a broad range of genres available to design for, the future is bright with ideas. For major publishing houses it will most likely depend on what the next best seller is in any given genre. Although with the current trends unlikely to fade quickly we will most likely see more John Green’s and more Twilight’s in the near future.

In the indie and self publishing world we are seeing major changes as more writers are using high concept designs and quality cover designers. This is raising the standard and we are now seeing resurgence in original art and digital imaging being used to create covers that are more specific to the books they are for than the mass market, ‘inbred’ covers of the major publishing houses.

For nonfiction I honestly hope that cover designers will be able to step up in the independent field. The times of homemade covers that look unprofessional needs to end for the self published world to be improved. These ‘homemade’ covers are quite common among the self published nonfiction world as many people are beginning to publish their life stories or self-help manuals on platforms without any form of quality control. I believe that nonfiction covers will mostly stay the same, either very stark covers of text and a small image or the full page colour image we see most commonly on memoirs and cookbooks.

As for the major publishing houses, I can’t see too many changes in the near future although more graphic based covers would be a nice change from the black on white covers and photo montages of late. We are slowly seeing a return to these styles of covers with a feature image dominating the cover, overlaid with text. More colour is being used as well which is a nice change from the tri-colour fare of late. This trend will also open up the cover design market to more artistic cover artists, both digital and traditional styles.

 So should we judge a book by its cover? No but it doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. We go looking for something that catches our eye and if we believe the major publishing houses we strive to find the familiar. However these trends, as all trends do, will change. A slow but inevitable change and we merely need to wait for the next big thing to tell us where the mimicry will lead. The exciting changes though are in the independent published books and their new faces in the cover design world. It’s definitely a space to watch in the design world for originality.

-By Sabrina Gidley

 

 

 

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Author Intro – Ella Hazelwood

Name: Ella HazelwoodImage

Age: 30

Books published: Everdark Realms: The Darkening

Books coming soon: Everdark Realms: The Awakening

Top three authors: Terry Pratchett, Robert Rankin, Derek Landy

Favourite Colour: blue

Favourite animal: Dragons and Phoenixes

Favourite quote: “People need stories more than bread itself, they tell us how to live, and why.” – The Arabian Nights

Top three movies: Labyrinth, The Craft, Tin Man

Favourite reading genre: Intelligent humour

Favourite Tv show: QI

If you could be any fictional character, who would you be: Surprisingly Regina from Once Upon A Time – I get the strong girls who don’t take crap

Describe yourself in 30 words or less: Writer, Actor, Director, Artist, Bibliophile, Dreamer,  Mythology-Nerd, History-Buff, Imagineer

Do you have a burning question for Ella? Reply here or visit us at facebook or twitter @ouroborusbooks

Author Intro – M A Clarke

Name: Melissa Lord aka M. A. ClarkeImage

Age: 30+

Books published: The Riders’ War – Battle For Today

Books coming soon: The Riders’ War Part 2 – Battle For Tomorrow

Top three authors: Patricia Briggs, Christopher Pike, Anne MacCaffrey

Favourite Colour: red

Favourite animal: dragon

Favourite quote: ‘But why’s the rum gone?’

Top three movies: Sound of Music, While You Were Sleeping, Classic Star Wars Trilogy

Favourite reading genre: fantasy

Favourite Tv show: Doctor Who

If you could be any fictional character, who would you be: there’s a lot to be said for Molly Weasley. She doesn’t live her life in mortal peril (unless you count Fred and George), but deep down she’s as strong and courageous as any hero.

Describe yourself in 30 words or less: an emotionally irregular geek girl, with a consuming crush on a Timelord who has somehow managed to produce a book and a family

Do you have a burning question for Mel? Reply here or visit us at facebook or twitter @ouroborusbooks

Author Intro – Mitchell Tierney

So we thought it was time you got to know us writers. This week we start with our most prolific blogger Mitchell.

ImageName: Mitchell Tierney

Age: 34

Books published: Everdark Realms Book I

Books coming soon: Everdark Realms Book II, Book III. Heather Cassidy and the Magnificent Mr Harlow, The Devil Lives Beyond the Wall.

Top three authors: Stephen King, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (Joseph Delaney equal for third place)

Favourite colour: red

Favourite animal: Cats or Three Toed Sloths

Favourite quote: ‘We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.’ Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Top three movies (or movie series): Fight Club, Shawshank Redemption and Star Wars

Favourite reading genre: Weird fiction, non-fiction,fantasy

Favourite TV show: Sons of Anarchy, Amazing Race, Breaking Bad

If you could be any fictional character who would it be: Tyler Durden

Describe yourself in 30 words or less: Addicted to writing. Motivation to succeed in the publishing world. Driven to become a better writer. Always learning and setting myself goals. I have a red beard and glasses.

Do you have a burning question for Mitchell? Reply here or visit us at facebook or twitter @ouroborusbooks

Published in: on January 18, 2014 at 12:35 pm  Comments (2)  
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Turtles Fight With Honour

People complain about violence in show kids watch. I mean, I can see their point, filling impressionable young minds with the worst of human society. Yet there are shows of undeniable violence that show humanity’s best as well.

Image I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something a friend of mine said. She said that she reads fantasy, and while most people tune out after the word ‘fantasy’ she reads further and has taken from it a code of honour that she lives in her daily life. I grew up watching reruns of the old Batman TV series, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Astro Boy, Star Wars and many more. The ones I’ve listed are all, arguably, violent. Batman, with its biff, bop and zowie, Ninja Turtles kicked butt on a daily basis while Astro had machine guns in his butt, not to mention the guns and swords in Star Wars. Really, what could my mother have been thinking, letting me watch these things?

As a mother myself these days, I come up with a couple of answers of my own. The first is simple. You can’t shield your kids forever. Cotton wool does not protect your kids for long. Eventually, they or the world will rip the cotton wool away and they will be completely exposed to all the nasties the world has to offer. All we can do is teach our kids well, and hope that when they do come face to face with the world, that we have taught them enough. For me, a part of that is exposing kids to what the world is really like, in small doses. Just as you would teach a child to get used to all the household jobs they will need to care for as grownups by teaching them to clean their room. So, on TV, they see that not everyone is nice, and when I go to explain that they need to be careful talking to people they don’t know, they can understand why.

The second reason goes back to what my friend was saying, about shaping your life from ideals set forth in books or shows. She wasn’t referring to violence either. She is not a violent person. All of the shows I mention are violent, but they are primarily hero stories. Yes, the heroes fight, but it is rarely for themselves. They fight to protect those who need protecting – helping those who don’t have their abilities, or their gifts. THAT is the part of these stories that sticks with me, long after the days of play-fighting with my brother in the kitchen. And this is all the more important, because life ISN’T really like that. People don’t always live their lives with honour, look out for one another and try to make their little corner of the world better.

Image While the morning cartoons are playing this morning, I found something I personally thought more disturbing than Ninja Turtles, Ben 10, Young Justice or any of it. What I saw was an ad for a Barbie ‘Glamping’ Trailer… Quick definition for those not in the know ‘glamping’ is ‘glamour camping’ – basically camping with all of the luxuries of home and none of the actual camping bit. I’m not a camper. My idea of roughing it IS a serviced apartment, with a dishwasher and a dryer. All the same, if you’re going to go camping, luxury seems a bit… against the point. That said, why did I find that disturbing? Because I wondered what message that was sending to our kids? That you need stuff to be happy? Following that thought on, Barbie is a worse example to our kids, than a Turtle that was the anthropomorphised through an industrial accident. I’ve already drawn the line at Bratz dolls, because I don’t want my kids to be ‘brats’. Children/teenagers with attitude: It won’t do me or them any favours.

I try, in my small ways, to make the world a better place. I try to teach my kids to be good people. I try to be kind and understanding to those who need it. I spare change to charities, when I can and I nearly always buy a badge for the ANZAC/Remembrance day appeals. I try to recycle. It’s not a lot, but I have my own problems too. I’m not perfect. I try not to expect perfection in others. But most of all, I write about worlds where there are people – some like us, some not so much – who in all different ways, try to make the world better. I continue the tradition of setting ideals in print for others to take on, to try and live by and to pass on. I write, with honour.

~M A Clarke

Everdark Realms: The Awakening – Sneak Peek

 

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Saboo flew through the air. He tumbled and somersaulted, head over tail. The wind slapped against his face, burning his skin and ripping out his hair. He closed his eyes tightly as he fell, his arms waving around recklessly. The Calavera’s hand snatched him from his freefall, jerking him from side to side. Its morbid eyes glowed in the darkened sky. Saboo was dropped again, the air tore past him, coursing up his arms and tearing his clothes. He was swiftly caught once more, this time by a different Calavera. It flipped him around and tore at his backpack. Its grotesque hand reached inside, blindly grabbing at something. It pulled its hand out, dropping the pack. Saboo watched it fall away and disappear in the flurry of tree tops. Saboo tried desperately to punch at witch as they wrestled in the air, but its hands were too quick. He was now being held by the neck. He squirmed to get free but the Calavera’s grip was too strong. Saboo gargled, managing to get a few words out.

‘Let…me…go!’ he choked, his face going blue. The witch’s octopus-like legs wrapped around his body and squeezed him tight. Saboo could feel the remarkable pressure they housed. The Calavera’s gold chains clanked against its chest, its yellow, round earrings glimmered and reflected the moon’s glare. Saboo tried to push it away, his fest hitting the witch, its body as hard as steel. The Calaveras took turns carrying him. They tossed him to one another, recklessly throwing him high into the air and catching him like a play-toy. The speed they achieved was inconceivable; Saboo’s ears were pushed flat against his head, his tail streamed out behind his body. Saboo was panicking, he didn’t know where they were taking him, and he had lost all bearings of his surroundings. One moment he was standing on the stage in the Monkish City, the next thing he was being taken by the Calavera witches. He had seen the comet descend and everything had illuminated in all its glory.

Saboo looked up at the witch and saw the malevolence in their face, and knew they were going to kill him. He thrashed about, but its grip got tighter, almost cutting off his airway completely. Saboo reached up, his lungs restricting, and snatched Calavera’s necklace. He pulled down on it hard, breaking it in half. The Calavera screeched, falling from the sky, as they swan-dived towards the ground at a remarkable velocity. Then, as Saboo started to lose consciousness, he noticed it was holding the Mask of Ebb in its free hand. The tusks jutted out, carved with alarming detail; the small inscriptions glowing and radiating before him.

Saboo reached for it, his finger tips caressing the mask.

The witch screamed, sending its morbid howl out over the lands of Amitav. Suddenly he gathered its strength, after losing one of its neck pieces and flew in a quick arc, away from the ground.

They flew higher and higher. The other witches started circling them. The Calavera holding him, brought the mask up over his head, its laughter was frantic and supernatural. With one quick strike, the Calavera slammed the mask onto Saboo’s face. It burnt like nothing Saboo had ever felt before in his entire life; even when the Lepordconda bit the end of his tail off, this felt a million times worse. The wood seared to his flesh, burning the hairs around his face. Saboo screamed in pain. He could feel his hair being singed, and he could smell it. The Calavera felt the mask give off a sonic wave of energy and it screamed in terror, dropping Saboo. He fell from the hovering creatures, desperately trying to pull the mask off his face. It was searing. He could hear his skin moulding to the wood. The tusks felt alive, as if it had become part of his face now. His eyes were fused shut.

Saboo was dropping like a stone from the sky. The Calaveras watched him fall, their long tentacles wavering in the clouds around them. They stared with grotesque eyes, waiting for him to hit the ground. Saboo tried frantically to tear the mask from his face, his fingers gripped the sides and he pulled and pulled. His ears rung out loud and his hair was being pulled by the friction. Then, his eyes shot open, he could see normally out of the mask, its wooden jaw moved and he was able to scream for the first time since it was scorched onto his face. It was a gut-wrenching howl of pain. The ground was coming up faster and faster, he looked down and his heart sunk low into his stomach. He wasn’t about to fall upon the hard ground, instead, he was about to land in water.

PRAY FOR VILLIANS

ImageOver the last few weeks I’ve received two batman comics in the mail; one was Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and the other was Batman: Cacophony by Kevin Smith and Walt Flanagan. Now, I’ve never been a huge Batman fan, but I was more interested in who wrote these titles than the Dark Knight himself. Alan Moore and Kevin Smith both wrote about the Joker. Although both their ‘Jokers’ had similar qualities, they were written differently. It got me thinking, out of all the villains they could have chosen to write about, why Joker? They could have picked Penguin or Riddler or Poison Ivy or whoever, but both these writers chose the same villain. Why?

ImageLuke Skywalker has Darth Vader, Harry Potter has Voldermort, Optimus Prime has Megatron. With heroes that live up to a high caliber, they have to have an equal and opposite opponent. Penguin is short and can’t really go one on one with Batman by himself. Riddler has riddles? (and not much else). Mr. Freeze has his equipment etc. But the Joker has something the rest really don’t have. He wasn’t born disfigured, but he doesn’t look quite normal. He doesn’t have gadgets or cars or planes. He has the Charles Manson quality that these writers want to write about; an ultimate villain, a completely twisted and deranged psychopath.

Without a major villain, who would Batman fight? Street gangs, shop lifters, muggers. All of these enemies are faceless and pointless. You don’t need a bat-cave and bat-mobile and bat-copter and gadgets to beat off some junkies snatching a handbag. In order to justify a lot of heroes you need the rival to be beyond the normal street crook. All these faceless enemies are used as fodder. Take the Stromtroopers or the Foot Soldiers, they have no character, no back story, nothing. They can be thrown into the meat grinder and no one cares.

With Luke Skywalker, the rebel alliance was created to rise up against the Empire. It makes you want to cheer for the underdog, especially when the villain is a military-type, nazi-esque brigade with countless soldiers and weaponry. The Rebels are dressed almost haphazardly, with no distinct familiarity or recognizable figure head. Now the Empire on the other hand has Darth Vader, who is very recognizable. He’s tall and solid with large shoulders and points a lot. He seems to not even care about his own men, choking one at the table in New Hope. With Vader, the whole idea of the Rebels winning is so farfetched that you believe it’s nearly impossible. If you look at all the Star Wars toys and games and posters, they all have Darth Vader on them, either his whole mask, or full body. He’s recognizable and you’re instantly attracted to walk over and check it out because he’s the ultimate villain.

In The Killing Joke by Allan Moore, Joker broke out of Arkham Asylum and shot Chief Gordon’s daughter (Bat-girl) and put her in a wheelchair. Moore wrote the Joker as a Manson type leader with a band of merry, deformed, individuals that did his bidding. Joker was written as someone pushed to the brink of lunacy that never really came back from it. He wasn’t Batman’s equal in physical strength or mentality, but was so insane that it brought him up higher in the scale of opponents. Joker didn’t care about the law or human life one iota. His clown makeup really drove home the point of his state of mind.

When I write, I try to invent a great villain. Someone who is above the hero, so the hero becomes the underdog. It’s important to show how strong the villain can be, and also to show the hero’s limitations, this way, we, as readers, can compare the two. Who ever thought a moisture-farm boy, who wasn’t even allowed to go see his friends because of his chores to do, would take on a great sith lord, and win?

Heroes and Villains should balance like yin and yang. But Villains rarely get any victory. We don’t hear of villains winning. This may be deliberate to introduce this to children, to let them know the good guys always come out on top, but in the real world…it may be a different story. Maybe that’s why we can’t stand by and let awful things happen, because we can see when a savior is needed. I wrote a short story once, a long time ago (and I’ve forgotten the name) where an old hero is wandering the streets with his Imagecape and boots on, looking for crime. A van pulls up and it’s the old age home coming to get him because he escaped. They tell him that he fought all the crime, and there were no more villains. He’s rejected from society now because he did his job, now everyone lives in peace and no one cares about him. Heroes exist because of villains, and villains exist because of heroes.

Mitchell Tierney

*please note this blog was written before the Aurora Dark Knight Rises shooting. Ouroborus Book Services and all of its writers wish to send our deepest sympathies to those affected.

When Horror Was King

I was going to base this blog on the dwindling horror genre, but because my horror book knowledge is fairly limited, I had to do a little more research before I started talking about it. I knew horror had branched out into sub-genres, but what direction was I supposed to head? If horror literature is almost extinct, how could I possibly write about it? But little did I know, I had just answer my own question.

For research, I went to Dymocks book store in Brisbane city. I had been up there a few times before but couldn’t remember what their horror section looked like. Coming up the escalator I imagined isles of horror. As I rounded the boxes upon boxes of Hunger Games books and wondered through the sci-fi section, which was a full isle, I got to the horror section and couldn’t quite believe what I saw. It was maybe one metre long,  with only four shelves. I thought, ‘no, this can’t be all of it,’ so I walked around the isle to the other side into the fantasy section. That one, small, section was all the horror they had. What happened to the horror section? I went back around and stared at the books, just to see what they had. One and a half shelves were Stephen King, no surprise. Then it went to Dean Koontz, for one whole shelf. More than half their allocated horror space was dedicated to just two authors! The next half was Lovecraft anthologies and short stores. So that left one shelf, one meter long, for all other horror books. I couldn’t believe my eyeballs. I was sure the horror section was bigger when I was a kid and the sci-fi section was smaller. I kneeled down to look at what this last shelf had to offer, as it was the bottom shelf and if you were standing close to the books, you wouldn’t be able to see it at all. They had a few zombie books, one Walking Dead book and a few other horror titles that looked and sounded awful. Is this what horror had become?

Even the second hand book store I used to go to had a small horror section way at the back near the birdcage. This was where the owner used to sit and have his soup for lunch. Even then, that section was dominated by King and Koontz. Way at the front of the store was an equal sized section dedicated to twilight. I was mortified and disgusted, but also motivated.  I went home with the thought, ‘that’s it! I’m bringing horror back!’ For a few years now I’ve wanted to write a strict, down the line, horror book. A book that can’t be confused with paranormal, thriller or fantasy. Back to the root of all evil. I don’t have the time right now to complete a horror book, but I started it anyway, trying to make myself feel better. It’s called Sore Bones and I had made a mental list of all the things I wanted to have in it – a haunted house, a haunted lake with a dark past, creepy locals and the main characters should, at least once, run for their lives with an ending so horrific that it would make you wonder why you stuck with it all the way to the end when you should have slammed it shut and hid it in the bottom of your clothes hamper.

A couple of nights later I happened to be walking past a Blockbuster video and peered in. Their horror section is massive, almost equal to, if not a bit bigger, than comedy. They had all the titles there, all the classics, the sequels and prequels and remakes. The romance section, on the other hand, was small. So, I thought, nodding my head, horror hasn’t gone away, it’s just transferred to movies. Look at Saw, or Scream for example, these might make alright books, but they’re not going to win any awards or stand out as best sellers. But as movies, they clean up. Scream cost 15 million to make and grossed over 161 million. It did have several sequels to follow, which were below average, but they still made a ton of money. Back in 1996 when Scream was made, the only popular romantic movie out were Jane Eyre, and that grossed 5 million. You also had Tin Cup and Bed of Roses, which don’t score very high on IMDB and didn’t make that much money. There really wasn’t much competition and there certainly wasn’t any supernatural fantasy heart throbs yet.

Horror movies, I believe, will be forever strong in the cinema. But the more sequels they make, and the dumber and more embarrassing it gets, the worse it gets for the horror book reputation. People may assume that if you’re a horror movie fan, your only watching it for the blood and guts. I admit, if there is a scene that is practically well done that involves something horrific happening, then I do appreciate good amounts of blood and guts, but books have a different appeal. It’s much harder to make a reader jump when they’re reading a book. You can’t simply film a scare scene where something jumps out, the writer has a lot more ground work to cover.

It’s been a few weeks now since I had that burst of motivation to write Sore Bones and nothing more has been written. What I have found out, or concluded, is that horror is hiding in other genres. A lot of kids books now days are horror, just toned down for their age group. Clive Barker, who wasn’t even in the horror section, but in fantasy, is mostly horror. Harry Potter and Hunger Games have hints of horror. So maybe it isn’t disappearing, but has broken up and merged with other genres. I still pray to the writing gods that horror will come back and be massive again because once King and Koontz are gone, we’ll have a legacy, but nothing new.

Mitchell Tierney

Book vs. Movie: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I actually saw the movie on opening week but I thought I’d give everyone a chance to see it before I wrote this blog. Firstly, this is your warning: here thar be spoilers, so if you haven’t seen or read The Hunger Games, you might want to stop reading now (although I will try and keep them to a minimum). Granted most people seem to have the gist of the story any way so make your decision.

Firstly I would like to address an issue I have come across. This series seems to be a love it or hate it book series. The movie seems to be much the same. I am a fan, albeit only a new one to the series so that’s the angle I’m coming from. If you hate the books you will probably hate the movie, for good reason, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

For those who are yet to hear anything about the Hunger Games, here’s a brief run down. The region of Panem is led by The Capitol. The Capitol is in charge of the 12 downtrodden and pretty much slum-like districts. In punishment for past defiance, the Capitol makes each district chose two children (one boy and one girl) each year to be entered into the Hunger Games; a to the death battle royale, put on purely for the entertainment of the Capitol and to watch the districts squirm in subordination. From the coal district (District 12) come our heroine Katniss Everdeen and her team mate Peeta. The rest I will leave for you to watch/read.

I had read the books first, having practically inhaled them the weeks previous. I had approached the books with curiosity but no expectations, expecting another monstrosity like Twilight. Instead I found a story that was actually well written, had strong characters, interesting (although sightly rehashed) plot points and a well flowing backstory. As I read though I was wondering how it would translate to film.

This is probably one of the better movie adaptations I have ever seen done by Hollywood. What does make it into the movie from the book is 95% accurate to source material. This I believe is for one reason alone: the screenplay was mostly written by the author of the books.

I’m a fan of movies being as ‘canon’ as possible. Sure there are some things that couldn’t be done on screen without killing the pace of the story, or just couldn’t have been done successfully (for the fans of the books, the mutts resemblance to former contestants doesn’t make it in, but the mutts do), and then there is the removal of characters (the mayors daughter which sort of removed some of the backstory of the mockingjay pin, that could have been done but wasn’t) which I felt lessened the strength of the film. I must say though, characters appeared on screen as I imagined them, the costumes as well. Scenes seemed to have been taken word for word from the books. It was a novel experience seeing it so faithfully reproduced in parts.
However, as usual the movie is the weaker of the two. There was too much added and unnecessary Capitol related scenes on how the Games were being run, in favour of the back story between Katniss and Gale, reducing him to such an unimportant character that I fear his role in the future movies will not be as strong or as conflicted as it needs to be. The movie is slow in parts where it doesn’t need to be and rushes through large parts of the Games footage that could have been extended. But all in all, I was happy with the film.

My recommendation is see the film first, and let the book fill in whatever gaps the movie missed. However if you have read the books, you should still go see the film (as I’m sure most fans already have) as it has many of the moments from the book as you would imagine it.

The book I rate a 4/5 and the movie a close 3.5/5, both on my must do list. Now to see what they do with book two.

~Sabrina RG Raven

Reinvention Be Thy Name

Many genres have had a reinvention, and it normally only takes one person to hack a new path through the jungle for the rest to follow. Take for example Danny Boyle’s film 28 Days Later,’ I would say he reinvented zombies. These zombies run fast, real fast. They never did that before. With George Romero’s zombies, they were always shuffling, moaning, and stumbling. But these zombies, they sprint like Olympic athletes. Boyle’s zombie flick spawned a whole new generation of zombie movies. It breathed new life into an otherwise dead genre (pun intended). Although, if I went to see a Romero zombie movie and they ran fast, I would be disappointed. Often you need the old as well as the new.

Sometimes the reinvention of a genre goes horribly wrong, take Twilight. Vampires were already cool and not many people changed them. You had Interview with a Vampire and Dracula, all still very decadent and blood thirsty, it’s how vampires had been and how they should have stayed. Look at Fright Night or ‘Salem’s Lot, they can walk among us almost undetected but still pack a punch when it come to sucking blood. Twilight vampires do not. Even Robert DeNiro as Frankenstein had its merits and the new Wolf Man movie wasn’t so bad, but did these movies make as much as Twilight? No. They never branched out from the cliché, they never challenged what had already been paved in stone. Instead of a reinvention, in was a reimagining, and that’s not what I want. Change something that has been done to death and show me, if it sucks, well ok, at least you gave it a go and came up with something new from something old. But if it works, then that particular thing will never be the same again. I suspect with the new sparkly vamps there will be a backlash and we’ll start seeing movies with hardcore vampires again. But there will always be that scar across the Vampire genre now.

Typically, I don’t like fantasy. Not the dungeons and dragons, elves and swords fantasy. For me, it’s just old and dated and only really appeals to hardcore nerds. Now, I know I may have offended some of you by saying that, but hear me out.

When someone told me about Game of Thrones, I was hesitant. I wasn’t into political fantasy with the occasional battle scene and with boring old men with long robes and beards, clasping tomes and dribbling. We (my girlfriend and I) ended up giving it a go, and couldn’t stop watching it. I remember thinking that I must have been under a rock for the last few years and not noticed that Fantasy could be kick ass. I mean, I’ve read Lord of the Rings and I even had that old board game Hero Quest, but that was a long time ago and I haven’t liked Fantasy since, but this was different somehow. I really loved the characters, they were unique and the story lines between the Kings and their rule was intriguing. Some of you may be rolling your eyes and thinking, ‘Jeez, this sort of Fantasy has been out for a long time.’ But I’ve never seen it. I avoided the whole Fantasy isle at the book shop because I just thought it was all relatively the same. I’ve now got three of the Song of Ice and Fire books and plan on reading them later in the year, plus I’ve pre-ordered the graphic novel to read and I also want the sword with the white wolves head on it for my wall.

Tolkien may not have invented many of the species or races he wrote about, but he invented the way we imagine them. As an example, elves are a certain way because that’s how Tolkien wrote about them. Then came the hundreds of copycat books where the Elves and Dwarfs are all the same. Terry Pratchett took this and held a mirror up to them, making a joke out of what they had become, or what was expected of them as ‘Elves’ or ‘Dwarf’s’. JK Rowling then took magic to a new era. I never really thought about the wand before, the last time I checked it was used by lame party magicians to pull rabbits out of their hats. But after watching/reading Harry Potter, I wanted to collect them and know more about them. I liked the way they were made and how they were used.

I’m down for reinvention. I say let’s move forward so things can evolve. Eventually it will come full circle, but we have to do that loop before we can go back to the ‘old school’ versions of things. These versions are what we fell in love with, and we will again, after tasting a few different flavours. If you can write about, for example, ‘Giants’ or ‘Imps’ in a new way, and make them unique, then I say your progressing the fantasy field and giving it that nudge that it needs. Sometimes a push is what’s needed to make something move, but all in all, I only want to read something new and interesting, but kept real. Good luck.

Mitchell Tierney