This is not The Hunger Games revisited. This is an earlier work (so less refined) and with a different audience, scope, and perspective. So if you're going to be disappointed that it isn't another take on THG, don't bother getting started. This isn't that kind of story.
If you're not one of those people you just might find yourself enjoying the Gregor stories.
That is not to say that they're exceptional stories in any way. They're definitely not on the same level as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson or, well, The Hunger Games). From a literary standpoint the characters are largely stock and not highly dimensioned. There are also some logic gaps that might bother you. For instance, there is a stark lack of range weapons like bows, arrows, and catapults--and I don't recall an explanation to excuse their absence--and, in spite of being underground and in the dark, they seem to have a limitless sky overhead and never seem to experience a 'ceiling' as an obstacle.
But those things will only bother you if you want them to because, all in all, Gregor is acceptable good fun. He faces some real challenges and has some interesting outcomes. There's even a bit of deeper thinking slipped in.
I've enjoyed them and my eight-year-old likes them so far as well.
Initially, at least, I had a problem with the performance. At first Paul Boehmer's reading is awful, with very little separation between his 'voices' and frequent, unnatural pauses in awkward moments--exactly as if he had to stop to find the beginning of the new line of print. Worse, at least in the beginning, his voice for 'Boots' was, for me, painfully grating. Taken all together I didn't get far before I turned it off in frustration. I even tried again later and gave up again.
Eventually, if only because we didn't have anything new and I did like Suzanne Collin's other works, I decided we could power into it a little deeper. After about 15-20 minutes Paul's reading began to normalize (except when Boots spoke). After that he had fewer and fewer awkward pauses and the subtle differences in his voices became easier to distinguish until, by midpoint Paul had it managed and was pulling off a decent job. He's not as good or polished as my favorite narrators--yet--but he has room to improve and I think he will.
I wanted to add my voice to the scores of others that praised this work. The story is not just creative and interesting, it is _sculpted_ with wit and care. Employing clever twists and excellent dry humor, it takes off immediately with lines like "The second time he got up to sing he ruined Fat Charlie's life" and never relents in this tale of a frustrated Hero without a proper mentor.
The icing on the cake, however, is the narration. Capping it off perfectly, Lenny Henry has delivered simply the best performance I've heard to date (yes, even better than the very excellent Jim Dale). He has a huge diversity of believable, enjoyable characters. Even his female characters sound female enough to not be distracting. And his timing and delivery are near flawless.
That said, this story isn't for everyone. Gaiman's mystical realms can be bizarre, warped and distorted things very reminiscent of a Salvador Dahli painting or an early myth. So if settings like these are so 'unrealistic' that you can't appreciate them, you'll likely be too hung up on the trappings to enjoy what's really going on. I hope this isn't you because this work is a gem.
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