Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Feed Hunger Pains with Lampoon's latest

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IF you're a fan of Suzanne Collins' 2008 novel The Hunger Games, or the new movie adaptation, you should check out The Hunger Pains (Touchstone, 157 pages, $16), the Harvard Lampoon parody. Kantkiss Neverclean -- in Collins' novel, of course, she's Katniss Everdeen -- volunteers to stand in for her sister, who was chosen to be their District's female combatant in the Hunger Games, a to-the-death contest that pits children against each other on a highly rated reality show.

The story follows, in broad strokes, the events of the novel. Kantkiss becomes a focal point of the Games. She is mentored by former Games winner Buttitch Totalapathy (in the novel he's called Haymitch Abernathy). She develops an affection for her fellow combatant, Pita Malarkey (in the novel, Peeta Mellark, a name that fairly cries out for parody). But where Collins' Katniss is clever and resourceful, Kantkiss is sort of, well, stupid. Thinks her dog is a cat. Can't figure out how a sofa works. Like Bored of the Rings, the most famous Harvard Lampoon parody, the book captures the essence of the original, while twisting it for big laughs.

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Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, a forthcoming movie, is based on the novel of the same name by Los Angeles' Seth Grahame-Smith (Grand Central, 433 pages, $9). You might think this is merely a weird fantasy novel -- the Great Emancipator squaring off against vampires -- but it's a lot more than that. It's the (allegedly) true history of Lincoln, the story never told, based on the man's own secret diaries.

The book is more ambitious than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the author's first genre mash-up (it introduced the walking dead into Jane Austen's classic novel). Taking Lincoln from boyhood to the White House, it rewrites chunks of American history, providing new explanations for the death of Abe's mother, Lincoln's beard, and the Civil War. The faux diary excerpts read as though they could have been written by Lincoln himself, and the story is both compelling and grisly. A masterpiece of invention.

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If you can't wait for the next James Bond movie, here's Carte Blanche (Pocket, 519 pages, $13), a new 007 novel by Jeffery Deaver. Like Casino Royale, the first of the Daniel Craig Bond movies, it's a reboot; Deaver recasts Ian Fleming's superspy as a modern-day veteran of the war in Afghanistan who signs on with a top-secret intelligence organization.

Bond's first case pits him against an evil mastermind who's plotting to change the way the history of the world will be written. Typical of a Deaver thriller, there are plenty of right-angle plot twists and unexpected revelations about characters we think we know. Bond is a British spy, created by a British writer, and Deaver, an American, does an excellent job of capturing the rhythms of Fleming's storytelling style while putting his own distinctive mark on the character. Bond, here, is a 21st-century man, but he still feels like the Bond who first appeared in print more than 55 years ago.

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If you've been following the Jack Reacher novels by New York's Lee Child, then you probably know there's going to be a movie, with Tom Cruise as Child's six-foot-five-inch, 250-pound former military investigator. To distract yourself from the seeming incongruity of that bit of casting, pick up The Affair (Dell, 590 pages, $12), which takes Reacher back to 1997, before he left the U.S. army.

Set just before the events of the first Reacher novel, The Killing Floor, it finds Reacher investigating a woman's murder and discovering that the army, his home for so many years, might no longer be the organization it once was. This is the case that changed Reacher's world, that turned him from a toe-the-line military man to man-of-few-words drifter. An absolute must-read.


Halifax freelancer David Pitt's column runs on the first weekend of the month.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 7, 2012 J9

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