The Hunger Games

Monday, March 26, 2012




The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins, 2008

Premise: I think you know by now. Badass teen Katniss Everdeen is drawn into a competition in which teenagers try to kill each other while being filmed for the entertainment/oppression of the masses.

Okay, let me get this out right at the start: The Hunger Games is a compelling story that's really hard to put down. It's really well written. And it has a logic hole in the premise the size of a 747.

While I was reading it, I just flew through the pages. I adore Katniss. She's a complicated character without being too flawed or too perfect, and I love her down-to-earth attitude about everything. She's fierce and unapologetic and awesome. I love her relationship with her sister and the friendships she builds later in the book. I loved reading about her alone in the woods, or alone in the arena, in a similar way that I love Island of the Blue Dolphins. It's a survival story much of the time.

The world, on the other hand... sigh. As opposed to Katniss, the world feels underdeveloped and not thought through.

This book is great because it is fast paced, the action is gripping and the main character is fantastic. It is also overrated because it is not especially unique, and it doesn't hold up to any logical thought about the setting.

The rest of this post is a bit spoilery for setting and overall trends, but I'll stay out of plot twists.

I have so many questions about this world that illustrate why it makes no sense to me. Some of them might be answered in later books, but I'm just looking at the first one.

How many people live in a “Disctrict”? It's unclear, but it seems like it's small enough that most of them know each other. How in the world could a government, bombs or no bombs, control a group of people when they were murdering two of their children every year? No idea. That makes absolutely no sense to me. You can only use the scapegoating impulse when a community comes together to decide to cast someone out. You can't expect to steal their children over and over and expect adults to just go along with it.

How do the people in the Capitol get all their fancy tech? Someone has to build it, and they don't seem to do much there in the city. You know what that gives the people who build the tech? POWER. You can't keep 90% of your population at serf-level while giving some people amazing space tech. Your tech will get out to the population, because it's in someone's self interest to release it.

What do these miners use to mine, if they “can't have weapons”? If there's all this wilderness separating the Districts, why don't entire Districts just up and disappear into it sometimes?

They're serfs, but they all have television. Television is practically mandated (despite the spotty electricity.) You know what's inside a television? Stuff you can probably use to make communications systems or other sorts of technology. The folks in charge are way too few. I bet some smart kid could use that unguarded electric fence to build some sweet taser guns.

Why do the people in the Capitol and "rich" Districts let the Games continue? Often well-intentioned people ignore atrocities because they aren't visible. The fact that it's televised means that these people can't ignore the horrible bloody deaths of teenagers. I don't care how well it's cut together, the population does not seem callous enough to enjoy en masse the slaughter of children.

You know the fastest way to get a revolution? Let your population STARVE TO DEATH. People with nothing to lose are dangerous.

I just don't understand how this system could have kept stable for a decade, much less a few generations.

Okay. One other issue:

I love Katniss's attitude toward Peeta's apparent attraction toward her. I absolutely love it. However, I have a very bad feeling that this is going to change, and there is going to be more romance in the later books. Maybe there'll be enough character growth in the boys to make me okay with it eventually, but right now, I don't think any character I've seen is worthy of Katniss, and the romantic elements feel really forced.


However, for all my problems – and a couple of plot twists that made me roll my eyes – I still really enjoyed this book overall, which is a mark of how brilliant the writing is.

4 Stars – A Very Good Book

And yes, I'm seeing the movie sometime this week.

3 comments:

Red said...

I had so much trouble with the setting and the districts and how this world would even function but I tried to look past it. Or at least assume it's dealt with in the other books. Something that if I looked too hard at the setting then it would be like thinking too hard about time travel. The more you think about it, the less it makes sense.

Because I fully agree that when your population is starving to death, they're more likely to rise up against you. cos if they lose, they die. Just like they were going to do with the starving route.

Nils Devine said...

Here's a nice analysis. Last half of last paragraph has spoilers if you haven't read the other books.

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2012/03/the_hunger_games_could_a_real_country_have_an_economy_like_panem_s_.single.html

Lindsay said...

@Red: Yeah, my issues with the setting didn't really affect my enjoyment of the book, oddly. I just thought it could have been even better if it also made sense. Maybe?

@Nils: That's a neat article, although since the author is coming at it from a purely economic/historical perspective, he doesn't consider the whole televised murder of children part, which is really important. It's one thing if you're more or less slaves, it's another if the government takes your children, but it's a third if they take your children and then make you watch them be horribly butchered. Also the idea that the Games (and the Reaping) can be televised in the 'rich' districts and there isn't a sizable movement of social reformers? Maybe there is and they're in the later books, I don't know. The colonial societies the article alludes to benefited from separating the populace who gained from the populace being exploited; out of sight, out of mind. It is a neat article, though.

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