Winning will make you famous.
Losing means certain death.
The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The ‘tributes’ are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.
When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.
Merry Christmas! Or not. I don’t know when you’re reading this. But it’s Christmas for me, so … Anyway! In this Sunday Review, we’re going to be taking a look at The Hunger Games. This is the book that you guys voted for! And if you want to participate in the votes, by the way, then make sure you’re following my Twitter.
It’s funny, because I was actually going to delay posting this review. But today I got angry. Not at this book. But at something that happened to me. I got really, really angry. And I’ve calmed down a bit, but while I was angry I thought fuck. I have to review something. And, really, I have to review what you guys voted for.
My relationship with The Hunger Games is … interesting. It so happens that this book is a really big part of my life. It’s one of those books that came to me at a particular time and as such, well, it matters. So, I have always wanted to love this book. And I don’t. I wish that I loved it. But, despite all the things that I like about it, the things that bother me bother me just a little too much.
So, for this edition of The Sunday Review, I thought I’d talk about the reasons that I don’t love this book, even though I want to. We’ll just take a look at a few things today. Because while I could nitpick the book to shit, I really don’t want to come across like an asshole when I did, in fact, enjoy this book.
See? This Is How Society … Falls Apart
There’s some good worldbuilding in these books. Some interesting elements to the whole thing. This is, after all, the book that shat out about seventeen million other dystopian novels in its wake. People were drawn to this world.
I’m not the first to point out that The Hunger Games isn’t quite how dictatorships work. At least, not if they want to function. For one thing, The Hunger Games itself is a stupid idea. Not that dictatorships don’t have national games, but these should be designed to bolster the citizens or something. If you start ripping people’s kids away specifically to murder them (I mean, not that that never happens) then of course the common folk are going to get just a little bit pissy. And, see, the people in charge of dictatorships do happen to know that people tend not to enjoy being oppressed. Why make yourselves seem like even bigger dicks?
The Hunger Games provides us with some vague backstory about what came before Panem. And, great. Now, we have the districts. And the problems here are … let’s say threefold. And don’t worry. I can some up each fold (actually, that does sound kind of gross) relatively quickly.
Issue #1 is that Katniss, and presumably everyone else, is at the very least under the impression that Panem—which was once America—is it. Nothing else anywhere. Now, within Panem are the districts, which are pitted against each other, and this is made even worse by the Hunger Games. If you’re in a shaky position of power—as in, you’re in power and nearly everyone in the country doesn’t fucking want you to be there—aren’t you kind of screwing yourself over by giving people another group to identify with? You’re a stronger unit if you make your country the Blue Team, and the outside invaders of another nation the Red Team. Or whatever. (Incidentally, that’s why the similar set up of Battle Royale is stronger. Because they don’t make it a reality TV show.)
(Oh, and, if they grew up starving, how did Gale get so tall?)
Issue #2 is that Panem relies on the different districts for different produce. If they lose one of these districts, they lose said produce. This is why it’s a little convenient that it’s 13, the creators of nuclear weaponry and such, because they can survive without that. If they were to lose one of the more important districts, they’d be royally fucked over, because according to the Capitol’s own story, at least, they don’t have anywhere else to go.
Issue #3? If you were oppressing the majority of your fucking nation, why would you be so dumb as to show off how rich you are compared to them? Even if you are shitting coin, all we hear is that people are growing up starving. At the very least have the sense to hide it, bro. I think I can best example this with a side by side:
And that one on the right says “Stalin in the Kremlin cares about each one of us!” because it’s important to be smart about manipulating the masses.
Something I do like about the worldbuilding is that it hints at some interesting things, even if I don’t think it always utilizes them as well as it could. For example, Effie often hushes other characters or corrects herself after saying something, implying that she’s no safer than anyone else. Plus, the luxurious Capitol food is … actually pretty basic food, so maybe they’re not that well off in that area?
Also, I will say that I enjoyed the book enough that the worldbuilding never took me out of the moment. This is really more of an after-the-fact gripe.
Never Mind Infinite Arrows
Weaponry in The Hunger Games doesn’t work how weaponry works. Not so much that it completely takes me out of the exciting moments, but in the slower parts of the story it is a little distracting. I’ve actually written an entire post about weaponry in The Hunger Games on a blog that no longer exists. I still have it as a document, though, so I might post an edited version of it in the near future. I don’t want to bog this post down too much, really,.
For example, I find it very hard to believe that just Katniss’s dad could make those bows. I mean, yeah, poaching is illegal, but they’re starving. So who gives a shit? Not to mention that those bows would need so much maintenance, and Katniss is protecting them with shit that could … be used to keep people warm. But never mind people. And I won’t go into a lengthy lecture about the sling, but if Katniss is going for stealth as well as killing power, it might be worth trying one. I mean, sure, they’re not as sexy as bows but…
Oh. Well. Yeah, I guess that’s the problem, isn’t it?
On the subject of Rue and her slingshot, Katniss worries for Rue’s safety. Despite Rue’s skill with a slingshot, Katniss fears that she’d not be able to defend herself against a six-foot dude with a sword. Or whatever. Unfortunately, that’s not really how slingshots work. My guess is that if people in Rue’s district have them, they use them for poaching much the same as Katniss uses her bow. And if Rue did get hold of a slingshot in the arena, she’d be able to kill a guy dead.
Now, regarding the throwing knives…
You got me. I’m kind of a throwing knife whore. And, as the pictures above demonstrate, throwing knives are a very specific thing. In fact, they are knives designed for throwing. Not the same as butter knives, or any other knives you’d find at a table. It’d take you a little while to get used to the weighting of a new set.
At one point, Katniss picks up a knife from the table and hits her target dead on. It’s not even a fucking throwing knife! It’s not weighted properly for that shit. Oh, and as to Peeta’s report that she always hits a squirrel dead in the eye? I hope he’s bullshitting, because that is indeed bullshit.
Something that I do like is that this book isn’t actually afraid to be real about, well, weaponry. Too many young adult books seem to do this weird thing where they’re just weirdly cowardly about weapons, and people having and using weapons. And this isn’t the only way in which this book has balls. Things are shit. At least this book acknowledges that.
TV Tropes defines a romantic plot tumour as “a comparatively weak romantic sub-plot [that] overtakes the potentially more interesting main plot.” Basically, when the romance takes over.
I’m sorry. I think the romance in this book took over.
I find the premise of The Hunger Games interesting. I was enjoying the story. A bunch of kids fighting to the death, and only one can survive? it works more than once, guys. I liked Katniss as a character (Collins is right, though, in saying that she’s not the nicest) and I wanted to see her get out of the situation alive.
And then in waltzed Peeta with a penis where his prefrontal cortex should be.
While I do understand why the romance subplot was in the story, I didn’t enjoy the way that it was executed. For one thing, it started to feel like it was taking precedence over more interesting (to me, anyway) parts of the story. This book was not sold to me as a romance, so when the romance becomes such a big part of it, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve been lied to. In plenty of books, you can see a romance plot tumour coming a mile away. This wasn’t one of them. So it was kind of a letdown.
Also, um … someone needs to talk to the people of Panem about the intricacies of consent. Because I’m not convinced that Katniss, you know, did.
Yes, I Do Like This Book
I realised while writing this lovely edition of The Sunday Review that I’m still kind of angry, which is why I only wanted to cover three elements of this review—and quickly. I didn’t want it to come across like I was shitting on The Hunger Games because I do like it. In fact, the first time that I read it, it was in one day. Couldn’t put it down. (Like Stephenie Meyer, but I don’t know what that says.)
I kind of have a thing, however, where the Sunday Review (which I know, I know, is still new) is written with a certain theme or angle, and today that angle is that I’m fucking angry. And taking it out—fairly mildly, by my standards—on a book, well, that’s sort of what this blog is about. If you’ve read any of my shit before, then you might have picked up on that theme.
But! The Hunger Games is entertaining. It kept me interested and engaged. I love Katniss. I love Effie. It’s all good.
Thanks for reading! I’ll try and write my next review when I’m in a better mood.
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