Book Review: The Hunger Games

Cover art. - Wikipedia

The Hunger Games is the new big thing in the post-Potter post-Twilight world of young adult fiction. And when the movie adaption comes out tomorrow it’s going to get even bigger. It’s based on an interesting premise: in a dystopian future 24 teenagers are thrown into a massive arena for a brutal televised fight for survival, where only 1 is allowed to leave alive. It’s easy to see how this could become such a popular new series in young fiction – but is it any good?

I won’t keep you in suspense: I must admit — that from the very start — I was pretty disappointed.

The Hunger Games suffers from a two major weaknesses: firstly, the setting of the novel; and secondly, its basic premise. Post-war USA has been split into a number of Districts and a capital city (originally named “The Capitol”…). The Capitol is super-rich and high tech, whereas the Districts live in medieval conditions, performing menial labor under the constant threat of starvation (it’s all very black and white). The fatal problem that arises is that the world Collins has created is so incredibly simple that it’s lacking in all the areas that are needed to make it believable. As far as I could tell, the people in the Districts spend all their time working or sitting at home feeling hungry. The basic components of society — community, activities, religion, socialization for God’s sake!! — are all nonexistant. The world is mechanical and empty; it’s a mere cardboard cutout propped up to justify a bunch of kids killing each other.

This brings me to my second problem: the concept of “The Hunger Games” themselves. The Capitol annually hosts a televised teenage deathmatch called “The Hunger Games” which (we’re told) keeps the Districts in line by forcing their children to kill each other. But wouldn’t this actually make them more likely to rebel? I guess not. It’s also apparently very entertaining stuff to watch for the people in The Capitol. To be honest, if I lived in The Capitol I would rather watch a nice sitcom instead. Or maybe the 6 Nations. The 6 Nations is pretty good. This fundamental premise that “The Hunger Games” are the height of entertainment just didn’t convince me at all.

The things that do work well are the action and the main character, Katniss. When the battle in the arena finally starts it’s entertaining enough. In terms of emotional impact and violence Collins is definitely pulling her punches for her younger audience, but it’s tense and exciting nonetheless. Katniss is a good protagonist, managing to be ruthlessly cold-hearted yet likable at the same time, even if she is a bit too simplistic. Peeta is quite bland (as is the romance) but he does provide a decent counterpoint to Katniss at least. The other characters are one dimensional, and the twists that I expected them to pull never materialized. I kept thinking that each competitor was appearing the way they were as a ruse — that they were lulling Katniss into a false sense of security, only to turn on her when she was vulnerable. This never happens — it’s all shockingly straightforward.

Frankly, The Hunger Games was a bit of a let down. It’s a good book but it just doesn’t live up to the hype that’s been generated about it. When it comes down to it, it’s too simple and straightforward to truly excel. Sure, it’s fun and exciting when you get to the actual arena bit (It should make a flashy movie. If the don’t censor it too much. Though they probably will. Oh well.), but the rest is mediocre at best. It’s written for teenagers, and if you’re an adult, I highly recommend that you approach it as such; you won’t find any political or philosophical exploration here. Take it all at face value, and it’ll be a short, fast-paced, and relatively enjoyable read. But nothing more.

2.5 stars

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21

The date says I am 21,

Few years once were many.

“In 9 more you’ll be 30 son;

In less I was a daddy.”

.

This slideshow sequence — strange to see

Myself from way back when.

I wonder what makes that child be me?

What links me now with me back then.

.

Familiar stranger/old friend:

In 9 more years will I still see,

When I look back upon me now,

A distant child that’s somehow me?

.

Yet freezing time is wistful fear,

Potential must Become:

As chrysalis; then spreading wings;

To be Realized… And no longer young.

Beautiful Women and Speedy Dragons

[Last night I had an exceptionally strange dream. It stood out to me so much that I can even remember most of it now–hours after the event. I figured I’d transcribe everything that I remember so that you could enjoy this rather odd dream too. I typed this out in one go and I’ve kept the editing to a bare minimum, so as to keep this as authentic as possible. Any incoherency in this post is completely intentional; it is a dream after all!]

My recollection of the dream begins with my cousin Conor dragging me along to a really fancy dinner party. We’re dressed in nice suits and we’re in a really fancy restaurant which is completely empty. We sit down at this long table covered in a white tablecloth with silver furnishings. Then other people start appearing as if they’ve been there all along.

There is a beautiful blonde opposite me (simple, elegant, beautiful) and she’s starts talking to me immediately, ignoring everyone else. We get on very well and have an extremely intelligent conversation, and I can’t help but feel that there could be romance budding. (This is interesting because I don’t usually go for blondes at all.). This goes on for a while. [In fact, I think another woman appeared at one stage but then I forgot about her and she just disappeared again. It’s all rather vague!]

Mid-conversation, a young stressed-looking man comes along and sits down beside me and tells me we have to talk urgently. So we leave (I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to the blonde!) and somehow arrive in a dark laboratory/office building. We’re on the top floor, completely alone.

At this stage I also realize that I am a wizard.

So we’re walking through this floor of abandoned rooms and I realize that I know it’s the Wizards’ HQ – and that it’s abandoned because all the other wizards are dead. The chap who is with me is the new chief wizard. (I briefly wonder why he’s still using an office at the back of the building instead of moving into one of the now-vacated nicer ones. I conclude that it must be a sign of respect.) We reach his office and he ushers me inside.

It’s a normal office and he lays out his master-plan for me on his desk. [He brilliantly uses some action figures to portray this.] This is the deal: we’re the only two wizards left and we’re fighting some evil monster. Apparently the evil thing has killed all the other wizards but this has had the counter-effect of revealing his location to us. It’s time for the final battle!

I hesitantly raise the objection that there could be another force that we don’t know about that could interfere. I demonstrate this theory using a zombie figure who comes up behind our two figures and proceeds to attack them. (Complete with sound effects provided by yours truly.) The chief is unimpressed and throws the zombie on the floor. I pick it up and start attacking our figures again. He shakes his head and throws it on the floor. I pick it up. [This goes on for quite a while!]

Suddenly the door of the room blasts open and a MASSIVE DRAGON somehow flies into the room, turns into the beautiful woman from the party for a millisecond, drops an envelope on the table, then turns back into a dragon and blasts out of the room again. This all happens in less than a second; I’m totally gobsmacked and don’t know what’s going on.

The chief looks at the message, shakes his head, and mutters to himself (I remember this bit distinctly), “This is most unusual.”

I ask him to explain, and he tells me that we were just given a message by the great dragon Penelope. [Baffling, I know!] The chief frowns at the message and I consider asking him what it says.

Before I do so I feel a brief moments sadness as I realize that my wonderful conversation with the woman at the party was not what I thought it was. Was she just talking to me as part of some subtle dragon scheme? Was she trying to protect me? I wistfully wonder if she might still love me despite being an immortal dragon…

And then I wake up.

[So there you have it: my crazy dream. If any of you amateur psycho-analysts out there want to try to explain this to me then you’re more than welcome (I must have a lot of deeply troubling unresolved mental issues!). Personally though, I’m rather hoping there’s a sequel tonight. Bonne nuit!]

Kevin’s Favorite Boxers

Sometimes when you really like a pair of boxers, you just have to wear them on your head.

Caught in the act.

I am not ashamed…

A lot of people were curious about the intriguing pair of purple boxers that I wore while bag-packing last weekend. So–ever eager to please my loyal fans–I have created this special edition, once in a lifetime post so that you can finally witness them in all of their 3 megapixel glory. Continue reading