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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Ambush! [Scene 1] [Draft 2]

[Hi everyone! I wrote this scene about 2 months ago. My aim with it was to write the first scene of a prologue to a fantasy novel. This is the second draft (perfectly preserved from two months ago!). Bonus to anyone who can guess where I ripped my character names from haha. I will be taking a few days off over Christmas, so I figured I would put this up so  that people will have plenty to read until I’m back 🙂 I know you’ll all miss me terribly. It’s pretty long for something to post to the internet, but if you guys enjoy it then I’ll try to write some of these longer-style stories more often. I hope you like it! Happy Christmas! – Kevin.]

“What are you doing with that stick Matt?”

Matt blasted Ham with a look of pure indignation and violently thrust the stick up into his face, showing clearly the runes he had been scraping into it for the last five minutes. “Making some bloody Runes because I left my bloody Wand with the GODDAMN BLOODY TENTS!!” he exploded, sputtering, his outrage making him swear quite profusely. Ham looked down at the stick – which Matt had thrust so close to his face that he was forced to tilt his head back and squint at it quite uncomfortably – peering past his rather substantial nose and facial hair.

The stick brandished triumphantly in Matt’s grimy hand did have a few scrapings on it… Ham supposed they were meant to be the runes Matt had been referring to.  Ham regarded the stick for a moment longer, then “mmm”ed noncommittally – and turned away. Matt remained frozen in his position for a long second, still thrusting his stick aggressively towards the place that Ham’s beard had up to that moment been residing in. Then, with a huff of exasperation, he retracted his arm and once again devoted himself to furiously working on the stick. Ham sighed, baffled, and turned his attention to more relevant matters. A stick, after all, is hardly important when one is being attacked by a horde of blood-crazed savages. Continue reading

DnD: Baern Broadhoof

Baern Broadhoof is the most badass Dwarf ever to have lived.

Or at least, he thinks he is. You see, Baern is convinced of a lot of things that just aren’t true.

Baern was a always big for his age (and big for… well, a Dwarf) and he was an adventurous and boisterous child. Raised by his uncle, Yurin Broadhoof, Baern enjoyed nothing more than learning to fight, and putting those skills into use – typically in what his elders called “inappropriate circumstances”. Baern’s enthusiasm for rambunctiousness was so great that he caught the eye of the Battle-Legion of Kord, an elite group of paladins dedicated to Kord, the God of War. When Baern received this prestigious invitation to join their ranks, he happily accepted. Continue reading

Steve and the Man Who Had Lived Forever

Steve’s wisdom was sometimes challenged by rival teachers and wise men. I record here one of the most interesting of these cases, when Steve’s authority was said to have been superseded by a man who had lived forever. Let us begin:

One day when Steve was deep in thought, some of the peasants from the village came to visit, bringing with them a very old man. The man was small and wizened and old, and he shuffled forwards slowly using a gnarled and knotted walking stick. Ever helpful, Steve’s favorite disciple hurried forward to aid the old man to his seat. We recognized him instantly: the village people had been talking about nothing but this wondrous newcomer for the last three days. According to village rumor, he was the oldest man who had ever lived – in fact, it was said he had lived forever! Continue reading

Christmas Gift Ideas: Books

As any of you who have read my blogs or short stories have probably gathered, I am a massive fan of fantasy and sci-fi novels! In this post I want to suggest some of my favorites to anyone who is thinking of buying a book for a fantasy lover close to their hearts this Christmas 😉 Or, maybe you’re a fantasy lover yourself – in which case you should seriously consider spending a couple of the book tokens you might get for Christmas on these too!

Anyway, these are my 5 current favorite fantasy/sci-fi series:

Continue reading