Sunday, May 6, 2012

Thoughts on The Hunger Games series

I liked the first book, but finished the last two only because I promised my book club. Spoilers follow.

1. I always enjoy the hypocrisy of a movie or book that owes its success to glamorizing violence, while at the same time sermonizing on how wrong it is to glamorize violence.

2. I interpreted the last chapter of Mockingjay as a death dream or ravings of an insane Katniss. So I was a little surprised to see that my interpretation does not seem to be correct (or widely-shared).

3. I wonder how accurate this is: fiction aimed at men tends to feature a man with one woman as his romantic goal and the only question is whether he'll win her, but fiction aimed at women features a woman choosing between two distinctly different suitors she likes exactly the same.

4. I mentioned to the women in my book club that I found it really difficult to get through the last two books because I strongly disliked Katniss; they didn't understand my point of view at all. It was vindicating that when Peeta explains why he's come to hate Katniss, it's clear that the Capitol didn't have to lie to him much. Rather, they accurately described things Katniss did in the first two books.

5. Book three was too ridiculous to enjoy. I'm supposed to accept that Cinna was a genius designer and conspirator, but couldn't hide a weapon in his clothing to protect himself against the capitol? The capitol fills the city with absurd funhouse defenses specifically targeted at Katniss instead of devoting those resources to fighting District 13? Couldn't they have just won the war by airdropping a few dozen lizard men or those super melting lasers onto District 13? Finnick carries a magic trident and we never see him using it? President Snow takes the trouble to put roses in Katniss's home to mess with her, but not clever booby traps? (I kept waiting for the cat to turn out to be some sort of mutt spy.)

15 comments:

  1. It's clearly a book aimed at women. I've never read a book with so many food and dress descriptions.

    Katniss seems obsessed with the way she looks, specially in the first book. She must be anorexic or something.

    She friendzones the guy who saves her! Is she supposed to be a hero? Peeta seemed like the main character to me. Katniss is always complaining. I hated her too.

    These books made me realize how much of a genius and good writer J. K. Rowling is.

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    1. I liked the clothing descriptions. Cinna's designs were interesting and well-described.

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    2. "It's clearly a book aimed at women. I've never read a book with so many food and dress descriptions."

      Clearly, you have not read the Song of Ice and Fire series!

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  2. John, I totally agree with you on all those points. I was loaned the books for Kindle by a friend who decided I needed to read them. My reading usually consists of sci-fi, fantasy, or action/thriller/adventure. I would say the Hunger Games trilogy loosely fits in those categories, but I really wasn't sure who the target audience really was. I felt it was a little too graphic for most YA readers and not enough sci-fi for my tastes as a futuristic/post-apocalyptic series.

    My other problem was it took me a while to get used to her writing style. After finishing the series, I didn't understand why everyone has been so crazy about them. They're pretty good and well written, but the loose ends just blew it for me at the end. The whole thing unraveled more than she wrapped up. Almost like she wasn't sure what she wanted to do at the end and decided, "Yeah, that's good enough."

    I agree with Damian that J. K. Rowling is a much better author and there are so many other series that I feel deserve to be put on film before Hunger Games. I agree that books 2 and 3 were hard to get through, but I feel like they were more sci-fi than the first one was (barely). I really felt like one of the few that has read them and wasn't crazy obsessed with them. I need to like the main character to truly embrace a book, and Katniss was definitely difficult to really like as a person. I do have to say that I loved Cinna and Finnick's characters.

    We need more strong female leads that aren't conflicted between two love interests. Why is that how women are portrayed? Unlikable and still having two guys madly in love with them? Why can't female leads fill normal male roles? What if Hermione and Harry switched places? What if Indiana Jones was a woman? Well, I guess that would be Tomb Raider, but you see my point.

    Want some great sci-fi/fantasy with strong female characters? How about Anne McCaffrey's Pern series, or Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. We need more series like those.

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  3. Totally agree with point #1. The whole reason the series garnered so much attention is because people want to read about schoolkids in a fight to the death!

    The 'war is hell' arc was an absolute drag, and destroyed Katniss as a character far more than the love triangle did. In book 1, she's a badass who keeps her emotions under tight control in order to win the first Games. By book 3, she's a whiny, hysterical mess, complaining about everything and constantly under sedation because she can no longer cope with the world.

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  4. I recommend this in-depth review on some of the themes: http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2012/04/the_hunger_games_is_sexist_fai.html

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  5. PS - your comment system is failing on webkit for me; both native desktop and iOS. It does not show the capthca, just refreshes. I tried it on 3 different devices, up to date, peculiar.

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    1. Weird. (Blogger has many troubles.)

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  6. Ever since I read the series, I've been dying to rewrite the ending to the first book to be one with no sequels. I really enjoyed the first book, but I felt like they needed to push the theme of "we don't have to be a piece in their games" (a quote by Peeta near the beginning of the book) a little harder.

    My alternate ending:
    At the end of the games, the announcers say they can no longer have 2 winners. Peeta and Katniss get out the berries AND EAT THEM. Together, before anyone stops them. Double suicide. End of series. The characters learn the truth of their existence, they become symbols for the cause (not the outrageous propaganda film symbols of the 3rd book), and we can go on to assume that there was a revolution without having to suffer through the stupid love triangle, the ridiculous war scenes, or any of the sequels. Katniss and Peeta don't even need to have a traditional romantic relationship, she just knows he was right all along and has that connection with him.

    To me, that would put this book on par with the modern Orwellian classics like Handmaid's Tale or The Giver. The world building was great, the suspense was incredible. Collins just couldn't decide if she wanted to write a really great cautionary futuristic story or the next Twilight. Money always wins, I guess.

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    1. I think that would be the perfect ending. I also think Avatar should have ended when Hometree fell. Maybe I just like depressing/realistic (if that's possible) endings.

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  7. My wife and all of her girlfriends read them all and were absolutely ga-ga over them. I finally gave in and read the first book, and I have to say that I liked it very much (I'm a bit of a YA fan, anyway). I'm now half-way through the second book and am bored to tears and getting more and more annoyed by Katniss' teenage indecision and boy troubles.

    This pretty much clinches it for me. I'm putting this series down for good. Thanks for saving me several hours of my life.

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    1. The second half of the second book is actually pretty good - - starting around page 175 or so when she heads off for another death tournament.

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  8. I completely agree on all points.. The only reason these books do so well (especially book 1) is because it's Twilight mixed with Rambo: first blood. I mostly enjoyed book 1.

    Point #3 is especially interesting. I wonder if that says something about young women's sense monogamy or their anxiety in choosing the 'correct' suitor.

    And yes.. I got so sick of whiny Catniss by mid-book 3, I set it down never to return. She started out a paranoid, unstable character at the beginning, and just became more unbearable as the story unfolded.

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  9. The third book reminded me of Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix. In both, the main character don't really do anything without someone dragging them into it.

    I'm not against a main character having choices taken away, but I really enjoy a character who is proactive. Katniss only made one or two choices that mattered in the series. And the one choice everyone wanted to know (will she choose Peeta or Gale), she didn't even make.

    Gale removed himself so she defaulted to Peeta. Lame.

    Viewing the last chapter has a death dream would make more sense to me now that you mention it.

    Last note, I love your blog. This is my first time to comment after reading it for the past 2 years.

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  10. Interesting post... I thought the books were good entertainment but regarding your #3 & #4 - it was almost painfully annoying at how naive Katniss was re Peetas feelings. (Added for teenage suspense maybe?) You're right - that torn between two lovers concept comes up a lot in "women's" books - here they could have done a better job, in the film, with her connection with Gale.

    I'm with Charity, the book could have finished with that alternate ending and still gone on to be an interesting series... with Gale as the avenging hero!

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