Friday, February 18, 2011

The Hunger Games - A Pseudo Review

So I just finished The Hunger Games series recently and I thought I'd share my thoughts--and see what others think about this series.

Spoiler Alert: I’ve tried to avoid giving away info crucial to the plot of this series, but I can’t guarantee I didn’t include some spoilers. If you are reading The Hunger Games and don’t want to risk it, please stop reading here. Otherwise, keep on reading….

If you haven’t heard of The Hunger Games, here what Wikipedia has to say:

The Hunger Games

Clearly many people like The Hunger Games. The series has sold several million copies—I (or any author) should hope to have a book series as successful. Multiple people recommended the books to me before I read them. One of my fellow Scribblerati loaned me the last two books (Thanks, Lisa). Over all they were a quick read. Are they the best books ever? No. Are they the worst? No. I guess for my reading tastes I give them a solid “C.” I liked them enough to read them all over a short period of time. Yet, do I feel the need to ever read them again? No.

Things That Bugged Me About The Hunger Games Trilogy

  1. No Shields. In the first two books it seems to occur to none of the characters in a life/death struggle that having something to block an incoming blade or arrow might be a good idea.
  2. Archers shooting down a bomber. (Book 3). Stealth Bombers come to mind—but in general most planes dropping bombs travel at such a height that their targets probably don’t know the bombers are there until they are blown to bits. Yes, in this instance they are special bows, and yes, exactly what the bombers are and what height they travel at is unknown, but I still had trouble buying it.
  3. The name Peeta (pita) for a bread maker’s son. Really?
  4. At times vague descriptions of settings and technology. For example, the bombers mentioned in my second example above. Were they planes? Something else? I had trouble picturing them from the material on the page.
  5. A lot of really good action happens “off camera.” In particular, many “tributes” die in the arena, but we never see the battles that happen and when some characters die we never, ever get to find out exactly what happened to them.
  6. We know a little about Panem, but how big is it? And what about the rest of the world? How did things get to this point? We just don’t know.
  7. The Mockingjay (Book 3) really dragged for me. It seemed to take forever for a rescue attempt to try to save Peeta (which to me seemed like the logical place to start the 3rd book). In the final book in the series the main character Katniss often seems removed from the main, exciting action until almost 300 pages into the book.
  8. The Rebel Forces/District 13. Could there be a less desirable rebel-alliance to be sided with? I’m sure that was the author’s point, but I could have used a more likeable counterpart to the Capital.
  9. In The Hunger Games (Book 1) why don’t Peeta and Katniss try to align together immediately? If one of my pals and I are going to be thrown into a life and death arena I’m pretty sure we’ll decide from the get-go to align against the people we don’t know (who seem to have no problem making alliances before the game begins).
  10. No sex. These are teenagers we’re dealing with, right?
  11. Never trying to find a way out of the Arena (or even finding its dimensions) in Book 1. Many people when put in a life or death scenario might choose a plan to escape vs. trying to fight your way to victory. To have the main characters never seek or even see the edges of the arena bothered me as a reader.
  12. The “pregnancy” lie. The Capitol has fabulous technology: hovercrafts, mutations, force fields. Yet, they don’t have any means to immediately disprove the claim from a Tribute who claims to be pregnant?
  13. The love triangle/teen angst. Sheesh.
  14. Gale: for being part of the love triangle in many parts of these books he seemed like a non-entity. Because we are in Katniss’s head, a lot of action with Gale, as well as many other characters, happens “off screen.”

OK, Some Things I Liked About the Hunger Games

  1. I did, over-all, like Katniss and her ability as a hunter/archer. Some pretty fun moments with her and her bow. Believable that she is a survivor.
  2. The “Mutts.” Creepy/scary.
  3. Many of the secondary characters: Haymitch, Cinna, and even Buttercup
  4. My favorite book was probably the first in the series. The whole concept of the Hunger Games and the all the jeopardy Katniss, her sister and Peeta are put in really kept me reading.
  5. The last section of The Mockingjay (Book 3) from the point when Boggs gets his legs blown off was hard for me to put down. Non-stop action from there to the end of the book, mostly.
  6. President Snow was plenty creepy, but I always pictured him a bit like “Larry Bud Melman”
  7. Katniss’s last arrow fired. Had she not shot the person she had, I would have hated the whole series.
  8. The children at the end of Book 3. Nicely done.

So that’s my opinion.

If you’ve read The Hunger Games I encourage you to comment here about what you liked/disliked about the series and why you think it has been such a hit.

Thanks for reading.


Jon said...

I've only read the first book so far, but the fact that I'm not rushing to pick up two and three should be telling.

I liked the book, I did, but I generally found it too vague in the same way you mentioned. It's like she never bothers to paint a full picture. I mean, I can fill in the blanks, but I'd rather the author did most of the heavy lifting, right?

Also, it was often a little anti-climatic. Situations would blow up out of nowhere, (the fireballs, the mutations, etc.) and it would be all "oh no, oh no!" and then just as suddenly... it was done. The mutations showed up, lurked, and then just disappeared. I was like: "Wait... weren't you going to do something with those things..." Nope, next scene.

All in all, the book just felt rushed. Like the world of the Capital and the Districts, and even the game itself, it just didn't quite make sense, it almost did, but I had questions the whole time:
"but why don't they...?"
"How come they don't...?"
"Why do they do that...?"
"How does that even work...?"
"Would this really be good TV?"
Yes, it's a kid's book, but still... were the Prydain Chronicles this "easy reader"?

I mean, it was definitely good, I didn't hate it, I was just kind of underwhelmed. Maybe I heard too much hype beforehand, I don't know. I guess it doesn't matter, because here's the truth: If someone had handed this to me to critique for a class, I would have marked it up all over the place with questions about descriptions and world-building and dropped scenes.

And then...

Remember Rue? How the hell do you jump from tree to tree without touching the ground? It makes no sense.
For example:
The arena was full of pine trees.
Rue was from a district full of orchids.
In those places and with those types of trees, they are never close enough or have strong enough branches high up, for a child to be able to just leap along all nimbly-bimbly and never have to touch the ground.
It's completely false. Did Rue have special powers? No. Was she part monkey? It wasn't mentioned, so maybe...

This the type of thing that always bugs me the most, the little details stuck in because it's a "cool idea", except it's actaully lame, because the people responsible very obviously didn't pause, sit back, close their eyes and try to pretend to apply the particular thing to the real world. Because if she had just walked to a wooded park and stood there and looked up at the trees she would have seen how stupid an idea it was.

And that's what bugs me, I think, I feel like the author didn't know what they were talking about and didn't try to find out, like how, after reading Boneshaker, I now suspect Cherie Priest has never even held a gun, let alone shoot one.

I realize genre books are all made up, of course, but there's a difference between made-up and fake. I'll buy spaceships doing screaming banked turns, but I won't buy normal children moving through the branches more capably than monkeys and silent as smoke to boot... Fake. And this book has several of those little niggling details that just ring fake to me. It takes me out of the story.

Anyway... heh

I swear I liked it, I did, I was just underwhelmed...

Lisa said...

I'm with both of you. I found quite a bit of it gripping, but was underwhelmed overall.

One thing I liked a lot (in addition to who Katniss shoots in the end) is what happens to her sister in the end, given the role her sister played in setting the plot in motion. For me that authorial decision, given what I read as her overall stance on the politics of this world, was perfect.

Though to reiterate Mark's points, I appreciated it intellectually, but I'm not sure I felt it as emotionally as I might have if it had been written differently.

In my next blog (I swear I'll do one soon!) I'll add more - but I need the book back to do it justice (hint hint).

Jon said...

Was 1 and 2 yours? I have them, remind me on Monday and I'll bring them. I won't get to 2 for awhile.