Well, everyone's weighing in on The Hunger Games, and since I hadn't heard a thing about it until a few weeks ago, I girded my loins and ventured into Barnes & Noble for a copy of Volume 1.
This was an intensely dismaying book for me.
Dystopian fiction always bothers me (I couldn't even read 1984 the whole way through; it was too unnerving). This one bothered me too, because some teenagers growing up on this sort of fare will find it appealing for re-enactment -- not a good thing by any stretch.
Last night I was reading some comments from Appalachian bloggers about the book, since the heroine is clearly, explicitly, from a region that was at least once called Appalachia. As a protagonist she fulfills most of the stereotypes of "good" Appalachians, in that she can fend for herself off the woodlands, she's athletic, smart, compassionate, and a good shot with bow and arrow. The bored deities are satisfied with her self-sacrifice and underdog status.
It's not this part of the story that riled me. The part that riled me was the depiction of the society as a whole.
There is a strong tendency in literature to paint the future in the grim grays of failure. Truth is, the human race is an up-and-down species. The excesses of Ancient Rome became so vile to its citizenry and its nearby neighbors that it was overthrown by invasion and religion. As far as I'm concerned, the Nazis and their Holocaust, and America and its atom bomb, represented a new low in human affairs from which we have rebounded.
Will we descend into Nazi hell again? Of course! Will other human beings resist that? Of course! It's never so easy as novels make it look.
And Hunger Games went a bit too far. I simply cannot fathom a country where the entertainment consists of a yearly pageant of teenagers slaughtering each other. There are twelve Districts in the book. A Thirteenth was destroyed because it resisted.
So, when the Thirteenth got its back up, what did the others do?
If the only colony that had rebelled against England was Massachusetts, we'd all be God Saving the Queen. But Massachusetts called on the other colonies, and together this bunch of poorly-fed, poorly-armed, non-soldiers faced down the best military might of the era.
Does anyone remember why the Americans won the war? Heck, they lost almost every pitched battle.
They won because France provided soldiers, guns, money, and a navy. France. "Lafayette, we are here."
As I was reading Hunger Games, I found myself asking, "Where's Lafayette? Where are the Chinese?" Oh yes, and even, "Where's Che?" although the author sort of indicates that Che's type of army would be no match.
I'm predicting that this trilogy will end with a destruction of this evil dystopia from within. It would make more sense if Air France came to the rescue.
But what do I know? I couldn't get a publisher for my book, and this author is raking it in. Call me sour grapes if you will. Guilty as charged. Stomp me into wine.