Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hunger Games

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.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

I think Americans all too often forget their historical debt to France. I cringe when Americans treat France like a big joke as in "freedom fries" and constant references to French military cowardice.

Lori F - MN said...

another disturbing book is A Handmaids Tale.
That was another difficult book to read. I had never heard of Hunger Games until the ads came out for the movie. Even my teens hadn't heard of it.

Katie said...

I dislike dystopian fiction as a whole, but at same time I do think that it's a case of people working out their fears through fiction. Better through words than through actions- people do the same thing with horror movies. I may be biased though, my acadamic concentrate is in conflict theory based sociology.

Anonymous said...

I also picked up The Hunger Games because of the Appalachian connection but I couldn't finish it...too dark, too dystopian, and yes, I was wondering why there wasn't a China or European Union mentioned. The people in the Capitol have some advanced technology but they also came across as superficial and stupid. And I couldn't buy that the 12 Districts would simply give up their kids like that--for years!--without another desperate fight. The implication is fear and technology are stronger than human love and courage? Ugh, that is REALLY depressing.


should i read or not?

Anonymous said...

Read in an old anthropology book that I found in a library about a tribe that killed any infant whose teeth were coming in in the wrong order. what stopped it was a young mother who rebelled. I have no idea if it's true.

Kristen Eaton said...

If you decide to read Catching Fire and Mockingjay, they answer a lot of questions about District Thirteen.

You brought up a good historical parallel. As I imagine Hunger Games, though, the districts are quite spread out. Do I remember right that the Capital is in the Rocky Mountains? So if they don't have the technology that the Capital has, distance would be an obstacle to their banding together.

I also wondered what condition the rest of the world was in. Whereas some dystopian books let you know blow by blow how society transitioned, Hunger Games doesn't give you those details. For me, that was okay, because:

I found the premise of the story distressingly believable. I find some of the reality tv shows we have already very disturbing. Fear Factor, for example. I can imagine our society going the way of Rome and watching people die for fun. I wish I didn't find this believable, but I do.

I think the concept of tributes in Hunger Games was inspired by the myth of the Minotaur. It's amazing what atrocities people will accept in order to avoid losing everything.

While the book is violent, I appreciate that the violence *is* disturbing (it should be, after all - but many books and films gloss over violence). I also felt that, in the end, the book affirms that even in the most abhorrent of circumstances, a person can choose whether to give in to 'the game' or to make her own rules.