No Spells, No Fangs, Just Violence – The Hunger Games Trilogy
By Jeffrey Kieviet
Star Wars started it all. At least for me. I’m sure there are sagas before the Adventures of the Star Killer, but none with such an impact that pop culture was changed forever. As I grew up, we were introduced to new heroes, such as Harry Potter. New love interests, like Edward Cullen (or Jacob Black for all you men out there ;-p ). And now a little of both in Katniss Everdeen.
To clarify, yes, I read all the Harry Potter books (only caught the first few films), and yes, I read all the Twilight books (only saw Twilight & New Moon), and now, all the Hunger Games books (have not seen the movie).
But first, a brief, quick defense: the Harry Potter books are good. Did you read them? Then you would know so shut up. The Twilights are “meh,” but for those of you just making fun of Twi-hards (is that what the fans are called? True Blood has Fang-Bangers which sounds kind of racist) because the ladies are paying more attention to great hair and six-pack abs than an out of shape, balding slob yelling at 14 year old kids over X-Box Live, just remember Leo DiCaprio still owns the heart of your mother, girlfriend, and daughter. Some of you girls are mad at K-Stew for being the object of affection for 2 imaginary men (one of whom is dead [necrophilia] and the other is a wolf [bestiality]) so let the dead-eyed, slack-jawed girl alone. She’s not out there flashing her hoo-ha like every other female celebrity in town; she’s just shacking up with her co-workers, like everyone else (which is why I work for myself!). But the Twilights are exactly what they promise to be, and no one gets mad at Reece’s for being peanut butter and chocolate.
So in a Post-Potter/Post-Twilight world, where do we go?
Panem. A country ruled by an all-powerful President Snow, living in an extravagant capitol city (full of every luxury imaginable), surrounded by 12 districts of underlings who get more poor and pathetic as their number goes up (more or less). Katniss is, of course, from District 12. There was a district 13, but back when people wanted free will the Capitol had to destroy 13 to send a message to everyone else: do what I say or else!
I’m a huge fan of post-apocalyptic future stories in general, from Mad Max & Waterworld to Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend & Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I’m a fan of first person narratives told in real time (“I turn the page to see” as opposed to “I turned the page and saw”). I’m a fan of action & adventure. I’m a fan of Buffy and Lara Croft. The Hunger Games plays out like a fan of pop culture blending every element into an amazing, well written, engaging stew of excitement! The novel Eragorn took as many fantasy elements as it could, tried to put them together in an orginal tale, and ended up with some “meh” (it was a very good book for being written by a teenager) average story, somewhere along the lines of fan fiction. Suzanne Collins has a style all her own.
There is definitely inspiration from modern popular media, she kills characters you love faster than Joss Whedon and has the star-crossed lovers bit play out like a Reece Witherspoon movie meets another Reece Witherspoon movie (go ahead, pick any of ‘em). Similar to the Bella character in Twilight, the narrator has no idea how much she is loved by the male lead (or leads as it turns out to be in every story where a woman is wanted. She can’t just be loved by the one guy she likes, there has to be a physical, mental, and emotional battle between all her suitors. Sorry, it’s just… it gets me worked up. They’re soooo meant to be together *single-tear*) and is, of course, totally & completely confused about how she feels. For 3 books.
Basically it breaks down like this. Hunger Games has action, adventure, and excitement for days. It is a real page turner. The romance subplots are given fair treatment and definitely draw an audience since the films are shaping up to be the next big franchise. There is humor and heart in all the right places, the drunk mentor Haymitch was one of my favorite characters. And the design of a futuristic world still hunting with bows and arrows is painted so vividly and realistic, that I know its history and layout without all the appendices the Lord of the Rings needed. To be fair, the Lord of the Rings is much longer in length, and is set in a world where our preconceived notions of society have had no impact.
On the negative side, the love triangle was excessive for me. Probably just a personal issue. Not that there didn’t need to be a love story, it’s just that the main story was already so complicated and involved (by the end we’re basically following a small army through enemy territory, very compelling stuff) that the overly-complicated love interest/feigning love/reality TV romance/childhood friend/sexual attraction/only 1st base “love story” (especially since the main character repeats how little she thinks about romance) is unnecessary. There was also 1 or 2 people I would rather have not gotten killed, but those deaths may be what makes the story hit so hard. I think the author took a very personal story, set it in an interesting world, and managed to expand it with each part until it reaches every corner of Panem.
Honestly, I know a lot of people have written off these books as “young adult” or even “girly” which they are very much not. Unless “girly” involves body dismemberment and raining fire. The actual Hunger Games themselves need a board game. Roll the dice, get killed by monkeys. Or giant wasps. Or just an arrow to the neck. Mark that patent. After all the copyright infringement is covered, I want 50% of the revenue for Hunger Games by Milton Bradley.
The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, & Mocking Jay
By Suzzane Collins