On the advice of reader V., I read the first book in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games. This is not my genre but I wasn’t risking anything since Amazon gives these books out for free on Kindle.
I have to say that, considering the genre, the book is quite good. The prose is nothing to write home about but, in spite of the impotence of the vocabulary and the hobbled nature of the grammar structures, there is nothing in this book even remotely resembling the vicious injuries to the English language one has seen in the Twilight series.
Hunger Games is highly entertaining and it reads very easily. As you can see, I read it in a day (a bout of regular Friday night insomnia helped.) The premise has been a little overdone, of course. As I read, I kept wondering why it is that societies that suffer from obesity enjoy fantasizing about starvation so much. I guess such fantasies tickle their appetites and allow them to eat more than they could normally manage to stuff into themselves. I know that all the descriptions of endless meals made me eat like a maniac yesterday.
The main problem I had with the book is how completely inconsistent the main character was. I understand that this is the fantasy genre, but there has got to be at least a pretense at some internal logic in the novel. Katniss, who is extremely self-sufficient, strong, resilient and opinionated, suffers from a debilitating lack of self-esteem. She somehow manages not to know that she is attractive and spends the entire novel alternating between feats of self-reliance and profound belief in herself with extremely obnoxious and unmotivated bouts of “But it isn’t possible that he likes me. Oh, of course he doesn’t like me. And nobody likes me. And this is all a conspiracy because there is no way anybody likes me. And, of course, he, of all people, doesn’t like me. And people in general don’t like me. And if somebody says in public that he is in love with me, it will make everybody laugh at me because I’m probably five years old and I think being loved makes adults look ridiculous.” To me, it made zero sense.
Another problem was that I had to make a huge effort to remember that these characters are supposed to be 16. Peeta, for example, behaves like a very mature 40-year-old man. If anybody has seen this kind of 16-year-old boys, especially among those who, within the structure of their society, are considered sheltered, please let me know.
Later on, I will write a separate post addressing the issue of whether this is a feminist book. This is a debate that has been raging for a while and even The Nation has an article on the subject in its most recent issue, so I want to share my point of view.
This is the end of the academic year and I’m in need of light, distracting reading matter. This means that I will definitely be reading the next two books in the series. I’m not planning on watching the movie because, for one, I have no doubt that Hollywood has made exactly the kind of product that the book tries to criticize: flashy, gaudy, full of obnoxious special effects, with half-naked surgically altered starlets rolling in the mud for the delectation of the viewing audience. Every last shred of the timid social critique that the novel offers will have been excised form the movie.
Besides, I have no doubt that the film producers have cast 25-year-old starlets to play 16-year-old characters. The only people who can play 16-year-olds are either actual 16-year-olds or extremely talented performers of the caliber that Hollywood is not familiar with. Otherwise, this becomes a huge circus where adult men and women pretend to be kids, making themselves look ridiculous in the process.
Of course, if there are people who are willing to tell me that the movie is not that bad, I’m willing to listen.
Do share whether you liked the novel and why. I’m very interested in how people feel about it.