Today’s blog post has been provided by Pete, who has graciously ensured that the Big Bad Blog not be empty during Mr. Topp’s vacation. Management disavows any knowledge or approval of the content of the following message.
With Mr. Topp heading out on vacation I figured he could use some low quality filler for his blog. To that end, here I am once again providing you with my amateur reviewer’s opinion. My chosen topic this time is The Hunger Games.
(Spoiler Alert: I don’t want to be limited to what I can and can’t say because someone reading this may not be as up to date on current trends as I am. Seeing as I am practically a Luddite at this point if you are behind me in the times you should be ashamed of yourself. To that end I will be talking about what I have read (which is all three books and associated Wikipedia pages) and what I have seen (which is a few movie trailers) so I might ruin some endings if you aren’t careful.)
(Editor’s note: There weren’t any spoilers for The Hunger Games so in an attempt to preserve the tattered remains of Pete’s integrity we have added spoilers for other books and movies. We wouldn’t want Pete to be a liar.)
Editor’s note: The previous note was just Pete talking to himself. We’re not editing this for him.
Editor’s note: Except to break it into paragraphs. Paragraphs are good.
Editor’s note: And change “ladder” to “latter”. But that’s it. We’re done now.
Why the odd title? Suzanne Collins stated that she comes from a background of writing three act plays, something I noticed before I read that on Wikipedia. If you ignore the chapter and section breaks in the books, it is still very obvious that each book is three parts. Since I haven’t seen the movie I am going to mostly talk about the books, but I am going to mention the movie at the end. (Darth Vader is Luke Skywalkers father.)
I said before that I am a fair bit behind the times so the first I heard of this franchise was the buzz about the impending release of the new movie. Like any annoying buzzing sound I attempted to isolate the source and found that The Hunger Games was a book series that had replaced Twilight as the hot new teen drama. Once I had that fact I was ready to turn my back on the whole thing and pretend I was never interested, there was only one problem. I was still interested.
Something I found amusing about the Twilight series was the near universal scorn it received from anyone I considered a respectable source. The Hunger Games on the other hand was receiving moderate to positive reviews from the same sources. That caught my attention. (The Titanic hits and iceberg and sinks.)
I should come clean about something at this point. I read a fair bit of children’s fiction. As a kid I wasn’t much of a reader. Outside of the books I had to read for school I almost never read for fun until the latter half of high school. The reason for this was I was never given anything to read for fun that was actually fun to read. Adults were encouraging me to read books they thought I would enjoy, but I didn’t, so I just learned that books weren’t entertaining. When I started to have friends who read they were able to recommend books that were actually fun to read and I have been reading more and more ever since. Having missed out on some highlights of children’s literature I have made an effort to go back and see what they were like. Also the really good children’s books make adults wish they were kids again.
(Harry Potter kills Lord Voldemort in the end.)
Given that I am a parent it is somewhat obvious that I don’t have an infinite amount of time and money. So my investigation into The Hunger Games was going to have to be done in a way that fit my lifestyle. Usually I try to see the movie first, and then read the book. It has been my experience that the book is usually better than the movie so if I see the movie first and like it I will like reading the book too. If I do it the other way around I like the book and am disappointed by the movie, giving me one pleasurable experience instead of two. I have been to the movies exactly once since my son was born two years ago so I didn’t want to risk a rare movie going experience on something that I might end up hating, especially when there is a new Batman movie due out this summer. I also didn’t want to buy the books because even if I didn’t hate them the odds of me rereading them were pretty low. The left me trying to obtain a free copy of the books. Again Luddite, I went to the library, only to be handed a new challenge. The upcoming movie meant a lot of people were trying to read the books for free, at a time when the Toronto Public Library was on strike. When I check there were 2400 holds on the first book in the series. When I told my Dad this story he directed me to www.epubbud.com. A website that is self-described as youtube for books. There I was able to find a free, grey market, eBook version, which works well in a house with both a kobo and an android tablet. (Batman is really Bruce Wayne.)
I really enjoyed the first book, it was by far the best in the series. You are introduced to the fictional world by learning about life in District 12. Life in 12 is hard, so you feel sadness and pity for everyone, but you also sort of admire someone making it under those conditions. Once the story moves to the capital and pregame starts you get caught up in it and start to feel the anticipation of what is to come. And then the games begin and you get lost in the action. All in all a good span of emotions that work together to provide an engaging reading experience.
The second book is where the problems start. Book two actually feels like a copy of the first. Life in the districts is bad, prepping for the games is scary, and the games are intense. It seems like Collins wanted the story to be a trilogy so bad that she made a second act that was all filler. There was some information that we needed to learn and characters that we needed to meet, but we didn’t need to do so by going through a cheap knockoff of the first book.
Thankfully Book three did break some new ground. After the ending of the second book it was impossible to keep the same formula so changes had to be made, and change is good. I am a sucker for a good tale of rebellion, and book three hit a lot of high notes. Stirring speeches, fighting impossible odds, vying for freedom, what’s not to love? The climax of the series was a bit of a letdown, but I am used to that by now. I guess a climax is really hard to write because it keeps happening over and over to me. A story keeps getting cooler and cooler until you wonder “how can they top that?” only to learn, they can’t. Oh well let’s sum up and get out of here. The aftermath and epilogue were kind of lukewarm but they were believable. They went to war, there was trauma and loss, and then they had to get on with their banal existence for the rest of their lives. Dramatic or not, it is true. (Tyler Durden is hallucination of the narrator, part of his insomnia and MPD)
That is actually a good summary of how I feel about the series in general. It was very believable. The emotions that you felt, the events that were played out before your eyes were what you should expect from people in those situations. The main characters do grow and develop, but are still flawed like real people and sometimes do dumb things, like real people. I think whether or not you will like the series will be determined by whether or not you like the characters. If you find them annoying you will likely not like the story. One thing Collins does well is vilify the enemy. It is very common in storytelling that you have to make the bad guys “BAD GUYS”.
Personally, I hate wishy-washy villains. If you are going to be bad, then be bad. If you are going to be bad for the greater good, then be an anti-hero. What Collins does in The Hunger Games is take aspects common to decadent western life and push it to a grotesque extreme, and then set them against the poor starving and oppressed. It is an enjoyably stinging satire of the divide between the haves and the have nots, until you remember we are the haves.
(John Ritter is a robot.)
(Seriously I don’t know why I told that joke. It was 10 years ago and there are like 8 people in the world that will get it. At least most of them read this blog.)
I am glad I read the trilogy, I will find the time to watch the movies, but not in theaters, and I likely won’t opt to buy either the books or the movies. I have a feeling the movies will proceed similarly to other recent trilogies. The first one will be amazing, the next two okay but not as good. Think of The Matrix, or Pirates of the Caribbean.
All of that being said if you did ask my opinion, I would suggest that you read the books.
The good outweighs the bad, and who knows, you may find sixteen year olds less annoying than I do and like it even more than I did.