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The Hunger Games Are Stupid (And So Can You!)

On the advice of a friend, I read The Hunger Games, book one of the eponymous trilogy (the movie will be released this Spring), by Suzanne Collins this past May.  The story centers around the questionably-named Katniss Everdeen, who lives in a future dystopia (this is basically redundant.  Is there ever a book about the future where everyone is just like holy shit the future kicks so much ass?) in which a couple dozen kids are sent every year into an elaborate colosseum to kill each other to the death.

Now such a premise (ignore the stupid name of the protagonist) holds a ton of promise.  What’s not to love about a world where children are forced to fight to the death for entertainment purposes?  The built-in critiques of our society are so interesting and powerful that one basically doesn’t even need to do anything to improve upon them.  Which is why it’s so disappointing that the book sucks so much.

Yeah, you heard me counter-cultural pre-teen America: your favorite book (series) SUCKS.  In this post, I will explain a few of the things that I find particularly offensive about The Hunger Games.  A lot of these are probably unique to me and represent my own idiosyncrasies as a reader.  Others are more general.  Either way, as the media blitz surrounding the movie release grows in intensity, I felt it necessary to codify my thoughts and distribute them to you, my loyal reader(s).  Read on!

The Naming Conventions Are Retarded (People Edition)

As mentioned above, the heroine of the novel is named Katniss, which is preposterous.  People in the real world give their children stupid names, yes, but that doesn’t mean fiction writers have to.  To compound the awfulness of this name, the author has one of the other characters, Gale (shockingly, this qualifies as a normal name in this world), refer to Katniss as “catnip,” leading me to believe that catnip was the original impulse and Katniss was formed around it.

Collins doesn’t stop here, though.  Katniss’s (second) love interest in the first book is named Peeta.  The fuck?  Did the tyrannical capital outlaw “Peter” as a name?  If this is a society where people name one another such ridiculous things, then perhaps its for the best that a few of them get taken out every year.

Other objectionable names include, but are not limited to: Haymitch, Thresh, Cinna and Effie.

Suzanne Collins’s Grammatical Choices Leave Much To Be Desired

These are full sentences from the novel.  All pages from the Kindle (mac) edition:

  • Page 3: Of course, she did.
  • Page 3: Entrails. No Hissing. This is the closest we will ever come to love.
  • Page 3: Supple leather that has molded to my feet.

I’m going to stop there.  As you can see, those examples are all from the same page.  The entire book is written in this fashion, rendering it essentially impossible to read without enduring the linguistic analogue of epileptic fits.  If these complaints make me sound like Ignatius Reilly, well, I can’t help it.

The Naming Conventions Are Retarded (Places Edition)

The entire story takes place in America.  This being the pot-addled brain of Suzanne Collins, though, we can’t simply refer to it as “America.”  Instead, we are presented with a new name for this wicked administrative region: Panem.  Wait, what?

Look, I was a Classics major (that’s my subtle way of trying to convince you I’m intelligent without having to do it through my writing, which I obviously cannot).  I understand the concept of panem et circenses and how naming the country “Panem” is supposedly a clever little way of letting the reader know that the Hunger Games (i.e. the mechanism of taking children, arming them, televising them, etc) is just a way of distracting people from the fact that their lives are so miserable, but why in the name of Zeus’s butthole would the leaders actually name the country that?  It’s mind bottling.

The Emphasis On Pageantry Makes No Sense

One of the great ironies of the novel is that even though these children are plucked from their homes in order to fight to the death, a great amount of effort goes into dressing them up nicely for the pre-murder theatrics.  Of course, by “great ironies” I mean “absolutely unbelievable continuity issues that serve to completely undermine the author’s attempt at world-building.”  Before sending these children into the wilderness to kill each other, they are forced to parade about, at great expense to the Panem taxpayers, I imagine, in glamorous evening wear like they were part of the Miss Universe competition.  Uh, ok.

Naturally, the youngsters are each given their own dedicated team of stylists, because that’s probably the least efficient way of going about it.  Katniss’s stylist is named Cinna (ugh) and his only responsibility, at least in the first book, is to make sure Katniss be lookin’ phat during the pre-combat beauty events.  In the end of the book, when Katniss and Peeta are triumphant, Cinna himself is recognized by scores of imbeciles in the Capitol with a standing ovation during the post-game recap.  I am confident that this would never happen, anywhere.

Katniss Never Faces a Problem That Deus Ex Machina Can’t Solve

Need water?  Medicine? Just say so and, if you’re lucky*, a sponsor will air-drop a gift bag to your location immediately.

*Katniss, as a rule, is lucky.

8 Comments

  1. www wrote:

    It’s amazing what passes for sci-fi/fantasy these days.

    Long-gone are the days of Herbert and Tolkien.

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 2:22 am | Permalink
  2. Scott wrote:

    I’ve got to agree that this book is a mess with muddled themes, lost opportunities and dumb plotting.

    I think it’s mostly riding high on teen angst and too many extrapolations from reality TV (which should’ve died years ago already).

    While tweens may love it now, give it 10 years to age and it will be part of the trash heap of history where it belongs.

    There are books which are enduring and loved across generations, but this will not be one of them.

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Permalink
  3. Sarah wrote:

    You’re dead-on, sir.

    If you’re willing to invest in them, I’d love to hear what you have to say about the other two books and the movie.

    Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Permalink
  4. I agree wrote:

    I haven’t read this book, but right off the bat if you’re looking for a similar sort of story that is done well, look no further than Cinda Williams Chima’s Heir Series. BTW… I AM SO SICK OF THIS HACK TRIPE that passes for good literature nowadays… oh Twilight the havoc thou hath wrought!!! UGH… just read 1984… now that will scare the **** out of you. I also really hate those names… I come up with names for my own “future” fantasy series, as well as use names that exist today. I still hate that Google thinks “Fwendil” is a misspelling of “Fendi”… BTW my book is “The Quest for the Emerald Leaf” :)

    Monday, March 19, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Permalink
  5. Someone w/standards wrote:

    Great review, hit the nail on the head!

    The books and movie looks completely retarded. The premise of the book is garbage and everyone responsible for the books and the movie should commit suicide.
    @ W W W: Are you high, the books and movies look like sh!t.

    Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 4:14 am | Permalink
  6. A hater wrote:

    I completely agree. The whole series is pointless.

    It makes me want to choke myself.

    Like a three year old wrote it.

    I, as a twelve year old, hate it so much.

    Read something else, watch something else. Save your time and money from this abomination.

    Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Permalink
  7. Becky wrote:

    THANK YOU. I whole-heartedly agree that this was a concept with a lot of potential that was cheaply tossed together into a shallow waste of paper. I was hoping the book would play out with some nice insights about the survival lottery and utilitarianism, but other than randomly selecting people to die, there is nothing overlapping with philosophy at all. I ENTIRELY agree that the whole pageantry and spectacle element seems arbitrarily included (probably just to appeal more to the eleven year old girls who have convinced a tasteless culture that this is literature). The biggest problem I have with THG is the total lack of character development. This love triangle thing Collins is trying to create is completely baseless since the characters motivations are all so shallow, and it becomes very difficult to like any of them because Katniss is so reactionary and everybody else just behaves off of one key character trait (Ex: Peeta is charming, and everything he does is because of this). It’s up to people to like what they like I guess, but I had high enough hopes for THG, that I was pretty disappointed when it was so so so lame.

    Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink
  8. Markus wrote:

    Why I HATE Suzanne Collins and The Stupidity Games
    COPYING BATTLE ROYALE
    Peeta is an ugly baby with NO muscle
    I was bored 1 word in
    DRAG DRAG DRAG
    Very little character development
    Horrid action
    Not very descriptive
    When Prim dies that was a corny way of throwing in action
    Mockingjay was disgusting, I threw it away
    SUZANNE COLLINS GO DIE IN A HOLE

    Sunday, November 25, 2012 at 9:14 am | Permalink

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