I was in a reviewing mood today, but a bit weary from reviewing heavy, sad fiction, so I decided to write a review for The Hunger Games
that few will read, and which will be lost in the torrent of glowing reviews of what I felt was poor writing of a fairly conventional child dystopia.
The blockbuster movie sensation which sprung from this movie, with it's relentless shaky-camera effects produced in me an acute feeling of nausea. The book didn't have quite that effect, but left me very dissatisfied, especially when compared to the Harry Potter series, which while I am sure I have outgrown, the warm glow of nostalgia still holds to some esteem - and it has at least three 3-dimensional characters. The Hunger Games
left me with such a feeling of ennui I could barely read it; while the action picked up considerably when the games commence, the reader is subjected to a seemingly endless foundation of puppet-play teenage angst from Katniss and Gale - comprised mostly of wikipedia-esque explanation of the Hunger Games, the twelve districts, etc. There's a kind of mundane affinity which the two share (and eventually leads to a poor Twilight
-esque love triangle in the following installments), but I found it hard to believe even in their friendship which didn't seem to surpass common interest and talent in hunting game.
What irked me the most is the narration. The story is relayed in the bizarre and unnatural first-person present tense, in perhaps the most lifeless tone I have ever read. Katniss's narration is so lifeless that I could not sympathize with the unidimensional characters, which often were sorry symbols of power or excess, destitution or devotion - or even worse, the competitors whose characters were reduced to battle style or weapon choice exclusively. I also found Katniss to be self-righteous and flatly unbelievable as a character, I almost tried to conceive in a thinly veiled Christian allegory, but could find none, which would have at least explained why Katniss is a poor stock-character fill in for moral perfection. There is something excessively irksome about precocious and overly virtuous children in fiction - precisely that children are not like that. Children are selfish, sometimes conniving, deceptive, and impatient, solipsistic to the extreme. The story of adolescence is the story of enlightenment, discovering compassion, empathy, or it is the story of retreat into the Self. Katniss does not change, she starts par perfection, or perhaps she improves her accuracy with her bow - but probably not.
All the other children are either scared (understandably) and quickly killed, or murderous mercenaries. Katniss alone has an unbelievable sangfroid, aptitude and instinct for self preservation, which rather than being a product of psychological challenges or resolution borne from overcoming self-doubt, is attributed to her growing up in a poor district...
I may return to the two successive installations of this series someday (only to read before seeing the respective movies), but I suspect it will be with little pleasure (though I hope I am wrong).