I reviewed Hunger Games recently and I left this bit out of my review. Mainly because it would have spurned me into a tangent from which I may have never recovered. There are less spoilers here than in my review, so it’s quite safe to read if you haven’t gotten to the book yet.
As I mentioned in my review, I liked this novel. Despite my subjective wants (a more fitting ending) and personal tastes (I wasn’t too invested in the POV character), I still enjoyed Hunger Games.
There was one little thing that irked me once I put the book down. One nagging tug at the back of my writer’s brain that refused to be ignored. And you may not agree with me here, but I believe this is a perfect example of why I believe fiction shouldn’t be plotted & planned.
I find the entire premise of “The Games” to be complete and utter bullshit.
Hear me out. And for those of you who haven’t read the book, knowing this shouldn’t spoil your fun.
The “Hunger Game” in the novel is a televised sporting event, of sorts, where the oppressive Capitol selects 2 contestants from each district to pit into mortal combat. It’s like the Thunderdome, but with more people and less Tina Turner. 24 people enter, 1 leaves victor.
Matt, that doesn’t sound so bad!
I know. Just wait.
Okay, so I’m kinda digging the premise and where this author (new to me) is going to take it. And then we get more detail and I actually put my phone down to wrinkle my nose. Did I read that right? Double-check and yup, I got it: The Games are orchestrated by the Capitol as a punishment for the other districts, who lost a civil war against the Capitol ~75 years ago.
Yes, the ruling government comes to each district once a year and selects 2 contestants to send to their deaths as a reminder of how much control the Capitol wields and how powerless the districts are to challenge that authority.
Hmmm, really? I’m not sure which part stresses my ability to suspend my disbelief more: the unbelievable douchebaggery of the Capitol or the idea that a government can basically murder innocent civilians each year without repercussion? Take your pick.
Now, I suppose the winner’s district gets rewarded when they win, so there is some amount of “sport” and chance for gain. It’s maybe not outright murder, like in The Lottery. But, the premise of The Lottery made more sense – too many mouths to feed (that, and it was allegorical). I just felt the believability factor was reduced in The Hunger Games by revealing that everybody seemed to know of the supreme evil behind the Capitol’s motives.
This is exactly what I mean when I continually say “don’t plot your stories.” Without this act of utter what-the-fuckness by the dystopian government, much of the tension and need to see the villain (the Capitol) punished wouldn’t exist. I cannot stretch my disbelief far enough to accept this premise, I’m sorry but I can’t.
If the coal miners, their families and all those who do business with them have been oppressed in this way for 70+ years, wouldn’t that district do something a little more believable by now? Like, I dunno, tell the Capitol to mine their own coal? (or grow their own wheat, etc etc) Can any government destroy their own people to the point where they cannot function as an organized body?
Or, if the Capitol just has that much control and nobody dare oppose them in the slightest, is everyone living in the clean Capitol a total douche? Are they all okay with the televised, sanctioned slaughter of their neighbors in the districts? I would perhaps buy this if so many people in the districts weren’t so moved to sadness by The Games. It’s clear the social mindset isn’t full of bloodthirsty arena-goers just yet. The Capitol even forces everyone to watch – as further reminder that they can do whatever they want to the districts.
With so many rickety supports for the basic premise, my brain tells me that there is just no way the people in the Capitol nor the people in the districts would have allowed The Games to continually rape the population. Sympathizers from within and massed workers from below would have put a stop to such an overtly evil act long ago. When every citizen knows that The Games are just a way for the Capitol to exert its dominion, I just cannot swallow it.
Actually, this is the same problem I have with many good vs evil, overthrow the government works of fiction. To believe a government is evil right down to every last soldier is just not good fiction. I have many current and former military friends. If their commanding officer told them to shoot a 12 year old American citizen “because it will be fun to watch them die,” I’m pretty sure none of them would follow that order. To me, it’s just like asking that same soldier to go round-up a citizen to bring to an arena “because it will be sporting to watch them die.”
I think I would have “bought it” if the people of the Capitol/districts were portrayed as truly believing some sort of lie – that these games are needed for some functional purpose. That taking your 12 year old daughter from you was somehow mandatory for the continuation of the society. Then, I could look upon this work as an allegory and marvel at the lessons within.
Instead, I’m asked to swallow a too-large pill (for me – your mileage may vary). Disclaimer disclaimer disclaimer – this is just my takeaway from the book, perhaps the author meant for different feelings to be impressed upon me.
I’m going to end with stating that I did enjoy this book. The writing was clean, quick and entertaining. In the end, I got over myself and had a great time in this world. I just think the premise is a tad contrived and I think it makes an excellent case study in the evils of p-l-o-t (a 4-letter word in my house). Don’t rip your readers from the fabric of your story with manufactured plot. Get them there naturally, naturally.