Hunger Games Ch1

So Smallbrother told me I should read The Hunger Games, and I decided to take this opportunity to demonstrate the difference between the reviews I give fanfic and what it actually looks like when I’m really picking things apart.

As is usual for people trying to talk things up to me, my brother’s description of the book did not impress. “So they’re doing it for the evululz?” I said.


So who could turn that down.

The back of the book claims If she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. I am all about that kind of stuff.

Also, my brother recced it in part as feminist because the main character is not only female but competent, which is actually not exactly a view I hold, so you get bonus attention to gender here.

Well, here we go.

The book opens introducing us to the main character, her sister and her mother.

This…well, doesn’t actually mean anything. We’ll have to see.

It does a pretty good job conveying deprivation. It’s cold, the bed is rough, the mother is beaten down, and the main character objected to a kitten as another mouth to feed. The food is kept out and covered by a bowl against rats. (And it’s goat cheese, suggesting they don’t live somewhere that can support cows.) They’re in pretty primitive conditions here.

Apparently they live in the section of town devoted to coal mining. This is kind of weird, because my brother said districts were broken up by industry and the whole district she’s in is the coal district.

The place is surrounded by a fence.

a deterrent to the predators that live in the woods — packs of wild dogs, lone cougars, bears — that used to threaten our streets.

Bears? Bears are omnivores, not carnivores. Also, the cougars are coexisting with wild dogs like that? Cougars do attack people, but it’s very rare for them to come down into a town to attack people, and it usually happens at all in areas where there aren’t any other predators competing with them and their population outstrips food supply. Furthermore, they’re ambush predators, so it’s pretty easy for people to deal with this by backing away and finding someone to kill them. You are not going to be threatened by a cougar just walking the streets, there’s nowhere for it to lurk.

Wild dogs are extremely dangerous, being pack hunters that don’t have any fear of humans. The other two aren’t, especially in comparison. This comes off as just listing the first animals that come to mind.

(Seriously, bears. Not even specifically grizzlies or anything.)

The fence is supposed to be electrified, but it only rarely is because they only get a few hours of electricity a day. This is the first suggestion this is more third-world than primitive.

Electrified or not, the fence has been successful at keeping the flesh-eaters out of District 12. Inside the woods they roam freely, and there are added concerns like venomous snakes, rabid animals, and no real paths to follow.

And the sense of Did Not Do The Research continues. A chain link fence is not going to keep snakes out, and it’s definitely not going to keep rabies out. It’s got big enough gaps for her to get through, a raccoon or cat would manage easily.

Furthermore, rabies suppresses predator populations, so it should keep their numbers down to the point they wouldn’t be going into town to try eat people. Maybe the dogs because again, dogs don’t fear people at all, but not the rest of them.

And “no real paths to follow” is a pretty lame complaint. It’s not impossible to get lost in a forest, but it’s not that huge of a deal. Landmarks are easy enough, and it doesn’t seem like anyone’s around to care if you carve up trees to mark a new path.

Now we hear of her dad. Her mom so far is asleep/beaten down looking/used to be pretty. Her dad knew how to find food in the forest that’s been talked up as deadly and was killed in a mine explosion. In two lines he’s stolen the scene.

Even though trespassing in the woods is illegal and poaching carries the severest of penalties

This is one of the things that got me calling evululz when I heard it in the summary. Why is poaching illegal? The reason poaching is illegal currently is because animals are endangered by hunting, and the historical reason for poaching to be illegal is because meant fewer animals for the nobles to hunt. If the predator population is big enough you need a fence to keep cougars from eating you, neither is an issue here.

What does “trespassing” mean? Whose forest is this, and what are they doing with it that they don’t want people messing around? By all appearances this is wild forest.

My bow is a rarity, crafted by my father along with a few others that I keep well hidden in the woods, carefully wrapped in waterproof covers. My father could have made good money selling them, but if the officials found out he would have been publicly executed for inciting a rebellion.

So Dad is really, really special.

The explanation for not selling them is awkward. It doesn’t make sense that having and making weapons would be okay, but selling them is banned. You don’t wait for someone to pass out bows and arm the population before coming down on him. And it’s being treated like either he gives everyone a bow or he doesn’t sell any, instead of the more reasonable idea of him selling a couple.

And she’s keeping her bow in the forest, so what was stopping him from selling to people who’d also keep their bow in the forest, where it’s already illegal just to be?

It’d make more sense to just say that having a weapon is banned and he couldn’t sell them because anyone he offered it to could report him for having bows at all, and the reward they’d get for turning him in would outweigh what they’d get from having a bow. (How exactly do officials “find out”, anyway? Is there a snitching system in play?)

Finally – he couldn’t get good money for selling them. If most people don’t have access to weapons, then they don’t know how to fire a bow and wouldn’t want to buy one. Learning to use a bow takes a long time, so his customer base would largely be people who already had bows and wanted new ones.

(And just to be especially pedantic – the government’s being treated as evil but we have yet to see any sign of this. Not wanting someone to hand out bows and arrows is not evil, you can kill people with those.)

Most of the Peacekeepers turn a blind eye to the few of us who hunt because they’re as hungry for fresh meat as anybody is.

So the answer to who’s using the forest is apparently no one.

This then brings up another question – why is there a forest? Humans are pretty damn good at deforestation. Why are they cold in the morning when there’s wood to be harvested right outside their town? All it’s currently doing for them is harboring maneating venomous rabid animals. Cut it down.

In the fall, a few brave souls sneak into the woods to harvest apples.

Apples don’t grow in the forest, actually. They’re a domestic plant, they don’t grow tall enough to compete against wild trees. Also, apples don’t grow true to seed, so this would have to be the remains of an orchard with grafted trees for them to be producing things that look anything like an apple, and an orchard overtaken by wild trees is not going to be producing many apples.

And if there were apples, then you’d get animals eating the apples, like those terrifying bears.

(Also, like many domestic plants, they’re highly susceptible to disease and parasitism on their own.)

This doesn’t feel like an ecosystem so much as a set. You have your evil animals and your delicious plants, and they just sit around waiting for people to run across them.

But always in sight of the Meadow. Always close enough to run back to the safety of District 12 if trouble arises. “District Twelve. Where you can starve to death in safety,” I mutter.

Oh, bullshit. People, given the choice of food or safety, will pick food. Hungry people regularly die because they’re willing to eat spoiled or poisonous food. It would have to be an incredible amount of danger for very little chance of food before people would take the tradeoff here, and you would never get a situation where starving people go in to get food and don’t wander just a bit further in to get another apple.

Then I glance quickly over my shoulder. Even here, even in the middle of nowhere, you worry someone might overhear you.

…then why are you talking out loud?

This is getting into show-don’t-tell territory here, and it’s a particular pet peeve of mine. A character does something, and then we’re told doing this is a terrible idea and something they’ve learned not to do except very rarely when they slip up, except all we see is them doing it.

It’s especially clumsy here, where she’s not even talking to anyone. Saying stupid grumbly shit to someone you trust, then looking over your shoulder in case somehow someone else heard? Okay. People do that. Talking to yourself is already pretty weird, and it’s even more so when what you’re saying out loud you’re supposedly taught to never say at all.

When I was younger, I scared my mother to death, the things I would blurt out about District 12, about the people who rule our country, Panem, from the far-off city called the Capitol. Eventually I understood this would only lead us to more trouble.

In a related issue, learning she was a loudmouth kid doesn’t convince me the capital people are evil oppressors, because she apparently got away with it fine. We’re being told they’re so evil she was at risk by saying stuff, but nothing actually happened to her.

This is a really common issue with protagonists in these stories. They can’t shut up about the OMG OPPRESSION even though they’re in a situation where this should’ve been beaten out of them.

In actual oppressive regimes, parents teach their kids not to say anything wrong in public since about the time the kids learn to talk, because they have to, and anyone who doesn’t learn fast enough has something bad happen to them.

To be fair to the book here, this is written for kids. There’s a lot of times when you can make an argument that what’s realistic isn’t going to actually work, because the reader won’t pick up on it. On the other hand, there are other ways of handling this that are similarly blunt but not such lazy characterization.

A thicket of berry bushes protects it from unwanted eyes.

Yes because berry bushes won’t attract any attention.

I’m sure the intent here was just thick bushes, but really, berries are easily the most identifiable plant around, because they’re actually designed to advertise to anyone in eyesight that they are delicious and you should head over to eat them. If there are people around, they’re going to gravitate there. If there aren’t, then you don’t need to be hiding from them.

First speaking part, and it’s a guy, Gale. I feel my disdain for the opening is justified.

Then when this crazy lynx started following me around the woods looking for handouts, it became his official nickname for me. I finally had to kill the lynx because he scared off game. I almost regretted it because he wasn’t bad company. But I got a decent price for his pelt.

I’m not sure what to make of this. It feels sort of like it’s a sendup of the mary sue with her special pet thing, but it’s hampered because she keeps going on about starvation and how hard everything is, so why didn’t she just kill the lynx on day one?

Also, remember how earlier she mentioned rabid animals? So a “crazy” lynx is not something you let follow you around, you shoot it as soon as you see it acting funny, because it might suddenly attack. If it was a dog or something like that, it’d be possible to retreat and watch it for a bit to see how it acted, but a lynx can climb trees.

It’s real bakery bread, not the flat, dense loaves we make from our grain rations. I take it in my hands, pull out the arrow, and hold the puncture in the crust to my nose, inhaling the fragrance that makes my mouth flood with saliva. Fine bread like this is for special occasions.

See? So why didn’t she kill the lynx as soon as it was within range?

The “special occasion” is apparently the reaping, which neither character likes, so it’s actually a bit odd they’d be splurging on a celebration for it. I mean, I can sort of understand the reasoning of using anything as an excuse to celebrate, but if you’re going hungry it’d be better not to, and it isn’t just that they don’t care, she clearly hates it.

Suddenly he falls into a Capitol accent as he mimics Effie Trinket, the maniacally upbeat woman who arrives once a year to read out the names at the reaping.

The whole “perky woman is evil and mockworthy” is something I hate. This is a bad stock character.

He plucks a few blackberries from the bushes around us.

Wait, the bushes are currently producing blackberries and they’re just standing around eating a few?

Between the cheese being out on the table and the bit about the electricity, it’s likely they have no refrigeration, which doesn’t just mean personally but it means no supermarkets in the sense we’re used to. And with even the officials are hungry for fresh meat, I doubt there’s really much in the way of a grocery system. That means those blackberries are only available when they ripen, and have to be processed (dried, turned into jam, etc) to be around any longer. And blackberries are some of the very few wild foods that are sweet – and with a crapsack world like this, do they still have the processing capacity to mass produce sugar?

These should be really, really valuable. Considering blackberries also pretty low calorie, they should be harvesting the berries and selling them, then buying food with what they get.

Oh, and the berries shouldn’t just be sitting around. Blackberries both ripen and spoil very fast, and you’re competing with animals for them. They should be harvesting them regularly and covering the bushes to keep birds away from the almost ripe ones.

He could be my brother. Straight black hair, olive skin, we even have the same gray eyes. But we’re not related, at least not closely. Most of the families who work the mines resemble one another this way.

This is fourth wall breaking. If everyone looks like that, then people wouldn’t think sharing the features everyone has means you’re related. On top of that, she goes on to say her actual relatives don’t look like that and do have rarer features that set them apart. It’s a really sloppy way to work in appearance.

That’s why my mother and Prim, with their light hair and blue eyes, always look out of place. They are. My mother’s parents were part of the small merchant class

And I find it really hard to believe that you’d get physical class differences that fast, especially when there doesn’t seem to be much stopping intermarriage between the groups.

My father got to know my mother because on his hunts he would sometimes collect medicinal herbs and sell them to her shop to be brewed into remedies. She must have really loved him to leave her home for the Seam.

…so why exactly did marrying the father mean she stopped doing her far better paid safe job that required a skilled worker, while the dad was doing unskilled labor for low pay in dangerous situations?

Especially because it’s obvious the whole place is impoverished, so having both parents work should be the norm.

I try to remember that when all I can see is the woman who sat by, blank and unreachable, while her children turned to skin and bones. I try to forgive her for my father’s sake. But to be honest, I’m not the forgiving type.

And here we go!

See, in fantasy, mothers just don’t matter much. Either they die off in childbirth or the kid’s early childhood and politely remove themselves from the plot, or they’re somehow useless and weak. Fathers, meanwhile, move the plot living or dead.

This gets into an issue of repetition. Yeah, it’s entirely possible for this to happen. But it’s also the standard way to set up the family unit: sainted dead daddy, who was the one who actually knew how to do everything, and fadeaway mother. Dads are the active force – if they’re bad, it’s active abuse, if they’re dead, they move the plot through backstory. Compare that to living and dead mothers, who either way are nonpeople.

The particular setup here is a common way for it to work as well. While you can definitely make the case that cultural differences make it more acceptable for the mother to just sit down and die, men can become depressed too. But you won’t see that much in fiction because it’s seen as weak, and therefore it’s the province of women.

Gale proposes they stay in the woods and never go back, which she shoots down because they have families to support.

But that doesn’t actually follow. It’s not really clear what would happen if they didn’t go back now – how long before anyone tried to find them, if ever? If people are paying attention, then it could be dangerous to try to sneak back in to trade, but there’s no reason they have to go back to town to trade in the first place. They could easily stay in the forest and trade with a go-between. And they’d probably do better for themselves if they spent all their time hunting rather than spending time in school.

Why don’t people run off into the woods all the time? The book keeps repeating how much their lives completely suck in the district.

There’s never been anything romantic between Gale and me.

This had damn well better be true, and not some sueish bullshit where she just can’t see how in love with her he is.

Anyway, they talk of gathering something nice to for the party that comes after the reaping. Again, if they don’t like it it doesn’t make sense to splurge on a celebration, and this is coming just after more comments about how hungry they and their families are.

We make out well. The predators ignore us on a day when easier, tastier prey abounds. By late morning, we have a dozen fish, a bag of greens and, best of all, a gallon of strawberries. I found the patch a few years ago, but Gale had the idea to string mesh nets around it to keep out the animals.

…so why are they going hungry all the time if you can catch a dozen fish by just setting out poles for them? Admittedly, it doesn’t say how large the fish are, but they’re from a “lake” and if you’re catching fish on a line at a lake it should be of reasonable size.

Oh, and strawberries are also domestic plants. There’s actually a variety of types, so it’s possible they’re referring to a cultivar that had some wild-type features, but wild-type features involve tiny berries, so you’d have a lot of trouble getting a gallon’s worth of berry off them. And why the mesh net there and not on the blackberries?

Plus, strawberries are incredibly easy to transplant. Don’t people have gardens? I suppose the same can be said for blackberries, while we’re at it.

We easily trade six of the fish for good bread,

!!! Fish are better then bread! Fish are way, way better than bread as food. Unless they’re selling tiny fish for loaves, this is a terrible deal.

We might do a tad better elsewhere, but we make an effort to keep on good terms with Greasy Sae. She’s the only one who can consistently be counted on to buy wild dog. We don’t hunt them on purpose, but if you’re attacked and you take out a dog or two, well, meat is meat. “Once it’s in the soup, I’ll call it beef,” Greasy Sae says with a wink. No one in the Seam would turn up their nose at a good leg of wild dog, but the Peacekeepers who come to the Hob can afford to be a little choosier.

a) Why not hunt the dogs on purpose? They’re apparently pretty easy to find.
b) If “no one in the Seam would turn up their nose at a good leg of wild dog”, why are you trading it instead of eating it?

This is economics 101 stuff. If you’re poor, you want to eat the stuff that’s considered low-quality because it’s cheaper. If there’s a cultural prejudice against eating food that’s actually perfectly good, you don’t trade it. Similarly, you don’t eat the stuff that’s got a similarly inflated value to it, like say blackberries.

Then they go to the mayor’s house to sell the strawberries, because they know he likes them, but for some reason only half.

Strawberries only fruit at certain times of the year (unless these are escaped everbearing plants, but those don’t produce a large crop all at once). They should be really valuable because they’re only available for a very limited time.

Being the mayor’s daughter, you’d expect her to be a snob, but she’s all right.

Uh, no I wouldn’t. This seems to be a pretty small and poor town, so there aren’t many people to be snobbish toward. This is middle-school bullshit.

And how does this government work, exactly? The way this is said makes it sound like her father has always been mayor, is it an appointed position?

Anyway, on her dress she has a gold pin that’s really valuable. I call shenanigans.

Seriously, what kind of oppressive government is this? They have a whole merchant class around selling things, and apparently they’re doing so well for themselves they have the money to buy gold? Why is there even gold around for them to buy? Does the town support a jeweler, or do they import luxury items for people to buy? This is not how you bleed your population dry!

You become eligible for the reaping the day you turn twelve. That year, your name is entered once. At thirteen, twice. And so on and so on until you reach the age of eigh­teen, the final year of eligibility, when your name goes into the pool seven times. That’s true for every citizen in all twelve districts in the entire country of Panem.

This is actually a really good idea, since it weights things toward the oldest being picked.

But here’s the catch. Say you are poor and starving as we were. You can opt to add your name more times in exchange for tesserae. Each tessera is worth a meager year’s supply of grain and oil for one person.

And oil? This just sounds weird and like a reference to something. I think it’s trying to be even less subtle about the Rome/gladiator link, although there might be some actual reason behind this. It stands out like a sore thumb, though, and since I’ve been semi-excusing a lot of the minor detail issues as being because the author wants it to sound right to the audience, this doesn’t look good.

You may do this for each of your family members as well. So, at the age of twelve, I had my name entered four times. Once, because I had to, and three times for tesserae for grain and oil for myself, Prim, and my mother. In fact, every year I have needed to do this. And the entries are cumulative. So now, at the age of sixteen, my name will be in the reaping twenty times.

The book is losing coherency.

Is the reaping a display of power by the eeeevil capital, forcing everyone to participate? Or is it a sacrifice for the capital’s enjoyment?

See, hitting the poor is a great tactic, because really, no one gives a fuck about them. A family that’s letting their kid enter their names extra times for the murderdeathslaughterfest is a family that’s not going to cause trouble when their kid is picked. If any fucks were given, people would try to help out so extra entries weren’t necessary.

If you’re trying to hurt the community, then the last thing you want to do is pick one of these kids who no one cares much about. If you want to get a kid with the minimal amount of fuss, then it’d make more sense to make the entries completely “voluntary” and just ensure enough poverty that plenty of people had to enter.

I mean, come on, why do you think there’s no draft in America right now? (And this is by an American author, so there’s really no excuse for this. In fact, supposedly she got the idea for the book in part while watching news of the Iraqi war.)

Also, this system is so easy to game.

First, someone at eighteen who enters an extra time is only doing it that once, while someone who enters one extra time at age twelve is actually putting their name in seven times. So why don’t people sell that? A system where the eighteen year old enters the extra times for the grain and oil, and gets paid back when the person reaches eighteen and, say, enters twice and gives them a double amount.

Or, considering how fatalistic things seem, what’s to stop someone committing suicide-by-lottery and entering their name thousands of times?

Or everyone could all flood the system. If everyone entered a hundred times, the odds of any one person getting chosen remain the same, and everyone gets food.

Gale, who is eighteen and has been either helping or single-handedly feeding a family of five for seven years, will have his name in forty-two times.

Also in economics fail, if he’s the only one supporting the family, he can’t afford to also be playing the death lottery. This is sueish. The author is transparently trying to show off how put upon the two characters are and how they shoulder every burden themselves, but it’s counterproductive. If he gets picked everyone starves.

I’ve listened to him rant about how the tesserae are just another tool to cause misery in our dis­trict. A way to plant hatred between the starving workers of the Seam and those who can generally count on supper and thereby ensure we will never trust one another. “It’s to the Capitol’s advantage to have us divided among ourselves,” he might say if there were no ears to hear but mine.

Except everyone’s at risk. Some are more at risk than others, but they’re still all at risk, so no, it’s a uniting force. If it was optional like I said, that’d create the kind of hatred and division he’s talking about here. Not only would the poor hate the rich for not having to risk it, but you’d have a built-in victim blaming outlet, where it’s all very sad the poor kid died, but they should have known better than to choose to sign up for the army take tesserae. People really like blaming, because we really like the idea we have control over what happens. If it’s someone’s fault, that means they’re safe. Indiscriminate forces, in contrast, make people stand together.

Gale and I divide our spoils, leaving two fish, a couple of loaves of good bread, greens, a quart of strawberries, salt, paraffin, and a bit of money for each.

That is a shitty haul. It does depend on the unknown fishes’ size, but apparently they got only four loaves of bread for the six fish, and all that’s left of the rest they sold boils down to “a bit of money”. They still have some greens, which are low-calorie but possibly there were just no buyers for the rest, so eating those might be reasonable, and strawberries, which even the narrative has admitted are valuable. I can see why they’re having so much trouble feeding their families – they’re fucking morons.

A tub of warm water waits for me.

Well, we know they have no electricity, so I’m going to guess this had to be heated over a fire. Apparently there’s no logging, so that was probably done with purchased coal instead. Heating an entire tub is pretty hard to manage.

I guess this could be excused by the fact it’s a special day and people continue to inexplicably treat it that way instead of simply a day you have to play along with it so no one gets mad. But really, it makes a lot more sense to heat a small basin of water rather than a tub.

She’s about as safe as you can get, since she’s only entered once. I wouldn’t let her take out any tesserae.

I will sort of grant this. She’s made it clear she doesn’t give a fuck about anyone but her sister, so it’s a bit different than Gale supporting multiple people

Instead we drink milk from Prim’s goat, Lady

Okay no.

They have a fucking goat.

You are officially not starving if you have a milk goat, what the fuck.

I realize a lot of people are pretty disconnected from how milk works, so let me point out that in order for a goat to produce milk, it has to get pregnant. Not only that, but goats often produce twins. So they don’t just have milk, they have goat kids, 50% of which will be female and future milk goats, and the other 50% are still made of delicious meat covered in valuable leather.

I guess they could be trading the offspring in return for the use of someone else’s buck, but that’s a pretty steep price, and with Katniss bringing home meat from hunting she should still easily be able to pay the same amount in other dead animals so they can keep the offspring.

Even if they don’t have enough space/grazing land to keep multiple goats (and I doubt it when they could go into the forest to get extra forage for them), milk goats are valuable, so they could also get a lot by selling off her female kids. The only way this works is if the market is completely saturated, but if everyone has a milk goat that just further conflicts with the idea they’re all hungry.

A dairy goat produces three to four quarts of milk every single day for about ten months straight. Even assuming they’re only getting two quarts from her, that still adds up.

And, as with the berries, they would probably do better to sell the milk and cheese then eat it. At the least they should be drinking skim and buttermilk rather than the regular milk.

But there are others, too, who have no one they love at stake, or who no longer care, who slip among the crowd, taking bets on the two kids whose names will be drawn. Odds are given on their ages, whether they’re Seam or merchant, if they will break down and weep. Most refuse dealing with the racketeers but carefully, carefully. These same people tend to be informers, and who hasn’t broken the law?

This smacks of trying too hard. If most people won’t bet, why are there multiple people running around trying to get bets? And if everyone’s supposed to be pretending they’re okay with this, why would you want people talking about the kids having a breakdown over it? And what’s there really to bet on? It’s a random draw based on how many entries, and the population of Seam kids should be way higher than merchant ones even before they start entering extra times. An eighteen year old Seam kid is the obvious bet. Not particularly interesting. And the odds of any particular kid getting picked are so low that you can’t make any guesses based on gossip about who entered extra times, because it won’t really shift the odds much.

Then came the Dark Days, the uprising of the districts against the Capitol. Twelve were defeated, the thirteenth obliterated.

So basically, everyone hates the Capital. It really doesn’t make any sense that they could be in power. You need a certain minimum number of people on your side to hold control in a dictatorship.

The Treaty of Treason gave us the new laws to guarantee peace and, as our yearly reminder that the Dark Days must never be repeated, it gave us the Hunger Games.
The rules of the Hunger Games are simple. In punishment for the uprising, each of the twelve districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins.
Taking the kids from our districts, forcing them to kill one another while we watch — this is the Capitol’s way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy. How little chance we would stand of surviving another rebellion.
Whatever words they use, the real message is clear. “Look how we take your children and sacrifice them and there’s nothing you can do. If you lift a finger, we will destroy every last one of you. Just as we did in District Thirteen.”

Unless the series of disasters we’re told preceded the creation of the districts included one where everyone’s brains got rewired, this is insane.

I mentioned victim-blaming earlier. People do not like the idea they have no control over things. You don’t control people by telling them that no matter what they do, you’re going to murder children every year. Even if you are picking people are random, you don’t SAY that. Ever. People will go along with a horrible, repressive society as long as they’re convinced that if they just follow the rules, they’re safe. It doesn’t have to be true but they have to be able to believe it. Once you flat out say that no, they’re fucked no matter what, why shouldn’t they rebel?

I mean, what’s the capital going to do to punish them, murder three of their kids every year? Being totally at someone’s mercy requires at least the fiction of there being mercy. There has to be some sort of worse state they’re holding over your head. Childmurder is pretty much as bad as it gets.

(And furthermore – you know who the backbone of rebellions is? Teens and young adults. So you’ve got a lot of kids who have to face the risk of death every year, lose friends, and then get released from this right when they’re 18 and angry? Yeah I can’t see that backfiring in any way at all.)

Obviously there’d be no book if there were no games, but come on. Even just doing it because they just like watching kids die on TV would make more sense. The only way this could be worse at preventing a rebellion is if they handed out free guns during the celebration.

All year, the Capitol will show the winning district gifts of grain and oil and even delicacies like sugar while the rest of us battle starvation.

So I’m right, sugar is rare. My estimation of how stupid it is to eat berries rather than sell them has just skyrocketed. Those things should be incredibly valuable.

Then he reads the list of past District 12 victors. In seventy-four years, we have had exactly two. Only one is still alive. Haymitch Abernathy, a paunchy, middle-aged man, who at this moment appears hollering something unintelligible, staggers onto the stage, and falls into the third chair. He’s drunk. Very.

Okay, I like this. You force twenty-four kids to murder each other, send the survivor back as a “hero” and then if he’s not already fucked up by just that, they make him show up again every year to see it happen again to a new crop of kids.

Oh, also he tries to grope the announcer lady, which is hilarious because she’s obviously asking for sexual harassment by being there. Feminism!

The mayor looks distressed. Since all of this is being televised, right now District 12 is the laughingstock of Panem,

And realism is sliding away again. What, the other eleven districts don’t have PTSD former winners getting drunk today?

Bright and bubbly as ever, Effie Trinket trots to the podium and gives her signature, “Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!” Her pink hair must be a wig because her curls have shifted slightly off-center since her encounter with Haymitch.

Oh, and now we’re obsessing over her appearance. Slightly more classy than just going straight for the short-skirt angle, but not very.

There’s a particular concept here that I see a lot. Women are expected to look attractive or else, but they’re not supposed to “fake” their attractiveness with makeup or spend too much time on it. You pretty much can’t win. She’s getting established as the wrong kind of woman – she’s cheerful and pretty, but see, it doesn’t count because both are fake.

Now, this has my special hate because she’s obviously performing and under a lot of stress here. Smiling and being perky is a low-status behavior, not a high one. She is figuratively rolling over and showing her belly to whoever’s in charge her, hating her for that bothers me and framing it as justified hate against those in power is utterly wrong.

She goes on a bit about what an honor it is to be here, although everyone knows she’s just aching to get bumped up to a better district where they have proper victors, not drunks who molest you in front of the entire nation.

No shit, really?

Through the crowd, I spot Gale looking back at me with a ghost of a smile. As reapings go, this one at least has a slight entertainment factor.

Sooo let’s recap quick.

Katniss: your standard YA badass normal with attitude.
Mom: pathetic and unable to support her family, a complete failure. Used to be pretty.
Sister: sweet innocent defenseless girly girl. Currently pretty.
Dad: hunter who taught her everything, died tragically.
Gale: similarly awesome hunter.
Effie Trinket: We can’t slut shame in a kid’s book, but we can do everything but! All of my hate, book.
Greasy Sae: the stereotypical icky woman cook who lies about what’s in the pot. Note the other end of the appearance issue here.
Mayor: male, likes strawberries.
Mayor’s daughter: frivolous enough to be wearing an expensive pin. You know, did she even buy the pin? It was probably a gift. I suppose her nonexistent mother might have bought it, but the only adult referenced there is the mayor himself. The mayor who doesn’t seem to be doing much to keep the townspeople fed, but we get that rant directed at his daughter.
Haymitch: Is pretty sympathetic.

I mean, yes, fine, female protagonists are good, but I’d sort of like female protagonists that didn’t tie into the whole idea that women are all in competition with each other and there can only be one decent one at a time. In terms of plot importance, Gale and her dad both come well before her mother and sister. Of the people on the platform, there’s the male mayor, the male winner, and the perky announcer we’re supposed to hate.

You know what would have been cool? Her mom being the sainted dead parent. Her dad can be dead too since I expect putting a guy in the mother’s position is too much to ask, but her mom being the one who taught her about hunting and everything, then died, would have been a lot preferable to her mom being there but completely useless and Katniss being the only female around who knows basic survival skills. Also a lot preferable to her hero-worshiping her dad and hating her mom.

And it ends with her sister’s slip being drawn.

The structure of the book so far is quite good. The research/worldbuilding/details filling in that structure aren’t so much, but some of that can be justified by trying to convey the intent to the audience, and a lot can be explained as assuming none of the readers would even notice the issues. It gets across the intent (hunger, scary animals, government that harms rather than helps) quite well, even if the details aren’t so well done.

And one area that intent didn’t work well was the celebration aspect. The idea everyone’s dressing up I can get. I could sort of see special meals for the families with kids at risk because it might be the last meal together. But the rest of it, no. And the celebration thing really doesn’t feel like it’s being imposed at all. What would have been better is the capital sending them free food, like colored cakes or something, and otherwise forcing them to take part in the fiction.

The actual explanation for the Hunger Games is absurd, and the characterization so far has ranged from stock to hateful. It’s quite readable, though, and the only thing that particularly bothers me is the way they’re dealing with Effie Trinket. Seriously, she doesn’t even get a real name.

So in conclusion, that’s what a picky review for a published book looks like people, stop whining about how I pointed out major grammar errors in your fic because OMG it’s not like it’s PUBLISHED or something.


  1. purplekitte says:

    Flipping back through these reviews, volunteering’s even more broken for the Career districts. If you train kids and they’re going to volunteer regardless, there’s no uncertainty except in really abnormal years. Everyone can and should take tesserae for all their family members from 12-18. It removes all potential negative consequences. More food in circulation for everyone. Actually winning and getting showered with gifts would be less important than just doing that. It’s a bad, Omelas-like situation, but by not doing this District 12 doesn’t only hurt the two kids who were unlucky enough to be picked and lower their chances of getting the grand prize. Every single kid who doesn’t take tesserae because they don’t want to increase their chances of being reaped is a person who could be getting a ration and giving it to the significantly-more-than-two people who will starve to death during the next year. The Capital can still artificially create shortages of whatever else they want, but unless the Capital decides it doesn’t like the gaming the system and goes back on one of their society’s most established conventions of the tesserae, they’re still better off than before.

    1. Farla says:

      Yup. What it ultimately comes down to is it’s the one advantage Katniss doesn’t have, and that makes it unfair and horribly wrong, while all the advantages Katniss has are fine because she has them.

  2. In retrospect, the fence makes even less sense to me now if it’s meant to keep the dogs out. They’ll just dig under it. My friends used to have a german shepherd/border collie mix who would always go over the fence and escape or she’d dig, eventually they put in an electric fence. She tested it until she could stand it and then dug/jumped out anyway. Where my uncle lives, chain link fences won’t keep out coyotes. They do the same thing. To keep his cats safe at night in his backyard (on his ten acre property), he had to build the chainlink fence so it went down by about six feet, curve the top inward so it stands about ten feet high, and put a runner across the top so the cats would get an electric shock if they tried to climb over. They have coyotes and wild dogs all over the area, but they usually go after the small pets first. So, smaller dogs, cats, etc instead of people. They’ll also go after children before adults.

    One of the times we did have a mountain lion come down into the Bay Area where I used to live, they had to shoot it because it was camping out near an elementary school and there was some question of whether or not they could successfully tranq it before school got out. Katniss has a cat, a goat, and she has Prim. She really should be more concerned about wild “rabid” predators than she is.

    1. Farla says:

      Considering all the gaps Katniss uses, they wouldn’t even have to do much digging.

      I guess the answer is that because there’s ridiculous quantities of all non-deer game beyond the fence, they simply have no motivation to head into town. You could probably put up a two-foot wooden fence and it’d be deterrent enough.

  3. someone says:

    When I first read the Hunger Games going in without any preconceptions I assumed the fence being used to keep wild animals out thing was just what the big bad Government told people to keep them from wanting to go beyond it to escape and Katniss was only taking it at face value because she grew up in that setting. Since nothing ever outright stated such and combined with the rest of the writing quality I don’t this possibility ever occurred to Collins.


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