When my wife first read this a while back, I read the first paragraph over her shoulder and couldn't resist making fun of it. The phrase "the reaping,...moreWhen my wife first read this a while back, I read the first paragraph over her shoulder and couldn't resist making fun of it. The phrase "the reaping," smacked of cheap sci-fi melodrama. Later, after The Hunger Games blew up and everyone was hysterical over the movie, I tried reading the book again, but again couldn't get past a few pages. The sentences were too short, lifeless, devoid of meaning.
When I discussed this with my wife, she advocated for the "truncated" sentences as having more power due to the circumstances of the character in the story. This idea of the power of truncated sentences made me think immediately of Hemingway. And that's when I found out that she had never read Hemingway!
So I made her a deal. I would read this pop culture phenomenon of a book if she would read A Farewell to Arms.
I finished reading the first book of The Hunger Games this morning, and I admit to enjoying it much more than I thought I would, given my initial reaction. Sticking militantly to her short sentences, the author creates a fantasy world of warfare, romance, and survival that reads like an updated, media-driven cross between The Most Dangerous Game and The Lord of the Flies. The fact that Collins' sentences are short and slick ends up contributing to the overall theme of all actions and words being tuned to the everpresent eye of the camera and an audience hungry for cheap action and thrills. The story is thus imbued with some sense of self-awareness and deeper critique of human society, though I do wonder whether the book thus ends up falling under it's own subversive critique.
In other words, it may be just a little too action driven and slick for its own good. I understand that it is a book marketed, ostensibly, for teen girls, and I also get that the entire realm of deeper thought and critique of society is left up to the reader to develop. And I do appreciate that the main character is a girl who is strong and who resonates with values of the working class and the poor. But I wonder about the shallow world, lacking any sense of real history, that Collins has created, and about the true powerlessness that her characters have if that world is taken as one of reality. There is no hope in such a world, no matter the outcome. Such worlds can indeed be effective settings for deeper explorations of humanity, such as Cormac McCarthy weaves in The Road and Blood Meridian.
I question whether the depth of feeling we are ultimately made to feel for Katniss, Peeta, and Rue is fully earned, and furthermore, the critique that then comes as a result of that questioning must be confined to pointless comparisons of our own society. I say pointless, because beyond some obvious parallels to the patrician society of Rome, there's nothing enough to add up as a substantial critique, beyond our own infatuation with sensationalist media and our own ease in being led towards projecting emotion for characters that stand unmoored from any history or depth of context and relationships.
It either speaks to the power of the author that this is indeed her very point, or it speaks to our credulousness as consumers. I guess I'll just have to let you be the ultimate judge on that point.
At the end of the day, the most we can say, perhaps, is that we enjoyed the experience.(less)
Touching little book. Hits exactly the points you want a simple story to hit, in just the powerful but subtle way that it should. This is the kind of...moreTouching little book. Hits exactly the points you want a simple story to hit, in just the powerful but subtle way that it should. This is the kind of story that everyone wants to write, and everyone wants to read.(less)
Fun little book. The concept used here, of demonstrating what the world would be like if we could realistically approach some kind of utopic static ex...moreFun little book. The concept used here, of demonstrating what the world would be like if we could realistically approach some kind of utopic static existence, has certainly been utilized before, such as in the Dune sci-fi series in God Emperor of Dune. It also kind of reminded me of the movie The Village. It's the old commons vs individualism debate, or protectionism vs freedom.
I think what is interesting about the parable-like simplicity of this book is that the more you think about it, the darker its implications become. On the surface, it is fairly straightforward: we must allow for the freedom of individual choice in order to enjoy true depth of feelings. But remember the pain and burden of The Giver's memories? These are overwhelmingly terrible memories of warfare and suffering. What Lowry seems to suggest is that these terrible aspects of human society are a fundamental flip side of the coin of deep enjoyment of the most beautiful feelings of love, community, and beauty. That we could not have one without the other, unless we were to endure a shallow, homogeneous existence.
Whether or not this was the author's intent (for all we know, she may have been writing an anti-communist manifesto), it speaks to its artful crafting that it can lead us to deeper insight and understanding through such a simple and deceptively child-like structure.(less)
The third and final book in the His Dark Materials series, this book was a great finale, bringing back the wonder and fantasy of the first book as wel...moreThe third and final book in the His Dark Materials series, this book was a great finale, bringing back the wonder and fantasy of the first book as well as tying in all the plot expansion from the second. The theological, scientific, and philosophical elements that Pullman spins together in these yarns is incredibly challenging and complex given that it was written for young adults, especially given that the elements of angels and the church that are brought in are decidedly heretical in nature. Which was what makes these books such a delight, really---is that Pullman is deliberately weaving a story with the very simple focus of appreciation of nature, and human love and life, and yet he does so in such a natural, delightful story-telling way that you never even really bother to think about deeper implications. When you do, it is with appreciation at the unpreachy way he has of delineating concepts of true good and evil.(less)