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Reviews Comments: Bland The Hunger Games film/book review by Kevlar

Disclaimer: This review pertains only to the first book, and not to the whole trilogy. I haven't read the rest, and I don't plan to.

The Hunger Games is a deeply flawed book with a few redeeming qualities. The story seems engaging. The world is interesting. The characters could be in other hands. Collins turns otherwise interesting material dull, and exciting into boring. The present-tense is awkward at first, but you get over that. Unfortunately it's also sloppy and just plain bad. When a battle-scene seems as serene as a sunset you need to speed things up, get my blood pumping. When a character dies I need to feel some emotion. I didn't. Collins' abilities are fine for television – I actually liked the movie, not that it was anything special. The general story is good, but Collins doesn't have the skill to keep it up. One of her worst faults is her inability to show instead of tell, and she has none of the qualities that allowed Tolkien to pull it off: she is not groundbreaking or masterful, and she wrote this four years ago, not sixty. Please don't try to defend the style as “the point of view of a teenage girl.” They tried that with Twilight. It's bad writing. Get over it.

I have to talk about the love-triangle. Cliché and boring. I really want to see something else by now. This was standard, and Collins' characters didn't help. Peeta seems to exist just to love Katniss. Katniss is whiny and annoying. Gale has all the personality of a two-by-four, putting him in the top ten percentile in this book. You know who's interesting? Haymitch. Cinna wasn't too bad. Primrose seemed like a classic Mary Sue, as did the mayor's girl – whatever her name was.

One thing that did shine was the justified use of Deus-ex-Machina. The setup of the games justified it as little else would. It still felt boringly convenient and destroyed tension but it was fresh, which is nice.

Not fresh? The book in general. There's nothing too new here. A female archer protagonist goes up against all odds in order to save a damsel in distress and somehow succeeds while sticking it to the man all at once – yay. Am I too critical? Probably. That doesn't make this book worth all the drool it's inducing. Out of ten I'd call it a five. It's not particularly bad, but it's not very good either.


  • TomWithNoNumbers
  • 24th Nov 12
I like this review a lot. I thought I'd say that, because whilst I disagree with it and don't share your opinion of the book it's written well and seems to go into a lot of depth in a relatively short space.

I'm not sure 'show don't tell' is really established as a rule that has much meaning in books. Or rather it's established but I'm not convinced by the arguments. If you look at the some of the really great books/authors, you had Tolkien and we can add to that Jane Austen, Catcher in the Rye, CS Lewis, they're all famous for a particularly dictatorial style. Look at the opening line of Emma 'Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.'

And then in reverse, over descriptiveness absolutely ruins many many books and I would say is pretty much the key flaw to almost every amateur scif-fi/fantasy writer. We all know that using adjectives for every word, using adverbs for every verb are bad writing techniques.

Films are visual and we by default experience them in the here and now, so telling is counter to that. In contrast books are far more normally written in the past tense and 'narrate' so telling is a fundamental experience of flow. In a film showing is the fastest most natural way of conveying information. We get more from one picture than you can ever get from a character talking about whats happened. But the reverse is true in books, a description is a very laborious way to convey information.

I'm not saying that it works in reverse, 'tell don't show' would make an awful book. But the skill of writing is in telling and showing in the correct times and in correct proportion and I'm not convinced one is better than the other. Chris Avellone talked about how a book that taught him a lot about writing, ended a chapter with the following line 'And a car chase ensued.'

That was a little bit tangential I guess, but reviews are about discussing works so I hope you don't mind. I think the lack of action was deliberate and I liked that most of the book was actually concerned with slow day to day survival and the bits of 'excitement' were short and messy. It ties into the idea of the book, that the stuff people get entertainment from isn't very entertaining at all and is just bloody and nasty. Enjoyment in the action would have ruined the book. But I'll give that there were moments when you were meant to feel fear and failing at that is valid criticism.

I don't really agree that the love triangle is cliche and boring. Someone deliberately manipulating people into believing in 'love on the battlefield' with a climax that involved the heroine completely and utterly prepared to kill her lover and a conclusion that involves the two lovers feeling nothing but bitter resentment for each other, is pretty much a complete(deliberate) inversion of the normal Twilightesque romance and one of the things that I felt distinguished it the most from normal ordinary books and stories.

I think maybe the reason I disagree with Prim is that I have younger sisters of a similar age and so fell into very easy empathy and agreement on the books point of that. Prim is also very important symbolically for the book, because in a setting that brings the darker side of humanity to the surface, where most people are concerned with survival and with a protagonist who is actively amoral and dislikeable, there needs to be something that is worth doing all this for. Katniss' life by itself wasn't worth anything because her only drive was just to sustain. Prim gives her, a flawed person, something to strive for and something worth holding onto and the things that happen to Prim in the third book are pretty important statements on innocence and war. Unbelievably The Hunger Games aim to have a positive view on humanity and living (took me two reads to pick up on that =D) and Prim is an important part of that.

Finally "Female archer protagonist" has 138 hits on google. Two of which weren't The Hunger Games, and one of those was released along time after the books. There was also a blog post calling it cliche but that also turned out to be calling out a TV series released after for copying The Hunger Games =D
  • Kevlar
  • 24th Nov 12
Thanks for not freaking out because we have different opions, Tom With No Numbers. I do respect that others like these books, and I'm glad you didn't take my review and twist it into a bashing. I will agree that the book had some nice characteristics, and I would have elaborated on them further (and in fact I did) had I been allowed to post my original draft of the review. I liked the characters well enough, though I personally believe that the writing didn't do them just. "Female Archer" was the part I was trying to emphasize also, which I'm sure you will admit is the role women usually take when relatively primitive weapons are used.

As far as Prim is concerned the first book doesn't feature her much, and when it does it is heavily implied that she is perfect. That may change farther on in the series of course, and it also may be because the book is from her big sister's perspective. I can't speak to either of those suspicions (hopes, really) because I have only read the first book.

As far as your mention of enjoyment in the action ruining the whole idea of the whole book I couldn't agree with you more. The premise simply doesn't allow for that. My problem is that there should still be excitement, dread, some form of emotion. I simply didn't get that from it.

I do agree with you that Purple Prose is bad, but I must say that this book would have benefited from something a bit more descriptive. Collins' style either leaves you with almost no picture, or one almost entirely crafted in your head. Yes. You do need to find a balance, and Suzanne Collins, in my personal opinion, did not find it.

As far as the show, I think I know which one you're talking about. Revolution. I wouldn't call it a full-on ripoff, but it does borrow way too much. I stopped watching it by the third episode. It promised to be better than it was, by far. It's not outright terrible, but that's because of the works it takes a way too heavy influence from. I think the most obvious ones (only stuff I know of here) are Lost and The Hunger Games.

Thanks for being civil man, and I hope I didn't come across as harsher than my intention. I had to crop some stuff out, both positive and negative, and what was what best got my point and opinions across.
  • shiro_okami
  • 24th Nov 12
While I didn't have as much of a negative reaction as the reviewer did, I mostly agree with this review, especially on the part of the love triangle, which wasn't done well at all.
  • Crowqueen
  • 28th Nov 12
I think the love triangle was well-done. Katniss had a real choice between two deeply-flawed young men - which meant that it made it more realistic than choosing between someone so obviously bad and someone so obviously good. What I really did enjoy about the books - and I usually don't dwell on romance myself as a writer - was that the choice when it happened was well-considered, and not the obvious one. I think Collins is a writer who can suck someone into a book, and with that sort of thing you end up not noticing any poor writing or flaws or Plot Holes, simply because you are living the story. Writing has to be of a certain quality for it to do that for me, but on the other hand it means that the whole is more than just the sum of its parts. Sometimes letting oneself get swept away by a story is preferable to over-analysing everything.
  • shiro_okami
  • 28th Nov 12
^ Gale and Peeta were OK as Love Interests. The problem was Katniss herself, there wasn't anything about her that I could imagine making two guys head-over-heels in love with her, and she just seemed so pragmatic about which guy she wanted to end up with.
  • terlwyth
  • 28th Nov 12
Collins is actually pretty good at Love Interests,and really building fast paced dynamics and more conventional characters,that's in the Underland Chronicles,which follows your average guy who winds up in a world far below New York.

However Collins wanted to try something different and with the exception of the Love Triangle and figuring out how to believably kill off characters out of battle to raise stakes. Crow Queen has it nailed

Except for the Love Triangle which consisted of Katniss being too detached and not really facing it, and Gale being forcefully derailed uncannily like Jacob in Twilight. Peeta was well done though.

The real problem is that Prim is never truly built up,and at times Katniss is a little too unrealisticly psychotic to believe,oh and the Love Triangle,but most of these problems come in Book Two and are exacerbated in Book Three,which also failed to explain outright what happened to Cinna,did the exact same "Kill Em All,slow down to pointlessness,Kill Em All again" formula Rowling used.

  • TomWithNoNumbers
  • 29th Nov 12
I think we know pretty explicitly what happened to Cinna? He was killed in front of Katniss' eyes and if that wasn't exactly what happened then I think it would be 99.99% safe to assume that that fate swiftly followed. Or something worse.

I thought Gale being derailed and Katniss being pragmatic were good/interesting points that fitted well overall. It wasn't nice but The Hunger Games doesn't really do nice. Maybe Gale having that much importance felt bad but he was always of a more similar temperament to Katniss than Peta and the idea of what that means seemed fair enough. I don't know if I ever felt Katniss was completely psychotic either because despite everything, she's pretty much never motivated for her own interests at any point. She#s just distrustful and too willing to do whatever it takes (Gale). But your actually very right that we never see a good reason for them to like her and maybe that's the cause of some of the detachment I felt from the situation (I always put it down to books being what they are, but this idea is very convincing)

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