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Old 08-09-2011, 05:37 PM   #1
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August Book Study: The Hunger Games

Welcome to the F/SF Book Study. For the month of August we will be discussing 'The Hunger Games.'

***Spoilers*** will be streaking naked through this thread unpredictably. Though if you're going to talk about events in the later books in the series (Catching Fire and Mockingjay) please clearly mark those sections. Not everyone will have read beyond the first book.


Here are the previous book studies:

2008:
Ender's Game (August)
Lies of Locke Lamora (September)
A Deepness in the Sky (October)
A Fire in the Deep (November)
Storm Front (December)

2009:
I Am Legend (January)
The Onion Girl (February)
Lord of Light (March)
Small Gods (April)
Beggars in Spain (May)
The Once and Future King (June)
Foundation (July)
The Graveyard Book (August)
Neuromancer (September)
The Last Wish (October)
The Knife of Never Letting Go (November)
One Hundred Years of Solitude (December)

2010:
Battle Royale (January)
Jhereg (February)
Cyberabad Days (March)
Tigana (April)
Next (May)
Perdido Street Station (June/July)
Boneshaker (August)
His Majesty's Dragon (September)
Never Let Me Go (October)
The Child Thief (November)
Solaris (December)

2011:
Lirael (January)
Blindsight(February)
Lavinia (March)
Hugo nominees (April)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (May)
Dawn (June)
Good Omens (July)
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Old 08-09-2011, 05:54 PM   #2
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I read The Hunger Games last summer. It was a beautiful weekend but I was stuck in bed with the flu. Maybe reading such a tense book isn't a good idea when you're sick, but once I started I couldn't put it down. I finished it within a couple of hours.

Needless to say I really liked it. Sure, the premise isn't that original. In fact, it's very similar to Battle Royal, another book that's been featured in the AW book club. But I liked Collin's writing better. I liked how much she described everything: the food, the hair, the clothes. I liked it not just because of how she did it, but how she used these elements to show the differences between Katniss's world and district 1.

A common criticism of the book is that a lot of people find the premise unbelievable, that district 1 couldn't possibly demand child sacrifices year after year without any of the other districts rising up against them. I didn't find this too be that much of a stretch: there are plenty of scenarios in the real world where a small minority of rich, powerful people control the less-powerful majority. But even if Collin's world is more extreme and in-your-face with it's power imbalance, it still doesn't bother me. I don't think Collins was going for realism when she built Katniss's world, but instead constructed a setting to get her points across.

I'll wait until there are more replies before I get into spoiler territory, but without spoiling anything major I want to say that Collins is kind of my hero when it comes to killing off characters. People say George R. R. Martin is tough on his characters? Bah!
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Old 08-09-2011, 06:33 PM   #3
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I agree, she IS tough and as a writer I found that a bit shocking. I get so attached to the characters that I create so the fact that she can pluck them off like that means she has an unbelievable ability to tell a story the way it needs to be told.

I do think the story itself was a little heavyhanded with its lesson. I got that it was supposed to be a cautionary tale, but it felt a bit...don't know...obvious? Maybe it's because I'm a grown-up who studied literature and not the target demographic. I'd like to know if any YA readers thought they were being beaten over the head with it or if it seemed subtle to them.
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Old 08-09-2011, 07:28 PM   #4
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Yeah, I also find it very hard to kill my characters. Collins not only kills them, but kills them in genuinely horrific ways. On the other end of the spectrum, she also leaves a lot of minor character's fates up in the air: you never see the bodies firsthand, but the odds are pretty damn good that they're dead. I admire that she can do the explicit deaths but also the unsettling, uncertain deaths that are affecting even though they happen off-screen.
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Old 08-09-2011, 11:22 PM   #5
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Mild to moderate spoilers!

I just read this the other week. Ultimately, I loved it...after I got over the HUGE holes in the premise. Let's get those out of the way first.

It's not just the unbelievability of parents willingly letting their children march off to certain death, though that shows a basic lack of understanding of human psychology, IMO. Human beings are biologically hard-wired to protect and nurture their children. There would have been way, way more resistance to the Games--rebellions, deceit, trickery, anything to spare the innocent victims. But the people of Panem just docilely accept it. Not even an anecdote about a tribute who decided to run and try to live in the wilderness outside the district, or something along those lines.

Maybe Collins addresses this in later books; I've only read book 1 so far.

There are also problems in the whole setup of society. It doesn't make sense. If the Capitol has such absurd wealth and such amazingly advanced technology, why would they need a whole district devoted to the mining of coal? And why wouldn't the breadbasket district realize that they're essentially keeping Panem alive and revolt, taking control of the food stores?

Either the poor districts are keeping the country running--which isn't logical, since they're so primitive and the Capitol is so advanced; what does the Capitol need them for?--or the poor districts are actually gratuitous and just kept around for sport, political maneuvering, etc., which also doesn't make sense and points to another failure to understand human psychology.

There would be far more Cinnas than Effies in the Capitol. A populace as educated, free, and able to enjoy as much leisure as that of the Capitol would mirror any modern first-world nation--and such nations are full of volunteers who go overseas, people who donate to charities; in short, plenty of people who want to give back and help those who are less privileged.

There's no excuse about the citizens of the Capitol being ignorant of the poorer districts, either, since the Hunger Games are mandatory viewing and feature in-depth interviews and windows into the culture and quality of life of each district.

None of this adds up. Maybe Collins attempts to explain it in the later books. I had to willfully suspend disbelief and force myself to ignore these glaring logical errors--but once I did, I found myself greatly enjoying the book.

Katniss is a wonderful character. Props to Collins for creating a smart, savvy, tough, yet believably human MC. I was actually worried she was going to be too "perfect," and Collins would invent ways for the other tributes to die off without Katniss having to sully her hands with their blood, but such was not the case.

The other tributes were intriguing, and I wanted to know more about them. I wish Rue had had more screen time with Katniss, and Peeta less. There was a very interesting dynamic developing between Katniss and Rue: if the two of them were successful in outwitting everyone else, they'd eventually have to face each other to determine the victor. This dynamic initially existed between Katniss and Peeta as well, but Collins dropped it so quickly with the rule change that I felt cheated. It sapped the drama and tension out of their relationship. It also seemed pretty obvious to me that Katniss and Peeta would ultimately be pitted against each other in the end, and I wish it was less telegraphed.

The Peeta/Katniss manufactured romance: meh. It was certainly something different; I'll give Collins credit for that. Katniss's completely flat, practical reaction to it at first was hilarious. No swooning eyelash-flutterer, her. Peeta's cliché love at first sight and Katniss being uncharacteristically oblivious to it: not as interesting. Developing love triangle between Peeta/Katniss/Gale that will surely play out in the next two books: not as interesting.

I most enjoyed the book when the Games actually began. The world-building rang false for me, so the less of that, the better. For me, the strength of the book was in Katniss's headstrong, self-sufficient character, and in the shifting alliances and rivalries formed between tributes.

Also, Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in the movie version? YES. Just saw her in WINTER'S BONE and the girl has the perfect combination of earnest gravitas and humane toughness. Really looking forward to seeing her bring Katniss off the page.
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Old 08-09-2011, 11:29 PM   #6
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I really enjoyed the book and also found it a page turner. I found the idea of 12 districts ruled by one capitol increasingly believable as these districts are clearly isolated, mostly small, and their resources are controlled to a degree that would make communists get excited. What I didn't find believable was the high level of specialization in the districts (mining, farming, et al) but each community does have a mix of trades and the details weren't all provided, so perhaps districts aren't as specialized as they seem. But one district for specializing in agriculture? Random famines much? And I hope it's a big enough district to feed 12 other regions, even if most folks do starve to death at some point.

World building aside, the voice was spot on and easy to connect with. I see why my friend reccomended this book. When I wasnt absorbed and reading for fun, I noted that the pacing was good to excellent and caught on to some good use of scene and sequel.

The end though- what the heck? The end note was okay and a good 'come full circle but now everything has changed'. The fact that we don't meet ONE sponsor or get to see more jerks like Effie who think its all fun and games (not that Effie is a total jerk), really made me wonder if someone was trimming words or happy to hit The End so they could hit the fun stuff in Book 2. The danger in the capitol at the end is survived with minimal effort or visible danger, and the only consequence is to drive Peeta and Katniss apart. A chapter or two definitely should have been added to the end and could have been used to highlight how the games affected the two survivors, since we dont see the effects when they return home (and for The Lord of the Rings, the movies really screwed up LOTR SPOILER by not including the epic return home of the hobbits who then battle for home.
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Old 08-09-2011, 11:45 PM   #7
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Leah, I have to disagree with most your assessment of the Capitol having control and the parents not letting their children be taken. The book gives a few details like the destruction of district 13 and the parading of the victors throughout the year to show that the Capitol is making good use of psycology. Rue reveals that most districts have more martial law in effect. There are examples throughout history of communist states and other unbalanced societies that did just fine for those in power. At the capitol we saw a select few members of the city and most those folks were hand picked bc they loved the games, not the people in them. Look how clueless Cinna's team was. And if not clueless, I'd imagine a fair number of folks in the capitol are taugt they are superior to the district infadels and they need only look at the barbaric tributes to help convince themselves of it. No, the psycology is right on track sadly.

I didn't know there was going to be a movie. I hope it is awesome and properly dark.

Another point- I really wanted to see Thrash(?) die or fight Katniss/Peeta/both. I understand they weren't going to do all the killing, but they only mercy killed the last kid. Facing Thrash seemed important, especially since he was smart enough to go and survive in the unknown.
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Old 08-09-2011, 11:48 PM   #8
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Oh, I forgot about the parents- briefly- history is full of children being dragged off to war, yes the author could have shown some examples of kids or parents who tried to prevent tributes from being taken, the capitol herds them right into a room then wisks them away which I bet is quite deliberate to keep control, and the ritual and the ability to volunteer keeps the districts in line (remember, the Careers are volunteering, so those districts will have less freak outs)
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Old 08-09-2011, 11:52 PM   #9
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Ooh! I read this series. Twice. I'm an HG geek. I'm in line, waiting for the movie to release! (-:
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Old 08-11-2011, 08:44 PM   #10
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I just read the trilogy this summer, and find the "Hunger Games" the strongest of the three. The scene with Rue and the flowers got to me it was so well written. While the general conceit seems a bit of a stretch, these are young adult novels, so getting caught up in the "realism" of the contest and finding the situations somewhat simplistic is a bit unfair. These stories are driven by the central characters, and they reflect all the complexity of feeling that teenagers experience as they come of age. As for the capitol being ignorant of the poor condition of the rest of the districts as being unrealistic: I disagree.

Let us look at World War Two and the concentration camps. The German population chose to ignore and pretend that there were no death camps. The average German believed that it was all exaggeration and lies. We often wonder how they could not have known. They did not know because they did not want to know. The people of the capitol are the same. While the evidence is plain, many people would choose not to believe it, because that is just easier.
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Old 09-01-2011, 05:13 AM   #11
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I finished the first book not too long ago. I enjoyed it, but I agree that the ending was a little anticlimactic. A battle between Katniss and Thresh would've been interesting.
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Old 09-12-2011, 11:46 PM   #12
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I find the MC extremely whiny, almost to a Twlight degree. I enjoyed the first book but the second and third don't have the same bite and she gets worse and more boring as a character. (Bit late but nevermind)
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Old 09-14-2011, 03:22 AM   #13
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It's one of those books that almost would've worked better as a standalone. I liked the second one (the third, not so much), but the first book was honestly one of my favorite reads of the past few years. Much of that is due to the central idea, which is just so applicable to society right now (even though similar ideas have already been done before). The rest is down to the plotting, which was absolutely riveting. I could even stand the whole Twilight-esque love triangle parts.
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Old 09-14-2011, 03:28 AM   #14
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It's one of those books that almost would've worked better as a standalone.
Agreed. I loved the first book, but was disappointed with both the second book (which felt like a repeat of book 1 until the actual games) and the third book.
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Old 09-14-2011, 10:41 AM   #15
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Agreed. I loved the first book, but was disappointed with both the second book (which felt like a repeat of book 1 until the actual games) and the third book.
I almost wonder (and this may have been answered in interviews with her) if Collins initially wrote it as a standalone. I mean, it clearly leads into more books if necessary, but once those books were actually released they didn't seem to have quite the same focus as the first. A major plot point in the second, especially, seemed like a way to capitalize on the success of the first.

But then again, the second was most likely written before they even knew what a juggernaut the first would be, so who knows.
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Old 09-16-2011, 06:19 PM   #16
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I read the series earlier this year and, for the most part, enjoyed it. The first book stumbled a bit out of the gate for me because of the not-quite-believable world-building that others mentioned, but it has one of the best "middles" I've ever read. The scene with Rue gets me every time. Kudos to Collins!

Catching Fire (the second book) is my favorite of the three. Yes, it's plot is similar to the first one, but it didn't feel like a rehash to me, because the emotions and characters were more genuine. Loved the last line!

Mockingjay...I wanted to love it, I really did. In the end, it left me disappointed and unimpressed with Katniss as a character.
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Old 09-16-2011, 06:44 PM   #17
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I read Hunger Games some time ago and found Kaitness herself not entirely convincing. But then I think Harry Potter should have a serious attachment disorder, so what do I know?

Yes, people have always sent their children to war. It's interesting to note however that in the late Roman Empire, when being a soldier was hereditary, fathers started cutting their sons' thumbs off so they couldn't serve. There's always ways out.
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