The Hunger Games: a Junior Tea Party Training Manual?

America, the near future. So vast and controlling and all-powerful has grown the DC political machine that the country at large is now just a collection of vassal states whose cowed, servile populations exist solely to provide goods and services to the grotesque sybarite class in the Capitol. In this future, the free market has been all but abolished – which is why, of course, starvation is rife and shortages are endemic. Only on the black market does free trade still survive. It’s illegal but it’s the only place where you can haggle for sufficient food – mostly game poached at great personal risk – to keep your family alive.

No, not my prediction of what happens when Obama wins his second term, but the background to the book which even if you haven’t read your kids almost certainly will have: The Hunger Games.

I read it myself to gain an insight into the kind of weird stuff that goes on these days in my kids’ brains. (I did try asking: doesn’t work. Past about 11 they don’t tell you anything. Especially not the male of the species). Here’s what I found out. First the bad news: The Hunger Games is quite incredibly violent – 24 kids in a giant arena killing one another; only one gets out alive. (You think in the early stages of the book it’s not going to happen. But it does. And the gore is plentiful).

Now the good news. Well, good news in my book, anyway. The Hunger Games is probably the best education any child can get into the horrors of Big Government and the tyranny and injustice of statism. It’s impossible to read this book and not come away thinking like a Tea Partier.

Today’s generation may be lost. But I see hope for the future!

  1. Valiuth

    On a scale of 1-10 where 1is Sexy Teen Vampire Trash Novel and 10 is Harry Potter how fun is the book to read for an adult?

    Also I know they are making this into a movie. I’m sure they will make the villain a large corporation that controls the whole thing. 

  2. oddhan

    It’s actually set a couple of hundred years after some kind of holocaust which is occurs some indefinite time after today. Niggling point. 

    From what I gathered, there is a significant amount of family orientation, and distrust of authority presented in the books. Does it really explore statism as opposed to tyranny, though? 

  3. Fr. Stuart Crevcoure

    I read the trilogy recently and enjoyed it.  It’s not brilliant in terms of literary quality, but contains some interesting ideas.  I’d agree heartily that it is a scathing indictment of statism and centrally planned economies (as well as a pointed jab at our celebrity and reality-TV-driven culture).

    Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the final book is that the nation is about to exchange one version of statism for another.  A fascinating twist prevents this from occurring, but I won’t give it away.  Suffice it to say that all live freely and in the pursuit of happiness ever after.

  4. James Delingpole
    C

    @Fr. Stuart Crevcoure. I couldn’t finish the third book. The writing deteriorates so markedly after Book One (and even that’s not exactly literature) and the girl becomes so infuriatingly mopey. Glad there was interesting twist.

  5. FeliciaB

    Fr. Stuart Crevcoure is right.  The book series is most excellent at pointing out the tyranny of statism.  I jumped on the book series right after the first one came out and rode the “impatient waiting, oh! I got it! man, it’s over” ride.  Yes, I’m still a pre-teen in a grown-up’s body.  No, the writing is not Pulizter Prize winning.  However, it is moneymaking.  Way to go, Suzanne Collins!

  6. James Delingpole
    C

    @valiuth on a scale of one to ten the first book is crack cocaine: seriously addictive, unputdownable. My kids devoured it in about 24 hours. As did I.

    The next books are like watching paint dry, though.

  7. TheRoyalFamily

    I remember when this was called “Battle Royale,” and I didn’t like it even then.

  8. radicalbiochemist
    James Delingpole: I couldn’t finish the third book. The writing deteriorates so markedly after Book One (and even that’s not exactly literature) and the girl becomes so infuriatingly mopey. Glad there was interesting twist. · 18 minutes ago

    My thoughts exactly.  However, I was compelled to complete the audio version of the trilogy.  My wife and I took the family by car over a large part of the US over the holidays and got the books on CD to pass the time.  Enjoyed the first one very much.  The trip home was spent inside the mind of a love-confused 17-year old girl.  The horror.

  9. It

    I kept thinking of the parallels with North Korea when I read the series.  The Capitol serves as Pyongyang with the various other states in the book standing in as the NK peasant gulags.  All of their efforts are confiscated to serve The Capitol elites.  Not sure if that was her intention, but watch any documentary on life in the Juche paradise and you’ll see it.

  10. Aloha Johnny

    I am on book three now – after my 12 year old son devoured the books.  (Though he preferred the Homelander series by our own Andrew Klavan).  

    The first is the best and three does get very whiny.  So I will have to see if the twist is worth it.  

    And yes it does and a freedom theme – which my son picked up on.  So maybe there is hope….

  11. Fredösphere
    James Delingpole: @valiuth on a scale of one to ten the first book is crack cocaine: seriously addictive, unputdownable. My kids devoured it in about 24 hours. As did I.

    The next books are like watching paint dry, though. · 30 minutes ago

    Agreed; on Valiuth’s scale, Harry Potter is a 4 and Hunger Games book #1 is a 9.

  12. KC Mulville

    I’m actually reading it now. I catch a few chapters while I’m on the train commuting to/from work.

    It probably caught me at a bad time. I’ve grown increasingly annoyed at the “Survivor” influence in entertainment. Every other show is a staged death match. The Hunger Games strikes me as just the latest wave of “death-match” entertainment. Gladiator games in different form.

    It’s easy to miss the difference between competition and conflict; between sports and drama. I love sports, but only while the game lasts.  It’s interest vanishes the moment it’s over.

    But when I read, I want the conflict to say something enduring. (Or try to.) Drama shouldn’t be ephemeral. When you read a drama, you should be able to read that same drama later … because while the story’s conflict hasn’t changed, you have (grown older, wiser). A 45 year old reading Hamlet will internally resolve the conflicts differently than when he was 22. Drama endures.

    These competitions aren’t drama … the next American Idol … next Iron Chef  … next Bachelor … and so on.

    The next GOP candidate. But I digress …

  13. Scott Stillwater

    I took a different view of the trilogy. The third book was particularly difficult to get through. I found the writing to have deteriorated quite rapidly from the first two. I personally found the themes typical of fascist depictions and directed at the usual targets (c.f., Liberal Fascism).

    There is a vomit-inducing line in the third book referencing the original representative government from years gone by: “Frankly, our ancestors don’t seem much to brag about. I mean, look at the state they left us in, with the wars and the broken planet” (p. 84 — thank you, Amazon LookInside). I also found a theme of anti-revolution — that government overflow and/or fighting for freedom is never worth it.

    I have many other books for my children to read before I recommend the Hunger Games.

  14. Valiuth
    TheRoyalFamily: I remember when this was called “Battle Royale,” and I didn’t like it even then. · 35 minutes ago

    You didn’t like “Battle Royale” but it was so ridiculous and Japanese..

    Fredösphere

    James Delingpole: @valiuth on a scale of one to ten the first book is crack cocaine: seriously addictive, unputdownable. My kids devoured it in about 24 hours. As did I.

    The next books are like watching paint dry, though. · 30 minutes ago

    Agreed; on Valiuth’s scale, Harry Potter is a 4 and Hunger Games book #1 is a 9. · 1 minute ago

    Only a 4 for Harry Potter? Clearly you did not stand in line to get the books. After the 3rd Harry potter I read them all in just a few sleepless days. Especially 4 and 5. 

  15. Thomas Culp

    I finished the trilogy a few days ago at the suggestion of my wife as we’re supposed to see the movie on her birthday.  I completely agree with James on book 3. Absolutely terrible.  I thought books 1 and 2 were quite good. 

    Surprisingly there’s only a passing mention that our ancestors sort of destroyed the Earth, leading to the rise of the new civilization. I think climate change is mentioned once perhaps as part of the backstory. Again, very inconsequential.

    I will disagree that the book is about statism. I’d say (and maybe this is more of a semantic argument) it’s much more about totalitarianism. To call The Capitol statist is a big understatement in my opinion. 

  16. Fredösphere

    My big complaint with these Battle Royale / Running Man / Hunger Games stories (see Hunting: The Most Dangerous Game and Blood Sport at tvtropes.org) is that they so frequently posit a totalitarian society where the deadly combat is an entertainment intended to pacify the subjugated masses. I can’t think of anything short of droit du seigneur that would enrage the masses more.

    Those examples from history of this kind of dynamic (e.g., the Coliseum) always involve deaths of criminals, slaves, or prisoners of war, for the entertainment of their superiors. The viewers must believe “that could never be me” or it would never work.

    Maybe I’m thinking too hard. But, as it is, this problem gives Hunger Games et al. a porny feel to me.

  17. Fredösphere
    Valiuth

    Only a 4 for Harry Potter? Clearly you did not stand in line to get the books. After the 3rd Harry potter I read them all in just a few sleepless days. Especially 4 and 5.  · 17 minutes ago

    A 4 for the first book, which gave me little reason to continue the series–so I didn’t. I’ll admit I liked the movies quite a bit, and I watched them all. YMMV.

  18. Fr. Stuart Crevcoure

    I’ll concur on the writing deteriorating drastically after Book 1, and I wouldn’t score Book 1 very high at the outset.  I’m an OCD reader, and it requires a tremendous effort of will to read only one of a series, or to leave a book unfinished.  I was originally put on to the series by one of my college students who suggested it as a quick, entertaining read that dealt with some serious societal issues.  The heroine is an entirely unsympathetic character and poorly written.  My guess is that Suzanne Collins, who has stated that one of the themes she wished to explore was the effects of violence upon children and youth, deliberately made her protagonist malleable and amorphous.  Such a characterization doesn’t exactly inspire, though, especially when the supporting cast shows a lot more grit and gumption.  In the end, I’m not sure the heroine isn’t a bit more Occupy Wall Street than Tea Party.

  19. Fredösphere
    Fr. Stuart Crevcoure:   The heroine is an entirely unsympathetic character and poorly written.  My guess is that Suzanne Collins, who has stated that one of the themes she wished to explore was the effects of violence upon children and youth, deliberately made her protagonist malleable and amorphous.  Such a characterization doesn’t exactly inspire, though, especially when the supporting cast shows a lot more grit and gumption.  In the end, I’m not sure the heroine isn’t a bit more Occupy Wall Street than Tea Party. · 38 minutes ago

    Edited 33 minutes ago

    Really???? I remember her as resourceful and not prone to gratuitous violence. In fact, I don’t remember her killing at all. Her main failing is in stringing along the guy in love with her, but that was a matter of survival.

  20. robberberen

    James,

    I am totally confident that Hollywood will find a way to make the book about class struggles, rather than state power.  The rich holding down everyone else, etc.  Count on it.

    I just finished the first book yesterday, and here’s how I think they’ll do it: (SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT)

    They will focus on the fact that poor people can get bigger food rations in exchange for a higher likelihood that they’ll be selected as a tribute in the Hunger Games.  This will be Hollywood’s angle — the rich don’t really have to worry about much, while the poor are forced to die as entertainment.

    The book is 99% about state oppression and 1% about class differences.  Hollywood will invert that breakdown.  It’s all they know.