Court is in session. Silence in the court! The Honourable Judge Goodreads presiding.
For the defence: Various Readers
For the prosecution: Ms Traveler
The charges: 1)Being badly written, and
2)Setting a questionable moral standard for children, who might be mislead into thinking that killing, and killing games between humans, are glamorous.
Various Readers: Your Honor and members of the jury, MS Traveler has made despicable charges against the defendant, The Hunger Games, firstly, that it is badly written, with a poor premise, poor plot structure, and clumsy style. We reject this claim totally and completely, because THG is the best book we've ever read, for sure!
Also, we've recently seen pointed out to us some examples of writing that are pretty much worse than you find in THG, I tell ya!
*submits evidence* http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/343098412 and
His Honorable GR: Is that all you have to say on the first charge, Various?
VR: That is all for now, Y.H.
HHJGR: Ms Traveler?
Ms Trav: Well, your Honor and members of the court, I have to concede VR their last point. There have indeed been works published that are more badly written than this one, but, keep in mind that this book is even being used in schools, and I very much doubt that the self-published novels mentioned would ever attain that status (Well, I certainly hope not, the day that happens, I think I shall buy a bottle of gin and get very, very drunk.) Oh, er... apologies to the court. *bows*
My first contention is that the author used a very clumsy style. I've consulted the advice of some authors/teachers giving advice regarding creative writing, and this is what they have to say:
" "He said" and "she said" - this type of attributives, when used with expressive dialog that speaks for itself, may be unnecessary, especially if there is other action text which makes it clear who is speaking.
From a piece of advice elsewhere: " When two characters are speaking, attributives are only necessary for the characters' first appearances.
“That’s an attractive hammer,” he said.
“A family heirloom,” she said.
“I never would have guessed.”
“You don’t look like the guessing type.”
The reader will keep track of “he said” and “she said” after the preliminary exchange. Further attributives will slow down what promises to be an interesting conversation. "
I will grant VR this, that at least MS Collins didn't make the mistakes we saw in some of the other novels mentioned in evidence submitted above, such as :
Many writers try to think for the reader by replacing “said” with words like grunted, growled, demanded, bellowed, cooed, roared, squalled, and simpered. If the tone of the dialogue is not immediately apparent, rewrite the dialogue and not the attributive.
This goes double for adding adverbs like belligerently, arrogantly, haughtily, angrily, coquettishly, happily, slavishly, and jokingly.
I supose a lucky happenstance and by-product of the 1st person present tense being used, is that it's going to sound REALLY clumsy when you say:" Remember, I tell myself " I don’t see any other tributes, but I do notice some of the things Rue has mentioned. "
"It’s not yet dawn, but my stinging eyes can see it."
..but for me the worst offender was "I think."
This is 1st person present tense, so it should be quite obvious that she is thinking, correct? This is part of what makes the point of view so awkward. How is it that one is looking in on somebody's thought processes? ... it becomes even stranger if the narrator keeps reminding you that she is "thinking".
This is an okay place to die, I think. My fingertips make small swirling patterns in the cool, slippery earth. I love mud, I think.
That’s mine, I think. It’s meant for me.
It’s the smoke, I think. It’s sedated them.
It’s now or never, I think, and begin to saw.
Better, I think, to sneak up here at dawn and send the nest into my enemies.
Each time I wake, I think, At last, this is over, but it isn’t.
And suddenly, I’m not thinking of Gale but of Peeta and . . . Peeta! He saved my life! I think.
Water first, I think. You can hunt along the way now.
I’d better get out of here, I think. They’ll be making a beeline for he place. But once I’m on my feet, I realize escape may not be so easy.
Let the Seventy-fourth Hunger Games begin, Cato, I think. Let them begin for real.
Sing? I think. Sing what?
It’s old, very old I think.
Six of us left, I think.
Where are you, Cato? I think
etc. etc. etc.
..and of course the perpetual : he said, she said.
However, your honor and members of the jury, I personally wish that 1st person present tense would be shot at dawn. *Cough* er.. I request that remark to be disregarded for the official record.
Basically, I found this long-winded, uneconomical narrative so booorring and pedestrian, that I had to keep whipping myself to stay with it. The only reason I managed to push through to the end, is because I wanted to see what all the hype was about. This plot could have been delivered much more efficiently in about 2/3 of the amount of words that it took Collins to get there.
Secondly, I would like to point out some features of the plot. The "kids killing kids " aspect has been so obviously ripped off from [b:Battle Royale, that it doesn't even require demonstration. The fact is obvious. However, a little problem or two creeps in with the setting.
We find ourselves in a future America where a central regime has subjugated the rest of America and somehow managed to divide commerce and industry up into geographical areas as follows, per 'district' (District 1 does luxury items, District 4 does fishing, etc.):
1. Luxury Items
4. Fishing, anything sea-related.
7. Trees, AKA lumber and etc.
8. Textiles (clothing)
9. Generates electricity
10. Raises livestock & cattle for eating
12. Coal Mining
13. Graphite/Nuclear Weapons
...so.. each area of the US is now divided into a geographical area that supports only one industry; most of which are known, but some are not, as demonstrated in my list.
Well... -agriculture - only one single area? ... and livestock makes up one of 12 equally divided up districts ?
"Oh my!" as Ana Steele would have said.
*Ms Trav points to a map showing the current distribution of agriculture in the United States of America.*
To utter another Ana Steele-ism: "Oh crap". It would appear as if Ms Collins bunked some of her Geography lessons...
*chuckles* Also, the fishing district must be one pretty loonng, thin area, I'm thinking.
Also, one wonders which one of the blue areas on this map would be District 11? *points to* http://www1.eere.energy.gov/manufacturing/images/us_mining_distribution.jpg
..and Ooooohhh, Myyy, I guess a lot of factories went defunct after Panem became the capital... http://www.brookings.edu/research/interactives/manufacturing-interactive
Well. So, somewhere in the middle of that map, is an area where nobody does absolutely anything, except watch television all day long, and strut about wearing weird make-up. Excepting for their amaaa-zingly technologically advanced military force, of course. This military exists for the main reason of keeping the 'districts' subjugated.
They keep themselves busy by tracking down escapee kids and cutting their tongues out.
I can quite get the point that VR makes when they see metaphors for the super-rich in Panem, and social classes and industries in the populace of the 'districts', but this councilor has a hard time envisaging exactly how the logistics of dividing these demographic strata into separate geographical areas would be managed.
However, Your Honor, I think we are running out of time, since there are really a whole bunch of much better books that I'd like to get to reading; so I would like to move on to the second charge, if we may.
HHJGR: Certainly. Councillors VR?
VR: We would like to put forward various reasons why we think Ms Trav's claims fail.
One of our arguments: [argument 1] I think the book is a condemnation of killing and violence. Katniss openly acknowledges that the games are specifically designed to humiliate the public by forcing them to contribute their young into what is entirely pointless bloodbath, where the tributes are FORCED to kill one another. She openly discusses the reluctance with which she enters these games, and her horror at the 'careers' who actually do relish in the killing that occurs.
If anything, the story is a condemnation of callous killing and violence. Collin's use of Katniss as the narrator, and her ambivalence towards people and emotions in general, is a critique on our modern society's desensitization to violence for entertainment purposes.
Point being - being 'prepared to kill' is extremely different than wanting to kill. Peeta doesn't seem like he wants to kill anyone either.. he does feel remorse at the unintentional killing of Foxface by the berries. Katniss is just a teenage girl, and is forced to be prepared to kill to survive - that is in itself a critique of the society they live in. That doesn't glamorize violence, Katniss would not be in that situation if she didn't have to be.
Another popular argument amongst many of our female proponents, [argument 2]is that Katniss is so kickass, that we should actually applaud her savagery because at least she's not portraying the despised stereotype of a helpless, passive, submissive female.
A third argument, [argument 3] is:
And while this place can be found within the pages of Suzanne Collins' brilliant dystopian young-adult fantasy novel, The Hunger Games, where it is called Panem - a nation that rose from the ashes of a future North America - it can also be found in the pages of the annual Human Rights Watch World Report. It can be found around the corner, and around the globe, right here and now, in this "real" world in which we live. And that, of course, is the brilliance of Collins' work, and of this genre.
Dystopian fiction - the best of it, anyway - doesn't just offer us a cautionary tale, a portrait of what could be. No, it also offers us a mirror, a glimpse of ourselves, as we are now. It may be that this mirror distorts, and that we see but darkly. But for every distortion, for every detail of the real world that is occluded or transformed, some deeper truth is revealed. In the real world, there isn't one wealthy Capitol, and twelve impoverished Districts. But there are areas of vast affluence and influence, whose inhabitants experience a plenty unimaginable to many of their fellow human beings. In the real world, we don't hold gladiatorial games in which children (known as "tributes"), ranging in age from twelve to eighteen, are forced to battle one another to the death, as a form of demoralizing punishment for their elders. But we do use hundreds of thousands of children as soldiers, arming and often drugging them, using them as tools - both practical and psychological - in adult conflicts. (See the website of The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers for more information on this most pernicious form of child abuse).
*VR submits the following document regarding argument 3 above*: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/38941453
VR: That is all we have time for, in the space given, I am afraid.
HHJGR: Ms Trav?
Ms Trav: Thank you, your Honor.
We shall start by addressing the arguments one and three together. In deference to argument 3, we have read the Human Rights Watch World report for 2009, which seems to be the latest published report we could find.
4 of the main English speaking parts of the world, Britain, (and this councilor would personally disagree with such an omission - though irrelevant for purposes of this court case) new Zealand, Australia and Canada were not even included in the report. The US was included, for the death penalty, for detentions and circumstances pertaining thereto, and issues regarding refugees and "unrecognized citizens".
Nothing in there about using child soldiers, but there is a separate report published about using child labor on farms. Oh really. This councillor's heart bleeds for children who are made to work a little (while still attending school), instead of becoming helpless, rude, molly-coddled brats. Also for children who lie about their age. That sound too conservative for you? Well, guess what, this councillor never thought that a bit of work hurt anybody.
However, she does agree that there should be an age limit of at least 12 years old (with very restricted hours - no more than 14 hours a week at such young ages). ..so, while agreeing that better monitoring should be instituted in this area, keep in mind that this is purely agricultural work (strictly no manufacturing) like seasonal veggie and fruit picking we are talking about here.
Having your child help out during harvest time isn't the worst idea in the world. I made my kids help me in the garden at age 6 and they loved it! (So shoot me for having my kids do some weeding and helping to pack a pebble garden) .
I think it's character building, not to mention fun, so I don't quite see what is so terrible about the practice, as long as it's practiced in moderation and doesn't affect school work in any way. .. the point is that the above, in no way correlates to being forced to kill other children at ages as young as 12 years old - let alone humans of any age forced to kill innocent civilians in a non-war zone!
This councilor also read the report on child soldiers. No child soldiers amongst the main audience who would be reading this book, in the countries mentioned above, if you count "children" as being younger than 16y 6m.
In the US, Australia, Britain, and Canada, although being allowed to enlist at younger ages, no persons are allowed to serve on active duty until reaching age 18.
Most of the countries where children under the age of 18 are allowed to take part in active fighting, are situated in the African and Arab world; and some in South America, Asia and Eastern Europe, but none of the people who make them fight could qualify as a real-world equivalent of the opulent, leisured, consumerist and entertainment oriented class of people depicted by THG's Panem.
So I fail to see the relevance of the intended target audience for this novel to the countries employing child soldiers, who all fall outside of the ambit of both this books' intended readership, as well as the geographical areas or societies depicted within the novel.
So, as for argument 3, I simply fail to see the connection . Sorry. VR are welcome to point out the connection more clearly, but they would certainly need to submit more evidence, in this councilor's opinion.
Now, regarding argument 1, and this councillor's accusation that this book is inappropriately targeted towards children as young as 9 (who are reading it in droves) to fully appreciate the moral implications of the material.
It's as simple as this: Katniss is depicted as a glamorous, sexy, kick-ass character whom girls and boys could identify with. (Do a little test, imagine that Katniss is a boy and Peeta is a girl. See how it could still work? )...and even if you keep Peeta a boy, boys could still identify with him, since he is portrayed just positively enough to make him a character possible to identify with: he is street-smart, physically strong, and socially savvy.
So, despite all of Katniss's infuriating social bluntness and her lack of social skills, Peeta is her foil, and together they make a sparkly couple.
Only, they have zero moral backbone (in the first book at least) - they simply go along with the whole routine of falling in with the faceless oppressors who want to be entertained by seeing them kill innocent children, some as young as 12 years old. Sure, Peeta does have enough backbone to resist killing Katniss, but the events make it clear that the sole reason for this is because he is in love with Katniss. The fact that he had absolutely y zero compunction in killing the girl who started the fire, is a clear indication of this. (This part was wisely excised out of the film, where neither Peeta nor Katniss directly kill anybody.)
Now, me, if someone forced me to kill at least one innocent child, even while they were holding a gun to my head, I would say: "Go ahead, shoot." Really? Really. Why? Well, because if they didn't shoot me before I did such a heinous thing, I would certainly shoot myself after doing such a heinous thing, simply because I wouldn't be able to live with myself after doing this - I would despise myself too much. Do I know this for a fact? Yes, I know this for a fact. Therefore, I'd much rather show the middle finger by saying "NO!" to such and act, and let them shoot me, than to actually align myself with such douchebags and go through with such an act merely for their entertainment ...I just couldn't live with myself if I did that.
VR: In the following novels they DO object and rebel! ..and like we said before, Katniss and Peeta both say they don't like the idea...
Ms Trav: Your Honor, it may be the case that they rebel in later novels, but we are currently reviewing this novel. This councillor would be happy to rate the later novels based on their own merit.
HHJGR: Objection denied, regarding the later novels. Ms Trav, what is your rebuttal of the second part of the objection?
NOTE: Goodreads seems to limit the length of a review and I have run out of space, so this review is continued in the comments section below. Contd in post 31.