John wrote a tumbl about what’s missing from the Hunger Games trilogy – namely, a grounding in reality. He talks a lot about missing details (what does Panem’s insignia really look like? how big is District 12?), and I think a lot of that is valid. District 12 does seem pretty tiny for a place that produces the entire country’s coal supply. But he also talks a lot about how there’s nothing there to really tie Katniss’s adventure to this world:
ON THE OTHER HAND, for a book that can be so brutally and emotionally realistic, I’ve don’t know that I’ve read a story that feels so completely unconcerned with PLAUSIBILITY.
It’s an unusual post-apocalytptic story in which the apocalypse is not the hidden mystery, and the contemporary story not a warning of some kind.
(Unless the warning is: go easy on reality television, everyone, or else you will start murdering your children. In which case, I already have BATTLE ROYALE.)
A lot of people are talking about the reality TV aspect of the series as its main object of commentary, which surprised me. I took away something entirely different. Not a clear warning or message, but an idea: the concept of true, literal class warfare – enslavement of many by a few – and the idea that even overthrowing it doesn’t last long. And this all seemed very relevant to me, considering the first world’s relative enslavement of parts of the third world (see: blood diamonds, minerals for technology, criticism of Foxconn, etc) as well as some of the domestic population, and the massive groundswell of support for Obama – against the wars; against Guantanamo; against encroaching executive and corporate powers – that slowly faded away and left us with a perhaps-slightly-better version of what we already had: Guantanamo is still open, USAPATRIOT is still going strong, all successes have been generally seen as large compromises and few people seem to feel like they got what they wanted.
And I got all of that in this series. Not a specific commentary on US politics today, but something about finding anything good in a human cycle of power that’s only ever going to improve in tiny, tiny increments. And I got pretty much nothing about reality TV – it feels like inferring things about farms, or about pigs, from Animal Farm, though that’s not to compare Collins with Orwell.
As far as the details and description, I suppose he’s right to some extent, but I never found myself wondering. I felt I was given just enough information to imagine the rest myself. That’s not to say I didn’t have problems with some of the writing and techniques (and all those dei that you mentioned), but all I know is that in my head the Capitol was a perfectly vivid and strange place, at least enough to keep the story going.
As an aside: I’m so tired of hearing about the Game of Thrones series. It’s alright – it has some of the same moral ambiguity that Collins’s books thrive on, and I do appreciate Martin’s willingness to part with important characters. But to me it just seems like pretty standard political fantasy, the kind of stuff I mostly stopped reading in high school. And the TV show is so, so bad. It loses anything good the books have going for them – namely the subtlety and shades of gray that many of Martin’s characters embody – and gains a whole bunch of cheese.