Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mockingjay Ch1

Last time on Farla avoided things, Farla didn't read the final book of the horrible trilogy she has learned to hate so, so much! So today, we're finally settling in for the end stretch.

So to recap, there were explosions and Katniss woke up on a flight to District 13. Also, 12 got blown up, but that place kind of sucked, so I don't see the problem.

I stare down at my shoes, watching as a fine layer of ash settles on the worn leather. This is where the bed I shared with my sister, Prim, stood. Over there was the kitchen table. The bricks of the chimney, which collapsed in a charred heap, provide a point of reference for the rest of the house. How else could I orient myself in this sea of gray?

So far, I've liked the opening of these books, and my hate has been a gradual thing that builds. But here we are at the first chapter, and I'm not impressed. It's just melodramatic. She didn't like the place, they didn't have much in the way of possessions, and the closest thing they had to family heirloom was that plant book, which never seemed to have any sentimental value in Katniss' recounting.

She goes on to explain that the whole place was leveled except Victor's Village

I don’t know why exactly. Perhaps so anyone forced to come here on Capitol business would have somewhere decent to stay. The odd reporter. A committee assessing the condition of the coal mines. A squad of Peacekeepers checking for returning refugees.

See? Melodrama. The entire place is burned to fine ash, even if they avoided dropping any bombs on the place it'd have caught fire from the other buildings. And houses don't magically maintain themselves, they'd need people staying there to keep them running. Speaking of running, they also no longer have running water or electricity.

In the beginning chunk of last book, I was arguing that a rebellion should try to use those houses because they were signs of the capital's wasteful selfishness, keeping them maintained even without any occupants in them. I thought the latter part was understood by the book. Apparently I have once again given too much credit to it.

We find out that she's there because she just had to see it, though the District 13 people were against it. Then next line reminds me why Katniss is a terrible heroine:

They viewed it as a costly and pointless venture, given that at least a dozen invisible hovercraft are circling overhead for my protection

Then it is a costly and pointless venture as you divert valuable resources that could be used to SAVE PEOPLE.

It's also more melodrama. "a least a dozen invisible hovercraft"? Seriously? Tell me more of how special she is.

I made it a condition of my cooperating with any of their plans.


I...I don't even know. I've been calling Katniss a sociopath for a while, but she was a tolerable sociopath because she was operating on a small scale with individuals. She was unconcerned with others and willing to kill at the drop of a hat, but...

I made it a condition of my cooperating with any of their plans.

What are their plans? If District 13 are the people who are supposed to be saving the rest of the districts, then she's refusing to help everyone else unless they go along with this petty whim of hers. If, on the other hand, their plans are bad, she should be trying to get their plan to change instead of going along with it as long as they let her do what she wants.

I mean, maybe she just threatened to knowing they'd go along with it because it's a minor request. She's still taking up all those resources, but maybe she didn't realize that'd happen, and an empty threat isn't as bad as actually holding stuff up...

Finally, Plutarch Heavensbee, the Head Gamemaker who had organized the rebels in the Capitol, threw up his hands. “Let her go. Better to waste a day than another month.







So. Last book I decided to try to put the events of the first book out of my mind and judge it on its own merits instead of the weight of inconsistencies built up.

This one, though, is terrible in all new ways. I am not sure how to deal with this. The opening of the books is generally decent, if not actually good. If it's already this bad, what's the rest look like.

Anyway, there's a sudden pain in her head and she tells us she can't think straight. Seriously, we're treated to a lengthy examination of telling rather than showing. She's still got the side affects of a concussion from Johanna living the dream and walloping her in the head. For no discernible reason, this is taken very literally, with the pain matching up right with the spot she was hit.

Also, the drugs they use to control my pain and mood sometimes make me see things.

Okay, that's a completely separate thing from not being able to think straight.

Broadly speaking, there are two different kinds of insanity, the one where you know you're crazy and the one where you don't. It's entirely possible to hallucinate and still be able to think straight. If you're having really bizarre hallucinations, which is what Katniss describes (although she's peevishly insistent that she doesn't believe they were really hallucinations, because Katniss' only stable characterization is her refusal to believe things even when it's really obvious) you shouldn't be too confused about what's real and what isn't after the hallucination ends. Confusion comes from when you're too doped up to wake up properly, so you start blurring together what happened when you're half-awake and when you're slightly asleep. And that, in turn, is still a separate issue from a concussion messing with your thoughts. People with concussions tend to be like a scratched record on a loop, repeating the same set of things over and over again and not understanding new information.

Also, wtf kind of pain meds make you hallucinate? I mean, really. Make you delirious, no problem. And overdose badly enough and anything can do wrong. But why would she need to be that badly doped up over a concussion? Painkillers are usually used after a concussion to treat headaches, but she's apparently got random shooting pain anyway, and she shouldn't be requiring a liver-killing dose for the headaches in the first place. (Plus, pretty sure that after all the trouble of keeping her alive, they wouldn't risk a liver-killing dose however much she wanted one.) And if she's on painkillers for the headaches, why isn't she taking painkillers for her sudden headache? (And if the pain is persistent, she shouldn't be having a sudden headache.)

Then there's the claim the drugs she's on for her "mood" are also making her see things? I'm assuming either anti-depressants or anti-psychotics, both of which are generally intended to make for less of the crazy, not more. Maybe if stuff is interacting badly and turning toxic you could get something like this, but that takes us right back to the liver killing.

Also, if she's on painkillers in addition to drugs to keep her calm, how would she be stubborn enough to be threatening them to let her go visit this place? If nothing else it seems like she doesn't have any control or understanding of the drugs, so they could just up her dose until she stops arguing.

All of this smacks of someone who knows nothing about medicine but what hack TV shows teach. It's just a grab bag of some dramatic affects of head injury.

What's sad is that this really should be a good thing. Recognizing that knockout damage has long lasting consequences instead of being a convenient way to nonlethally disable someone is one of those things everyone glosses over. But instead we have Katniss analyzing her surroundings in a calm, clear manner, then explaining just as clearly that she's totally unable to think straight and also her brain is just about pickled from the drugs she's on.

(Also, getting knocked out doesn't just carry the risk of brain damage, but of actual death. In retrospect, it's an odd choice on the conspirators' parts, because there was a decent chance of Katniss just falling over dead a few days after her rescue.)

Anyway, she repeats a technique the doctors taught her, which is I start with the simplest things I know to be true and work toward the more complicated. I am relatively sure it'd be more productive to sit the fuck down and wait for it to pass. If this is a periodic thing, which is the only way to explain its sudden appearance in the narrative, it'll go away again. Also, if she's delirious, she really should not be trying to fixate on what she thinks is important, because delirious people often fixate on random things. You can't just power through mental illness by trying really hard and doing so often just makes things worse.

Her list is her name, her age, that's she's from 12, that she was in the childmurder games, that she escaped, that the capital hates her and that Peeta didn't escape. Seriously? That's what's important to her? Hey, remember Prim? Kicked the whole of the plot off because Katniss supposedly cared so much about her?

I'd say relevant facts are current ones: family and that they're all safe with district 13. I mean, surely the point here is to ground herself so she doesn't do anything dangerous? I'm sure this whole thing is really just a contrivance to remind us of the plot, but you really don't want the mentally unstable person's litany of who they are to include the childmurder games as one of the things she thinks first. If she's really having that much trouble, she'd just end up at "oh, I guess I'm back there?" and go on a killing spree because that is how Katniss rolls. Even including what happened to 12 seems iffy, because she might start obsessing about something.

Also, she believes her carpet turning into snakes is more plausible than a hallucination, so...why exactly is "I escaped the Hunger Games" a thing she knows for certain to be true? I mean, what's more likely, that the imaginary 13 came in to rescue you under the nose of capital bombers after all the high up members in charge of the games just happened to be in cahoots to save you, or that this is just the capital fucking with you?

Gale contacts her through the headphones because she's crouched in the ash and Katniss says she has to get it together because they're "finally" starting to take her off the meds.

All the way back in the first book, I complained a lot about how a lot of her injuries were more set dressing than anything, and here we are again. Why are they weaning her off her meds currently if she spent the last month or more having tantrums and refusing to help them until they did want she wanted? And why are they doing it if she's still having headaches and can't think straight? The line is just there to give her a reason to move on to a new topic, and as a personal motivation it works fine, but no one else's motivations for doing it make sense. The one reason they might be rushing could be that they need her lucid, except Katniss seems to be her regular sociopathic and unhelpful self already and why would you want even more of that?

I stick to the road out of habit, but it’s a bad choice, because it’s full of the remains of those who tried to flee. Some were incinerated entirely. But others, probably overcome with smoke, escaped the worst of the flames and now lie reeking in various states of decomposition

How, exactly? Her description of her house is that it's vaporized except for the chimney, which is a pile of charred brick pieces. WW2 was last century, and we had bombs that burned so hot the pull of air uprooted fucking trees and pulled them in, to say nothing of people who got too close. Katniss' world has force fields and super biology and invisibility. The most that should be left are a few charred bones.

Even assuming the capital doesn't bother to have decent bombs, and completely ignoring how the buildings have been turned to fine ash and the temperatures that would take, she claims The summer’s been scorching hot and dry as a bone. So if the bodies did have flesh on them, it would have charred, dried flesh, the kind of thing that doesn't rot well, and there's been no water to wet them again. Not exactly prime real estate for the flies.

Also, the roads wouldn't have been free of bombs. Even assuming that the bombs have perfect aim and only hit what the capital wants, why wouldn't they bomb the roads? Aside from the obvious fact that blocking the roads would help prevent people from fleeing, if the roads are clogged with people and the point of the bombing is to kill people, why wouldn't you drop a bomb on their heads?

Katniss thinks that she's the one who killed them. You know, the reaction actually is a bit weird. I suppose the capital had no choice, they had to act to show their power was still there, but it's obvious what she did was an anomaly, so on a practical level, there's no point in punishing people to keep them from also trying to blow up a force field whenever they find themselves in a Hunger Game carefully crafted by conspirators and insurgents to allow their escape.

Actually, more of the balancing act the capital has to do would be nice. From the look of things, they're all stick and no carrot, and they've been overreacting so long they've numbed people. They own everything, so they're destroying their own property by blowing up people and buildings, but if they don't react with overwhelming force I can see it being taken as a sign of weakness. And that raises questions of how they got there - why couldn't they keep things running without resorting to this? Or was it a matter of a long series of people going slightly too far, who kept raising the bar for those who followed? The current situation is only seventy-five years old, and it did start off with them blowing up 13 and instituting the Hunger Games, so I suppose we can assume Panem was already very far down this path and the rebellion was probably in reaction to that. On the other hand, in that case the rebellion should have shown that constantly escalating isn't a great way to run a country, so assuming sane leadership, they really should have spent the last three quarters of a century slowly backing away from the precipice instead of getting a running start.

I mean, Snow did try to give Katniss a chance to calm things down instead of killing her for her insolence. Unless he's only recently come to the realization that killing people for minor things all the time makes them stop fearing the fact you'll do it for major things, and he seems a smart enough guy to have noticed the problem before now.

It turns out he wasn’t exaggerating or simply trying to scare me. He was, perhaps, genuinely attempting to enlist my help.

I haven't been harping on the terrible writing because at least it's readable. Here it fails at even that. What the fuck is that "perhaps" doing there? If she can be certain the guy wasn't exaggerating, then how can she be unsure if he wanted her help?

In fact, even if he was exaggerating or trying to scare her, he was still enlisting her help. That's what ordering someone to help you involves. How do you not "genuinely" enlist help under these circumstances? To not be genuine would mean saying you'll take someone's help when you don't actually care. He told her to help or he'd kill everyone she loved. I think we can be pretty sure he wanted her help.

This reminds me a bit of using "literally" to mean "extremely". The "perhaps" is there to emphasize how surprising it is he'd want her help at all, even though it renders the actual statement nonsensical.

More than ninety percent of the district’s population is dead. The remaining eight hundred or so are refugees in District 13

Finally, some hard numbers.

This means District 12's population was more than 8000, despite how Katniss seemed to know (and be known by) practically everyone even though she was supposedly a loner. On the brighter side, this is high enough that the town/miner divide would work, I think. One baker, one butcher, one candlestick maker... But that then raises another very interesting point: the people Katniss knows, barring Gale, are the non-Seam people. She knows the people who run the stores and the black market. In the first book she has a lot of hate for how the capital keeps the people of the Seam in poverty, but she isn't close to them. They aren't the ones she goes to for help or tries to help herself. The Seam is there for backstory - Katniss and Gale's fathers were from the Seam to explain their deaths, but the two of them are poachers who live a very different sort of life, and neither's living parent works in them. In the second book, because of that backstory, Gale is working in the mine's himself, but his miner friends are just there as background and the fact he's working at all is forgotten within a few chapters. And both of them have the upper class (or middle with pretensions of upper) view on taking tesserae, where it's a horrible tragedy and failure if your younger siblings take it, when we're told the average Seam kid is at risk of starving to death even with the tesserae.

8,000 seems a decent breeding pool, on the other hand. I'm not sure it's large enough to support two distinct, non-interbreeding groups, though, and weirdly, the Seam people, who must be the larger group, seem more homogynous than the townfolk, who get more varied descriptions. If nothing else, the Districts must have been completely reproductively isolated for well before the rebellion, because no way did all this happen within seventy years. I had the impression that the founding of Panem was hundreds of years ago, not a thousand or more, but I'm not sure that's enough time to get down to two distinct phenotypes like Katniss describes, especially given one of them is blond and blue eyed. Especially not if you have outsider peacekeepers coming in to sleep around.

Let's also consider what this means of Panem as a whole. Let's say their total population was 10,000. There are 12 districts and this is the smallest of them, so the district population is somewhere in excess of 120,000. If we guess the other ten are 15,000 and 11 is 20,000 (quite conservative, since we know Katniss thinks 11 is incomprehensibly enormous, not twice her district's size), then we get 180,000. Let's bump 11 up to 40,000 and get a nice round 200,000.

The population of the current US is 312,000,000.

Yes, we're told there were a series of unspecified disasters a long time ago, but that's still stretching it. The disasters certainly didn't do anything about fertility if half-starved inbreds are having a dozen kids the way Katniss claims. Unless the capital is an enormous percentage of the population, the problems of which I outlined last book, they should not be that low. The last time the US had a population this low was in the 1690s. And I say that instead of the nice round 1700 because by the start of the 1700s the population was up to 250,000.

I mean, assume the population doubles each generation, which we'll say is twenty-five years. That gives us a pathetic 25,000 at the end of the first rebellion, and while it's possible there was a huge death toll then, that would be barely enough to even populate the districts. And if the population isn't increasing at that rate, why not?

Katniss's family has two children before her dad bites it. Gale's family has I believe four, and his mom was pregnant at the time of the dad's death, so the only reason she hasn't had more is that she didn't remarry. (And what's up with that? Neither parent remarries. There's even economic incentive to do so.)  Peeta has, I think, two older brothers and a sister. Rue was the oldest of what, six kids? Thresh had a small family, with only one sister that I remember. So two, four, four, six, two. That's averaging more than four kids per family, so the population would be increasing even faster. Birth control doesn't even seem to exist.

Infant and child mortality should be the only check on the growth, but all of those families but Rue's are already older kids, so if there were any deaths (and there's no mention of that even happening) they've likely already taken place.

I'd actually find it moderately plausible for Panem to keep the population down because they can only control a limited amount (although if so, why is there no birth control?) but Cuba's population is 11,204,180. That's fifty-six times the population of Panem by my estimate. Even tripling Panem's estimate still gives means Cuba's population is about twenty times larger. Germany's population before WW2 was 70,411,000.

For further information on just how incredibly small this number is, here's Wikipedia's listing of countries by population. You have to scroll for a while to find Panem's contemporaries. They come a bit behind the illustrious Vanuatu:

Vanuatu's total area is (roughly 12,274 square kilometres (4,739 sq mi)) of which its land base is very limited (roughly 4,700 square kilometres (1,800 sq mi)); most of the islands are steep, with unstable soils, and little permanent freshwater. One estimate (2005) is only 9% of land is used for agriculture (7% permanent crops, 2% arable land).

I guess what I'm getting at here is this is really fucking stupid.

Anyway, the survivors are in 13, which, as far as I’m concerned, is the same thing as being homeless forever.

That's right, even as Katniss stands in the destroyed remains of her home surrounded by corpses because of the evil dictatorship that controlled their lives and kept them on the brink of starvation back when they were obedient, she can still whine about how terrible it is for the survivors to be not dead in a place that isn't run by a guy who's cosplaying a vampire.
Then, in more writing fail, she starts talking about how she shouldn't say that because she should be grateful to 13 for taking people but she kind of blames them for it being necessary, which is a completely different thing. The reason the statement is terrible and whiny is because it implies their current situation is significantly worse than before. Gratitude is a separate issue.

Some survivors think it’s good luck, though, to be free of District 12 at last. To have escaped the endless hunger and oppression, the perilous mines, the lash of our final Head Peacekeeper, Romulus Thread.

But Katniss disagrees because who the fuck knows and would prefer to emo about how they're homeless forever because their new homes just don't suck enough for her tastes.

Katniss says Gale is the reason there were any survivors, because he herded people toward the open meadow area where there weren't buildings to be bombed and they tore the fence down.

I...find this interesting. It's actually been on my mind since we heard her family made it out alive. Or more specifically, since Gale said he got them out alive.

See, in a crisis situation, the survivors generally are not families. Families are people who waste valuable time trying to find each other instead of running. They are also the people who are sorting through a crowd to find the people who matter to them, instead of helping the first person who needs it, which ups the general death toll. If it's true Gale was the one who led people out, and Gale looked for his and Katniss' family first, then people died who didn't have to while he did so.

This is not necessarily true. It's possible their families were already together, or that Katniss' family just happened to be in the lucky group that was led out. But it would be nice to mention that.

Especially because Katniss' family lived in the only place the bombs weren't being dropped, nowhere near the meadow.

On a different note, the entire idea strikes me as implausible as well. The hovercrafts are manned by pilots. They'd notice a mass of people fleeing the city. The same thing I said about the roads applies here. You don't drop bombs on houses because you want to burn the house. You do it because you want to kill the people inside. A mass of several thousand people all moving through a small area? Why would they ignore it?

And it's not like the forest would have been safe from the flames. Fires catch. You'd think a series using that as its arc words would remember that. Katniss lives next to pine forest. Probably rather dry pine forest, because if it hasn't rained even once since then, I'd figure it wasn't raining constantly right up to that point either.

But apparently the fires were quite polite, just like how they didn't spread to the victor section.

Anyway so they set up a camp that must have been easily seen from above given the first book establishes hovercraft can hunt down two people fleeing on foot, and no one bothers them for three days.

Gale had two sets of bows and arrows, one hunting knife, one fishing net, and over eight hundred terrified people to feed. With the help of those who were able-bodied, they managed for three days.

And this is mean, but you can go without food for three days. For a story where starvation is such a big deal, the author really doesn't seem to get it. She also doesn't seem to get that you just can't feed eight hundred people clustered in a small area when none of them even know what edible plants are. And food shouldn't even have been the major issue. Eight hundred people by a lake means eight hundred people shitting into the drinking water. Sanitation is vital and would have taken up all their initial time if they somehow knew how to do it (which they shouldn't, because nothing like this has happened in living memory), or else dealing with the resulting sick should have taken up all their time. By day two those able-bodied people aren't going to be so able-bodied. Especially given these are stressed, malnourished people whose immune systems should already be badly compromised.

But the point is, District 13 saves them and brings them in.

where there were more than enough clean, white living compartments, plenty of clothing, and three meals a day. The compartments had the disadvantage of being underground, the clothing was identical, and the food was relatively tasteless, but for the refugees of 12, these were minor considerations.

More of the author forgetting these are starving people who normally eat tasteless brown grain mush when they eat anything at all. Fuck yes that's a minor consideration.

Katniss says it wasn't really kindness, because some District 10 guy says they're really doing it because they need breeding stock since they lost a lot of people to some virus. See District 10 knows about breeding because they're the animal district! Everyone else doesn't, even those we know Katniss' tiny district has a thriving goat herd. No, really, it's just so forced that there just happens to be one of those escaped, and he just happens to be the one who fills them in.

(Also, if District 13 cared so much, you'd think they'd be making more of an effort to bring people in. Katniss saw two people who'd made it to their doorstep when she was younger, then the two from District 8 who were stuck because of a twisted ankle.)

Back in 10, he’d worked on one of the beef ranches, maintaining the genetic diversity of the herd with the implantation of long-frozen cow embryos.

This, though, suggests something pretty dire. The long-frozen bit suggests a limited stock and a lack of current capacity, although perhaps it's just that they're still recovering from the decimation of the original rebellion. Worse, cows are not a genetically diverse species. Most domestic species used for factory farming aren't. The point at which people worry about the genetic diversity of cows is the point at which the gene pool has been reduced to a patch of muddy ground.

Incidentally, that's also why having a single district have all your cows is a bad idea. The way we deal with disease outbreaks is containment, by killing the infected animals and restocking with ones out of the infection zone.

Also, don't they have super genetic engineering? Why don't they just make a ton of diverse supercows if they want them so bad?

Anyway, Katniss explains she doesn't give a fuck and she thinks 13's great for helping everyone out, (even though the narrative is now full of creepy hints about having a huge army and letting everyone who's fourteen and older be a soldier) because we have to keep jumping back and forth insanely, and it's just that she hates them, and everyone, and herself.

Peeta's family is all dead. In fact, almost all of the "well to do" didn't make it out, which again raises the question of why Katniss' family did. They were the two richest and they were neighbors.

She stumbles over a lump of metal she can somehow identify as part of the gallows or stocks the Head Peacekeeper put up, then thinks about Peeta being tortured.

beaten—as the Capitol tries to get information about the rebellion that he doesn’t know.

You know, why doesn't he know? Sure, Katniss wasn't in on it, but Peeta's the good actor, and it's not like he would have objected to the plan of rescuing Katniss before she managed to kill herself for him. What makes her so sure he's totally innocent?

Also, if he is innocent I figure the capital would know pretty fast. I mean, they might just kill him for being useless, but pointless torture is a waste of everyone's time.

You know who we should be worried about? Johanna, who actually knew stuff and is on camera taking part in the plan. Also, she doesn't suck, so there's that in her favor too.

Madge's family is missing and presumed dead. You know, you'd think standing in a place where at least seven thousand people died horrible deaths would give you a bit of perspective, especially when your own family made it out fine, but fuck them, they weren't named Peeta.

Were they evacuated to the Capitol because of her father’s position, or left to the flames?

Uh, her father's position was to keep 12 under control. The only place they'd be evacuated to is the torture chambers. Dammit Katniss, brain damage is one thing but how stupid can you be?

She heads into one of the untouched houses of Victor's Village, the ones she speculated earlier had been left standing for some capital purpose and figured were almost certainly bugged last book.

“What am I going to do?” I whisper to the walls.

If there was any sanity, be captured by the capital goons because you're talking inside a bugged house, moron.

See, the people in charge of District 13 keep asking her to help them.

But not Alma Coin, the president of 13, who just watches. She’s fifty or so, with gray hair that falls in an unbroken sheet to her shoulders.

Our first female leader, and it only took three books to get one. Unfortunately Katniss says her hair is kept in perfect order and her eyes are pale and The color of slush that you wish would melt away. so the narrative seems to be saying not to like her. Fuck you, narrative, I will love her.

Katniss says they want her to be the figurehead I mean leader, yes, definitely leader.

They have a whole team of people to make me over, dress me, write my speeches, orchestrate my appearances—as if that doesn’t sound horribly familiar—and all I have to do is play my part.

Hey, remember my prediction of more hamhanded TV culture bullshit? Here's a thought, author, if you hate it so much stop treating it like it's important in the first place.

In case we didn't get the "oh hey what if these people are like those people", Katniss passes the time while people try to get her to help them take out an evil dictatorship that tortures and kills by wondering if Coin wears a wig. You know, like Effie. What the fuck is the obsession with women's hair?

They're pissed she just stares like a useless zombie while they talk to her and wish they'd grabbed Peeta instead. Katniss agrees. So do I. Really, she makes a perfectly good martyr, but she's no actor. And she's not even enough of a decent person to try. Coin is perfectly right to be sick of this bullshit.

Apparently Finnick is brain damaged and useless as well.

Even when he is conscious, you have to say everything to him three times to get through to his brain.

That really sounds more like a concussion.

The doctors say it’s from the electrical shock he received in the arena

Really not a common side affect of shocks. I mean, excessive electricity can fuck over your whole nervous system, including your brain, but it's not really that common and almost always involves other damage in the process. Much more likely to get nerve damage. Also, Peeta got hit by something strong enough to stop his heart and didn't have any such issue. (And you're much more likely to get brain damage from the fall after you're knocked unconscious or the lack of oxygen.)

I know that Finnick can’t focus on anything in 13 because he’s trying so hard to see what’s happening in the Capitol to Annie

That is a terrible explanation. Can't think straight because clinical depression, okay. Can't think straight because he is trying to use his psychic powers to farsee his girlfriend or something, which is what that sentence actually says? No. I think it means trying to guess or something, but it's just a terrible sentence.

Katniss finally tells us an explanation of sorts for not wanting to do anything, despite the fact what we've been shown is that her explanation is been "I'm petty and depressed". It's actually a pretty decent explanation. Her own family is safe and every time she does anything the capital hurts lots of people. This is reasonable except that it makes it sound like she's the only one making decisions. It reframes the entire rebellion around her, instead of how people chose to rebel. It's the same problem as the District 8 women saying they were on her side.

Also, it's pointless waffling since she says got this little field trip by saying she wouldn't help until she got it, so apparently she's agreed now. If anything this just makes her even worse, because apparently she believes doing this will kill people but she's agreed because she wanted to sightsee a place people got killed in. I think the book's already forgotten that, though. I mean, it was pages ago.

Incidentally, Cinna's apparently dead. I'm not even really happy, since it just means the infuriating BESTEST MOST WONDERFULEST thing never even had any payoff. Why was Cinna the one good capital person? Dunno. Was he born there or can talented people immigrate? Who knows. He was there, he said and thought things that didn't make sense in context, and now he's dead.

In her house she finds Prim's cat Buttercup, who in complete defiance of cat behavior Katniss says won't come near her because he's angry at being "abandoned", and then she says her sister's name and the cat comes over so she can pick him up, and then she stuffs him in his game bag because it's easy to stuff a large tomcat into a bag without losing most of your fingers. Cats love being shoved into small, unknown spaces.

She goes to find more stuff to take with her, and discovers a rose left by President Snow, because he's just fucking with her. This is so damn stupid. She's a huge danger to him. If he thought she would return, he shouldn't be grandstanding, he should have snipers.

She rightly freaks, wondering how long it's been there.

The rebels did a security sweep of the Victor’s Village before I was cleared to come here, checking for explosives, bugs, anything unusual. But perhaps the rose didn’t seem noteworthy to them.

Yeah, nothing at all weird about a still fresh rose sitting amid dried flowers in a place that was bombed - what, a month or two ago? Roses totally last that long, really. What sort of incompetents are they?

(Also arg that stupid "the". Victor's Village is getting capitalized like it's the name but the book insists on using it like it's just a description.)

She rushes back to the hovercraft but doesn't tell anyone because they'll think she's crazy. Because you know, all the rest of her behavior is so sane, but freaking out the president was there to taunt her? Crazy. It only really makes sense if she actually was hallucinating it and kind of knows it, because if there's a physical rose there anyone else could check. I think that's a bit much to expect from this book, but it'd actually work rather well, since it'd also fix the plot hole of why would Snow bother with that instead of the damn snipers.


E. W. said...

I would like to thank you for this series of reviews you've done. My girlfriend had wanted me to read the Hunger Games and I tried, but couldn't get past how wasted the premise seemed after getting through it. At least now I can know what I'm missing; not much, seemingly.

Act said...

I am so excited for this.

Tally said...

This is the book in which we find out that suicide is not a foreign concept to these people. Can't wait to see your reaction to that.

bog said...

A question, do you write these reviews daily or do you stockpile them?

Meh… the melodrama doesn’t really bother me. The book is in first person. People are melodramatic, uncertain, and hyperbolic. People misunderstand things and get facts wrong. The narration should reflect that. A lot of the stuff you’re nit-picking here doesn’t bother me. It is fun to read though so don’t stop.

Orianna_2000 said...

Love your reviews of the books, despite the fact that I really enjoyed them. It's interesting to see another layer to them, stuff I didn't notice.

I would like to say, however, that there's no reason her medications couldn't be causing her to hallucinate. Certain narcotics have caused me to hallucinate, as have neurological drugs and anti-depressants. It may be that my brain is wired to predispose me to hallucinations, I don't know, but I certainly wouldn't think anything weird about it.

Linds said...

I've been reading through your reviews of the series and find them quite enjoyable. My biggest problem with the first book was the lack depth regarding the world building and how things actually functioned. I haven't read the other two and after reading your thoughts - it doesn't seem like I'm missing much. Do you ever beta read? I think a lot of books would be better off if someone went through with a fine comb like you've done here.

Farla said...

I'll look forward to seeing how that goes down.

Farla said...

Well, there's two different sorts of melodrama. Katniss' dramatic description of her house fits with the human POV kind you're talking about, but the victor's houses being spared is melodramatic on the narrative scale. The way the world itself tends toward the same excesses as Katniss' POV makes it hard for me to see it as being intentional.

Farla said...

Hm, maybe. Do you mean general delusions here or the type where there's a lion on your dresser? I was assuming she means the latter by how she's talking of hallucinations and refers to a concrete vision, and to my understanding, those ones usually require something majorly wrong. More general stuff (thinking the carpet looks like snakes because of the weave or is moving so it must be made of snakes, having a nightmare it was snakes and not realizing she was asleep) would be more easily explained by medication. But she's terribly exact in her descriptions of what everything looks like for someone who's a bit delirious.

Farla said...

I wish editors would do this to books.

I read fanfic but I'm not that great of a beta because I'm not really that reliable. I tend to do things all at once, then get burnt out and avoid everything for a while.

Orianna_2000 said...

I mean actual hallucinations, not just delusions. One time I saw a two-foot high giant purple butterfly up in the corner of my room. Another time, I clearly saw someone cutting a hole in the glass of my bedroom window, trying to get in. Except my blinds were shut, and I realized that I couldn't possibly be seeing someone through the closed blinds. That's when I realized I was hallucinating. Another time, I saw a series of cartoon animals walking around my room.

It's always very surreal, because I usually recognize that I am hallucinating, but the images don't go away just because I know they're not real. Very rarely, I don't realize I'm hallucinating, like the time I was utterly convinced that there was a tiger outside my bedroom window, stalking me. I got hysterical and started screaming for my husband. It took a few minutes for reality to sink in, that time.

CarpeDiemEveryday said...

I am quite pleased that you're starting this book. I went over to Mark Reads Hunger Games, but he kicked off his Mockingjay readthrough by talking about how much he loved Katniss as an individual, so that obviously wasn't going to pan out well.

I think you've mixed up "affect" and "effect" a couple times, though, like for "side effect." Just something I noticed.

If only reading your commentary counted to other people as reading the actual book... People keep frostily informing me that I have no right to judge. Oh well. Looking forward to the rest of this.

Bog said...

I am quite pleased that you're starting this book. I went over to Mark Reads Hunger Games, but he kicked off his Mockingjay read through by talking about how much he loved Katniss as an individual, so that obviously wasn't going to pan out well


Of course Mark would say that. Mark writes exactly what his readership wants to read. Since his readership mainly consists of fanatical fans of whatever it is that he is watching or reading (or haters in the case of twilight) his opinions are always going to be positive (or negative in the case of twilight) and non-controversial. People don't go to mark does stuff for objective commentary, they go to relieve their first experience with the object of their affection vicariously through Mark.

Farla said...

Huh. That sounds incredibly interesting, if terrifying. The bit about the window especially, that sounds almost like things happen in dreams sometimes, where I have the image of a thing going on that I'll realize isn't possible to fit into whatever the rest of the scene is, but because when I'm dreaming I'm not actually seeing a particular thing, there's nothing stopping my brain from saying there's a bunch of different images there.

I'll have to do more research.

Farla said...

Arg, probably. I need more sleep and I know I've been confusing the two recently. Proofreading tomorrow.

Mark is kind of a disappointment. He's just not really a critical reader.

If only reading your commentary counted to other people as reading the actual book... People keep frostily informing me that I have no right to judge.

In fairness, they probably don't realize quite how much of the book is in the reviews. And in fairness from the other direction, I'm not necessarily representing this fairly. I'm writing how I see it, but it's easy to be convincing when I'm picking out the bits I noticed as part of something and skipping over the bits I didn't.

But if there's people willing to defend this, by all means link them! It might be fun seeing if there's explanations for some of the things I complain about.

Farla said...

I don't know if it's that calculated. I figure his viewpoint on things is the usual because, well, that is how most people react so if you pick someone to review it, odds are they'll be the same. Even in his Twilight review, he didn't always seem like he was really a discerning reader, it's just Twilight is so obviously awful and has so many of its problems already pointed out.

Ember said...

I just realized.

There's no one in Panem who isn't white, is there?

Farla said...

Rue and (apparently) Thresh, the monstrously huge kid who smashed someone's head in and also couldn't talk properly. They're supposed to be black, though I was thinking Hispanic at the time. Rue is described as brown, and I assumed that was natural skin color + tan from working in the sun.

Katniss herself has darker skin, so there's been a lot of grumbling about how her actress isn't POC. Apparently, she actually matches up quite close to melungeon, a mixed race grouping that lives in the Appalachians currently, though it's anyone's guess if that was intentional or the author just using stereotypes about what people there look like.

And everyone else is a mass of blue eyed blonds and redheads.

Anon said...

I don't know much about you Farla, which isn't a bad thing/my business anyway, but I think Mark had more of an emotional response to Mockingjay because he could connect with the PTSD that shows up throughout the book more than the first two. The first two he summarized as flawed, but that Catching Fire was more "enjoyable" (or "entertaining"... Something with an 'e' ;D).

Farla said...

Well, I haven't read that one because I want to read the book on my own first, but...he seems to react a lot more to what he's told he should care about than what's actually in the book. And I was really unimpressed with how trauma was treated in the past two books. To me, his problem is way too much of an emotional response, to the point where he's filling in the gaps with his own experiences. My objection to a lot of it is that we may be told Katniss is disprivileged and traumatized, but it's not being shown properly.

Cynicon said...

Glad to see your final HG readthrough has started. I was afraid that I had missed it somewhere.

CarpeDiemEveryday said...

Can't link them, unfortunately, as this is something I encountered in the outside world. You would've been disappointed, though. Their defense consisted of "I like this book and you have no right to point out gaping problems because YOU DIDN'T PROPERLY READ IT."

It is entirely possible that they sort of have a point, and I do understand that you have your specific angle here, but still... I listened to 7/8 of the Twilight "Saga" and the same people scolded me for wasting time on obvious crap just to have critical cred. I don't care to point out the hypocrisy here because there are real-life friendships to be maintained but... yeah. That's the same reason why I don't link them to you.

CarpeDiemEveryday said...

Yeah, I figured that at the very least it wasn't going to be as critical as Farla, but I kind of wanted to know what happened and got impatient. Lesson learned: Mark is fun to read -- provided you're a fan of what he's reading and enjoy watching him be as giddy as you were during the first read through coughHarryPottercough -- but he is certainly not a critical guy. Certainly don't look to him for critique on something he likes.

Farla said...

Ah, I can see that. People who like something aren't going to want to hear about problems, and they'll use whatever reason they can to avoid it.

Farla said...

Nope! I was just terribly lazy and avoiding it.

Kodalai said...

Oh wow, that was almost EXACTLY what my sister told me. In so many words. Along with telling me that the book couldn't be expected to fact check because who cares if things are correct or not anyway.

LittleDeadFly said...

I'll start off by saying I enjoy your reviews. I'm sure you get that a lot. I try not to read other people's comments until I've gone through the source material myself and make my own conclusions. I was done with the first book when I stumbled onto your reviews on LJ by accident and was immediately hooked by your attention to detail. I pretty much just read your reviews for books two and three without reading the book first and then read up on them later. Probably not a good idea, but at the time I was burning through your commentaries without really pausing.

Wow, this book did start off badly. You weren't kidding. The whole Katniss-centric story really cheapens the rebellion. At least a dozen hovercraft seriously?

I lost it at the supposed population of Panem. Yes, realistically, single parents should be looking for new partners. But then again, with the way the series has handled their supposed food-aid with the tesserae and how families are still starving even with that...maybe families saw it as just another mouth to feed. Heck, with the way the people of Twelve have the attitude of fending for yourself, I can see this as kinda being plausible. Though that would mean admitting that people from Twelve are jerks.

I was expecting the book to tie up some loose ends from the previous ones. Cinna being dead was the least disappointing Like how about Katniss' dad, how did he learn how to make and use bows? Really, he became as useless as Rue.

I'll be commenting here and there. Good job with your commentary and hope you don't mind a late reply to an old riff.

Farla said...


Given the way the tesserae work, you should get more payout per kid the more total family members you have. If you have one kid, then you get a maximum of three tesserae for six years out of them. (Assuming grandparents and uncles and so on don't count.) If you have ten kids, then each kid can take out twelve tesserae for six years. If the tesserae feed you better than actual work does, that's a really good deal. Couples should either have lots kids or only one. And if the tesserae aren't worth it, then the poor shouldn't be having kids. The only time you have lots of kids among the poor is when there's some sort of child labor where kids can start giving back to the family early, but the only known employment here is the coal mines at eighteen.

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