Wednesday, June 24, 2015

1984 by George Orwell and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

 (These are reviews for my 2015 Reading Challenge.)

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD! Also, some sensitive content.

Short reviews: I liked 1984's writing, but not the plot. I liked The Hunger Games plot, but not the writing.

Longer reviews:

Title- 1984 by George Orwell.

Summary- The year is 1984 and Winston Smith works in the Ministry of Truth distorting history to make it politically correct. Even though Winston has lived most of his life with Big Brother's tyranny, he hasn't been completely brainwashed with the fanatical patriotism of his comrades. Winston knows that he's living in a fabricated reality, and longs to join the whispered-about rebellion. Then, Winston meets Julia and they begin a steamy relationship. Eventually, they are caught for their rebellious thoughts and actions and tortured until they succumb to Big Brother's brainwashing.

My rating- 4/10 stars.

Plot- I'm sure that 1984 is an incredibly original, powerful, and even prophetic novel... But I just didn't like it. For two reasons:

1. Winston and Julia's way of rebelling against the oppressive government was to have sex whenever they could, wherever they could, because the government had turned sex into a necessity instead of a pleasure.

"Listen. The more men you've had, the more I love you. Do you understand that?"
"Yes, perfectly."
"I hate purity, I hate goodness. I don't want any virtue to exist anywhere I want everyone to be corrupt to the bones."
"Well then, I ought to suit you, dear. I'm corrupt to the bones."
"You like doing this? I don't mean simply me; I mean the thing in itself?"
"I adore it."
That was above all what he wanted to hear. Not merely the love of one person, but the animal instinct, the simple undifferentiated desire: that was the force that would tear the Party to pieces.
Page 126.

Sex is not going to bring down the government. The Party is a very well-run, brainwashing machine. It's going to take a lot more than promiscuity in the Inner Party to destroy it.
In 1984, it seemed like promiscuity and hope were synonyms, which isn't true. Promiscuity is wrong and shouldn't be looked to as a solution to the world's problems. Besides, the proletariats, who make up most of the population, are freer than Party Members in that area and they haven't overthrown the government. Winston even says, at some point, that hope lies with the proles, if they would ever awaken and realize their potential (which sounds suspiciously like the plot of Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, which I am reading right now. Maybe I am getting the two confused?).
This segues nicely into my second reason for disliking 1984...

2. Hope. Or, rather, the lack thereof.
The world is horrible in 1984: the government has absolute control over everything, even love. Children are taught to turn in their parents if they see their parents doing something wrong. Displaying the wrong emotion on one's face could get one killed. And Big Brother is always watching through the telescreens, which cannot be turned off.
But there are rumblings of a rebellion, of an underground fighting against Big Brother. There is hope! Winston is determined to find the underground; he even thinks he knows one of its members: O'Brien, who has given Winston one or two secret looks. Sure enough, O'Brien invites Winston and Julia to join the underground. They do, eagerly; but, as they are reading the rebellion's book in bed together, the police come to arrest them. It turns out that the underground is a fabrication of the Party to weasel out members who may not be completely loyal to Big Brother. Winston and Julia are tortured until they both relent and join Big Brother, all thoughts of hope for the future out of their minds forever.
I believe this to be unrealistic because there is always hope; there is always be hope in Jesus Christ. For over 2,000 years, Christianity has survived all over the world despite terrible persecution.
George Orwell wasn't a Christian, but even if one doesn't believe in God, one can still have hope. Humans are very resilient and creative. Someone in the world of 1984 had to have been working on some sort of rebellion against Big Brother. George Orwell obviously didn't decide to follow that person's story and that's fine... But the story he did choose to tell is depressing. I don't like reading depressing stories. If I wanted to be depressed, I would watch the news. Even without watching the news, I hear depressing real world stories all the time. Though I don't read to escape, necessarily, I enjoy hopeful stories where good triumphs over evil. Eventually, that is how this world will turn out, after all. God has already won the battle.

Winston: He's very... gray. He doesn't have much of a personality and seems to be beaten and downtrodden, even though he does have thoughts of rebellion against Big Brother. I think Freud would probably say he has problems with his mother. He certainly has a fascination for women. 

Julia: Julia is a very good liar. She pretends to be a perfect citizen while living promiscuously on the side. Here is her mindset:

Life as [Julia] saw it was quite simple. You wanted a good time; "they," meaning the Party, wanted to stop you having it; you broke the rules as best you could... Any kind of organized revolt against the Party...struck her as stupid. The clever thing was to break the rules and stay alive all the same.
Page 131.

Neither of them are very admirable protagonists. None of the other character's made enough of an impact on me to be mentioned.

Writing- As I've said before, I like George Orwell's writing style. It's simple, and he doesn't include any extra or distracting information.

Good advice, Georgie.

Title- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Summary- Every year, two children from each of the twelve districts is chosen to take part in the Hunger Games—a brutal competition where the children must kill each other until there is only one person left: the winner. This year, Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute to save her little sister from the Hunger Games. What will happen in the arena, especially now that Katniss' plan includes saving the other tribute from her district, Peeta Melark?

My rating-7/10 stars.

Plot- I enjoyed following Katniss around District Twelve as she went about her day-to-day activities, I enjoyed traveling with her to the Capitol, I enjoyed watching her prepare for the Hunger Games, and I enjoyed watching her survive in the arena. The magic of the plotline lies in Suzanne Collins' world. She created a fascinating world and showed us all the different aspects of that world. We get to see several of the district's distinct personalities. We get to see the crookedness of the Capitol. We get to see the preparation the tributes go through before entering the arena. We get to see the tributes fight in the Hunger Games.
This book definitely held my attention and I enjoyed reading it, though, occasionally, it does get a little too gory for my taste.

Katniss is a wonderfully done character (much, much better than Bella Swan from Twilight). Circumstances have made her suspicious and a fighter. Every day, she struggles to stay alive and keep her family alive. The skills she learned in the woods, hunting with her father, help her tremendously in the Hunger Games. She's very smart and able to adapt to whatever is thrown her way. Her ultimate goal stays the same throughout, however: to keep her family safe. But we do see Katniss change over the course of the story. When she returns home after the Hunger Games, she is different than when she went away.

Peeta is good character, too. He's the opposite of Katniss. While Katniss is all about survival, Peeta is more open and trusting. He's a genuinely good guy, which, I suppose, could make him a little boring at times. As a good person, though, people don't expect it when he does something sneaky and epic.

The other characters in The Hunger Games are great, too. Each has his or her own personality which makes him or her endearing to the reader. The first time I read this book, my favorite character was Cinna. This time around, however, I really liked Katniss.

Writing- I didn't enjoy Suzanne Collins' writing style very much, but maybe that's because I'm not a huge fan of first person present tense writing, which is what The Hunger Games is written in. I found her writing a bit simple. Nothing wowed me or stuck out to me.

Final thoughts: If you're looking for a thrilling story (perhaps a summer read?), try reading The Hunger Games!
Unless you have to read 1984 for school, I would skip it.

Live long and prosper!


  1. I should make Jack read these. I would.....but I think I would get lost in how fat they are......

  2. Wow, I definitely won't read 1984!
    I loved the Hunger Games as well. I hope you read the other two. I agree, the writing style wasn't all that great. The amazing plot made up for it though.

  3. I read 1984 a long time ago for school. I don't remember much of it, but I do remember not really liking it. Probably for the same reasons you didn't like it.

    Hunger Games was interesting to read, and entertaining at the time. I appreciate it for its discussion value, but that's about it. I thought Katniss was only a slightly better character than Bella Swan, actually. If you read the rest of the series, you will see that Collins only had one idea in her head, and she wrote it three times and called it a trilogy. Katniss doesn't get any more interesting, there is no character growth, and she continues to be wildly suspicious of everyone, and is ready to kill anyone, even the people who love her and truly want to see her succeed and survive. It got tiresome. I also don't understand what it is Peeta and Gale see in her. Truly, I don't.

    Personally, I feel that most of the dystopian fiction going around right now is a poor knock-off of Lois Lowry's "The Giver" - which at the very least has a very clear pro-life message. I felt that The Hunger Games could have been extremely powerful if Collins had continued an undercurrent of the theme of what can happen to a society that devalues human life, and especially the lives of children... but she didn't.

    Also, the world-building was pretty good in the first book, but it halts there and you never really get to see any more of the world in the rest of the trilogy and that's the problem I have with these stories based in the real world in some random dystopian future... because what I want to know is: what happened to the rest of the world? Where's Europe? Canada? Asia? Seriously? The only culture or people who still exist are in North Carolina? Hard for me to suspend my disbelief for three whole books on that count.

    Sorry, didn't mean to rant. :) I am glad you enjoyed it. I enjoyed the books when I read them, because they're fast paced, very easy reads and I zipped through them. The farther away from them I get, however, the more holes I see in them.

    1. That's too bad that the second and third books are rehashes of the first! It's annoying when fiction does that. I've never read The Giver, but I've heard good things. I think The Hunger Games would have worked better if Suzanne Collins hadn't made it take place on earth. The world would have made more sense if the Districts were an earth colony on the moon or something.
      It definitely was fast-paced and held my attention, too!