28.8.10

MEAN REVERSION. The oceans continued to rise, the planet failed to heal itself, civil society broke down in Canada and the United States, and after a conflict of unspecified origin and duration in which some part of the continent is rendered uninhabitable more permanently than Carthage a new tyranny has emerged in which a capitol district somewhere in the Rockies exacts tribute from twelve inhabitable districts that exist, apparently (the social scientist in me is going to rise up angry shortly), as providers of different kinds of resources for the capitol. It is time for The Hunger Games, Year 74.

Imagine Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" (a short story unaccountably popular with high-school literature teachers) to select participants in Ultimate Survivor with no immunity challenges, no tribal councils, no holds barred, the dimensions of the cage subject to change without notice, and nominations to be voted off more permanent than they are on Top Shot.

So much for the plot. I want to devote Book Review No. 20 to the dubious social science. We have a remote capital made possible by a science in which insects can be weaponized, birds trained to be stool pigeons, gene-splicing is slightly less sophisticated than that of Jurassic Park, holding sway over a continent with a regional division of labor more rigid than the one the late unlamented Soviet Union attempted to impose on its Central Asian republics, and in the aftermath of unspecified ecological, economic, and political collapse. (I suspect the concept of post-apocalyptic exists because thinking through the cause, duration, and consequences of apocalypse itself are too much like work.)

Yet we meet none of the brains or muscle behind this tyranny. The capitol appears full of glitterati, nancy-boys, corrupt officials, and unspecified wealthy patrons who can bestow gifts on the game-players when they're not betting on the outcome of the game. (Author Suzanne Collins does not name the money unit for these bets: I suggest quatloos.) The game itself occupies the capital for a great deal of each year, and work in the satrapies apparently stops for the duration.

The book is the first of a trilogy, in which the survivors of the game inspire a rebellion. I'm not sure whether to invest in the rest of the series to see how this revolution plays out, although that might be a quick way to rack up book reviews toward the fifty. The society as Hunger Games reveals it is unstable enough as to be unsustainable. Perhaps, if you'd like a real world model, you might consider the implications of 1991 - 1917 = 74.

(Cross-posted to Fifty Book Challenge.)

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