Readable, on the whole.
Big shot reviewers ambiguously praised the "world-building," but I found the setting and setting development respectively to be lame and lamely accomplished. For instance, it is said that district 12 specializes in coal, while district 11 specializes in agriculture. This is reminiscent of Europa Universalis
, wherein Bulgaria has iron, period, as its trade good, Smyrna features grapes, and Hellas has fish. That said, it breaks from true dystopian fiction insofar as it has a story
, such as it is, arising from a setting
, such as that happens to be. By contrast, regular dystopias limit story to the mere unfolding of setting, with the protest and destruction of the narrator as necessary and sufficient components. So, good on this novel that it presents those standard bits as necessary, but not sufficient in themselves.
Some have designated it as post-apocalyptic; I'm not seeing that, either. The text describes, rather, a climate change result--"the disasters, the droughts, the storms, the fires, the encroaching seas" followed by resource wars (18)--which suggests a slow descent into predictable insanity, more or less the way the real world is currently heading. We are clever enough that we can construct a horrible society for real, as indeed we have, without the catalyst of a meteor strike or nuclear war or zombocalypse or alien invasion or robot rebellion or megaplague or seismic crisis or any combination thereof. This presentation of slow slippage into near biological extinction and complete ideological extinction is the only truth of the novel. At best, we have here a Lazy Apocalypse.
But, yeah, I get it. Reality television is nasty business. Big gubmint is evil, and marked as Roman. The reader is given to understand that this is a totalitarian system, because, I suppose, of our orwellian hangover, wherein official dishonesty, bad media politics, lack of first amendment rights, and arbitrary carceral systems exhaust the dystopian moment. The text gets a bit interesting when it diverts from this cliche and mingles in class critique--apparently the state is nasty, but there's differential beneficiaries of the state among the various sectors of civil society. The text is simplistic enough to zone out the wealth (12 is poor, but several other districts are wealthy). Not much is done there, though the novel is intended as part I of a serial.
Recommended for toxophilites, nauseating adolescents, and genetically-engineered steppenwolfen.