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Last time on the childmurder games, Katniss was up a tree wishing she had a bow so she could kill everyone when she noticed Rue was in the tree next to her and pointing at something.

It's a wasp's nest.

It could be the ordinary leave-us-alone-and-we’ll-leave-you-alone type. But these are the Hunger Games, and ordinary isn’t the norm. More likely they will be one of the Capitol’s muttations, tracker jackers.

The names of the kids may have problems, but they're nowhere near as awful as the names of the animals. First jabberjays, now tracker jackers. What's most annoying is that the book doesn't say this is a slang term or anything, leaving the implication that this is their official name. The idea this would be a slang term is relatively dumb, but it being the government's name is painfully so.

Incidentally, they will be called tracker wasps from here on out. Jabberjays kind of works because the rebels obviously were amused by how failtastic an idea it was. Tracker jackers...no.

Most people can’t tolerate more than a few stings. Some die at once. If you live, the hallucinations brought on by the venom have actually driven people to madness. And there’s another thing, these wasps will hunt down anyone who disturbs their nest and attempt to kill them. That’s where the tracker part of the name comes from.

Okay, so this is a pretty good idea for the games. That's the kind of trap you want - it's not going to kill many, but one or two kids might fuck up and get hit, and their deaths will be horrible and therefore amusing to the viewers.

But as an actual anti-rebel weapon, this is idiotic. One, you make it so a single sting kills. Two, not attacking a nest is not actually that hard, especially if they like to nest high in trees. What you want are highly territorial wasps that kill anything that enters their area. That's how you make a biological fence.

She explains that after the war the government destroys all the ones near their city..

 but the ones near the districts were left untouched. Another reminder of our weakness, I suppose,

Or maybe they just didn't give a fuck? Removing the nests was certainly time-consuming, and they don't care if people starve in the districts so why care about this.

Then she says Another reason to keep inside the fence of District 12. which - what? You just said they didn't remove them, but now you're saying it's safe in the district?

She realizes that she can use the wasps against the kids. If she drops the nest on them, they'll have to run or die, and that'll give her a chance to escape. But she can't reach the nest itself, and if she saws the branch there's a good chance it'll alert the wasps.

When she approaches she finds the wasps seem sluggish and realizes the smoke from the fire has subdued them.

Actually, that's bees. Smoke just pisses wasps off.

But for some reason, instead of being ragey they're dopey, and she saws through most of the branch during the ending anthem when there's light from the screen. She gets a lot of the way through before it ends.

Then, because she's a fucking idiot, she stops.

 I could probably finish off the job by sense of feel but that may not be the smartest plan. If the wasps are too groggy, if the nest catches on its way down, if I try to escape, this could all be a deadly waste of time. Better, I think, to sneak up here at dawn and send the nest into my enemies.

Except the reason she's able to saw safely is the wasps are groggy. And these are also crazy death wasps that kill with a couple of stings, and the people below her are still in the dark and probably won't know what's happening. (And the drop would probably do fine to wake them up now that the air's clear.) And there's no reason she couldn't finish cutting the branch but leave it balanced between other branches or something.

Instead she heads back down and finds that she's gotten her first sponsor gift. It's magical burn-healing cream.

I probe the surface of the ointment. The throbbing in my fingertip vanishes.

See? Magic.

The cost of this medicine must be astronomical. Probably not one but many sponsors have contributed to buy this one tiny pot.

Book, why the exceptionalism? Why?

This whole sequence really bugs me. The way the book is going is a series of discrete events with little continuity. She's thirsty, then she's not. She's hurt, then she's not. There isn't a sense her overall situation is changing - there's little lasting effect from these things. The wound itself hasn't even done much to affect her - the book does keep mentioning that X and Y is hard and painful because her hands are blistered, but it never actually stops her from doing anything. She's able to climb a tree and saw through the branch, and her blisters don't burst no matter how much pressure she puts on them. So we're told she's in pain, but she doesn't really show it, and now it's fixed again.

She wakes up to birdsong.

The medicine has transformed all the angry red patches to a soft baby-skin pink.

See? Seriously, magic. Her leg is still a little swollen, but she also still has plenty of medicine.

Now, a decent author would keep in mind change. Like, for example, if her skin is newly grown it's not going to have callouses or anything protecting it, and she might get fresh blisters when she works. But really, like that's going to happen.

Anyway, it's time to drop the tracker wasps on the kids below, inflicting agonizing pain and either death or such horrible hallucinations they go mad.

Katniss hasn't completely lost her conscience, though. She wants to warn Rue first since Rue told her about it in the first place.

Besides, if I’m going to die today, it’s Rue I want to win.

Katniss is finally thinking about things and being moral!

Even if it means a little extra food for my family, the idea of Peeta being crowned victor is unbearable.

Or not. What the fuck book. What the fuck.

Those are two consecutive lines. That is her actual reasoning, she wants Rue to win so Peeta doesn't. And it doesn't seem to occur to her that there's a bunch of other people also still alive who aren't Peeta, because, I guess, from the book's perspective there aren't, there are just a number of human-shaped targets.

Anyway, Rue takes off and Katniss realizes she's able to jump between trees like a squirrel, which is a great skill for not getting killed. She figures that's what she showed the gamemakers to get her seven.

She should have gotten at least a ten.

That's stupid and you're stupid for thinking it, Katniss. It's a completely defensive skill. This is not the avoid danger games, it's the child murder games. Even a seven for it is dumb. It's not what the viewers want.

She climbs up and finds the tracker wasps are starting to wake up, so she'll have to get the branch off fast. You know what would have let you avoid this? Cutting it down last night. You idiot.

As is obvious, the wasps don't take well to the sawing shaking their nest and start to swarm. She gets stung, but manages to get through the branch and toss the nest out. Another two sting her as well. Remember, we were told that you can't usually even survive more than "a few" stings.

So she won't eat rabbit on the off chance she gets rabbit fever, but she was willing to get stung multiple times to be absolutely sure that the wasps she released on other people were fully awake.

The rest of the insects have targeted their enemies on the ground.

Um. Katniss, the rest of the kids aren't "their" enemies. You just tricked them into thinking those kids were involved, but you were the only one who actually messed with them.

The kids run for the lake. Glimmer, the girl whose name and dress Katniss complained about, dies.

I watch Glimmer fall, twitch hysterically around on the ground for a few minutes, and then go still.

She does not think about the fact she's the cause of this girl's horrible death, nor another girl who Katniss sees staggering and doubts will make it to the lake in time.

But Katniss does think they might have a point about the lake. She gets to the ground and runs off to the pool she found earlier and dunks herself.

You know, given this is a cool spring type of pool, that might actually be a really bad idea. She's just soaked herself in her only pair of clothes. She'll get chilled quickly, and she can't afford getting sick. Considering what terrible condition she's in (very skinny with her pounds mostly being muscle and no fat layer, hasn't been eating or drinking regularly, highly stressed, and now poisoned) she could even end up hypothermic. Hypothermia can easily kill you in the middle of summer, and we know it gets cold where they are.

the one on my knee is closer to an orange than a plum in size. A foul-smelling green liquid oozes from the places where I pulled out the stingers.

Okay, this sounds impressively serious. But on a writing point of view, she just had horrible blisters from fire, then got that fixed, then got stung, so let's see if this actually sticks.

The swelling. The pain. The ooze. Watching Glimmer twitching to death on the ground. It’s a lot to handle before the sun has even cleared the horizon

Okay, so she's sort of finally starting to think of it.

I don’t want to think about what Glimmer must look like now. Her body disfigured. Her swollen fingers stiffening around the bow . . .

...in a completely self-centered way.

So Katniss realizes she needs to recover the bow before someone else does, or the body's taken back.

This girl, so breathtakingly beautiful in her golden dress the night of the interviews, is unrecognizable. Her features eradicated, her limbs three times their normal size. The stinger lumps have begun to explode, spewing putrid green liquid around her. I have to break several of what used to be her fingers with a stone to free the bow. 

Yeah, the subtext here is unpleasant.

So the body starts disintegrating in what's probably the hallucinations kicking in. Katniss is losing it and struggling to get the arrows off. Finally, she gets them, just as she hears footsteps. She assumes the trained kids are returning and tries to string the bow, but she's seeing triple.

Peeta appears. Instead of stabbing her, he shoves her with the butt of his spear and yells at her to run. Katniss, now totally fucked up, is just able to turn and run as another trained kid, Cato, shows up.

Sick and disoriented, I’m able to form only one thought: Peeta Mellark just saved my life.
Then the ants bore into my eyes and I black out.


Okay, so that was pretty good. Rue sticking to the trees is an interesting strategy, the tracker wasps are an good threat, and the Peeta plot progresses a bit - it now seems confirmed he's in love and trying to protect her. Or, you know, hallucination, but I figure the book wouldn't do that. And this is the first time the romance is working for me since Peeta really has nothing to gain.

Katniss continues to totally fail at morality, but that's nothing new.

Also as usual, most of the issues I mention here have easy fixes. Make them a bee/wasp cross, for example. And since they're so highly aggressive, she could cut the branch off but still be stung by a couple that were already out of the nest when she went to throw it.
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April 2011

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