Review: 'The Panem Companion' Sunday 25 November, 2012
Already an established and popular writer of fanfic, V. Arrow rose to prominence in the Hunger Games fandom last year when the incredibly well-researched map of Panem that she co-designed was featured, well, everywhere! V. was actually one of the very first guests on Fireside Chat, and it’s been such a pleasure for us to watch The Panem Companion grow from a spark of an idea into a published text.
Marketed as “the true fan’s Hunger Games companion,” The Panem Companion differs from other unofficial guides to the trilogy because it was written by an author who has her finger on the pulse of the fandom and doesn’t underestimate our ability and desire to think critically about the series. She knows what we want to read about and delivers it in a way that’s at once intelligent, approachable, and deep. Early on, in the book’s introduction, V. marks the distinction between academic and fandom analysis as follows:
Academic analysis looks at the overall scope of the Hunger Games; fandom analysis focuses on what outsiders may consider trivialities (Mags needing “translation,” Cinna’s lack of Capitol accent, Peeta’s observations of Katniss’ parents) to try to build a deeper understanding of the characters’ lives and the country they live in as its own place — outside of, or even unrelated to, the canonical text and authorial intent.
The Panem Companion strikes a perfect balance between both of these forms of analysis. In the chapter on “How Panem Came to Be,” for example, V. uses real-world scientific and political evidence to investigate possible causes of the downfall of North America while also presenting her theories about the formation of the thirteen districts and Capitol. This is something that every Hunger Games fan wonders about, yet you won’t see it dealt with in any other companion book.
We also love the fact that V. isn’t afraid to delve into topics that many in and outside the fandom view as “controversial.” For us, controversial is synonymous with needs to be discussed, so we really appreciate the inclusion of chapters on race in Panem (is Katniss Melungeon?) and Primrose Everdeen’s questionable origins (is she actually Primrose Mellark?). Again, these are hot topics in the online Hunger Games fan community, but this is the only published work in which you’ll find them addressed and examined.
Other highlights include:
– Chapters on the cultures and people of District 4 and District 11, two of the most intriguing districts in Panem
– A character analysis of Cinna that attempts to determine his origins (the Capitol? District 8? District 12?)
– A chapter entitled “The Socioeconomics of Tesserae,” which features a mathematical breakdown of “the odds” and a comparison of Panem’s tessera system to present-day America’s welfare system
The Panem Companion also includes V.’s famous map and a complete glossary of the names in Panem. The glossary is particularly fascinating, given the “significant role” that names play in the series, “either revealing possibilities for untold backstory or foreshadowing the character’s final fate in the series.”
The Panem Companion will be available on December 4th. You can pre-order a copy at Amazon.com.