Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

They’ve been made into a movie and video games. There are hundreds of fan sites and paraphernalia built around them. They’ve been compared to the Harry Potter series; an association which seems to have become the greatest accolade for any book, as well as the highest proof of commercial success. In light of all this fame, a review seems superfluous. You must have heard of them. But have you read the books?

There are some bestsellers which I’ve picked up, read a few pages – perhaps a chapter or two – and abandoned, in favour of more interesting reads. Sometimes I go back and finish them, sometimes not. There are other books which I’ve taken up, meaning to just read a paragraph or two, and found myself in the middle of, so badly hooked to what the next word is going to reveal that I start feeling lightheaded before I realize I’ve been holding my breath the whole while. This series is one that belongs to the latter category.

Katniss Everdeen, the girl who was on fire. Harry Potter,The Boy Who Lived. Tweak the prophecy a little: None can live while the others survive. It does seem like the comparison with J.K.R’s work is warranted, doesn’t it? However, while Jo introduced us to the magical world, Suzanne Collins explores the theme of a post-apocalyptic world in which hegemony prevails. Dystopia is a quite popular topic with both authors and film-makers, along with alien invasions and robotic apocalypses. Why did this particular series make such an impression on me, then? Perhaps because it’s the first time I’ve been pulled into reading one on this subject. I’m not a fan of masochistic literature.

If you don’t mind spoilers, you can read a summary of the book here. If you do, I’ll tell you what the books are like. The first book introduces us to the world of Panem, where the city of Capitol rules over twelve districts. Seventy five years ago, the 13th district rebelled against the political system, and was wiped out. The Hunger Games is an annual event to remind the people of how much they are in the power of the Capitol (If this isn’t an invitation to rebellion to a population which isn’t made up of zombies, I don’t know what is. -_- ) Every year each of the 12 districts is supposed to volunteer two ‘tributes’ – a boy and a girl – between the ages of 12 and 18, who will participate in the Games: with the winner being the sole survivor. Yes, the ‘game’ dictates that they should either kill or be killed.

The story unfolds from the point of view of Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen-year-old living in District 12 with her mother and younger sister. When her sister’s name is called out as one of the tributes for the Games, Katniss volunteers to go forth in her place and what follows is a spine-thrilling account of her experiences, as she battles for survival. The author shows elements of distrust, uncertainty, bonding, loyalty and betrayal quite well, and is to be commended for the gripping plot.

The first book is well worth a read, but the other two books in the trilogy fell rather short of the ideal, in my opinion. Suzanne Collins manages to hold your attention, but the plot turns dark. It’s war. Politics. Confusion. Suffering. Gore. Power. Horrors invented that are guaranteed to give one nightmares, if you’re not the type who enjoys R.L Stine. A character introduced in a chapter is probably killed in the next. Fear. Pain. Suffering. Did I mention that already? But it bears repeating – there’s just so much of it throughout the tale. But the story does end on a note of hope: which is the most attainable form of happily-ever-after that one can expect in real life.

All in all, the trilogy would be more enjoyable if the author spent a little more time on character development and explanation of the plot. However, it is quite effective in showing one the horrors borne of war and dirty politics, as well as the tortures that the human mind is capable of inventing – and if you’re into that sort of reading, you may be pleased with it.

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