Newest Review: ... kindle version than actual paper. ===Another world=== The Hunger Games is set in a distant future. The earth has been ravaged by war and... more
The future's not all fun and games.
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
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The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Date: 23/04/12, updated on 23/04/12 (53 review reads)
Advantages: Engaging, fast-paced, and intriguing.
Disadvantages: Fairly unremarkable prose and characters.
I came to this book pretty sceptical, expecting a sanitised American "Battle Royale" thing - which it is, in basic terms - but there's more to Collins' setting than just that. Her unforgiving futuristic dystopia is called Panem, where twelve Districts exist to serve the wealthy, decadent Capitol. As a yearly warning against rebellion, the Capitol chooses one boy and one girl from each of the poorer Districts, pitting them against each other in a propagandist fight to the death: the Hunger Games.
As the title suggests, there's a whole lot of hunger in the Hunger Games. Everyone is hungry, all the damn time, and before long it's the Hunger and Dehydration Games. It's more than a mere gladiatorial match: to keep the action rolling, the arena is huge and heavily trapped, and the "tributes" must fight for food, water, resources, and geographical advantage, as well as against each other. The Games are broadcast across Panem, blow by blow; if tributes put on a good show and gain popularity with the masses, they're more likely to gain sponsors and be sent gifts to help them survive. The last tribute standing is the victor, days or even weeks later. There's a big satirical swipe at our own reality television in there; Collins is no Orwell, but the subtext adds a bit of weight and topical relevance to the story.
Our heroine is Katniss Everdeen, a teenage girl from the poor mining city of District 12. She's tough, and a survivor, often sneaking out of the District to hunt game for her family, but nothing could have prepared her for ending up as a tribute in the Hunger Games. She's trained, manicured, waxed, beautified, fitted with extravagant clothes, told how to impress the cameras, and hyped up as a juvenile superstar by the people about to send her into the arena. It's a cruel game, before the real Games have even begun, and the stoic, uncharismatic Katniss must learn fast how to give the Capitol the show it wants.
Once the actual Hunger Games start, the pages just fly by. There's action, tension, moral dilemmas and thrilling conflict galore. I didn't find it as shocking and violent as some readers do - I've certainly read more gruesome Young Adult fiction before - but it's still sufficiently grim and threatening. Though it starts off steadily, the book really hits its stride once the Games begin.
Collins' writing is competent and highly readable, if plain. Katniss' view is a good vantage point for the action, though she comes across as too detached and wooden at times, and just downright obnoxious at others. Simply writing a book in first-person doesn't make a character relatable - they have to have a real personality, which Katniss doesn't seem to. The rest of the cast are quite two-dimensional and nothing special, instead made interesting by the nightmare scenario into which they're thrown. For the most part, though, Collins' unadorned style helps the story rattle along at a great pace despite the stilted characters and slightly awkward present tense. The ending clearly sets the reader up for the next book, but I think the first volume stands well on its own.
"The Hunger Games" isn't perfect or groundbreaking - I wouldn't call it the next Harry Potter, since a franchise of that scale happens once in a blue moon - but it's nonetheless a bright star in current YA fiction. It's a quick and lightweight read, but if you look deeper than the text it can yield a lot of food for discussion. I feel like I haven't fully bought into it, but I did genuinely enjoy it, far more than I expected to. Take the hype with a pinch of salt, but it's definitely worth checking out.
Summary: A solid, exciting sci-fi read.