This was one of those books that I kept putting aside for another day… afraid it was going to be another disappointment like Chima’s The Warrior Heir—a book that had a promising premise about two warriors who are friends, but placed in opposition, forced to fight to the death in a tournament. But the story was just missing that certain spark which makes a book a good read. Little did I know that I had nothing to fear by reading The Hunger Games
The book’s like a mix of Atwood’s The Handmaid's Tale and the final two episodes from the first season of the new Doctor Who
series: “Bad Wolf” and “The Parting of Ways,” an intriguing blend of theocratic dystopian rule and extreme reality television—from excessive cosmetic and stylistic transformations to “muttations,” the results of genetic engineering research done by the Capitol, to survival games with children fighting to the death to become the victor and bringing fame and respect to the district they happen to represent. It’s a creepy book, but it’s thought provoking and offers a lot more thematically than many of the young adult fiction that’s in circulation.
I also like that the book’s written in the present tense. It gives the reader a sense of immediacy, and like the protagonist Katniss, you’re not necessarily anticipating what’s going to happen next—as you’re reading, you’re living the moment with her. Though, I’ll admit that I foresaw that climatic moment at the end of the game. I couldn’t think of a better way that would’ve allowed the characters to show their opposition to the Capitol’s rule.
However, I did wish that the first section of the book focused more on the other tributes, i.e. contestants, in the game, rather than the central focus on the pageantry and preparations involved with the opening ceremonies. The reader only gets to really know one other tribute, the twelve-year-old girl, Rue from District 11. The other tributes are nondescript entities and even remain unnamed; it’s as if they’re insignificant. And when their deaths are announced, you’re left feeling somewhat detached, almost as if you’re playing a video game—there’s no conscience involved. I felt that this detracted some of the significance of the book’s message.
I was also somewhat surprised by Katniss’s beliefs as she’s getting closer to home, that the influence of the Capitol’s “growing farther away by the second,” that as soon as the cameras are turned off, she’d be free from further scrutiny. I would’ve thought that she’d be constantly wary of big brother watching her every move, given her past actions and especially since the reader never sees the removal of the tracking device that was placed into her arm at the beginning of the games.
Nevertheless, Collins’s book is very good, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. And I’ve also been good not to read any of the spoilers, which is somewhat uncharacteristic of me. :-) But I do have a gut feeling that there’s going to be some sort of sacrifice at the end.