Title: The Hunger Games
Series: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Is this book for me? Unless you’re averse to sci fi/fantasy, the answer is probably yes. Easy to read, but not lacking in deeper issues. Well-paced, action-filled, with believable characters. Gripping.
The book is essentially about this: 24 teens locked into a huge, forest-like arena with a bunch of deadly things ready to kill them – and only one gets out alive. It’s “Lord of the Flies” meets “Mortal Kombat”, with a dash of shooter video game and a liberal serving of plots, psychology and politics. That’s what the Hunger Games are: deadly, violent events where nearly everybody dies for all sorts of reasons.
Well, for all sorts of physical reasons, anyway. The underlying motive for the Hunger Games is a political one. It’s implied that most of the world went off and killed itself in some sort of disaster. Humanity has rebuilt itself into a new type of society a very long time before – unfortunately, not in a very egalitarian way. The leaders are in the Capitol and they live amazingly flimsy and hedonistic lives, while the ones doing all the work are in the Districts (One to Twelve), who live in constant deprivation and hunger. The Capitol looks very sci fi: there’s a lot of tech that’s so amazing it might as well be magic, people modify their bodies for fashion reasons etc. The Districts are nearly medieval. Naturally, at some time there was a revolt and, 74 years on, the Districts are still punished for it by sending two ‘tributes’ to the arena every year.
Katniss Everdeen is from the mining District, Twelve. She poaches for food and is an amazingly good shot with a bow and arrow. Which is great, because she ends up as a “tribute” in the Hunger Games. Now, this is where I really appreciate Collins: her main character is very much to the point. Katniss isn’t the sort of girl who is interested in boys, or who’s more interested in looking good than in doing well. She’s a real girl, with actual issues, some interest in romance, but not too much. She isn’t always likable, but she’s realistic, strong and a survivor. She’s someone I think guys won’t have much problem reading.
What happens is a multi-layered story. There’s the obvious action/survivalist component: Katniss in the arena, with weapons and survival kits, trying to find a way to stay alive. Then there’s the political component, which we only get hints of through Katniss’s eyes and thoughts: the slightly suspicious way of acting of some of the people she comes in contact with, the warnings she gets from her mentor in the Games, the descriptions of people in the Capitol. It’s very subtle, but it’s there. Then, the psychological component, where Collins shines: the people Katniss comes in contact with are well-rounded – and when she means to make them mysterious and confusing for the purpose of the plot, she damned well manages it.
The style is simple and a pleasure to read, letting you sink into the story and live it vividly.
The only issues I can really find with it is that the world isn’t described in a bit more detail (I’d’ve been curious) and that I’m not sure exactly how plausible the premise is.
All in all, very much recommended. Currently it’s on sale on Amazon UK and on Amazon US, but I’m not sure how much that will last. And, of course, there’s always the Book Depository for free shipping to all sorts of countries.