The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As I mentioned in my first status update, I’d always dismissed The Hunger Games as a European Battle Royale. And, superficially, it appears to be an apt comparison. High school kids are forced to battle each other until only one is left. With all the white-washing and remaking of Japanese movies and TV shows (still upset at the possibility of Keanu Reeves as Spike Speigel) I didn’t want to give it a chance. Then I got The Hunger Games as part of an audio book humble bundle. The entire trilogy plus a bunch of other books for a minimum of $15. So if it sucked, I wouldn’t feel gypped. (As of now I’ve only listened to the first book, so no series spoilers in the comments, please)
Well, it turns out that while the base plot is the same in Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, what they are trying to say about society is slightly different. Both are trying to sow seeds of discord, but the lesson of Battle Royale is that you can’t even trust your best friends. This keeps society from banding together to overthrow the government. In The Hunger Games, the participants are random and have no affiliation to each other. So while BR is about no one trusting anyone, THG is about not trusting anyone from outside your district – with a touch of the same as BR because normally there’s only one winner per district. BR is about totalitarian government. THG is really using utopia to comment on reality TV. From what I remember about BR, none of it is broadcast. But THG is the main event across the country. So while the incentive to kill in BR is that if there isn’t only one winner, they all explode – in THG, it’s about the Game Makers doing whatever makes more exciting TV. Having seen the unethical and immoral stuff that the producer’s of today’s reality do, it’s not that far of a stretch if you throw in an evil government.
Overall, I’m not going to go into the plot because with how huge this is – you’ve either read it or seen the movies. The only thing I didn’t like was Katniss’ internal dialogue over her emotions. She seemed almost asexual – maybe Panum is just extremely different from America, but at 16 she seems to never having even kissed anyone before. That aside, here are some interesting things I thought about:
I thought it was pretty messed up that these kids who (mostly) come from poor, starving neighborhoods are doted over and given infinite food before they are sent into the arena to die. Then again, we give our prisoners one last meal. And I’ve heard stories that everyone is doting over the prisoner in his or her last 24 hours.
In a similar vein, it’s crazy the level of bioengineering and medicine that the capital has. It’s like the districts are in the early 1900s while the Capital is in the 21st or 22nd century. They were quite smart with their policies.
Speaking of bioengineering – the scene with the final mutts – I was driving and literally yelling, “HOLY F____ SH__! WHAT THE F___?!?” It’s pretty crazy. I hope Collins delves deeper into some of these things in the next two books.
Finally, I was happy with the ending. Even if there wasn’t a trilogy, it’s a good ending. Yes, it’s open-ended and there are more questions than answers, but there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. I’m just happy it’s not an ending where you know it’s just a huge book they chopped up into a trilogy.