Ray Daley's Reviews > The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
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's review
Mar 16, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: good-to-re-read
Read in June, 2011

So what can I tell you about the first in a trilogy of offerings from Suzanne Collins that no-one else has already mentioned?

Lets cover the basics:-

Dystopian future? Check.
Protagonist living in difficult circumstances? Check.
Likeable entourage cast? Check.
Ideas blatently stolen from other books? Check.

Ok, you are going to call me out on that last one so I'd better explain myself.

Books set in dystopian futures are hardly new, heck they weren't even a new idea when Orwell was doing it in 1984.

Our main character Katniss (her odd sounding name will be explained as you read, don't worry) is a teenage girl who is part of a single parent family where she is the bread winner, quite literally in fact. Her home is not the Earth we know now, its North America (now referred to as Panem) 75 years after some sort of conflict that split it up into 12 districts. Each of these districts has a specific function within society, District 12 is a coal mine with all its associated dangers.

It's clear at some point her society has tried and failed to rail against authority and this has led to the creation of The Hunger Games, the ultimate Death Match. Held every year, each District has a ballot to select one boy and one girl to be sent into this combat arena where the last person standing is afforded a lifestyle others can only merely dream of.

She isn't chosen to be a participant, that particular "honour" goes to Prim, her 12 year old sister who was taking part in the yearly lottery for the very first time. Obviously Katniss can't allow her beloved baby sister to be killed in such a manner and selflessly volunteers in her place.

As a plot device this isn't original either. Those who have seen the movie or read the books Battle Royal, The Running Man or The Long Walk will be familiar with the lotteried contest where your life is the greatest prize on offer.

In Katniss I see elements of Ben Richards and Ray Garrity (the protagonists of The Running Man & The Long Walk respectively), Richards perhaps is more like Katniss in that he is hunted and must survive to win.

His eventual fate (in the original book, the movie ruins its beauty so I recommend you read it) is most unlike that which awaits the plucky Katniss as he manages to both remain defiant yet destroy the system that oppresses his freedom.

She does exhibit the same defiant traits but has to surpress her urges to topple the state that splits her society into the haves and have nots as she has a sister and mother to be concerned about. Her abilities as a survivalist are explained so it's clear to even the dimmest reader that she won't ever starve in these so called "Hunger Games" and that her knowledge of at least 1 weapon will stand her in some reasonable sort of stead to defend her life from the 23 other combatants.

To be placed into an unknown arena against unknown opponants in a survival situation again isn't a new concept, it was probably best done in the book Tunnel In the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein. There at least the only threats to life are from the indigenous wildlife whereas Katniss is hunted by the most deadly game of all - man.

The Hunger Games isn't just Katniss against the world, she does display some redeeming traits by forming certain alliances within the combat zone and even one relationship under the worst possible circumstances that almost comes to a Romeo & Juliet type ending (come on Miss Collins, did you not think we'd spot where you stole that particular idea from a mile away?).

It's a good book, it's got good characters in compelling situations. It's got some decent plot twists and it'll make you think in certain sections. I have to warn those considering reading the ebook version (which is what I reviewed from) as it suffers from rather bad proof reading with some awful spelling mistakes. If you can get past those you have a book you can read again and again. And quite quickly too as I finished the book in one sitting of about 4 hours.

I guess that was the trouble with this being the first in a trilogy, it felt unfinished and in a hurry to be over. But it left too much open with not a clear enough conclusion. Too much being left to the sequals.

The good news to those who do enjoy the book (and there's certainly plenty to enjoy) is that the movie is now in development so I look forward to seeing how they translate this story to the big screen.

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