Ryan Reeves's Reviews > The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
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Oct 01, 12

bookshelves: sci-fi

I read this to catch up on the Hunger Games fever that is coinciding with the release of the movie based on the first book. I also love dystopian novels and the traditional fear of 'Big Brother', so I dove in.

I thought the book overall was straightforward and rather simple, written for a youthful audience. But sometimes simple is worth everything in sci-fi novels. I'll avoid spoilers and list favorite and least favorite aspects of the storytelling:

Favorites:

1) Writing the protagonist as an adolescent heroine rather than a young or middle-aged male. And a tough girl at that, rather than a wilting flower.

2) The creativity surrounding a post-apocalyptic North America. It's difficult for many sci-fi authors to refrain from dwelling on every detail of the horrible, futuristic world. Collins keeps it reigned in and only reveals a bit here and there, leaving the rest up to the reader's imagination. It felt a bit like the written version of what Blade Runner did via film.

3) The fevered storytelling surrounding the Hunger Game itself. Hard to write suspense and keep the reader's attention while killing people off in the plot. Collins also refrains from turning the whole event into gladiators in the coliseum and, somehow, she manages to insert humanity into the barbarism.


Least Favorite:

1) The constant and needless storytelling surrounding the costumes worn by Katniss. I know this is a plot device; it's supposed to show us how dehumanizing this world is, where even barbarism can be disguised as something beautiful. But I could have done without the "Extreme Makeover" vibe that creeps in every time Katniss has to put on an outfit. Do I care what makeup she wears to look girlish? Does this help me understand the character?

2) Yet another love triangle!! Collins resorts to the same sci-fi meme used by other rookie authors, whereby the protagonist is forced to choose between two awesomely great people (werewolf or vampire!?). Only in this case, Collins has decided to de-sexualize her protagonist and force us to watch her manipulate everyone (except us!) into believing she loves Peeta. Yet this only makes Katniss appear cold and cruel.

Even worse, there are hints that, were it not for the games, Katniss would never marry or fall in love. Am I supposed to believe that dystopian worlds are somehow de-sexualized worlds, void of love and the desire for companionship? All of human history suggests the opposite to be true: whenever the world crushes us with oppressive tyranny the need for authentic love grows to almost grotesque proportions.


All in all, an enjoyable book one could read during a lazy Sunday afternoon. Jump in, if only to understand what your children are going crazy over.
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