Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games: Book 1
I've been hearing great things about Suzanne Collins' trilogy for a long time. My daughter, who is not a big SF fan, read and enjoyed it, and her brother-in-law loved it, and loaned me the books. While they were sitting on my nightstand, my wife read and loved the first two, and my neighbor's wife called and asked to borrow the second book, having finished the first late one night. So, it was with a considerable sense of anticipation that I picked up The Hunger Games, and began to read.

It's been a long time since I read any post-apocalyptic fiction, as it went out of fashion in the 80s, when the threat of nuclear war finally fell off our national mental radar. The Hunger Games appears to be set in a post-U.S. world, where the country is now divided into 12 districts, under the control of a central government. It used to be 13, but the 13th rebelled a while back, and was utterly annihilated. I wondered a bit at the choice of 13 districts, whether it was modeled on the original 13 colonies, was picked as an unlucky number, or had something to do with the number at the Last Supper, with the 13th being the betrayer.

Life is not uniformly good in the twelve districts, as some have more resources than others, and as part of their "contract" with the government, each district must pay a "tribute" of two children, chosen by lottery, each year for The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are what I thought the tv show, Survivor, was going to be more like when I heard the concept, except that in the games, the last person surviving wins, and anything, including murder, is encouraged.

Katniss lives in the twelfth district, a poor area, and has spent much of her childhood hunting and scavenging to help feed her baby sister and utterly clueless mother. She's good with a snare and a bow, and has spent a lot of time in the wild areas near her home. When her sister's name is drawn in the lottery to participate in the slaughter, Katniss volunteers to go in her place.

In my opinion, there's really nothing surprising in this book. Katniss' trials in the games are well-written and convey her sense of desperation and fear, but the outcome is never really in doubt. There's a bit of the David and Goliath thing going, as she's a little scrawny and underfed due to her history, while the tributes from the more prosperous districts are bigger, stronger, faster, and have spent their lives training to fight. We all love to see an underdog win, and perhaps that's the appeal of this book.

There are, however, some political rumblings scattered throughout the book that bode well for the next couple of sequels. Not everyone is happy with the way the government is running things, and I think it likely that Katniss may become either a symbol or a leader for a revolution. We'll see how Collins handles it.


robkroese said...

Hi! Sorry to leave this as a comment on a post, but I didn't see a contact link. I'm the author of Mercury Falls, just released by AmazonEncore. It seems like the sort of book you'd enjoy. Let me know if you'd like me to send you a copy. (diesel(at)

redhead said...

from reviews i've read on other blogs for Hunger Games, I get the impression it's more of a YA book?

i know YA is the big thing right now (even bigger than sparkly vampires!) but most of the YA i pick up I'm dissapointed in. i just find them unrealistic and predictable.

so, bottom line, hunger games = ya?

Jon said...

@redhead - Yep, pretty much G-rated YA. Well-written, and seems to appeal to non-SF readers, much like the sparkly vampire books.