Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Hunger Games

By Suzanne Collins.

Probably anyone reading this has already heard of this book, but just in case: Katniss is a girl (17) struggling to feed her family in a world dominated by televised atrocities. This is reality TV turned into a weapon: Every year, 12 of the 13 Districts outlying the Capitol of Panem (the remains of North America, we are told) are forced to send two of its children to compete in a fight to the death. As you may have guessed, Katniss is one of those sent.

The outstanding characteristic of this book is tension. Good or bad, this is an intense story, at least until suspension of disbelief fails. (In particular, I'm dubious about the speed with which a certain poison acts.)

What I liked: I must admit, tension made the book an incredible pageturner, even after I skipped to the end and started reading backwards. I also liked the suggestion of hidden mysteries, Cinna and the anonymous redhead in particular. It took me a while to realize what went along with the numerous Roman names in the story. (I wonder how significant the names are: there are several characters I would have placed on the "bad" side who don't have Roman names, and one who has a plant name. What might the redhead's name reveal?)

What I didn't like: The ending seemed contrived. Also, I didn't like Katniss very much: she thinks she understands the Games since she's seen them all her life, but she is naive about people. The real problem might be that her tough act seems too real. The Games themselves are a little too evil. Is there really no one who would refuse to participate, even if it means dying? (A comparison to the Roman colosseum is inevitable. Actually, reading that article shows even more parallels than I thought.)

In the end? Often horrifying, but certainly not dull.

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