Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The Hunger Games


I read this like I was starved for oxygen. 454 pages read in big gulps over less than 24 hours, with reluctant sleep in between. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is the first in a trilogy with the second, Catching Fire, thankfully being published in a few weeks. I was a little slow getting around to this but with frequent mention in the blogosphere and a personal recommendation from a friend, I knew that I had to read it, and now that I have read it, I am grateful that I did. Although I have read some great literature recently, it's not often that I find a book so compelling that I postpone sleeping until I've read one more chapter, then another, and then another... The Hunger Games is definitely an addictive Young Adult novel and I enjoyed every second of it.

The Hunger Games seems to be one of those books that gives you the impression that you are the last person to read it, when I know that isn't true (if, however, you are one of the last to read it then do plan to read is promptly). Stephen King "couldn't stop reading" either, according to the book's front cover, and I'm not being ironic when I say that this was incentive enough for me to read it; Stephen King is such a builder of suspense and I went through a phase as a young teenager of devouring his books (isn't it curious that as a young adult I read adult novels and now as an adult I love young adult ones?)

Set in a post-apocalyptic North America, where the country Panem rose from its ashes, twelve districts surround the Capitol and are completely at its mercy. As punishment for the Dark Days decades before, in which the districts rose up against the Capitol, were defeated and the thirteenth district obliterated, the Capitol hold the Hunger Games every year.

The rules of the Hunger Games are simple. In punishment for the uprising , each of the twelve districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins.

The continuation of the Hunger Games is to quell any future rebellion; the Capitol are rich and the districts poor and the Hunger Games are about power. Every child between the ages of 12-18 are entered into the reaping, once for every year they are eligible and countless entries on behalf of themselves and their family for a tesserae, a meagre, individual supply of grain and oil; with provisions in such scarce supply and families starving, the poorer residents of districts are at more risk of being offered as tribute and the divide between rich and poor intensifies. The Capitol are corrupt and control the Districts through fear of the Hunger Games and in the battle against hunger in their everyday lives.

When Katniss Everdeen's younger sister, Prim, is drawn as a tribute, Katniss takes her place. Katniss has been providing for her family since her father died and is a competent hunter with her wits about her but she doesn't expect to survive the Hunger Games. However, Kathniss is a strong, female character with a rebellious nature and she surprises the Hunger Gamemakers, the audience (the Hunger Games is a reality show), and the other tributes, with a determined ability to survive. Where child is pitted against child, in a kill or be killed game (that is anything but a game), unexpected alliances and loyalties develop, especially with Peeta, her fellow tribute from District 12. Katniss is conflicted in her growing feelings for Peeta because of her friend, and fellow hunter at home, Gale, but out of their fight for survival grows a love story... but is it real?

Dystopian science fiction, The Hunger Games is a perversion of modern pageantry, talent and reality shows. It has echoes of "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackon (reviewed here) and of Battle Royale by Koushun Takami, which I would love to read for the Japanese Literature Challenge. It also reminds me of Roman arenas where Gladiators fought to the death and I am intrigued what literature, myth, and history Collins may borrow from for the next in the trilogy... but only nineteen days to go until I find out.

24 comments:

verity said...

Wow - you're up early! That sounds like an interesting read, I can see why you enjoyed it so much. Bet you have the next one on pre-order now!

claire said...

I feel the same with The Book Thief, that I'm the last book blogger on earth who hasn't read it. But I'll get to it one day, and this, too, The Hunger Games. Maybe I'll wait until the last one comes out.

I also grew up loving Stephen King (since adolescence) but stopped reading him in college. :)

Paperback Reader said...

Verity, the boy woke me up :(. I do have the next one on pre-order, I can't wait!

Claire, sometimes it is more tempting to leave a trilogy/series to be completed before becoming invested.

How funny that we no longer read Stephen King despite loving him when we were younger. I suppose we had our fill and moved onto other great writers.

Rebecca said...

Also 'Series 7: The Contenders' - a 2001 film that you see through the eyes of the TV cameras.

Thanks for the tip, I have requested this from library!

savidgereads said...

Hmmm both you and Jackie have raved about this and it does indeed sound intriguing. I am not the biggest fan of sci-fi or young adult so I may have to get this as a test to push my boundaries.

Paperback Reader said...

*waves* at Rebecca. I hope you enjoy it!

Thanks for the film tip. One of our mutual friends (who is film crazy, especially Asian cinema) tells me that the film version of Battle Royale is amazing.

Simon, I say give it a try and if you don't like it, you don't like it, but I think you'll be surprised how easily this will fit into your existing boundaries. The genres are each so rich and diverse that I defy anybody unable to find something that they like. I have some sci-fi coming up in the near future that may tempt you too.

JoAnn said...

Like Simon, this would be pushing my boundaries...but I am curious. I went through a serious Stephen King phase in college, too!

Carl V. said...

She's definitely an author I am seeing all over the places and in those posts am reading nothing but praise. I'm certainly the last one to read several novels that were at least cult classics, if not big hits, in the blogging community when they came out: The Historian, The Book Thief, The Shadow of the Wind.

I manage to read some books when they first come out and am able to be part of the communal experience of doing so, others I just wait until the mood strikes. I'm hoping to read Shadow for this year's R.I.P. Challenge.

Pam said...

I loved this for the political content. Good read, definitely. I'm with you on the bit about reading adult as a YA and YA as an adult. :0)

Paperback Reader said...

JoAnn, as with Simon I would urge you to give it a shot; I'm glad your curiosity is piqued.

Carl, I've only read The Book Thief from the ones you mention but I have the other two and may also consider them for the RIP challenge this year. I find I don't read an awful lot of new fiction immediately but blogging certainly opens me up to more and I'm an impatient person!

Pam, the political content was great and I'm sure that there will be even more in books 2 and 3. Apparently in my youth I was desperate to be an adult and now I am desperate to regress to the ease and innocence of youth!

carolsnotebook said...

I have to read this one soon. Everyone loves it.

Paperback Reader said...

Hi Carol, thanks for commenting. I hope you love it too when you do read it.

anothercookiecrumbles said...

I've almost picked this up a couple of times, but with all the Battle Royale comparisons, I keep thinking maybe I should read the latter instead.

Of course there's no good reason not to read both, but then, which do I read first? Dilemmas, dilemmas...

Your review does convince me to pick this up though.......

Paperback Reader said...

anothercookie, I'm going to read Battle Royale as soon as I can. This is probably easier and undoubtedly a lot quicker to read, if that makes it easier to decide...

Green Road said...

You definitely aren't the last person to read Hunger Games...that would be me! I'd heard so much about this book. I hesitated to pick it up because of the hype but now so many real people are saying they enjoyed it I believe it more.

Green Road said...

By the way I meant to say that I went through a serious Stephen King phase in my teens and read every single word written by him. I distinctly remember IT because I couldn't sleep for weeks! It still figures in my top ten. I do think he's lost his magic touch though, Cell was so dismal I almost cried.

Kals said...

That sounds like an intriguing read, though I'm not into sci-fi at all!

Here's an award for you :)
http://atpemberley.blogspot.com/2009/08/lets-be-friends-award.html

Paperback Reader said...

Swati, hype usually makes me cautious but sometimes I suspend belief and allow myself to be completely wrapped up in a book, as I was in this case.

IT definitely stands out in my Stephen King memory, as does Insomnia. Of his earlier work, I actually haven't read The Stand and really must at some point.

Kals, there's no much sci-fi to it, just dystopia. Thank you so much for the award!

Green Road said...

Oh yes, Insomnia! And Needful Things.

Stand is very good, but it's a real chunkster. I read it while studying for my A-levels so that slowed me down even more. It tool me over three months to finish it!

Paperback Reader said...

I liked Rose Madder too! I think The Stand may have to be one of my desert island reads.

farmlanebooks said...

I am so pleased to hear that you enjoyed this - it is my favourite read of the year. Any book which you enjoy reading so much that you don't want to sleep has to be one of the best.

I can't wait to read Catching Fire - I've pre-ordered it and hope it is as good as this one.

Paperback Reader said...

Jackie, I really like sleeping and not a good person to be around when I am sleep-deprived so it's definitely a testimony to how good this book is! I pre-ordered Catching Fire immediately and I am counting down the days to its release.

farmlanebooks said...

I know what you mean! I rarely miss sleep for a book too. People are saying CF is even better - I'm not sure how that is possible but I look forward to finding out.

Paperback Reader said...

That's great (albeit curious) to hear about CF; I was scared that it would suffer from "middle novel" syndrome where it acts just as a bridge between the beginning and ending, rather than as the crux of the story. Personally, I love middle novels (i.e. LOTR The Two Towers).