The Hunger Games (book review)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When I began reading this book, I thought it was in the same genre as 1984 and Brave New World. It is set in a dystopian future, roughly in the area of the present USA, which in the book is called Panem, and is divided into twelve districts, each dedicated to one kind of economic activity. There had been thirteen districts, but one had been wiped out in a rebellion against the Capitol, a new capital city somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. To keep the districts in line each has to pay tribute in the form of a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18, who have to fight to the death in an arena, with the last survivor being the victor, and entitled to live a life of luxury from then on.
The “tributes” are chosen by lot, but Katniss Everdeen, aged 16, volunteers to take her younger sister’s place. She sets off for the Capitol with the local baker’s son, who has occasionally been kind to her in the past, realising that they might have to kill each other.
Once they get into the arena, another genre crops up, William Golding‘s Lord of the Flies, which the scene in the arena resembles. I read other three books I have mentioned in my late teens, at the age at which I would have been eligible to have been chosen for the games had I been a subject of the fictional state of Panem. I’ve read all three of those books several times since, so it’s a genre that I find appealing, and have for a long time.
Though Brave New World and 1984 are set in the future (at least, in the case of 1984, at the time when it was written) they satirise present trends in society by extrapolating them into the future. In the case of Brave New World the main trend is mass production, and hedonistic pleasure seeking. In the case of 1984 it is the surveillance society, and in both there is the bombardment of citizens by propaganda to enforce conformity to a totalitarian society. In the case of Brave New World this is done primarily by distracting people by the pursuit of pleasure and recreation. In the case of 1984 it is done by fear and threat. And in The Hunger Games it is done by both.
The present trend that is extrapolated into the future in The Hunger Games is “reality” TV shows. One of the first of these, Big Brother, deliberately recalled 1984. In The Hunger Games it is this that places it in the same genre. Another such reality TV show is Survivor.
I bought The Hunger Games because people I knew had read it and blogged about it, and their comments made it sound interesting. And as I read The Hunger Games I thought it was as good as, if not better than the others I have mentioned. I had noticed that it was the first of a trilogy, and when I was about half-way through I was thinking that it was a seriously good book, and had just about made up my mind to buy the other books in the series. I was preparing to give it four or five stars on Good Reads.
But in the end I gave it only three stars, because about two-thirds of the way into the story the author seemed to have fumbled the ball and lost the plot. The climax built up, the tension mounted, and then suddenly the whole thing just collapsed. Or so it seemed to me.
I won’t say which point I think that was, for the sake of those who haven’t read the book, and some might disagree with me on that point anyway. But if you’ve read the book, feel free to say something about it in the comments, and so will I. If you haven’t read the book, don’t read the comments until you have, or have decided not to read it; then there won’t be any spoilers.
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