May 30, 2020

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

A Sci-Fi Classic!

By now, you’d think that there was nothing new under the Sun to say about the summer block buster The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. We’d heard of the series at numerous ‘Cons over the past year, but now that we’d seen the movie and read the first book (and am burning through the sequel) we feel compelled to add our two cents to all that is The Hunger Games mythos.

Yes, The Hunger Games is the latest in a string of science fiction dystopian futures. The story revolves around Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take her sister’s place as a tribute for her home district. The future world of Panem has achieved peace, but at a terrible price; each year, two tributes (a boy and a girl ages 11-17) from each district must participate in a fight to the death until only one victor remains. And yes, I know of the “controversy” surrounding The Hunger Games and the Japanese cult film, Battle Royale; I caught said film on Netflix recently doing research and only see a vague comparison at best. One can easily trace the lineage of both back through Stephen King’s The Long Walk & The Running Man (a novelette that begs for a proper film adaptation!), Lord of the Flies, and Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery. Think a bit, and YOU can easily come up with your own Roman gladiators-meets-Survivor alternate reality in a post-apocalyptic world.

But what I really like about The Hunger Games is the human story and the straight ahead, no-gimmicks-plot that it lays out. The world of The Hunger Games springs from a narrative of our own modern era in America; it that voice, in the words of Henry Rollins, that says, “everything is perfect, just don’t look down.” It’s a strange dichotomy that we deal with today; we fight a running war on terrorism and many are homeless, yet we still discard our big screen TV’s for the latest mega-screens and line up around the block for the latest Iphone release. Katnisses’ world is one of an even larger disparity, and we join into this world entirely through her eyes.

I would highly recommend reading the book even if you’ve seen the movie (as I did). Much that is the history that is Panem and The Hunger Games universe that is hinted at in the movie is fleshed out in the books. In particular, the Capitol and the current sitting government seems much more benign in the film; peace and security has been achieved, with the Hunger Games portrayed as their one nod to a violent past. In the book, we see the terror of the Districts and the brutality of the games through Katnisses’ eyes as she becomes an unwilling catalyst for rebellion. (OK, that’s a bit of a spoiler for Book 2!) Viewing this all from a young adult perspective makes it that much more intimate and immediate, as the ultimate absurdities of this horrific society are laid out in stark contrast. Katniss has a denouement of her adolescence like no other and must grow up in a way that few of us can imagine.

Do seek out The Hunger Games in its book, film, and soon to be DVD format next month as one of the surprise hits of the summer. Word was that Lionsgate Films was jittery about having an unknown female lead in an action-summer thriller, and we’re happy to report that sophisticated audiences proved them wrong. We’re currently working our way through Book 2 of The Hunger Games entitled Catching Fire in anticipation of the sequel in late 2014… Hooray for original Sci-Fi!