Friday, 27 July 2012

Hunger Games Trilogy review - Suzanne Collins

I'd seen lots of teenagers reading this and, a bit like the Potter/Northern Lights  bandwagon, I thought I'd hop on. First of all my overall impressions, so if you don't want to read all the hot air below, you can read this and move on!

A good read, but don't be surprised if you don't find the descriptions all that detailed. It's very narratively driven, quite cinematic in construction even and I think it was a bit of a stretch for three novels. However, as teen fiction (which is not to be condescending), it really works. It's easy to read, the characters are strong and the action is constant and consistently engaging. There are also some interesting 'versions' or distorted images of our modern world in here too to add a more thoughtful quality to the action. Recommended - especially for those readers who like science fiction but maybe don't read all that often. A 'page turner' as is often quoted!

So, I'll aim to avoid spoilers - but beware if you don't want to know anything at all!

Katniss Everdeen, her friends and family, live in a post apocalyptic world where the population lives in a number of scattered districts with their own distinct communities. There is some technology, but life in these districts is basic. Everything is run from the Capitol, which 'rules' over the districts. Life there isn't basic.
It's explained that because of previous problems between the districts and the Capitol a Hunger Games has been devised to help oppress / punish the districts. The winner ensures themselves luxury for their families and the losers, well the losers .....die. The novels follow Katniss through her experiences of the games and the changing nature of the world around her. It's not always an uplifting read, quite a number of horrendous things happen to the characters. There's a tragic love triangle, alcoholics, plenty of awful injuries, vicious mutants and heartbreak. Perhaps that's why it's been so popular!

Another reason that I think it's hit a nerve, is that it deals with a number of contemporary concerns. There's the Big Brother TV style watching of the competitors every move. There's the 'pleasure' of the death and gore, like the audience are watching some sort of action movie. There's also an interesting take on the cult of celebrity mixed in. So for a modern audience, the novels do have something to say. It does feel like action for action's sake at times- but there is a point to the trail of death and destruction which seems to take the novels beyond Arnie Schwarzenegger territory. (Remember 'Running Man'?)

I read speedily though the first novel. The action is well-paced and the premise interesting. I did feel that the second novel was slightly more of the same and then by the third I wasn't quite enjoying it as much even though the action comes thick and fast. It was quite a bleak story by the third installment and the only respite from this comes in the Epilogue. I do think though, that it really is a worthwhile read. My 14 year old son got through all three fairly rapidly and recommended it heartily. I'm glad I've read them too.


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