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The Hunger Games: 01/02/12
I know it seems like I never review current popular fiction on this blog and you might think that I never read it. I do but I do it at my own pace. Sometimes though I end up being slower than first intended. In the case of the The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, I bought it right around the time that Catching Fire came out but my husband saw it and read it first. He then went on to purchase the second and third (Mockingjay) so I have those to get two soon.
Katniss lives with her mother and sister in District Twelve of Panem, a nation of twelve districts and a centralized capitol. In District Twelve the only available job is mining except for the few places that sell the essentials (like the bakery). Katniss lost her father to a mining accident and now makes up the difference by poaching. In other words, life is hard; the government is totalitarian and you have to break the law just to survive.
But the bulk of the story is the Hunger Games themselves, a yearly event where each district picks a teenage boy and a girl by lottery to represent the district in the games. Katniss ends up being the female representative for her district.
Most of the book then is about the games, the journey to the capitol, the preparation and finally the brutal game itself. It's an adult, government mandated and televised re-enactment of The Lord of the Flies and a la Highlander, there can only be one survivor.
I liked who Katniss is realized as a character. She's written with a strong and believable voice. Her observations of the way things are done in the capitol. She also provides fascinating insights into the different districts, based on what she knows of them.
The brutality of the Game itself is well written. It's shocking and stomach turning and thought provoking. The Games despite their depravity seem believable and at times frightening.
There are two details that I have problems with the book. The first is in the world building (or I guess nation building). The set up of Panem is described as being twelve districts with a thirteenth that rebelled and was totally destroyed for its dissension. Thirteen districts immediately brings to mind the original thirteen colonies / thirteen states of the United States. I'm sure that's no mistake given its location. The problem though is that Panem takes up not only the foot print of the continental United States but also from how Katniss describes it, parts (or the entirety) of Canada. That's a massively huge amount of land.
I realize that the Soviet Union took up a large piece of land too and maybe that's part of the inspiration behind Panem. And clearly the revolution part of the story is coming in books two and three so maybe my problems with the set up will be more directly addressed.
My second problem isn't so much with the book but with the fandom and marketing that goes with the book. I'm speaking of the different "Team" buttons that were so popular when Mockingjay was first out. Asking fans to pick sides seems completely contrary to the theme of the first book!
Comment #1: Tuesday, January 03, 2012 at 23:15:35
I JUST read The Hunger Games yesterday and started Catching Fire today. We're sort of in the same boat-reading at our own pace. I have started recently trying to play "catch up" with all the great books people recommend. :)
Comment #2: Wednesday, January 04, 2012 at 22:31:31
I have other books on my TBR that I want to read first but by spring I'll start Catching Fire.