Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Hunger Games

Firstly, can I just bask for a second in the rare and amazing glow that the these books provided.  It made me remember why I read and it's just impossible to communicate how strange a feeling it is to finish a book that you absolutely loved- it's that sort of panicky reel, when you go up the stairs in the dark and you think there's another stair when there isn't...

I imagine most people have heard of the Hunger Games: in a bleak dystopian country that used to be the USA, the 12 districts of Panem are forced every year to sacrifice two of its children to The Hunger Games, a vicious reality TV game show. For the indulgent, obscene residents of the comfortable Capitol, this represents the height of entertainment and the pinnacle of the city's social schedule. For 23 of the contestants it means a very brutal and very public death.

It's got to be said that I really did enjoy this series a lot, I read the whole trilogy in 5 days. It's so easy to read, the language flows quickly, it's unfussy, but at the same time is really compelling. Katniss Everdene, district 12's girl tribute makes for an honest and likeable narrator; she's funny, smart and the reader is treated to every thought that goes through her head- we see through her eyes, which can be unreliable, so some characters are possibly presented a little unsympathetically at times (Looking at you, Haymitch love). We see how fear, her values and love affect her decisions and we see how much she punishes herself for giving in to what she perceives as her own weaknesses.  I've read other reviews that have found her trust issues to be irritating, or found her a bit thick, or that she grates after a while.  I honestly didn't find this to be the case.  She does have problems deciding who to trust, she changes her mind a lot, she's sort of unstable.  But at the age of 16, what girl is a beacon of composure, stability and sense?  The criticism of Katniss perhaps becomes more applicable to the 2nd and 3rd books, but when you've become the symbol of a revolution you really had no idea you'd started, you're going to be a bit moody and a bit conflicted about your mandatory involvement.

Getting back to the first book.  It's been so long since I got properly drawn into a Universe like this. The compartmentalisation of the USA into food/resource producing districts for the Capitalist Capitol seems far fetched, but when you think about it, it's not that dissimilar from the real world.  New Zealand as the lamb district.  China the Fishing District and so on.  When you draw contrasts between how the Capitol population exploits the poor, numerous populations for its own comfort and gain it all seems a bit closer to home.

It's a testament to how much the human spirit can endure, what can be survived (physically and emotionally) and how when you think you've given everything to a cause, there's always that little bit of strength to pull out of the bag that you never knew you had.  Brace yourselves, though for what may be the human equivalent of the "Mufasa moment".  Ohmygod, that bit will stab you right in the soul.

In conclusion, the Hunger Games is full of suspense, impeccable, true to life characters and a world that seems both far-fetched, but is just real enough (and grim and heartless enough) to be conceivable   If you liked the film, read the book.  It is immensely better.  Though it does have the disadvantage of no Jennifer Lawrence.  Who, along with Tina Fay, is my lady hero. 

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