Thursday, 13 May 2010

Review: The Hunger Games

Dear Blog,
I know the title of this review probably sounds pretty silly, seeing as the rest of the book blogosphere is gearing up for the release of Mockingjay this August.  Having not read the Hunger Games, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. 
Before I start: I don't like the UK cover (the one on this review).  If only because I don't like books with pictures of the characters on the front, especially if they look animated.  Like  this one does.  *shall be ordering US editions of the next two books*.
Anyway.  This will be a  relatively short review because my Russian homework summons.

Summary (from Katniss Everdeen is a survivor. She has to be; she's representing her District, number 12, in the 74th Hunger Games in the Capitol, the heart of Panem, a new land that rose from the ruins of a post-apocalyptic North America. To punish citizens for an early rebellion, the rulers require each district to provide one girl and one boy, 24 in all, to fight like gladiators in a futuristic arena. The event is broadcast like reality TV, and the winner returns with wealth for his or her district. With clear inspiration from Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and the Greek tale of Theseus, Collins has created a brilliantly imagined dystopia, where the Capitol is rich and the rest of the country is kept in abject poverty, where the poor battle to the death for the amusement of the rich. Impressive world-building, breathtaking action and clear philosophical concerns make this volume, the beginning of a planned trilogy, as good as The Giver and more exciting.

Review: I hear they're making this into a film. I'm not sure if that's actually true or not, it could just be a rumour.  Don't take my word for it.  If they did, I wouldn't be very happy, but that's just me being picky-the characters will look all wrong, they'll miss out chunks of the story, hideous media tie-in editions will become the norm, etc. etc.  But, well, you can see why they're making it into a film.  It would make a good film.  The Hunger Games would make a good anything.
At first I wasn't so sure if it was worth all the hype.  The first hundred pages or so weren't as exciting as I had expected them to be.  Unlike Michael Grant's Gone, (which has a similar idea: teens battling it out in an enclosed space) I don't think the action begins right on the first page.  It's interesting, giving some background to the nation of Panem, Katniss' life in District 12, her friends and family, the preparation for the Games and so on. All these things are important, so you have to  read it to get to the heart-stopping part, i.e the rest of the book. It's only when the Hunger Games of the title actually get going that the excitement begins. 
But when it does?  Wow!   You can't stop reading.  And when you do tear yourself away to attend to far more unimportant matters like eating and sleeping, you're still thinking about it. I kept having dreams about it (In one of which, I was hiding up a tree about to drop a tracker-jacker nest on the Career Tributes [rich children who spend their whole lives in training for the Hunger Games], but the nest was stuck to me and the tracker-jackers flew out and stung me to death).
The idea, you can tell, is influenced muchly from other books.  Reading the synopsis, Logan's Run, Lord of the Flies, Gone, and The Other Side of the Island spring to mind.  But reading the book itself it sounds wonderfully original, and suddenly Big Brother seems innocent, happy and tranquil.  You'll not look at such reality TV in the same way again.
Well, then, what's not to like? The characters? It's sort of hard in the first person to make all the supporting characters well-rounded and three-dimensional, but Suzanne Collins manages it.  The writing? It's written as every action-type novel should be: spare but descriptive. The pace?  Well, you need the first 100 pages or so, the ending isn't rushed nor dragged out, so that's all OK. The ending? It's not exactly a cliffhanger, alas, but it leaves much space for the next two books. Overall, good job Suzanne.  Thumbs-up all round. 

Summary: I seem to be the last blogger in the universe to have read it.  Hopefully everybody else has read it before I have, and though it's not the best book I've read,  it's essential reading for teenagers and adults alike.  Rating: 4.5
*gets Mockingjay countdown for side of blog*
*rushes to library to order Catching Fire*

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