Monday, July 4, 2016

Book Review: The Hunger Games

Happy Independence Day! Here's a grim science fiction novel to remind everybody of what the United States is meant not to be...

A Fair Trade Book

Title: The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne Collins

Date: 2008

Publisher: Scholastic

ISBN: 978-0-439-02348-1

Length: 374 pages

Quote: “[T]he competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute left standing wins.”

That sort of thing was entertainment in ancient Rome. It’s also entertainment in Panem, the horrible dystopian society that has arisen from the wreckage of the United States. In the ultimate reality TV show, twenty-four teenagers won’t be just voting one another off the island. A girl called Katniss (who already has a boyfriend) and a boy called Peeta decide to protest the hunger-and-murder “games” by protecting each other while the other competitors kill each other off. The games are rigged with lots of built-in dangers, apart from the competing “players,” so you know Katniss and Peeta will be hurt if not dead by the time the competition are gone…

Actually, by now, you know they’ll survive, because the story is a trilogy. They'll survive so that the sadistic dictators of their country can think of other horrible things to do to them.

Collins’ writing talent is enough to keep people reading these books despite their sustained unpleasantness. I read this first volume after Mockingjay had been printed, knowing how the story had to end in The Hunger Games, and I will admit it was a page-turner.

Some teachers have actually put the Hunger Games series on high school reading lists, claiming that it’s a good introduction to the study of ancient history. I suspect that reading ancient history would be a better introduction to any study of dystopian science fiction students care to make. However, The Hunger Games has redeeming social value: If Americans continue to disown responsibility for our society, putting our trust in an ever bigger and more dysfunctional government, we can expect to slide down into tyranny just as ancient Rome did, and we might well end up being “entertained” by regular slaughters of slaves. 

And it has local appeal. In Katniss’ world, bioengineering has altered the landscape and the concept of sovereign States has been forgotten, but the “district” Katniss and Peeta are representing as “tributes” in the Hunger Games just happens to be the Appalachian Mountain region. Somehow, there are still workable seams of coal, and people still hunt and forage for good-quality food. They’re hillbillies; their individualism is what allows them to protest, and survive, the Games.

If you've not read it yet, read The Hunger Games now so you won't be left out. To buy it here, send $5 per book + $5 per package to either address at the very bottom of the screen, down below the blog feed widget, and we'll send $1 to Suzanne Collins or the charity of her choice.