I mentioned earlier this week that I would try to do a review on the entire trilogy, but I found it impossible to have all three read by this Friday. As I write this article now on Tuesday, I know in balance with work and other things, I simply won’t have time to read and write about all three. So I’ve decided since then to split all three of them up into separate reviews and sprinkle them in throughout August.
The first book in Suzanne Collins’s trilogy is The Hunger Games. After coming so hot after A Song of Ice and Fire, I looked at the relatively small book and chuckled at it’s short length and large margins. A quick read. But it wasn’t because of the small number of pages or the size in between each line that made it quick to my surprise as I finished the book in about 5 or so hours. The fast paced story and fascinating description of a dystopia had me turning the pages so quickly, that I would all of a sudden be a dozens of pages past of where I first started. My breakdown of the story, the characters, and the style below. Book spoilers below!
A Stream of Conscious Style
The first thing I noticed about the style is the use of first person. It’s been a while since I’ve read anything first person, and it stuck out to me like a sore thumb. Lot’s of short, simple sentences and the use of the word I as the beginning of almost every other sentence were two things that I had to adjust quickly too. I’m not criticizing the style at all, but I’m mentioning the adjustment I had to make from George R. R. Martin’s long, complex and descriptive sentences to Katniss dictating every moment and feeling she had. “I jumped over the log. Not high enough.” Or “I nod and head to my own room. I understand how Peeta feels. I can’t stand the sight of the Capitol people myself.”
When I wrote some creative fiction, stream of conscious is one way I personally like to write. It had a blunt and easy to personalize style, where the feelings of the mind of the character you were in were easy to interpret and entertaining to follow. Naturally, this style makes events movie quickly which brings me to the next point.
Fast Paced Means a Fast Read
This book moved through time quickly. If I recall correctly, this book covered the Reaping, Training, and the Games which about encompasses 3 weeks. In those three weeks and corresponding 300+ pages, we as the reader were moved quickly from place to place, room to room, forest to lake to cave etc. As I flip back through the book, I find it hard in realizing by page 40 or so, we’re already on the train to the Capitol. I had at first pitched that part to be around 80 and was even more surprised that we were already at the Capitol!
The book itself isn’t particularly hard to read, which I attribute as to why it’s young adult fiction and so many people have read it [the easier it is to read, the more people read it. Not an insult, just truth]. I never found myself going back a passage more than once or twice to comprehend what was going on, which allowed me to power right through the major story points without confusion, in turn, allowing me to finish in about 5 hours or so.
Katniss Everdeen, The Well Groomed Hero
Katniss Everdeen is likable as the story’s protagonist. The stream of conscious style of the book allows us to grow close to her quickly as we become intimate with her mindset and motives. She’s described as a pretty (although maybe plain?) looking girl and we learn how resourceful she is at hunting and providing for her family. We’re given some backstory as to how to explain how she carries herself, and we learn quickly how she applies all aspects of herself during the games themselves.
She certainly doesn’t top my favorite book female protagonist [and possible overall protagonist], Lisbeth Salander, as I was eating out of Larrsson’s paws with Salander’s description by about the fourth of the way book of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But she’s by no means a drag. Strong on the outside, but conflicted and vulnerable on the inside, she carries these common virtues of the strong women we’re given the chance to see the inside of the mind of. I certainly look forward to her growth as I progress through the story.
District Culture & The Reaping
It was really neat learning about the cultures and the history of Panem. We’re given nods to where in the world we actually are with references to the Appalachians and Rockies. As we learned about other districts, I’d be interested where District 11’s agriculture is [most likely the Midwest] or the fishing district’s main fishing farms are.
Learning the plight of District 12 was reminiscent of books I read before about family struggle like Angela’s Ashes and The Glass Door. It all seemed a little too cliché for my taste: the undependable matriarch/patriarch and the innocent younger sibling, but I still understood the message she was trying to convey.
The Reaping is also an interesting aspect as we learn more and more about Panem. Choosing to sacrifice children to show a society how much their government owns them has only been seen elsewhere once in my knowledge: Battle Royale. But more on that below.
The Capitol and Its Inhabitants
Collins made it pretty clear the distinction of The Capitol and the Lower Districts. Luxuries are taken for granted and the people there are disgusting in their own superficial way. This idea is constantly being shoved down our throats and at a point I didn’t want to sympathize anymore because of how constant that overtone was.
Preparation & The Actual Games
We meet a slew of new characters, Peeta, Haymitch, Effie, Cinna, all who help Katniss in becoming prepared for the actual games. The drawback to having such a short and fast paced novel is that none of these other characters are developed beyond what lies on the outside through Katniss’s eyes. We’re forced to accept that Haymitch is a little bit of a douche, Effie is an annoying superficial diva, and Cinna is a polite fellow. Maybe I’m just used to seeing the perspective of multiple characters because of Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books, but I sincerely miss getting to know more than just one character. Haymitch is a fascinating character whose story I want to know just as much as I read Katniss’s. Cinna is also a mysterious fellow who doesn’t abide by the rules of the Capitol. Why doesn’t he? What makes him so human? And I’m sure even Effie’s got some good stories behind her about how she got into the business.
The games themselves are cruel and unforgiving. Katniss essentially plays the survival game and is like reading an episode of Man vs. Wild. Except that whenever she gets a stroke of luck, the Gamemakers throw something in there to make things crazy like a man-made fire or a deluge. I don’t’ really want to get into the story as it would take forever, but Katniss’s game of survival was an entertaining part of the book which made reading over the 150-200 page section a light and compelling part of the story that had it’s fair share of exciting moments.
Sweet, Sweet Rue & The Other Tributes
I’m still reeling over the death of quite possibly my favorite character in the book, Rue. I don’t doubt that I join millions of others who claim the same thing. I’ve pictured most of the tributes to e around the age of 16-18, teenagers who’ve grown up considerably, but the idea of a 12 year old playing these games was fairly tough to deal with already. Then as we got to know her, my heart melted at the poor girl who was described like a child. And then she was gone. After reading relatively quickly through the entire book so far, I stopped and slowed down as I read how Katniss spent her final hours with her. Soaking in every emotion, I couldn’t help but go through the same sadness and anger Katniss went through. Those Careers were as good as dead.
It was one thing to get the perspective of the games through Katniss’s eyes, but besides Rue, she didn’t have too much interaction with anyone else in the arena.
I’m almost positive there is an equally interesting story behind the motivations and mindset of Peeta as he played the games, even moreso than Katniss as he got to spend time with some of the more despicably interesting characters, the Careers, like Cato. I would’ve loved to see Cato in his element. The foxfaced girl would be another interesting perspective as would Thresh be. I can’t help that the games would’ve been completely different book through their eyes.
Romance in the Heat of the Battle
Probably my favorite plot line in this book wasn’t actually entertainment of a game involving teenagers killing each other, but the love story. Hear me out before you considering labeling me whatever you’re thinking. I’m not talking about the fiery romance between Katniss and Peeta, but rather I’m talking about how they had to foster such a romance to manipulate the minds of their audience. I love how this book makes fun of how much audiences eat up staged events. Especially considering how reality shows make such an impact on today’s society, it’s neat seeing how they play the Hunger Games as though it’s a reality tv show.
And of course there are mixed feelings between what’s real and what’s not, but none of that is half as interesting or entertaining [in my man-based opinion] as Katniss giving Peeta a fake kiss and thinking, “There’s your show” with a sly grimace..Of course I say that in public, but get me in a room by myself and I might think otherwise…
The Aftermath, Catching Fire, The Movie, and Battle Royale
Katniss threatening anarchy in the symbol of committing suicide to not have a winner will certainly have repercussions. The rest of the book doesn’t really go too far into the aftermath of all this and I’m assuming that’s where Catching Fire will pick up.
I have not yet seen the movie and I suppose I can’t until it comes out on DVD. In time I suppose I’ll either read the other books or at least watch a movie that’s close enough like it: Battle Royale. There was a lot of criticism regarding how similar both the book and the movie is with the premise of choosing children to fight in a ring against themselves in order to keep a country in line. I won’t go into how I feel about it too much, but I’ll save it for another article. But right now, though I feel they both have similar premises, both carried out and executed two very different stories.
So my journey to Catching Fire and Mockingjay begins. Let me hear what your thoughts are on the book! But if you leave any spoilers about Catching Fire or Mockingjay I might fire an arrow right through your neck.