The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
Sometimes when you're laid low by sickness, you don't feel like reading anything too weighty. A perfect time, I thought, to get into this series of teen-fiction books, which my wife loved, and which she wanted me to read to see if I thought they were suitable for my ten-year-old son.
Well, I'm still not sure if they are suitable for a reader his age, but, given that I got through the three books in about 24 hours, I can certainly say they are a rollicking read, and that they are not just pap for empty-headed teens.
The story centres around a young girl (Katniss), who is selected to be a tribute in an annual games to the death that is fought in a future USA that has been ravaged by war and famine. The games are held so that the districts are forever kept under the heel of the Capitol. Collins deftly introduces the reader to the miserable conditions the residents of the districts have to put up with, versus the decadence of the Capitol, and quickly sets up a love triangle that our heroine has to negotiate throughout the whole trilogy. Katniss, after she wins the Games, becomes a focus for a growing rebellion against the Capitol.
As well as the excitement of the Games themselves, and the rebellion, which Collins handles expertly, there are larger questions at play in this series - questions of power and who wields it, the nature of the justness of war and violence, as well as growing up and facing life's pressures.
The all-pervading nature of media is a part of this work as well - how easy it is to get sucked into being watched by everybody, how much of what we see is real, and how do you influence people once they stop listening to you. One of the things that I found most chilling about the perception of media in the trilogy was that no-one questioned the compromises they had to make to achieve what they wanted through it.
What makes this trilogy superior to a lot of sci-fi or fantasy for kids is that while the sci-fi parts were clever, they never detracted from the story. And what a story it is. I literally couldn't put it down.
Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell