29th March 2012 The Hunger Games: devoured!
So, it's a great book. I wasn't expecting to like The Hunger Games as much as I did - given the hype which always puts me off- but I reckon there comes a point when you just have to give in and let the books do the talking for themselves. And this novel lived up to its repuation. I've read a few negative things about Collins' book; for example that her dystopian world lacks real origniality and development and is a poor imitation of Battale Royale, but personally I don't think these things matter. For me, the point is that we are confronted with a world that is not so far from our own and thus doesn't need to be any more clearly mythologised than it already is. Famines, wars, natural disasters: Collins pushes the consequences of these events to the extreme, showing human beings turning against one another in the struggle for survival but also exploring the essential humanity that exists within many of her characters - even the drunken and laughable Haymitch. The blurring of the edges between District 12 and life as we know it serves to prove a good point: we're not so far off living in the sort of society Collins depicts. Amalgamate a couiple of continents, swallow a few oceans then places like District 12 would exist cheek by jowl with the great cities of our world. They probably kind of do. We do a nice job of ignoring the poor and the needy on our own doorsteps. Certainly we already live in a world where the distribution of food and wealth and opportunity is hideously unfair. Where dictators torture and murder children, where babies die for the lack of a vaccination that costs a mere five pounds, where child soldiers are forced to slaughter their parents. I don't see any sign of these horrors ceasing any time soon. And as for the concept of the Games themselves, what a brilliantly satricial device to throw our own obsession with reality tv and ritual humilation of vulnerable members of the general public into sharp focus. Collins asks a very pertinent question: just how far are we prepared to go with that format?
But essentially this book is about action and adventure. Katniss is an action hero who you can't help but root for. I thought that knowing she survives might take some of the tension out of the story, and perhaps it did a little, but seeing how she overcomes difficulty was pretty gripping stuff. Katniss is a fabulous character because she is both strong and vulnerable and Collins gets the balance here just right. Without giving away any of the plot, for those of you who haven't read the novel (which I suspect is not very many) I was intrigued by the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale. I love that she isn't a soppy romatic heroine, driven only by a desire to find the right boy to make her happy and save her from the Games. I love that she steps forward to save Prim although we feel and know her fear. Her attitude to Peeta is complex and that makes her all the more interesting and the fact that she is prepared to exploit him in order to survive also adds real depth. The relationships that really reveal her vulnerability and make us most love her are those with her sister Prim and the other contestant Rue. For me, the episode with Rue was the most moving of the entire novel.
I wasn't harrowed by this in the way that I was when I read McCarthy's The Road, but there is certainly enough brutality and cruelty to shock and provide debate.
Now I have to get my hands on the next book in the series...can't wait.