The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Having watched the movie adaptation, I decided to pick this book up to find out more. ‘The Hunger Games’ is the first book of this trilogy, and seems to be a popular hit with the general youth, but is it worth all the hype?
The Hunger Games is set in the future, where there is 12 (or 13 actually, until it’s totally demolished) poorer districts set round the main Capitol. The capitol is as its name suggested: skyscrapers with rich people dressed in flamboyant, vibrant colours. This is where all the filthy rich lies, and with each further district, it gets more rural and poor. Our female protagonist Katniss Everdeen lived in district 12, the poorest of the poor and is a strong-willed survival in her hometown.
In ‘commemoration’ of the huge riot that happened many years prior, in which was eventually squished out by the Capitol, an annual game has been designed to let the districts remember that their struggles are futile and to always pledge their loyalty to the Capitol. The winner walks away with great rewards. The rules are simple: stay alive.
Katniss Everdeen is one of the 24 tributes in the 74th Hunger Games, stepping in as a volunteer tribute in place of her younger sister, Prim. A hunter in her home district, Katniss is great with a bow. Most of her kills were a favourite because of the precision, like hitting a squirrel square in its eye. Katniss might not have that much confidence in her skills, but she knew she had some chance — at least more than Prim, her precious younger sister that she vowed to protect at all cost.
From the same district, Peeta Mellark is the male tribute who had a certain connection with Katniss. As the baker’s son, he had watched Katniss several times from afar, but never ever worked up the courage to talk to her till their selection for the bloody games. Ever since he proclaimed his love for Katniss, the duo played the ‘star-crossed lover’ theme, which made them a popular bet for sponsors in the games, prolonging their survival and eventually, played a part in claiming victory.
The highlight of the book is of course, the game, which is filled with its fair share of gore and unexpectedly, heartwarming moments: Katniss’ dedication to Rue, her little companion, the chemistry between Katniss and Peeta and more. I think this is one portion that sets itself from Battle Royale, one of the most often mentioned comparison whenever this book is mentioned.
Having watched the movie before this, I can’t help but make comparisons. Of course, the book stands out more than the movie in terms of details and making the ends meet, but to my surprise, the movie isn’t too bad either. Unlike Harry Potter, I wasn’t wholly unsatisfied with the amount being cut from the story (one of the reasons could be that I actually read the books first), though there are still some missing links that I would really have loved to be included. [For some of the major differences, click here]
One of them is definitely the ‘dog mutation’. Recall the huge wolf-dog like animals that appeared at the end in order to end the game? In the movie, they were nothing more than genetically modified mutts that aim to…torture more than kill. In writing, they seemed to be genetically modified, mutt-versions of…the dead tributes. Now that’s horrifying. Readers can almost feel the intensified fear experienced in Katniss upon the realization; imagine a duplicate of your precious sister that you came to like and protect turn into an oversized, mutant mutt that is now trying to chew your limbs off.
The second is the missing Avox girl: a mutilated servant that has had a past with Katniss. As a punishment for being a ‘traitor’, the anonymous girl had her tongue removed. As fate would have it, she served Katniss during her stay in the training period, and invoked many thoughts from the protagonist, most of which were guilt and anxiousness.
What I like about the movie though, is the increase in the ‘behind-the-sceens’ featuring. The talk of the game-maker with President, the way they snap their fingers to create things out of nothing just show how heartless the Hunger Games is. How demeaning the tributes are, and how easily they could be removed. It made me wonder how the people from the capitol (and district 1/2) are brainwashed into thinking of it as a celebratory event. That is just foolish, and sickening.
I also liked the part where they show district 11 revolting because of Rue’s death and Katniss’ signature goodbye and final dedication to district 11. While the riot wasn’t fully discussed in book 1, I believe it would be in further books after reading the synopsis for the other two. Still, the scene was impactful and brought tears to my eyes. It also seemed to set the bait for the upcoming series for those who did not read the book, and I applaud their efforts in doing so.
Overall, the book is a relatively enjoyable read, and something to think about: is the future going to be an authoritarian society that reverts us to our barbarian nature in which the rule ‘survival of the fittest’ plays a big part? Where the rich-and-poor gap widens to a brand new level? In fact, the basic themes of war, advancements in technology, rich vs poor isn’t that new nor far from reality; in fact, it is very real, which is probably both an attractive and yet horrifying aspect of this book.
However, the characters of the books are not as well elaborated, and there are some loose ends in the book that I hope would be tied in the series. The characters are likeable, but they just seem to lack that one factor that makes you fully attached to them. Maybe it’s just me, or the fact that the book isn’t targeted at audiences my age (seeing how the writing is relatively simplistic). Yet, I applaud Collins efforts in attempting to introduce horrifying yet relatively realistic concepts in a book targeted at younger audiences.
I would still read the other two books (after I’ve watched the movie adaptations; don’t want disappointment from the lack of details…), but frankly though, it is not in my top choice of books. I’d recommend it to someone who is looking for a little thrill (and a little gore) with a more mature theme, but at the same time not looking for anything too complex.