Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Hunger Games

Reading a good book is somewhat of a luxury to me.  Normally I don’t have much time to sit down and finish a book apart from when I am on holiday and/or on an island somewhere totally removed from technology.  But last week, while strolling around the airport waiting for my flight, I sauntered into the book store.  I had a ninety minute flight ahead of me and I had no intention of making friends on the plane.  Then I saw “The Hunger Games”, a relatively thin book but with a lot of hype surrounding it.  It’s been rumored to become the next “Twilight”.  Being thoroughly sick of glistening vampires, ripped werewolves and nerdy looking sorcerers, I decided to buy it.  The next few days I spent reading it and even ended up watching the movie.
The Hunger Games is a novel written by the American television writer and novelist Suzanne Collins and it was first published in 2008.  The book is part of a trilogy and is written from the perspective of the 16 year old girl called Katniss Everdeen, who lives in a post-apocalyptic world in the country of Panem, where the countries of North America once existed.  The Capitol, a highly evolved metropolis holds power over the rest of the nation.  The Hunger Games is an annual event in which one boy and one girl (ages 12 to 18) from each of the 12 districts surrounding the Capitol are selected in a lottery to compete in a televised battle until only one person is left.  There are no vampires or wizards, just regular kids fighting to the death in the cruelest circumstances imaginable.

District 12, where the book begins, is located in the coal rich region and this is where Katniss quietly carves out a path of meager survival for herself with her younger sister Prim and their widowed mother under the strict control and absolute dominance of the Capital.  On the day of the reaping (when tributes are selected for the games) for the 74th Hunger Games, Prim is selected to the horror of Katniss who then bravely volunteers, to the astonishment of everybody watching, to be a tribute on her sister’s behalf.  Also selected from district 12 is Peeta Millard, a baker’s son who Katniss knows from school and once gave her bread when she was on the brink of starvation.

After the reaping, Katniss and Peeta are whisked away to the Capitol where they are prepared by the drunken Haymitch (victor of the 50th Hunger Games).  Even before the games begin, Peeta declares his unrequited love for Katniss, during his public interview, and from there they are known as the “star-crossed lovers”.  Katniss struggles to accept this and questions Peeta’s true motives for declaring his love for her.  After all Katniss does have a love interest back in Disctict 12, Gale, albeit an unspoken love.  Then the Hunger Games begins and bloodshed and mayhem follows.  With unsettling parallels to our present appetite for reality television The Hunger Games is the deadliest reality television show you will ever see.
In an ominous twist of fate or calculated move by the Gamemakers, it is declared midway through the games, that if a boy and a girl survive from the same district, they’d both be declared victors.  This forces Katniss and Peeta to work together, still playing off the “star-crossed lovers” bit to the great adoration of the viewing public.  In a climactic final battle they are the last two survivors but one last callous twist in the game awaits them.  Against all odds they outwit the Gamemakers and both survive and it is a victory won in defiance of the Capitol and their stark rules; a victory that in all probability will have dire consequences for Katniss and Peeta alike.

The Hunger Games is a book about survival, rooting for the underdog and the evaluation of your own moral compass.  What would you do if faced with the same circumstances, would you have the will or the hope to survive?  But one word of warning, do not read this book if you are hungry, a lot of time is spent dealing with food.  I know it is called “The Hunger Games”, and it did have me crave bread and stew on a few occasions.  The book is an easy read and paced well.  Sure it is violent and I did find myself questioning its suitability for the target age bracket for which it was written, but the violence is not gratuitous or exaggerated.

I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed with the movie though.  Many parts of the book were omitted from the movie or certain things changed.  Sure this may have been done for the book to translate better into a film, but there are certain subtexts that went unexplored or unarticulated such as Katniss’s development of feelings for Peeta, how and why she met Rue and the reason Rue’s death affected her so deeply.  The final climatic battle was also vastly different from the book, with the mutants not being the mutations of the fallen tributes but instead being dog like monsters, which contributed little to the trauma and angst of the final battle as depicted in the book.  And the movie is a smidge too long for my liking, so make sure you pee before the movie and have enough popcorn and soda– it’s just over two hours long!
Whether The Hunger Games will indeed be the new Twilight, only time will tell.  For me the book was money well spent for burning 6 hours on a plane round trip, another couple of hours at the airport and for the time spent alone in my hotel room.  The movie was well acted (better than Twilight) and even though it is long I didn’t find myself getting bored or fidgety and it demanded my attention from start to end.  I do recommend that you get yourself a copy of the book and drag your butts to the cinema to watch the movie.  Enjoy The Hunger Games and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Till next time.

The Hunger Games Official Trailer - Watch more Movie Trailers


N!LoC said...

oh??? so this is what the whole "hunger games" thingy is about!!!

Pierre le Roux said...

Yep, hence the review. Thought people who heard the hype would want to know what the story is about.

Hobbers said...

Babe I just read the book based on your recommendation (big up to me finding an Eglish version at Helsinki Airport!) and it was as good as you said. Have just downloaded the film, and it was amazingly just as good as the book! Cheers - maybe you should consider a career as a literary critic???? xxx

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