Another post-apocalyptic novel on survival and the all American theme of “discovering oneself”.
I got this one about two months ago, after having heard rave reviews on the net and from friends (Hell, they even got a movie out on this!!), but never got around to reading it until now. A relatively slim book, this was a pretty fast read.
It tells the tale of survival, of a young girl fighting for her life, in the distant future dystopian state where the government rule is oppressive and totalitarian. In the aftermath of some huge environmental chaos, thirteen districts arise, all governed by the central Capitol, known as Panem, the seat of the government. Set in an unspecified future, a bleak and dark one at that, every year the government organizes games, known as the “hunger games” where as a symbol of their total oppressive regime, the Capitol demands a “tribute” in the form of a young boy and girl, aged 12 to 18, to participate. There are no rules in the game. Except one. Winner gets to walk away ALIVE.
The novel follows the fate of sixteen-year old Katniss Everdeen, who gets pulled into the brutal and vicious games and now has to make choices that questions her sanity and sense of humanity. Edgy topic, especially for a YA Novel. Naturally since the premise to this book is loaded with violence and yet aimed at a young impressionable audience, I was curious to how Collins is going to handle this topic. She does it with complete élan. The games are aptly called “Hunger Games” reflecting the bleak gloomy nature of the lives led by the people from various districts, where food is almost a luxury; well, the absolute kicker is that the games are also telecast live on TV across the 12 districts! Imagine the whole nation watching you as you remorselessly bash in your opponents skull. And kill you must, in order to survive in this game.
A very interesting premise and so I was eager to get started. I was swept away as soon as I started reading, as Collins adeptly handles her world building and writes from ground up, intense and focused and furious. First person point of view as you get gathered up in Katniss’ life and misery. Beautifully sets up the main character for you, as you get to know her every strength and weakness and love and pet peeves. This approach works well as you proceed further into the games itself, giving you the feel that you are the one stuck in the arena, striving hard to live until next sun-down.
The book’s pace never lets you go until the last few chapters, where the author takes a decidedly slower approach and tarries. I hated this part. I was itching to go, to watch some blood spill and break open some skulls. However, Suzanne writes dispassionately. Am sure having to be within that YA-cordon has had this effect where she would have been holding back on scenes which definitely could have gone over the top. So the book missed that explosive climax that I would have loved the book to have. I could have thought of at least three different ways in which to end the book, but the author manages to pick the one that is like the most politically right one. Diplomatic. Tepid. Lame. So the last few chapters did the book in, for me at least. And I ended up liking it lesser and lesser as I sped towards the end. Katniss of course gets maximum screen space; however one of the “Strong” characters who deserved much more, actually gets ignored on the sidewalk and lost to us readers. Maybe she brought “him” back in part 2 and 3. But I’m not very enthused after listening to reviews on those books.
A good book with a fantastic premise to it. However, I feel Suzanne has kept herself in tight check and this for me, spoiled the book. It could have been so much more fun! To get some “people” killed :D ( for those of you who have read it, you know whom I am talking about!)
Perhaps 2 and half on 5. The extra “half” purely for having given us a head-strong mature “girl on fire” heroine.