The Hunger Games

Posted: December 22, 2013 in Book reviews

As so often is the case, I was late to the party, but finally, five years after it was published and more than 18 months after I saw the film adaptation, I’ve finally read the opening book in Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy.

And on the whole I rather liked it.

I did have a bit of trepidation before reading it. Not because it’s Young Adult fiction, and not because it’d been hyped to betsy. No, my main concern was down to having seen the film. After all I’d know what was coming, right?

And it turned out I did, because the film in hindsight now seems surprisingly faithful to the book. The big surprise was how little it mattered. In spite of knowing the story I enjoyed the book nonetheless.

Collins’ prose is sharp and her story telling well-paced. The book is a real page turner, even to someone who knew the story, so I can only imagine how engrossing it must be if you came to it cold.

Katniss is a great heroine, and the decision to do the whole story from her perspective is an interesting one. On the plus side it makes the danger seem more real, and we get Katniss’ visceral reaction to what’s going on around her, almost as if it were we who’d been chosen as tribute and thrown into a world we didn’t understand. This also means our understanding of the motives of other characters is the same as Katniss’. We don’t know if we can trust anyone, because she doesn’t know if she can trust anyone.

Of course the downside is that we only see the things Katniss sees, and because she spends a large part of the games hiding, this means that most of the tributes’ deaths occur off screen as it were. This isn’t to say that I wanted to read about the gruesome deaths of a bunch to kids, but it does make it hard to engage with anyone else, and with a couple of noticeable exceptions the tributes are a bland, faceless bunch, and on the whole it’s hard to mourn any of them, with one clear exception.

One problem I had with the film was that the world building seemed thin, and though still a bit of an issue, we do learn more about the world of the Capitol and the Districts in the book, and additionally the first person narrative means we only know what Katniss knows, which is another plus point for the choice of perspective as it handily explains any gaps in our understanding of the world.

The book isn’t without flaws. There are quite a few contrivances, the biggest one being the good fortune that, not only is there a bow and arrow available to the tributes, but that Katniss gets hold of it—though at least it isn’t quite handed to her on a plate, still it might have made more sense if she’d had to fashion her own weapon. Also the love triangle never engages because Gale is just some guy we met briefly at the start, so it’s hard to imagine anyone but Peeta as a romantic interest for Katniss, and at times the world seems a trifle too simplistic.

But when it comes down to it the big test of a book if whether or not you enjoy it, not necessarily whether you agree with every choice the writer made, and The Hunger Games was a book that, once I started reading it, I didn’t want to put it down, and I can’t wait to read the next two books. In fact my only quandary is whether to go see the second film before I read the book, or wait for the DVD!

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Comments
  1. neil says:

    The main flaw of the book is tha keeping people hungry is the worst way to keep control of them! But overal there is a 70’s sci fi vibe so that’s cool

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