Hunger Games Trilogy … a review of sorts

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Soooooooo… imagine if Buhdydharma had the desire and wherewithal to write (and publish!) a really good dystopia styled book, and orient it for a teen audience. (I’m totally convinced he has the talent!) He might just come up with something like this trilogy from Suzanne Collins:

hunger games trilogy banner Pictures, Images and Photos

Hunger Games (1)   Catching Fire (2)   Mockingjay (3)

Note: You really need to read these books before they come out with the movie and ruin it. heh. Well, you probably have a year or so.

Here’s an official video promo for the book:

At the Amazon spot, Hunger Games has almost 2,000 Customer Reviews! Yeah, this is a big hit with the kids, including my 13 y.o. daughter and some of her friends. This morning I meandered around the Net and found lots of Fan Forums, jewelry, all kinds of stuff – even a game mode within Minecraft on an online Minecraft server list called “The Hunger Games” where players have to find weapons and craft materials and battle against each other to the final survivor, which is the basic premise of The Hunger Games. More on that in a minute.

I first picked up this book last summer after my daughter devoured it. The happy surprise for me then was how quickly I devoured it myself. I love when I come across a “find” like that. That I had no expectations just makes it even better. Some time later I was also pleased to stumble onto mention of HG in one of Devilstower’s S.E.G.O. posts at GOS, with several people chiming in with agreement. And here I thought it was just me! In my view, it’s a budding counter-culture cult book too, a la Matrix.

US Front Flap: In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before–and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Booklist review gives you the basic storyline:

This is a grand-opening salvo in a new series by the author of the Underland Chronicles. Sixteen-year-old Katniss poaches food [illegally, together with her childhood friend, Gale] for her widowed mother and little sister [Prim] from the forest outside the legal perimeter of District 12, the poorest of the dozen districts constituting Panem, the North American dystopic state that has replaced the U.S. in the not-too-distant future. Her hunting and tracking skills serve her well when she is then cast into the nation’s annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death where contestants must battle harsh terrain, artificially concocted weather conditions, and two teenaged contestants from each of Panem’s districts.

District 12’s second “tribute” is Peeta, the baker’s son, who has been in love with Katniss since he was five. Each new plot twist ratchets up the tension, moving the story forward and keeping the reader on edge. Although Katniss may be skilled with a bow and arrow and adept at analyzing her opponents’ next moves, she has much to learn about personal sentiments, especially her own.

Populated by three-dimensional characters, this is a superb tale of physical adventure, political suspense, and romance. Grades 9-12. –Francisca Goldsmith

In conversation, I have yet been able to capture the why-essence of my imperative: “you have to read this book!”. On the surface, the plot sounds almost trite, like … it makes sense that it would appeal to this generation of teens who have grown up on Reality TV shows and violent videogames and book – to – movie vampire stories. How it makes the leap from tedious or trite to a Must Read (for me) is due entirely to the skill of Suzanne Collins, the author.

I couldn’t put it down.

Good thing it wasn’t longer or my family would’ve starved! It’s well paced and compelling. Yet, she sacrifices neither character development nor nuance.

You love the characters. And there’s lots of them. Katniss … well, the 24 “tributes” (2 each from the 12 Districts) are selected by lottery every year at “The Reaping”. It’s a big ceremonious deal. When they announce that her sister, Prim, age 12, is selected, Katniss volunteers to go in her stead. Right off the bat, our protagonist is noble and bold. Her mother is a good character as well, a Healer / Medicine Woman, as is the now-deceased father, who first taught her to hunt.

Once into the arena, the other Tributes are fully developed as well. Collins lays out a fairly plausible fictional State of Panem, where each of the Districts have their own industry, strengths, and role to play.  Some of them border on fantasy but it all fits together into the story. The Capitol itself is not only the seat of the tyrannical government, with the evil President Snow, but also a hotbed of frivolous trivial-minded citizens, whose indulgent tastes have them drooling for the annual, televised Live (and it’s mandated by law that all watch anyway), Games. From that splendid gene pool is drawn some of the other key players, which include the diabolical Gamemakers and the silly Prep & Style Teams.

Now …  let me see if I can explain some of the twists that make it interesting without giving away SPOILERS! Here comes much of the above-mentioned nuance.

This is the 74th Annual Hunger Games. Each year, only one Tribute “wins”, i.e. survives. The “Victor”. Phew, what a relief. Uh, no, think again. The surviving Victors continue to serve the Capital in its propagandist displays and evil oppression. There’s the Victory Tour throughout all Districts (where the Victor sees face to face the family members of other Tributes they’ve killed) and such. Their main role, however, is to serve every year thereafter as the primary Mentor to their home Districts Tribute. Every year. Year after year. “Success” is rare. Really despicable.  

Our District 12’s Mentor for Katniss is one Hayward Abernathy.

Haymitch Abernathy is one of the only two people who has ever won the Hunger Games from District 12 (and the only one still living). He mentors the tributes, or children, from District 12 that fight to the death. Because of so many losses, he is drunk almost all of the time. He is tipsy and baffoon-like when drunk, but when he is sober, he is clever and can outwit people.

I’m not going to tell you much more about him, but…. man, I got some good laughs reading through the fan forums… Kids are now eagerly pretend-“casting” the movie. What fun. The top picks to play Haymitch are: Jack Nicholson (er, no); Alec Baldwin (maybe); and …. Hugh Laurie (YES!!! PERFECT! lol). ‘Nuff said.

The Games themselves, well, it’s very brutal and cruel. Also extremely tense and lots of twists and turns too. “The Arena” is total fictional amazingness. Not sci-fi high tech but just straight out pure unadulterated fiction. {Note: Im not finding a lot online to help boost my memory so I may have to edit since I read it a year ago.) Here’s the thing. Each Tribute pair has their Mentor assisting them, as well as their Prep/Style Team. Once they enter The Arena however, direct communication to the outside world is cut off. The outside world, however, is watching their every move on TV. And rooting for their favorites. And sending money or support via the Mentor. So…. your odds of winning are better the more popular you are, and the more fabulous you appear to the TV audience. Example: let’s say you are injured. Your Mentor Support Team can send you in (via some kind of helicopter drop) medicine, assuming they have the money (and maybe the good grace of the Gamemakers too, I forget) which is based on your popularity. Ugh.

The Arena (and its different every year) is some grand design by the Gamemakers. There’s all kinds of strange fictional creatures, and weaponry and landscape.  They can somehow control various features at will, sometimes intentionally favoring (or not) one Tribute or another, depending on how they want the TV version, and popularity of a given Tribute, to go.

How Katniss and Peeta, with the aid of Haymitch, manage to “play” the Game is some of the more interesting scenes. And although survival depends on the imperative to kill all the others, there are various alliances that form, then dissolve, that add to the intricacies of the plot as well.

And…. sigh …  everyone gets real attached to one in particular, poor little Rue. Sweet Rue.

Books 2 & 3 continue on after the initial Games of Book #1. SPOILER alert, well, there wouldn’t be 2 more books if Katniss didn’t manage to somehow survive, lol, but they just get better.

The many subtle and also blatant messages throughout the trilogy regarding Empire, oppression, triumph and (shhhhh rebellion) are probably what make me love this set as much as anything. That’s all you’re gonna get out of me.

I finished reading Mockingjay over this past weekend, so it’s still fresh and tingly.

What wowed me too though, was rifling around this morning online and seeing all the kids… not only talking about it, but creating their own homespun video’s… fake Trailers for the upcoming movie and putting songs to music and just…. this really speaks to them. Cool.

Forums or sites used for reference:

mockingjay net

HungergamesTrilogy fansite

Suzanne Collins

7 comments

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  1. mockingjay Pictures, Images and Photos

  2. fan created video of a song from the 3rd book, taught to Katniss by her father. (words by Suzanne Collins, music by the fan)

    • Edger on September 10, 2010 at 12:22 am

    The City and the Stars, by Arthur C. Clarke, 1953

    Diaspar is the last city of man, a self-enclosed and self-perpetuating utopia one billion years into the future, surviving on the desert remains of Earth. Men are born nearly fully-grown from the central matter replicators, live lives of thousands of years, and then, when they feel the time is right, return to storage to be reborn on a schedule known only to Daispar’s central computer. There is little strife, no poverty or need, and life is devoted to art, creativity, and exploration of ever more subtle nuances of well-understood fields. Diaspar is apparently the culmination and final twilight of mankind.

    Into this closed, static, and complacent world comes Alvin, a boy with no previous lives in the city, an explorer’s wandering impulse, and none of the fear that stops his fellow citizens from thinking of leaving the city. The rough outlines of the story from there could be written by any widely-read SF fan: Alvin upsets the social order, ventures where no one has gone before, discovers the truth of humanity’s past and turning away from the stars, and finds wonders and secrets all others have forgotten.

    Does Katniss in the end somehow find her freedom from the dystopia, even if it’s within it?

  3. I kind of ran out of time and didn’t really do this justice, but… oh well. heh. I really needed the escape pod this provided me today!

  4. my feelings. A gazillion times better than I could, lol.

    It is a GREAT read. It is a MONUMENTAL read. This is an example of how a novel can have a great ending without selling out, or making things too bright, or being stale to not cause waves. It’s an incredible example of an author whose imagination and whose work exceed her grasp. Who creates something so … wondrous.

    Really, I’m in awe. This is a fucking powerful piece of work. Unexpected, breathtaking, hilarious, heart-wrenching, all the while graceful. Sometimes you get lucky to come across something like this.

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