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Because what the Net really needs is another person sharing his uninformed views
Book review: The Hunger Games Trilogy 
12th-Feb-2012 01:51 pm
Eveningstavatar
No, I haven't forgotten how to read, or stopped reading books entirely. But I mainly read on public transport on the way to and from the theatre, so ever since I started scribbling my reviews on the way home that's half my reading time gone; plus now bus tickets have gone up to the point where I'm not saving much if I get the bus instead of the tube or train, most of my journeys are shorter. But I have still been reading, and with it being the next "young adult" book series to get the Hollywood movie treatment I got Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay) when they were discounted on the Kindle, and ended up reading all three in a row. The premise is, as everyone says, Battle Royale for kids - in a far future dystopia, the Roman Empire-themed Capitol oppresses the surrounding 12 Districts, and following a failed rebellion 74 years ago, likes to make a show of their power by a compulsory annual reality show: A boy and girl from each district aged between 12 and 18 is chosen by lottery to fight to the death in a televised arena, with only one survivor at the end. As the series goes on, inevitably an uprising against the Capitol does start to rumble and Katniss, the narrator who in the first book is a competitor in the Games, finds herself an important figure among the rebels.

Well I did rather enjoy these; Catching Fire was the strongest although the first two books do both take a while to properly get going. Collins is principally a screenwriter and the books are pretty clearly written with film adaptation in mind, with a clear three-act structure and lots of action. But in their own right I did enjoy how bleak the books were, with a younger audience in mind there aren't exactly detailed descriptions of entrails flying around but some of the deaths of other competitors are pretty gruesome nonetheless. Even the compulsory love triangle to get the teenage girls interested is pleasingly fucked up and openly cynical: Katniss and the other District 12 "tribute," Peeta, have a big doomed romance for the benefit of the cameras, which she plays up to, oblivious to the fact that he actually means it, and thinks she does too. And I like that unlike other, more sparkly franchises, we don't get told what A Woman's Place is, and instead the gender stereotypes are pretty much reversed, with Peeta the hopeless romantic and Katniss the action heroine who's clueless about relationships.

The prose is pretty basic but that generally doesn't bother me with stories where it's mainly about the action. I mainly found it annoying in the underwritten deaths of some of the major supporting characters throughout the series - it's not so much "shockingly brutal and unexpected" as "having to click back a couple of pages 'cause I didn't notice a popular good guy get decapitated." And one death in particular does feel as if Collins belatedly realised she should have killed them off in the previous instalment. I get the impression the ending of the trilogy is unpopular with a lot of people and I can see why; the resolution of the love triangle feels like a concession, and I'm not even sure whom to, as anyone who liked the story so far would presumably be happier with a less conventional approach. And the last few chapters as a whole felt rushed to me, leaving a lot of plot holes. Still, I enjoyed the series overall and hopefully the films should be worth watching.
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