on 9 July 2012
I gave the first two books 5* as I genuinely felt they were both truly amazing. Sadly I can't say the same for the final book of this trilogy. Towards the end of the book it felt VERY rushed and there were plenty of open-ended 'scenes' which I felt could have been handled better. It's such a shame because it could have been something great but sadly it feels quite incomplete.
on 10 September 2011
I ignored this book for a long time on the basis that I felt it sounded too similar to Battle Royale. However I have finally got round to reading it, and am glad I did -whilst there are plenty of flaws, this is a fast paced, thrilling, adventure story, which provides surprises and visceral entertainment.
Katniss and Peeta are the teenage 'tributes' chosen from District 12, the poorest district of a post-apocalyptic North American society. Their district specialises in mining - others concentrate on farming, machinery, etc - but Katniss is actually a skilled 'outdoorswoman' - following her father's death, she has had to make a living off the land. Peeta is a baker's son - but one with a showman's gift for oratory. They and 22 other teenagers - 2 from each district - are required to fight to the last survivor in a televised arena battle. And yes, the arena is pretty much that of Battle Royale, with death zones, individual weapons, teenage love, regular announcements of the slain, etc. Basically if you just imagine Ms. Collins got permission to tell a story in Takami's setting, you'll be able to enjoy the story far more.
So other than the ...um, 'borrowed' premise, what else is wrong with it? Wafer thin characterisation - most of the other tributes are cardboard cut outs- iffy moralising ('Katniss stabbed him in the face. Later she reflected, 'Oh God, what have I done, how could I kill another human. I hate the government.' Then she fired an arrow into the heart of Boy Two from District Nine'). I paraphrase, but the moral struggle is filler, not truth. And some lazy story-telling - on entering the arena, Peeta is able to form an alliance with other tributes, whom we have never seen him talk to, who we are told do not rate his abilities and who would have been able to easily dispatch him.
But there is plenty right with the book too - the prose is strong, the action relentless and believable, and Katniss' romantic dilemma is much better defined than her issues with killing people. The Rue scene - you'll know it when you read it - is pitch perfect and remains with you long after the book is closed.
on 15 April 2012
You have to accept the author's words that she hadn't heard of Battle Royale when she wrote this. To be fair, many elements of Battle Royale were not unique when it was written, but it kind of sets a modern standard for the use of the game as a form of control of the people that has been used by others, and is the standard by which this formula is judged. So like it or not, this book will be compared.
BR is quite a hard book to read; translations often are; but it's stunning, and it made a stunning film. It is extremely hard-edged. Being told in the third person, it's far harder to get an early handle on the winner; in The Hunger Games, it's a question of how, not if, Katniss will triumph.
This is standard teenfare; Swallows and Amazons with live ammunition if you like, and it works surprisingly well; there's enough action to keep you reading through something that's quite lengthy for what it really contains, and all the familiar caricatured characters of any school-based novel are there for all to see.
The Lord of the Flies could clearly be seen as an influence, too.
I think the author deserves credit for making the first person present narration work; this can really grate in some books, but it works pretty well here. However, given the first person narration, any form of suspense is missing as it's only a question of when and how the dice will fall in Katniss's favour, and this alone prohibits it from getting more than three stars, and should really reduce it to two.
Overall, yes, quite readable, but if it's considered special, that must be because it rises just a little above a desert of so much rubbish.
As a toxopholite, I welcome the new-found interest in archery amongst the young; let's hope it continues.
on 4 October 2014
Well, number three in The Hunger Games trilogy, and 17 year old Katniss Everdeen is out there fighting for her life...again. Surprised that girl does not have grey hairs strewn through that beautiful blonde braid. Plus the ever present Peeta and Gale - who to trust, who not to trust. Certainly gives a different perspective on the life of a teenage girl than those reading these books could ever lead. And yet despite her toughness and outstanding attributes as a hunter and master of weapons, her unwanted destiny as leader and figurehead, she still manages to retain the angst and anguish of being a teenage girl, especially with regards to boys. Is this the real secret of the amazing success of these three stories? That beneath the horrific plot lines, sickening themes and all round ghastliness of it all, there lurks a normal teenage soul, that makes her so relateable to her audience?
And yet, something has been lost in this last chapter in Katniss's fight against the Capitol and President Snow. Yes, it has a gripping plot line, full of surprises and the unexpected. Characters we have grown to love and admire die - violently. In fact I don't think one single person dies a peaceful death in the whole series of books. Where would be the fun in that. but as a whole this book lacks the page turning intensity and frightening suspense that was on every page of The Hunger Games, and almost every page of Catching Fire. There are many pages in this last book where nothing happens, and it actually got just a little boring. When Katniss was in fighting/survival mode, it was marvellous stuff, but the reader has to read a lot of pages before the Katniss we know and love asserts herself.
Taking up right where Catching Fire finishes, Katniss, unsurprisingly, is a bit of a mess, with her home destroyed and her life upside down. She doesn't know who or what she is. In common with many 16/17 year old girls and boys. Maybe it is because she is now nothing more than a pawn or a tool in the war between the rebels and the Capitol that it seems like this. She is continually torn between Gale and Peeta, her mother and sister don't seem to need her as much, her best relationship seems to be with her sister's cat Butterscotch. She doesn't seem to like anyone else, nor they her.
Still as expected the Good Guys win, the Bad Guys don't, and there is some Happy Ever After. It is a good story, but somehow to me, it just all seems a bit tired. Hope the movie is better.....
on 19 May 2013
The story must be familiar to everyone by now. The book is well-written but is not altogether satisfying. Collins writes in the first person and this has the advantage that it involves the reader but also disadvantages. We know from the start that Katniss is going to survive and indeed win. The book spends a lot of time on her thoughts and memories. We only know what Katniss experiences so the other characters are superficial, stereotypical or cardboard cut-outs. Apart from the fact that the Careers are brutal, what else do we learn about them?
I most enjoyed Part 1. Panem, with its huge gulf between the rich and powerful in the Capitol and the poor and powerless in the Districts, is a fascinating creation - and parallels some real countries in the world, and in history. Once we got into Parts 2 and 3 the book became a sort of diary of survival in the wilderness. After a while I began to find it tedious. I wanted to skip ahead to find out what happened; how things ended. I sympathise with the Gamemakers using fire and the mutants to hurry things along.
I found myself comparing the book with "Treasure Island", in which twenty-five men and a boy land on the island and immediately divide into two groups, the mutineers and the faithful party, who are at each others' throats. The Hunger Games is longer by about 30,000 words (roughly 100 pages) than Treasure Island - and it shows. Treasure Island also has a villain of enormous personality: Long John Silver.
Is the story original? Collins says that she got the idea from two TV programmes: one a reality programme with young people competing for something, the other about young people fighting an actual war. I was reminded of a myth that is perhaps three thousand years old and comes from ancient Greece. The city of Athens was subordinate to the island of Crete. Every ninth year the Athenians had to send a tribute of seven youths and seven maidens to King Minos who then sent them into the Labyrinth to be killed and devoured by the Minotaur (a man with the head of a bull). Theseus, who was the unrecognised son of the king of Athens, volunteered to be one of the youths. When they arrived in Crete, Ariadne, King Minos' daughter, fell in love with Theseus. She gave him a ball of thread to help him find his way to the centre of the Labyrinth. There he killed the Minotaur and used the thread to guide himself out again. Theseus and the youths then fought their way back to their ship with the maidens and with Ariadne. But Theseus deserted Ariadne on the island of Naxos before sailing home to Athens.
Perhaps there really are no truly original stories any more.
on 17 June 2012
No doubt you've already heard of the Hunger Games thanks to the fact that a movie adaptation has been made of the first book. It's the latest, teen-oriented, multi-novel sensation from America. But is it any good?
The Hunger Games is written from the perspective of a sixteen year old girl called Katniss Everdeen. Having lost her father at a young age, she lives with her mother and younger sister in `District Twelve', which is the last of the twelve districts that surrounds the `Capitol', Panem. Every day is a daily struggle for Katniss; her family live in near-poverty and she has to hunt to get food on the table for her vulnerable sister and her mother, who was almost immobilised by depression after her husband's death. The action is set in a barely recognisable future version of the USA. There was once a District Thirteen, but it was destroyed by Panem for daring to bring about an uprising, and every year, to mark the betrayal of District 13, and as a warning to all the other districts to keep in line, the Capitol stages the so-called `Hunger Games', in which 24 teens between the ages of 12 and 18 - a boy and a girl from each district, are selected to fight to the death via a lottery of sorts, and there can only be one winner.
When her 12 year old sister is selected as the girl `tribute' for District 12, Katniss offers to take her place. And so she is entered into the Hunger Games, with the boy tribute from District 12 being Peeta Mellark, a baker's son, to whom Katniss quite literally owes the life of both herself and her family...
The Hunger Games is a compelling read, full of so many twists and turns it is more or less impossible to quite predict what the outcome will be. Not only is Katniss thrust into an arena full of 23 other tributes out to kill her, but she must work out her feelings towards fellow District Twelve tribute Peeta, and how she will deal with potentially having to kill the person to whom she owes her life. In addition there are traps set by the Gamemakers, who have power over the weather in the arena, and can drown the tributes in torrential rain or blast fireballs at them to spice up the action when things get boring. All of this is filmed and broadcast across the Capitol and the Districts, and is required viewing for everyone. People can place bets on who will survive.
It's like a twisted form of reality TV; Big Brother crossed with a gladiatorial arena
Of course, the Hunger Games is nothing truly new - Collins claims she got the inspiration for the novel while channel surfing one night and seeing footage of Big Brother on one side and real life news coverage of a war zone on the other, and she combined the two together in her mind. The book, however, bears a marked resemblance to the Japanese survival thriller movie Battle Royale, released in 2000, in which a class of teens were entered against their will into a contest in which they were forced to fight to the death on a desert island.
What struck me though, is how awkwardly the moral message of the book is handled, really, considering the weightiness of the issues that make up its foundation. Every now and then Katniss reflects on the unfairness of the Capitol's treatment, but then again, most of the time she is just fighting to stay alive. Perhaps that's all I'd be doing in her situation. Peeta expresses it most succinctly: "(...) (W)hen the time comes, I'm sure I'll kill just like everybody else. I can't go down without a fight. Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to... to show the Capitol they don't own me. That I'm more than just a piece in their Games." It's all about retaining humanity in a world where you are literally forced to kill, where thousands are gawking at you on a screen, placing bets on how long you'll survive.
The violence in the book is somewhat restrained; a thrown knife here, a splash of blood there, without going into particularly graphic detail; it is a teen novel after all. Perhaps the most gruesome deaths are when a girl is stung repeatedly by giant wasps and when a boy is slowly eaten alive by a band of genetically engineered dog-like creatures called `mutts' that are released into the arena by the Gamemakers (perhaps the most shocking scene in the entire book but because of the nature of the mutts as well as the nature of the boy's murder).
If you like kick-ass heroines, this is definitely for you - Katniss is THE kick-ass heroine. Some of the supporting characters are intriguing too; it's just a shame that not many of them are given a chance to develop. Peeta Mellark is an interesting character but is unfortunately stifled by his role of `is he, isn't he?' lover boy. The book does require some mighty suspension of disbelief at times too, with some of the contraptions that the futuristic citizens of Panem take for granted (there is a sort of box, that when touched, sends an electric current to your head that immediately dries, parts and styles your hair. What?!)
Despite its flaws, the book is a compelling read with plenty of suspense to keep you going until the end, but upon finishing the first book in the series, it seems doubtful to me that there is enough material to work with with which Suzanne Collins will be able to draw out another two books, and yet she has done just that.
As teen fodder goes, this is good, but not astounding.
The final instalment of The Hunger Games trilogy is as gripping and unputdownable as its predecessors. There is very little that I can add that hasn't already been said: it's a book that everybody should read, adults and kids alike. It's the 1984 of the 21st century, where ordinary lives are scrutinised under the brutal, harsh light of reality TV. If you have seen the film `Idiocracy' by Mike Judge you will be inclined to agree.
My only slightly criticism to the third book is that the events involving the `final showdown' seem to be a bit of a cheat; without giving away any spoilers, I got the impression that the author had painted herself into a bit of a narrative corner and used the easiest, most predictable trick to get herself out of it. That, in my opinion, resulted in somewhat of an anti-climatic resolution that sidelined the book's heroine and skipped forward, reducing what could have been the most exciting part of the story a few lines of `filler' summary.
I am now curious to see what the author will write next - will she leave the cozy world of YA fiction and dip her toes into the `grown-up' stuff? I certainly hope so.
on 13 June 2012
By the time I finished the second book (which I loved) I really didnt know how they were going to carry in into a third and if im honest I feel the third was a little unnessesary and I feel that they could have slightly extended the 2nd one rather than writing a third, I feel that this book was very slow in places, having said that I did read it in a few sittings and it wasnt awful but just not the best in my opinion.
on 23 November 2014
I loved the first two, Catching Fire more so, but Mockingjay part one was by far my favourite film. This book is amazing, but the ending is rushed. SPOILERS!! Finnick is killed for no reason, I may be biased as I love him, but there was no reason for him to die, and the fact he left his son and Annie behind makes it worse. His death isn't even very long, maybe around 10 lines or so, not much justice for a character that supported Katniss all the way through Mockingjay.
I am literally shaking at the moment, knowing I'll never get answers to my many questions, oh the depressing joys of being a fangirl! What was Katniss' dads name? Her mums? Hers and Peetas kids names? Finnick and Annie's kids name? What is the significance of the dandelion? Of the Meadow? The ending and especially the epilogue was rushed, if you dont mind your life falling apart and having unanswerable questions then read this!
on 15 June 2014
I raced through the first two books. Loved them both. Very disappointed by how long this book took to get to the point and the ending was disapointing.