on 21 July 2014
I read this book when my daughter (age 11) recommended it. The next day we bought the next two books in the series. I think I read all three books in the series in a week.
The three books in the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins are book 1 The Hunger Games, book 2 Catching Fire and book 3 Mockingjay.
The Hunger Games tells the story future earth society where post some unexplained apocalypse a new state of Panem has arisen, one state twelve districts, each district is subservient to the Capital and has its own specialist activity. District 12 is the coal mining district.
Living in abject poverty, they mine coal for it to be despatched to the Capital. Fod is in short supply, and in the opening sequence the heroine Katniss Everdeen is shown hunting for food with a bow and arrow. The story starts on the day of the reaping, the day two teens between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen at random to join the Hunger Games of the title. Bot Katniss, but her 12 year sisters is chosen, and Katniss has to act, and so the story begins...
From the poverty of District 12 to the excessive luxury of the capital to the brutality of the Hunger Games. This book has a compelling forward momentum that makes it an unputdownable read.
I read the book in 36 hours flat, and was astonished by its vast vistas and effortless portrayal of an alien civilisation. It reminded me of Angela Carter: The Handmaid's Tale, most of all, but I loved the way it captured the essence of our own time with its games shows contests and sometimes extremely cruel reality TV.
A tour de force by Suzanne Collins. If you have not read it, then clear some time in your diary and do so.
on 29 September 2013
I was seriously thinking of passing on writing a review about Suzanne Collins` The Hunger Games. My feelings about the book were so extreme and contradictory that I had some difficulty coming to terms with them. Frankly, when you think about it, the story line is repulsive. It's a cross between Roman gladiator fights in which the participants in the arena are teenagers who fight to the death in games that are a vehicle of supreme repression of human spirit and a television reality show in which the audience delights in children ripping themselves apart with the collusion of the producers of the show. The rules of the game make any thought of kindness, of kinship, of friendship, or of solidarity a dreadful risk lest it be as a strategy to gain the deadly upper hand.
No doubt it is this extreme situation that makes us identify so strongly with the main protagonist, Katniss, in her fight against oppression. I say fight against oppression, but in reality, despite her being a natural rebel, her fight in many ways is limited to a desperate attempt to survive. Such are the odds against her, I imagine you saying. And you'd no doubt be right. I suppose her role as a rebel will evolve and grow in the remaining two books which I have yet to read.
Having said that, at no time, as a reader, did I find the story repulsive. At no time was I so shocked that I put the book down in disgust. On the contrary. I was totally captivated by the story from the outset and greatly enjoyed reading it. Does that make me akin to the blood-thirsty TV spectators of the Games? In my defence and that of most readers, I imagine, let it be said that I sided with the rebel not the Game organisers or the authorities. When we reached the death of the youngest competitor that Katniss had befriended despite the cut-throat atmosphere of the Games I broke down and cried as I imagine did many others, cued in by both the organisers of the Games and the author. And as for Katniss, there was no relief for me as a reader in reaching the end of the story with her as the survivor and triumphant winner. The story left me feeling somewhat estranged from myself and the world around me. On reflexion, my feelings were akin to those I get on the rare occasions when I watch a TV programme about a subject that deeply disturbs me. I feel both invaded and violated in some way. I doubt if I will be able to allay that feeling by reading on, but read on I certainly will.
I went back and re-read the beginning in the cool light of dawn, more as a writer than a reader, trying to ascertain if the language used contributed to the impact of the story. I was struck by the low-key nature of the language used. No fancy stuff, just the words the story needed. The conclusion I reached was that the skill of the storyteller, in this case, was to use such language that it in no way obstructed the flow of the story but rather carried us, the readers, along with it until we were cast ashore et the end, dazed and wondering what had happened to us.
Review first published on Secret Paths: http://about-books.secret-paths.com/?p=24
on 13 July 2013
I'll admit, I watched the film first and was put off the book to be honest; I found the film to have quite weak plot points and characters that weren't developed enough, but as I owned the first book in the series, I decided to give it a try and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised!
The writing style, initially, put me off a bit. The first person present tense was something that I had never encountered before but I found that I got used to it after a chapter or so. It helped the reader to sympathise with Katniss and draw you into the action. I didn't particularly like Katniss because I found that she wasn't overly emotional when perhaps she should have been but I understand that her background and circumstance really has affected her in that way.
I really liked the world building of this dystopian society. The contrast between the Capitol and the Districts really made me think about the world we live in today and made me question whether this could actually happen in the future. The materialistic attitudes and lifestyles of the Capitol are almost an extreme version of the current western world.
I wasn't a fan of the romantic side of the story with regards to Peeta and Katniss but I think that it was an interesting spin on the Hunger Games and think that in the sequels it could be developed further. There were also some cringe-worthy sentences in the book, especially one about her food tasting salty like her tears. I just found sentences like this to be extremely jarring to the flow of the otherwise brilliant writing.
Although it would have been better if the reader heard from other characters' points of view, I found the action to hold my interest and was very tense at points, captivating me into the story and making me want to keep reading.
Overall, this book surprised me a lot in it's brutality and adventurous themes. If you haven't read this yet, and are putting it off for some reason, or avoiding it because you didn't like the film, I would thoroughly recommend that you try this first book for yourself, and I am certain that you won't be disappointed.
In a dystopian future world, a plentiful society exists in a place called the Capitol which oversees 12 poverty-stricken Districts to produce specific products to maintain their charmed lives. As a way of re-affirming their dominance over the Districts (as well as provide a sadistic entertainment to the twisted rulers), they demand 2 "tributes" in the form of one boy and one girl between the ages of 12-18 to travel to the Capitol and be placed in a vast arena to survive and fight to the death. These televised trials are called "The Hunger Games". This is the story of a 16 year old girl called Katniss Everdeen from District 12 who is one of the chosen.
I heard about this book a few years ago in Stephen King's Entertainment Weekly column but I decided not to read it as it was labelled "Young Adult" (YA) (I'm not a teenager) and because it seemed like a knockoff "Battle Royale", a superb Japanese film I'd seen in 2000 which has a very similar premise. Having read the book, in hindsight both of these reasons were ridiculous. The YA label is arbitrary at best and, reading it, I couldn't understand why this book is considered to be a teen book and not one for adults. Maybe the lack of swearing, sex, and overly descriptive violent scenes?
And the "Battle Royale" argument (which seems to bother a number of reviewers), well was that the first book to feature kids on an island killing each other? Has no-one read "Lord of the Flies"? Shirley Jackson wrote maybe the best haunted house novel with "The Haunting of Hill House" - does that mean Richard Matheson's "Hell House" or Stephen King's "The Shining" are invalid because they followed in her wake? Or Yevgeny Zamyatin's "We" preceded both Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" and George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four", so do we discount Huxley and Orwell entirely? Just because a concept has been done before, doesn't mean it can't be done again - and done better at that.
"The Hunger Games" is an exceptionally thrilling read. Suzanne Collins has crafted a compelling portrait of a world unrecognisable to our own, both futuristic and historic at varying times, but the best part of the book is, as it should be, the Games itself. Once Katniss enters the arena with the 23 other teens, I couldn't stop reading and finished the book on my second sitting, it was that exhilarating to read. Her battle to survive both on the basic level of eating and drinking what she could find, while escaping her would-be murderers, was a unique reading experience that I've never come across before and Collins does a fantastic writing job throughout. The survival part of the book echoed another excellent series of YA books I read when I was a teenager, Gary Paulsen's "Hatchet" books (highly recommended by the way), while the many Roman references made it seem like an extended teen "Gladiator".
I won't give away anything about the story here but suffice it to say that there are betrayals and killings that you don't see coming, and constant suspense throughout (even though you know Katniss makes it). Like I say, I don't know why this isn't considered an adult book but any adults reading this review should give this novel a go, ignore the YA label, it's very well written, very well-conceived, and an amazing action-thriller with elements of sci-fi thrown in. Excellent fun, I bought the other two books immediately after finishing this and can't wait to find out how this series continues.
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.
Some minor spoilers within.
I have read the hell out of these books in the past week - all three of them. It's a tremendously satisfying series of books and every single one of them was hugely enjoyable. However, the last book suffers (a little) from several issues. The first is that it just doesn't feel as coherent as the first two - without the driving force of the Games themselves, it has to be a very different book and the characters don't feel quite so credible to me. The second is that the ending seems to undermine most of the central messages I took from the book. It just doesn't gel - it's a jarring misstep to my sensibilities. The third is that the horror of the central plot-line loses a lot of its impact with the half-hearted way in which events are described. Certain characters, I feel, deserved better in their final send-offs.
Don't get me wrong - it's still an intensely good book, and a reasonably good cap-stone to a tremendous trilogy. It doesn't take away from how good the first two books are, and it stands up well as a book in and of its own rights. It's just I came away from it feeling a little colder than I think I would have if some other paths had been taken.
on 15 February 2012
The hunger games series are some of the best books ive read for a long time, couldn't put it down!! Constant twists and compleatly unpredictable, MUST READ!
At the end of the second book, Katniss and co. have relocated to the rebel city of District 13, the city that the Capitol maintained was destroyed. From here, the characters plot their attack against the hated Capitol and President Snow, joining in the rebellion that's now taking place in all of the Districts, for a showdown between President Snow and Katniss Everdeen....
I thought this book had potential and hoped that it would be an improvement on the second book, a lacklustre sequel to the brilliant first book. While the story of "Catching Fire" felt like it was dragging its heels, "Mockingjay" doesn't even bother to disguise its weariness. Suzanne Collins basically gives up in the third book, she (and when I began reading it, me as well) just wants it to end. She's out of ideas.
First off, why is the rebel city basically another version of the Capitol? They're a group of people who escaped the Big Brother/tyrannical rule of the Capitol only to replicate it almost entirely in their new, separate city. I don't understand why Collins made this choice, doesn't she want us to like the rebels at all? It'd be like in Star Wars if there were two Darth Vaders fighting each other - which one do you root for?
But that detail slips by as you realise how slow the pacing of the book is. Katniss spends pages and pages recovering from her injuries before heading off to view a battle scene and becoming injured again. So she has to recover all over AGAIN. With the focus on Katniss who is unable to leave the safety of the rebel stronghold, this allows Collins to avoid writing a potentially riveting scene of Gale and Finnick leading a covert op to the Capitol and bust out Peeta. In fact, a lot of action and exciting scenes are avoided entirely by Collins who either can't be bothered or doesn't feel she's up to writing them. So instead we get to read about Katniss recovering from her injuries, playing with her cat, blah blah zzzzzzz....
And if you think Collins was out of ideas in "Catching Fire" when she instigated another Hunger Games to liven things up, wait until you realise that she pulls out that trick again with this book. Yes, you read that right, there is ANOTHER Hunger Games in this book! Except it takes place in an urban setting, in the streets of the Capitol, but it's still very, very contrived.
The final battle is very sketchy. Once Katniss and Gale make it to the President's Mansion, an explosion renders Katniss unconscious and the reader finds out about the victory in a sort of brief outline, with a lot of exposition from Plutarch. Once again, Collins fails to write what was potentially the most memorable scene of the series, and I don't know why she didn't. It just feels lazy and, to go back to the Star Wars analogy, what if instead of focusing on blowing up the Death Star the film was about Princess Leia sitting in her cell by herself doing nothing?
This being the final book in the trilogy, characters will die and Collins gleefully kills off characters she's built up, once the attack on the Capitol finally gets going. But don't expect anything memorable, the characters (and one really major one) are dismissed in a line or two and then the story moves on. Even Gale isn't spared from this treatment, though he survives, he disappears and is given a line at the end and that's it - so much for Katniss and Gale's special friendship!
What really bothered me though is the lack of triumph at the end. The evil Capitol is overthrown, peace and equality and freedom now reigns, but there's no feeling of success once you put the book down. You don't care that the rebels won because they were mostly unpleasant and unlikeable throughout. Katniss is miserable throughout as well so you don't feel good about her because she doesn't feel good. There are no more Hunger Games and yet rather than feel glad, you just wish they'd bring it back because the characters are so boring without it.
This third book stands in stark contrast to the first book which was hugely entertaining and thrilling to read while this third one is a chore to get through for very little enjoyment and a very poor ending, which is very disappointing, as I really wanted all of the books to be as brilliant as the first. However, Suzanne Collins' inventiveness didn't hold up as the series went on and instead of going out with a bang the series sputtered out like a damp firework. So much for the mockingjay, I'd suggest anyone contemplating reading the trilogy to just stick with the first book and move on.
The hunger games is focussed on an almost surreal world where "The Capitol" is watching over a set of 12 districts. These districts each have different skills, some are fantastic farmers or hunters or bakers and so on. The hunger games is a broadcast show which all 12 districts can watch and essentially become a part of. One boy and One girl from each district is chosen to fight in the hunger games - and it's a fight to the death. The winner? Well, they're the last living contestant. However, what seems quite a relevant twist is that the contestants are children of varying ages and degrees of strength and independance.
It's such a brilliant book in that you really do become totally engaged. You're desperate to determine who will survive and really you don't want anyone to lose. It's awful in one sense because children have to die in the world of the hunger games and at times their deaths seem premeditated - as though there might be some set-ups.
I don't want to ruin the story for anyone but it really is a young-adult gem but I think you could enjoy it even as an adult. It's a less gruesome and more complex version of the movie "deathrace" but of course, there are no cars because the contestants are, in this case, in the middle of reality world created specifically to test their survival skills.
Definitely worth a read, the cover is great too - you can change the character on the front. Enjoy!
on 4 October 2010
I found this trilogy by accident, but was hooked the instant I started reading. Mockingjay is the final book in the trilogy and more than lived up to expectations - the plot was thrilling and got the reader emotionally involved. Also, unlike many series', this book provides a decent conclusion, so that you are not left disappointd, even if you want the series to continue. If you've read the first two books, you really have to read this, and if you haven't then I suggest that you do.