[Obligatory notice – I paid for books 2 and 3. My Spawn bought book 1. No publisher provided free books for this review, dammit]
Yes, I took a foray into Young Adult Literature. In fact I dove deep into it, reading the entire Hunger Games trilogy, not just the first book.
The books are not supposed to be ‘great literature’. They are thrillers, just like the series of books by Dan Brown that includes The Da Vinci Code. Events move fast … so fast that you are likely to fly by holes in plots or logic or be able to keep track of the huge number of Deus Ex Machina moments. And the Hunger Games series is FULL of amazing coincidences.
Plot summary: The US fell ages ago, there is a new government of North America (whole? Part? Dunno) called Panem. Panem has a capital and 12 outlying districts which provide fuel, food, technology, etc. There used to be 13 districts, but 13 led the others in rebellion and was destroyed 75 years ago. As eternal penance the other 12 districts have to provide one teen boy and one teen girl every year as tribute. The kids fight to the death in Reality TV with only 1 of the 24 surviving. Survivor gets to … well, not starve, unlike most of the folks in the districts.
Book 1 – The Hunger Games - Katniss, 16, is the only girl in District 12 who can hunt and eat off the land and is entrepreneurial and independent. When her little sister is randomly selected as tribute she volunteers in her place. The boy chosen happened to have helped her survive some years before. And it turns out he loves her. But only one can survive!
The first book is totally adequately written. It holds together well enough by itself as a novel. Many of the characters are interesting. Katniss Everdeen, the hero in whose voice the book speaks, has rare occasions when she seems like a real teen early in the book. It’s Theseus in the Labyrinth.
Book 2 – Catching Fire - Katness and Peeta (the other tribute, yes, both survived) get thrown into another survival reality show. They make friends in this one. The game in interrupted by new rebellion. Deus Ex Machina rise higher and higher. Here is where Theseus leaves Ariadne behind. And, yes, Ariadne’s threat shows up.
Book 3 – Mockingjay - Rebellion continues. Peeta is rescued, damaged. District 13 is involved. District 13 is in many ways the opposite of the Panem capital, except for the president who is pretty much a carbon copy of Panem’s president. Katniss’ part in the rebellion is pretty much another reality TV/video game. The survivors of the whole mess live as happily ever after as PTSD lets them. Dues ex Machine max out. Theseus ends up with Ariadne’s sibling…. Sort of.
All pre-marital sex in the book is extremely exploitative (and off camera). I was relieved that the exploitation was all heterosexual, and suspect that the author did that to avoid offending anyone. Why sex would be less offensive than the extreme violence…. Gosh, the author is a TV writer where violence is allowed but sex is not allowed as easily.
By book 3 we see how incredibly body modification/art has been used by the residents of Panem’s capital, all with no hint of gender correction for transsexuals. Well, if sexuality isn’t mentioned, and no one gets their period during the games (24 girls, no one on the rag and having to stop the flow from giving their location away or having cramps….) I guess that most body/spirit issues are going to be ignored.
Reading book 1 was fine. Book 2 …. Started having hints of deeper stuff but the plot dragged and the games got old. By the time I got thru’ book 3 it was a video game that I would have stopped playing for at few weeks in the middle of it and maybe gotten back to it later.
For me the oddest part was that the President of Panem went out of his way to be totally honest with Katniss. Why? It didn’t serve him in any way, it only served her. Given his character, especially as presented by the end, he was a psychopath. He’d not have been honest with anyone. He would have be far more subtle and less obviously manipulative.
If you are new to conspiracy theories and the idea of ‘secret totalitarian govenments’, maybe this is an introduction. The plot holes pretty much drove me nuts. The districts that provided technology & such – things where the production was most easily automated – somehow had the biggest populations, while the districts that mined and grew things – which they were doing without automation – had the smallest populations. Huh? How did that work out? How did those small populations provide all the food and energy? Why did Katniss, whose mother was providing health care to her district for virtually nothing, feel that SHE couldn’t owe anyone anything? Wouldn’t her mother’s example of giving without return be a model of how everyone should behave?
Feh. If you gotta read the first book, okay. The rest was just tiresome.