"The Hunger Games", by Suzanne Collins
First, I'll be completely honest. The book started out extremely slow. The first couple chapters were interesting, inviting the reader into the idea quickly. But it trailed off quickly -- so quickly that I was bored to the point of almost putting it down at chapter 5. But I thought to myself, "There's so much hype, there must be something more." So I skipped 5 chapters to chapter 10 and started skimming from there to see if I'd reached something of interest. Finally, the story was taking off again.
The basis of the story is this: A poor society comprised of several districts ruled by a wealthy government are forced to compete in what come to be known as "The Hunger Games". The Games were started as punishment for an uprising the poor districts of the society waged against the government, but the governing body defeated the rebellion and crushed the poor under even heavier burdens.
The rules of the hunger games were simple. Representatives were selected from each of the 12 societal districts, placed into an "arena", and forced to fight each other to the death. Last man (or woman) standing won food and riches for his (or her) family. But here's the catch: the combatants were mere teen-agers.
No novel would be complete without a quasi-love story infused into it (because what good is blood and carnage among fighting children without a love story, right?). The combatants fight their way down to the last 2 remaining...uh...lovebirds. And what good is a love story among blood and carnage waged by children against other children than a good old fashioned "Romeo and Juliet" scheme to wrap it all up?
I will admit, the idea of the story was intriguing. People who don't know each other and who have done each other no wrong other than living in "opposing" districts are forced to fight to the death for the hopeful benefit of their respective families. It speaks rather loudly of the depravity of our human condition. Where does a person (or society) draw the line in the sand saying, "We will go this far and no farther!" ? When do we say, "We will not bow to the Establishment!" ?
While the book raises some interesting societal issues (issues I'm sure someone could relate to war and greed and government in our day), I was disturbed the author chose the main players of the Games to be children. I wasn't offended, just disturbed. Maybe that's because we expect these kinds of stories with adult victims, not children. When we bring children into the equation, however, I think we are forced to think our positions through a bit further than we originally would have.
What would you do if your family was in that situation? Would you stand up and fight? Or would you cower in fear?
I give The Hunger Games 3 1/2 stars out of 5, primarily due to its predictability and slow start. The idea was intriguing, so it deserved at least 3 for provocation and thoughtfulness.