The Hunger Games is one of the most popular books in recent times. There are three books in this series and I read only the first book. I don’t think I’ll read the other two.
The story was good and the concept was new (at least when it was published). Hunger Games is set in a futuristic Panem (North America) where the Capitol rules over the few remaining districts. 24 people (2 from each district; 12 – 18 years of age) are locked up in a large, dangerous & controlled encampment and they need to fight & kill each other, until there is only one winner who can go back home.
The problem is – I was sure Katniss Everdeen was going to win and that killed a lot of suspense! I liked the emotional build-up created before the games begun – it made me empathize with the protagonist, especially because she volunteers to go for the games in place of her little sister. But my empathy for the character was over the moment two of them boarded the train.
The prep-scenes, dressing and eating are described too elaborately and the show before the games takes too many pages. But since I was anticipating the games, I went through all those pages anyway. The games itself were well-told and the author needs to be appreciated both for the freshness of the concept/idea and the story-telling. I was almost racing through the book in the middle.
And then the expected happens – she wins. The climax could have been better, but it was good nevertheless. After the climax, there is 10% of the book still remaining to be read that once again describes the make-up, TV appearance and all that glitz. That 10% should have been cut right away – not sure why the editor did not do it!
And then there were other things I didn’t like – lack of emotions/feelings while killing other human beings, in spite of everyone being normal kids before; ‘forced love’ between the two main characters; paranormal characters like the singing birds & green-eyed mutant wolves. But nothing irritated me like the author’s obsession over detailed description of make-up, dress and at times, even food.
Here’s one short post-games description from the book –
“It’s funny, because even though they’re rattling on about the games, it’s all about where they were or what they were doing or how they felt when a specific event occurred. “I was still in my bed!” “I had just had my eyebrows dyed!” “I swear I nearly fainted!”. Everything is about them, not the dying boys and girls in the arena.”
This – ladies and gentlemen – is not only a mockery of the people in the Capitol of Panem, but also a mockery of all the readers! The author had nerves to do this – even though only indirectly – but I liked her sense of satire. Seriously. This book abounds with unsaid messages and I feel that the whole concept of hunger games is a mockery of the way we live and the way our society is structured – discriminating toward ‘winners’, and against ‘losers’. Living as if only one can win the game of life and hence we need to take everyone/everything else down, in order to get our grand prize!
I have – in the past – seen certain movies (like Congo, Jurassic Park) and then read the books. In spite of knowing the entire story-line, the books held my attention and were complete page-turners. That, I think, is master storytelling. But with this book, I feel maybe the movie might be better. One big reason is – it will end sooner!
For so much hype, I expected more from the book. It could easily have been 30% shorter and not include those make-up scenes and the glitz of all that elaborate introductions/celebrations.
There was also something deeper – the basic concept didn’t feel fascinating, to me. I wonder, if the book’s success represents a bigger – but unintended – mockery of our intentions and our structure!
If you like good story-telling, do read this book by all means. But if you over-analyze things (like me), it’s better to avoid it. Just watch the movie 🙂
- You can buy this book from Flipkart or Amazon.in in India. (Disclaimer: These are affiliate links and I may get a small commission if you buy the product after clicking on these links. Your price will not increase.)