The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsI have been meaning to read The Hunger Games for a bit because one of my critters though it was similar a YA novel I’m currently shopping about, but it took me a bit to find a copy and by then some of the urgency had worn off. However, when I took a random selection of books from my TBR pile and through it out to you all, my blog readers, The Hunger Games was the hands down winner as what I should read next.

Good choice :).

This novel starts with a traditional SF, and Roman, theme of gladiatorial-type games for the enjoyment of the wealthy and as punishment of real or perceived crimes. The one that came to mind the most (though I still can’t recall the title) is where criminals can win their freedom if they go through a gauntlet of dangers where no one survives, our hero being a criminal accused of a crime to get him out of the way. In this case, the games are punishment for a rebellion that happened a very long time ago, and its children who are the playthings of the rich.

Now I’m a big proponent of recalling traditional themes for new readers who haven’t read every SF book ever written, a group the young adult category should reach the most, but Collins doesn’t stop there. The Hunger Games is a novel about finding out who you are in circumstances where any mistake is deadly. It touches on core character and it asks the question of whether conformity is the best solution. It also points to the blindness that infects people, especially when they make judgments about class distinctions, and not necessarily coming from the “upper” half of the equation.

Yes, I’m being deliberately obscure. This is a complex novel that looks into the hearts of the characters and asks them who they really are, and what they’re willing to do to conform to expectations. But even better than that, it points out conformity might not be the best solution at all times. And sometimes conformity can be worn as a mask without losing sight of who you are and what you want to be.

The writing was clear, clean, and engaging, the story offered good entertainment while asking difficult questions of the main characters, especially Katniss. I started this novel because I was told to. I finished for me.

And there’s my only quibble, a tongue-in-cheek one, but still, I was forewarned to have the next book ready, but I wasn’t willing to make that commitment in case I didn’t connect with the writing or the story. To be clear, The Hunger Games comes to a complete, and satisfying, conclusion. The main story is wrapped up tidily, with no sense of being cheated into buying the next volume to get the actual ending. The problem is that this story has many levels. One of those required a character who is not present in most of the book, and is a different story of growth and choices. The grounds are set for that story in this one, but I have to get my hands on the next book to see it come to life. Honestly, if you’re going to have a cliffhanger ending, this is the best type. The main conflict is resolved. Half a dozen of the secondary conflicts are resolved. But one major, compelling story thread is left dangling to pull readers into the next book.

So, if you haven’t read The Hunger Games, do. And if you’re a long-time SF reader, don’t close yourself off because of the traditional theme of gladiatorial games. There’s more to this novel than just that. And for those of you who pushed it to the top of my TBR pile, thank you so much.

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2 Responses to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

  1. I tried it and while the writing is really strong, I couldn’t get past the sample. I think it was the distopian nature – I’m just not there these days, but I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.

    • Margaret McGaffey Fisk says:

      While I can’t quibble the dystopian comment, I’d have to say I was surprised by how little it fit my image of a dystopian novel. The beginning definitely does, but after that it becomes strongly character driven. However, dystopian doesn’t necessarily turn me off either :).

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