My friend Kris just finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins and asked me what I thought about it.
I've read all three books about three times each. It was another of those Lay's Potato Chips things. Once I read the first book, I had to read the next two... and then I had to go back and re-read them.
For those of you who haven't read the books, it's set in a near future, post-apocaplytic US. What disaster befell the US is never explained (Collapse of Wall Street? Class Warfare? Lack of Clean Laundry?), but the country has been divided into 13 Districts and the Capitol Territory, which seems to be centered in Colorado. The country is renamed "Panem" (because we are No Longer United States). The division of the Districts isn't really made clear, but District 12 seems to be one dirt poor mining town in the Appalachians. The rest of the Districts are kept poorer than the Capitol, but depending on what is produced in the District, some seem to be relatively well off.
At some point, the Districts rose up against the Capitol in rebellion, but were defeated by the Capitol. As a punishment, each District must put up two "Tributes" (one boy and one girl) to participate in the Hunger Games--think Survivor meets The Lord of the Flies. These Tributes are chosen by lottery, from the available children ages 12 - 18. The older you are, the more times your name is entered into the lottery. Additionally, you can put your name in more times in order to get a larger tesserae (an allotment of cooking oil and grain). Call it High Risk Welfare. Only 24 tributes are selected because District 13 was bombed and no one lives there any more... but among the oppressed is the rumor that a rebellion is forming in District 13, which might not have been as devastated as previously reported. The chosen Tributes are then whisked away to the Capitol, and get about a week's worth of training. The Tributes are Mentored by their Districts previous winners. For District 12, this is a drunk named Haymitch. Then the Tributes are taken before a panel of Gamemakers (more or less the Producers of the televised event) to demonstrate their "talent"--camouflage, traps, shooting a bow, throwing knives, etc. The Gamemakers then put up the odds on each Tribute's chances of "winning" the Hunger Games by ranking them between 1 and 12. The night before the Hunger Games begin, there's an "Up Close and Personal" show with each of the Tributes together on stage. The next morning, the televised Hunger Games are broadcast. There can only be One Winner.
The Trilogy follows the Tributes from District 12, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, and, to a lesser extent, their Mentor, Haymitch, and their assigned teams of Stylists.
And that's as much synopsis as I'm going to give--in the words of one of my favorite Dr. Who characters, "Spoilers, darling!"
But, could the World of The Hunger Games happen? In my most optimistic times, I think that there's no way Society could devolve into such savagery. But then, I hear that at political debates people cheer about the number of Death Row Inmates candidates have allowed to be killed, and that other people say that those without health care should be allowed to die if they have a disease like cancer and can't afford treatments. I see the number of violent video games that are produced. I remember movies like Death Race 2000 ("Twenty points if you hit the pedestrian!") The number of competition shows on tv are growing (most of them are benign, but what happens when the Producers need to add controversy to their show to increase the ratings? Sure, this year it's Chaz Bono, but....) and I have to wonder.
So, if it's this grim, why do I love these books? For one, I enjoy post-apocaplyptic stories. Alas, Babylon read it about 14 times until my mother made me stop (I kept wanting to dig a bomb shelter in the backyard.), The Stand-- the only Stephen King novel that doesn't cause me to have nightmares. Maybe it's the Army Brat in me, I dunno. The other reason why I love these books is because they are, at heart, Books of Rebellion. One Girl Against the Evil Empire (even though she does it most unwittingly). It's Star Wars (IV-VI). It's Firefly. It's the American Revolution. It's the feeling that One Person Can Make a Difference.
But read the books. They're pretty well written and you get caught up in the Drama of It All. And there is Hope....as well as tragedy. Plus, they're making a movie of it. We'll meet later and discuss Why The Book Was Better (because the book almost always is....)
Almost time to aMuse myself with more College Football....Go 'Noles!