During the summer months, when I’m looking for some light reading, I’ll often try books designed for younger people. Years ago Richard strongly recommended the Harry Potter series; I read them and enjoyed them immensely.
There’s been the same kind of buzz about The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (as well as UJ’s enthusiastic review) so I decided to give it a try. The first book was interesting, as it introduced a weird world and its repressive regime, dominated by TV broadcasts of a bloodthirsty game where children are killed as ratings soar — a kind of cross between The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, the Star Trek episode where the Roman Empire survived to the TV era, and standard sci-fi fare about evil governments of the future. When the resourceful and quick-witted Katniss won the Hunger Games and outwitted the evil game designers, I was happy.
Often it’s difficult for follow-up books to maintain the pace of the original. The interesting world has already been fully described, and the characters and plot need to carry the day — and sometimes they can’t. That was my reaction to Catching Fire, the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy. I grew weary of Katniss’ self-absorption and hand-wringing about her odd and confused relationships and came to groan when she launched into the latest internal monologue about her feelings toward Peeta and Gale. And mostly I was bored by the cast of wooden, one-dimensional characters — the evil, blood-sucking President, the valiant clothes designer, the drunken tutor, among many others — and the increasingly unbelievable world in which they lived. And when the book turned to Katniss and Peeta competing in another Hunger Games, I felt the same kind of “been there, done that” reaction I had when the last Star Wars movie revolved around the destruction of another Death Star.
I’m now on the third book, Mockingjay. My eye-rolling at Katniss’ indecision continues, I’m tired of the creaky use of TV interviews to move the thudding plot along, and I’ve come to resent the people of this world who put up with brutal unfairness for decades when they apparently could have simply escaped to the woods or visited District 13 long ago. I’ll finish the book, because I always do, and maybe it will improve — but for now I’m fed up with The Hunger Games.
Mockingjay the last of the Suzanne Collins novels in my mind is the most thought provoking of the three. This novel tracks the war that breaks out between the repressive regime and the rebels and the book has an underlying anti-war theme. Below I have listed a few statements that had the most impact on me. Remember these books are written post apocalyptic United States of America.
What the rebels are fighting for – “The rebels want to win the war and form a republic where the people of each district and the Capitol can elect their own representatives to be their voice in a centralized government. Our ancestors did this, but there wasn’t much to brag about. I mean look at the state they left us in, with the wars and the broken planet. Clearly they didn’t care about what would happen to people who came after them, but this republic idea sounds like an improvement over our current government.”
Thoughts of one of the main characters on a cease-fire after the war has started – “Whether you’re on the Capitol side or the rebel side – stop for just a second and think about what this war could mean for human beings – we almost went extinct fighting one another before – now our numbers are even fewer and our conditions more tenous. Is this really what we want to do, kill ourselves off completely ? In hopes of what ? That some decent species will inherit the smoking remains of the earth ? There wont be enough of us left if everybody doesn’t lay down their weapons very soon.”
Just after the war is over – “So should we prepare for another war ? Oh not now – we are in that sweet period where everyone agrees that our recent horrors should never be repeated, but collective thinking is usually short lived. We’re fickle stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction, but who knows maybe this will be the time the sweet period sticks and maybe we are witnessing the evolution of the human race.”
We can only hope that maybe, just maybe we have learned something from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and that we are evolving, but most likely we haven’t learned anything at all ?
Catching Fire the second Suzanne Collins book was another exciting quick read with lots of action. I finished it in a couple of days and am now waiting on a friend to loan me the third and final book in the trilogy, Mockingjay. If your not a big reader I would definitely recommend this series.
At the end of the first book Katniss has enraged evil President Snow who resides over a repressive regime and lives in the Capitol. The ending leaves you wondering whether or not the Capitol will seek revenge over Katniss and if so in what way.
Book two had a really interesting and totally unexpected ending, but I can’t say much more than that because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who decides to read the series. The trilogy was initially categorized as young adult fiction, but is now being enjoyed by all ages including adults.
I can’t wait to read book three !