Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Most intense reality show, ever.

Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins

I hate reality television. Hate it. Nothing about it seems real. I have often joked--joked!--that to really make a show called Survivor, it should be ten people and one knife thrown into a big pit.

But I was joking. Really.

In the future that Suzanne Collins found, they really do that, but there are twenty-four people, the pit is a huge outdoor arena that could include forests, desert, frozen tundra, lakes, and rivers, and there's a lot more knives. Oh, and all the contestants are kids age 13-17.

The Hunger Games are a tool used by the government to keep the people of the Twelve Districts in line. Watching them is mandatory. Participating is obligatory. Losing means dying, often horribly, at the hands of the other contestants. Some of the districts actually train children for this dubious honor, and those districts usually produce the winners. Those kids volunteer for the Games. Kids from the other districts are chosen by lottery, and usually end up as camera fodder.

Katniss Everdeen wasn't selected by the lottery, but she volunteers when her sister is, saving her sister's life. Katniss grew up poaching game in the forests surrounding her district, selling meat and berries in the black market with her hunting partner, a boy who obviously loves her and promises to take care of her family for her; Katniss's mother and sister depend entirely upon her work. She is joined from her district by a baker's son, and it eventually comes out that he also loves her. Ok, so there's some smarmy love triangle stuff going on, and it causes the complications for Kat you'd expect from a novel aimed at teens, but there's also a diabolically twisted government at work, and some interesting insights into how we entertain ourselves as a culture, and the skewed perspective people have with things they see on TV (at the end of the Games, people talk about major events during the competition in terms of what they were doing when it happened, i.e. "I was having my nails done when the boy from District 3 was killed with the spear"). There are a few things that don't quite seem to fit, like the skill and wisdom some of the characters have compared to their ages, but that can slide. Sometimes those can come from life experiences instead of years. Overall, it's really well done. I'd like to find the rest of the trilogy, because I suspect that it will somehow resolve some of the political machinations introduced in the first book, even though it's far more likely that they just screw around with the love triangle crap.

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posted by reyn at 4:11 PM


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