Suspension of Disbelief: The Hunger Games Trilogy
This week’s Suspension of Disbelief is on the book trilogy The Hunger Games , by Suzanne Collins. Katie did a review of the recent movie, which you can find here. But onwards, to my expression of love of the series and my attempt to persuade everyone to read it.
I know I may earn looks of disdain from many for this, but I really liked this series. It wasn’t perfect, but damn was it entertaining; I’ve never devoured a more readable set of books in my life. The series is told from the perspective of Katniss Everdeen, our spunky 17-year-old protagonist. It’s written in present tense, which at first was really hard to get used to, but which actually became a refreshing change from other styles of writing. I worried about whether it would distract me- well, I did for about a chapter, when the story grabbed hold. Also- this is a long review, but I think it’s warranted; other than the first, the books can’t stand alone and should be reviewed accordingly.
The Hunger Games
The first book in the trilogy, The Hunger Games is also undoubtedly the best. It introduces you to Katniss, to the concept of districts, the attitude of the people and what is at stake. And of course, the Games. Collins writes in a way that allows you to be swept up in the imagery, without becoming entangled in her own vocabulary. I certainly wouldn’t call her prose beautiful, but it’s great in a gripping, urgent sort of way. You feel like you’re there. I watched the movie first, and was concerned that I would be bored until the Games part, as I was watching the film. Luckily, the written word conveys the dystopian world- particularly Panem and the training of the Tributes- far better than the big screen can.
As cliched as it may be, I couldn’t put the book down during the Games. The author has a very conspicuous (but very effective) way of ending each chapter with a cliffhanger so juicy that you can’t resist turning the page. Without giving too much away, there was lots of bow-and-arrow, stabby-stab hand to hand action which made a refreshing change to tame teen fiction which shies from vivid descriptions of death or pain (like Breaking Dawn, which had the most enfuriating anticlimax ending ever. Ever).
Another positive, particularly over the movies, is the development of characters and relationships. SPOILER ALERT: It’s not nearly so clear in the movies what’s real or fake in terms of Katniss and Peeta’s relationship, and the complexities of it are far more skilfully portrayed in the book. It isn’t black or white; a concrete story of love OR survival. It’s a much more human collision of both plus other factors. And everything about Katniss and Rue’s relationship is better; in the movie I didn’t really care that Rue died. Well, I cared… but I didn’t see why it had an impact on Katniss. It was as if Rue turned up for ten minutes, then died, and we were meant to cry. In the novel there’s the bread from District 11, and the way that the two rely on each other.
THE FOLLOWING REVIEWS WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS
The second book in the series, Catching Fire, is still good- but not as good as the first. I was bothered to see, as I flicked through, that the Games don’t seem to start until at least two thirds of the way through. It plodded along more slowly than the first novel until that point- although still very readable. The parts in 12 were fairly dull, and the training was more of the same- however, the chapters with the tour of the Victors and the brutality of the peacekeepers were awesome and showed the twitchiness of the government regarding the imminent revolt.
The Quarter Quell (75 year anniversary) games are cooler than the first, the clock-face layout a clever choice for the arena. The variety of participants is also more interesting than the first, the quirk with these games being that previous Victors must take part. This ranges from the very old to morphling (one can assume opiate) addicts, each with their own skills and fears. The rescue of Katniss, whilst far-fetched, is still cleverly executed- and a genuine surprise to the reader (or was that just me?). The main thing Catching Fire suffers from is sequelitis- The Hunger Games was a hard act to follow.
Contrary to popular opinion, I did like Mockingjay. However, the first half of the book is fairly forgettable. Buttercup the cat gives some light relief, the way 13 functions is almost believable and Annie and Finnick’s relationship is sweet. But other than the brief smatterings of action, I didn’t care for any of what was set in 13. Probably because nobody dies. Lack of death in The Hunger Games bores me.
However, when the rebellion gains a foothold and the rebels move closer to the Capitol, it starts to get cool! The booby-traps are imaginative and utterly brutal; the deaths poignant and real and sad. The whole underground attempt to evade the mutts and the soldiers is a claustrophobic, terrifying reading experience. The deaths now aren’t the same detached ones of the Games- they’re people Katniss actually cares about, and it has to be handed to Suzanne Collins- she understands why it’s important to kill off primary and secondary characters and not just tertiary ones, much like wonderful Game of Thrones author George RR Martin. The readers need to know that the characters are in real danger.
The ending, however, was so-so. Sure, it tied up all the loose ends, and I’ll admit that I like neat story endings. However, the convenience of several aspects of it were almost unforgivably unrealistic. I’m sure someone batcrap crazy could shoot the president and be allowed to go home. No. But I liked the epilogue, and who Katniss ended up with. It felt right. Although it was a shame they made Gale out to be such an a-hole of a sudden in book three.
All in all…
The Hunger Games is a strong book series- it’s gripping and action-packed, and certainly helps to while away bored hours. Yes, book one is the best- but that doesn’t mean the others aren’t worth a read. Saying that, you could definitely read just the first book and stop- but I couldn’t. Try if you dare to read the first and then resist the pull of the sequels! Over all, I’ll give the series a healthy 4 out of 5 tracker jackers.
Tracker Jacker image credit to: http://trippark.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/tracker-jacker.html