My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Personal Enthusiasm: It Was Okay
I’m definitely not the target market for this book. Not if my general level of enthusiasm means something, at any rate. Still, it was a good novel and it deserves it’s wide audience and fan base.
If you’ve been paying any attention to pop-culture at all, then you’re familiar with the broad outlines of this book. (But I’m going to recap anyway.)
In the far future, America is gone. Panem, a totalitarian nation, now occupies North America. Panem is divided into 13 Districts plus the Capital. Years before the story begins, the Districts tried to rebel against the Capital. They lost and District 13 was destroyed.
As a result of the loss, the remaining Districts were forced to sign a treaty of unconditional surrender. But that wasn’t enough. In a show of force and strength, the Capital instituted “The Hunger Games”. Each year, each District is forced to send 2 teenage contestants to compete in a bloody arena battle, to the death. The winning contestant wins a year’s supply of food and medicine, for his or her District.
This year, 16-year old Katniss will compete in the Hunger Games.
It’s an interesting idea: how will a bunch of teenagers, still trying to grow into maturity, handle being flung into a life or death situation and forced to survive? What decisions will they make? What emotions will they feel? What lengths will they go to survive? And, even if they survive, will any of their humanity with them?
It’s not only an interesting idea, it’s a well-written book. Katniss is a very vivid character. The story is told from her perspective. As a result, some of the characters start out rather flat and then, as she interacts with them and gets to know them, they develop increasing depth and humanity. The book is full of action (especially the second half, once the games begin) and the action is well described. It was a very fun, fast, read.
I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I could have though. While Ms.. Collins created interesting characters and engaging action, she failed to create a fully develop the world of Panem. To give just one example, the Capital is located in Denver and District 12 is located in the mountains of Appalachia. District 12 is desperately poor and most of the people there live on the edge of starvation. That’s part of why the games are called the “Hunger Games” and why winning is such a big deal.
Some of the other Districts are fabulously wealthy though and don’t have to worry about food. Why? The book portrays the Capital as sucking up nearly 100% of District 12’s resources. The book also portrays the Capital lifestyle as tremendously decadent and lavish. It would seem that it would suck up most of the resources of all of the other Districts too. So why are some wealthy and some poor? What makes the world of Panem go around?
There is very little about the world of Panem that is explained. Much of it doesn’t make sense and the book seems to just rush through the world building. Everything related to Katniss is in sharp focus and a pleasure to read. Everything else is distinctly fuzzy and out of focus, even the things that should be basic, background, knowledge for Katniss. That’s certainly the author’s prerogative but it turns what could have been a great book into merely a good book.
Still, I’ll probably read the next book in the series, just to see where things go next.