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Warning: This article has massive spoilers of the Hunger Games Trilogy.
It’s a very good sign for society, that books are becoming popular again.
First we saw the Harry Potter boom, the seven part epic that made millions.
Then we saw the rise of the Twilight novels, an atrocious book series, which managed, despite its niche audience to turn into a massive movement.
Now we get to the next record smasher, The Hunger Games.
A new beast in that regard. As the last two phenomenon where just good stories. This one has a message to tell, a warning of what we could become.
So let’s take a look.
The trilogy starts off in the far-flung future, as all dystopian novels must. Before the events of the books something happened to America. It is not said what it was, but something destroyed society as we know it. It might have been a disease or a natural disaster, but the result is that things changed.
A government arose to deal with the problem. The book does not give much information, but what is clear is that the government ruled for a while, but was an evil group, and the people rose up against them.
Clearly they lost, because the government is still all-controlling. They have split the country, now called Panem, into twelve districts that are each in charge of a resource necessary to society. It is not a perfect system though, as district 1, 2 and 4 are quite well off. Well the other districts are in a constant state of famine and suppression.
Unabashedly a satire. It seeks to lampoon today’s world, especially the media. As the people of district one, which is where the ruling class lives, who find the hunger games as just a fun sport that they get to watch. It is very reminiscent of Roman gladiator battles and other historical blood sports.
The Hunger Games themselves are the biggest parody of all. A game where a male and female from each district between the ages of 12 to 18, picked at random, get sent into an arena. Where they fight to the death and only one child may leave alive.
The game occurs in a dome, or some other man-made structure. As the overseers of the games can manipulate the environment in dramatic ways. Releasing mutants and other traps seemingly at will. It makes fun of every reality television show ever created. Where the over privileged solicits gets to watch lives being ruined and torn apart, knocking back popcorn and soda at human misery.
The first book has a very specific scene in it; that sums up the entire book in one go. A scene that anyone who has read the book will know with barely a mention. The death of Rue. It is the single defining moment of just how evil the Capitol (the name of the government in this story) is.
I attended the movie version of the first book and there were so many crying faces in the crowd because of just this scene alone.
Well the first book has a specific message, the two sequels start to drift from their parody format and tell a story that highlights the horrors of war.
Katniss after the first book is still somewhat sane, but as the books progress she get’s torn apart. The capitol, and the universe, abusing her.
Well the first book had a very basic story; the next two books expanded it to a multifaceted character study.
Despite the efforts of the capital, groups of rebellion solider make their way into the second hunger games. Using a small fault in the arenas force fields they manage to destroy the arena and get Katniss out.
The tone of the books where dark throughout, but the third borders on soul-destroying.
It is by far the most emotional book in the series and does not contain any of the satire from the first two. It details a series of gruesome and surprisingly realistic series of military battles as Katniss tries to kill the ruler of the capital. Starting with them trying to move through the war-torn streets towards the center of the capitol. There they show that the citizens of the Capitol are under lethal guard. Traps called “pods”, set up all over the streets, are usually kept deactivated, but if a group of people where to riot, the traps are activated to lethal effect. The traps are actually beyond brutal, some of the ones activated included a pressurized tank of hot water and, one that lashes out with barbed wire.
After losing almost every single likable character to brutal death traps or mutants, Katniss actually makes it to the capital, her emotional state at this point similar to a suicidal person. But before she could step into the building to kill her target, the rebels win the war. How they win though, that will scar her for the rest of her life.
To swing the opinions of the remaining Capitol soldiers, the leader of the Rebels pulls one of the cruelest military strategies ever put to paper. A group of children is being held in a circle by Peacekeepers (military police), one of which is Katniss’s sister Prim. Small drops of silver canisters fly down by parachute into the group. The Capitol children, trained to regard objects arriving this way as presents from the capital, rush forward to grasp them.
The outer rings of children, reduced to flying limps. The rebel medics try to run in to help the survivors, only to have a secondary bomb go off. The even darker part to this, is that it was all a rebel trick to win over everyone’s sympathy. Orchestrated by the leader of the rebel forces (who Katniss later shoots through the heart).
The book series ends on a somehow sadder note, jumping ahead several years in the future. The world has actually started to become a brighter place with a democracy ruling over the society. Katniss, married, now has two kids. Yet, every night, she is haunted by nightmares and suffers from depression.
The book ends with her watching her kids dance and play on one of the mass burial mounds, not knowing the history they have.
In short, the books were good, evoking a lot of emotion from me (mostly sadness: why Finnick why!?). It is definitely for the target audience of teenagers and is not generally palatable to older adults, but it is a great story and deserves the publicity it is getting. Despite it’s popularity, I am not sure if kids of 12 and under should read it, as it is gory and has taboo subject like teenage pregnancy.
So, for my score, I give unto thee…..
- Personal score: 9 out of 10
- Worth Owning: Yes!
- Recommended audience: 16 and up
- Multiple readings: Yes!
- Warning: Contains a ton of gore and violence, also might make you tear up a bit.
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