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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1) - Suzanne Collins Nothing concentrates the mind like facing a firing squad. Likewise, this book grabs the reader's attention by telling a story of young people (12 guys and 12 gals) selected by lottery draft to enter an arena to fight to the death until only one survives. What appears to be an unlikely scenario is made believable by placing it into a future post-apocalyptic distopian world where today's Super Bowl hype has combined with gladiatorial aspects of today's TV's reality shows to evolve into what is called Hunger Games complete with commercial sponsorships and side betting on the results. This is murder mystery on steroids! The killing is real, and chance of survival is one in twenty-four!

Frankly, the premise for this book as describe above is repulsive to my adult mind. However, there's enough of the junior-high aged boy in me to know that had I read this when I was young I would have found it to be a thrilling story. And if the reader is willing to accept the beginning premise of the book, as is required for all science fiction, the writing is realistic enough to carry the emotions of the reader into an adrenaline-rush of a tale. (Warning, this book was written for young people with healthy hearts. It may be dangerous with those prone to heart attack.)

Reading this book during the week preceding Super Bowl XLVI gave it more resonance for me. When it comes to "games" and "reality" performances, is there any limit to where the enthusiasm of the crowd can lead?

Those who know me might ask, "Why select this book?" My excuse is that it was selected by others for a book group I attend. One advantage to participating in such a group is that my reading selection is broadened beyond what it would otherwise be.

In defense of the book, there is an underlying message contained within the story of the human spirit trying to not be overcome by impossible circumstances. So there's more to the book than being a scary thriller. By extrapolating current trends the book illuminates what the mindless seeking of television thrills could do to a society. Is this what could happen if entertainment is valued above humanity? To what ends does society go to pacify its citizens and punish those to fail to conform? The story is narrated in the first person voice of Katniss, an honorable and likable 16 year-old who has volunteered to take the place of her younger sister who's name was drawn in the lottery draft. We are privy to her focused and determined interior thoughts reminding herself that she must provide a strong, confident and attractive exterior appearance to keep sponsorship support high thus improving her chances of survival. Her teammate, Peeta, ponders how he can demonstrate his humanity while placed in such inhuman circumstances that call for his probable death.

The Hunger Games, published on September 14, 2008, is the first novel in a trilogy, followed by Catching Fire, published on September 1, 2009, and Mockingjay, published on August 24, 2010. Since it is first of the trilogy the reader can expect to be less than satisfied with its ending. It's my understanding that the book commands a growing popularity among young readers, and is likely to become even more popular after the release of the movie, Hunger Games, scheduled for March 23, 2012.

Link to movie trailer.