The Hunger Games


Suzanne Collins


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

January 10, 2010

he worst part about this novel is the last page. The last page says: End of Book One. Book one? I did not know this was part of a series, but now that I check on Amazon, I can see that there is a sequel, Catching Fire. I will have to read that book next, because this first book was pretty good.

The Hunger Games is set in a future America. There has been civil war, and now the ruling authority of the new nation of Panem resides in the Rocky Mountains. The rest of what was formerly the USA is now partitioned into 12 districts. The poorest area is Appalachia, officially known as District 12. Katniss is a sixteen year old woman living a threadbare existence in District 12. To supplement her diet and income, Katniss has taken to illegal hunting outside of the town's fence. She sneaks out to collect wild food and to hunt wild game - Katniss has become deadly with her bow and arrows. Katniss has joined forces with another hunter named Gale that she has met in the woods. Using their combined talents, Katniss and Gale are ever more productive in their poaching.

Once every year, the evil rulers of Panem demand that each district send two representatives to the capitol to compete in the Hunger Games. These are not games, however, but battles to the death. The rules of the Hunger Games are simple - you must kill everyone else to survive; glory and wealth is given the champion, but death awaits all the others. Naturally, Katniss is one of the two representatives from District 12. The other is a young baker named Peeta. Peeta looks like a slow, dopey guy who won't last a minute in the kill-or-be-killed frenzy of the Hunger Games.

Collins does a nice job of character development. Katniss is believable and sympathetic, but my favorite was Peeta, the baker's son. Although Katniss narrates this story, it is clear to the reader that she does not realize the strength of Peeta's character.

The evil rulers will cheat at times to make the Hunger Games more exciting to the viewing audience (the games are televised across the State of Panem, apparently to send a message to all the districts that State of Panem is ruthless enough to kill to maintain its control) - they will send extra supplies or weapons into the arena, in order to speed up the battles or sway a contest. The Hunger Game participants that display the most courage or cleverness can win popularity with the audience, and thus get rewarded (the bonus supplies are delivered via little parachutes, which land with remarkable accuracy).

I like the ruthless story telling of this book. Despite the fact that the Hunger Games is meant to be a Young Adult novel, Collins shows us the desperate violence and death in the Hunger Games arena. I also like that the various participants use their wits to try and stay alive, rather than just engaging in brute force.

One of the plot points that I thought unlikely was the omnipresent cameras that track each of the Hunger Game participants. There are 24 contestants initially, and they spread out over a vast area - how can the cameras (which Katniss never sees) get so close as to televise whispered conversations of people hidden in cave?

At the end of the book, the implication is that the ruthless Panem have some very advanced science technology - how else to explain the wild dog creatures? I thought they were an unnecessary element.

Over all this is an entertaining story, with strong characters and a fast paced story. It shows imagination and it is self consistent in the world it portrays. The second book will be a welcome addition.