Saturday, December 25, 2010

"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins

"The Hunger Games"
by Suzanne Collins
Read by Carolyn McCormick
Produced by Scholastic Audio Books, 2008
11 hours and 10 min. (unabridged)

I've said it before and I'll say it again today's youth have some great literature written just for them. Here is yet another shining example. "The Hunger Games" takes several ideas and wraps them together to form an exciting bit of big-brother-dystopian-sci-fi. While listening to this audiobook I kept getting thoughts/memories of various bits from media, I would be reminded of the 70's sci-fi film "Logan's Run" at times, or maybe "Rollerball" or "Death Race 2000," then Stephen King's short story turned Schwarzanegger movie "The Running Man," then at times the book reminded me of the multiple reality shows like "Survivor" in which the contestants compete and get voted off. In fact when researching the info on this book I found that the author, Suzanne Collins, was influenced when switching her television back and forth between coverage of the war in Iraq and "Survivor." Collins threw in a bit from the Greek Myth Theseus, who was forced by Minos to be sacrificed to the Minotaur, but survived and created this exciting story.

After reading I found that this book is part one of a trilogy, and the trilogy follows this story's heroine, Katniss Everdeen, as she is chosen to be a tribute to the government to battle in the Hunger games and eventually leads a revolution. But the revolution gets ahead of our story. Let's talk about this one first.

"The Hunger Games" is set in a distant but seemingly not too distant future, after the destruction of North America, in a nation known as Panem. Panem consists of a wealthy Capitol and twelve surrounding, poorer districts. District 12, where the book begins, is located in the coal-rich region Appalachia. Coal is the regions contribution to Panem as all districts have some specialty/export to contribute. The problem is that the government keeps all the regions poor and the people of the districts further from the capitol (which is located somewhere near what is Denver, Colorado) are the poorest. District One near the capitol is the least poor and the higher the number the more the suffering. Katniss is forced to illegally hunt in the woods at an early age after her father dies in a mining accident and her mother becomes locked in grief. Katniss hunts to keep her and her sister alive.

At one point there were 13 districts but the 13th was destroyed when they tried to rebel against the capitol. As punishment for the rebellion every year one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected at random and forced to participate in the Hunger Games, a televised event where the participants, or "tributes", must fight to the death in a dangerous outdoor arena until only one remains. Katniss, in place of her younger sister, Primrose. Also participating from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, a boy whom Katniss knows from school and who once saved Katniss's life by giving her bread when her family was starving.

Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol, where they meet the other tributes and are publicly displayed to the Capitol audience. During this time, Peeta reveals on-air his long-time unrequited love for Katniss. Katniss believes this to be a ploy to gain audience support for the Games, which can be crucial for survival, as audience members are permitted to send gifts to favored tributes during the Games. The Games begin with 11 of the 24 tributes dying in the first day, while Katniss relies on her well-practiced hunting and outdoors skills to survive. As the Games continue, the tribute death toll increases, but both Katniss and Peeta are able to evade death.

Katniss and Peeta are split up and the Gamemakers use dirty tricks and foul play to make the games more interesting by using some of the government's genetic animal mutations, like tracker jackers, a form of wasp that when it stings it can case vivid hallucinations and kill. Or human / wolf hybrids that hunt like wolves but can think like humans. One mutation a Jabber Jay was created to spy on the population, it has the ability to imitate human speech perfectly so they would record the coversations in the districts and report back to the capitol, when this was discovered the populus would feed the Jays false info, after this that project was abandoned, the Jabber Jays were released and later mated with Mocking Birds, creating the Mocking Jay which could sing beautifully. This Mocking Jay becomes a symbol of the people and of their freedom and has a large part in this novel.

The adventures during the battle in the Arena are very exciting and will keep you glued to this one. If you get the audiobook like I did you'll soon discover the talent that is Carolyn McCormick. Carolyn delivers the reading of this book with enthusiasm when needed and differentiates the characters by giving each their own voice.

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