Monday, December 29, 2008

There's Nothing Wrong With Being Thrilling

I am definitely a Suzanne Collins fan. I liked all but the last of her Underland books. And I found the actual game portion of her The Hunger Games exciting, an excellent thriller.

However, this book has been discussed on listservs all year. It's being talked about as having award potential. I just don't see it.

In The Hunger Games a ruling elite suppresses twelve districts it defeated in war by selecting two teenagers from each one (in a scene very reminiscent of The Lottery) and forcing them to fight to the death in a televised reality show. Seeing their kids murdering each other on television is supposed to show these folks that they have no hope. At the same time, the ruling class in the capitol city finds the games wildly entertaining.

I find this premise very...random. There just doesn't seem to be any compelling reason for anyone to have hit upon this particular device for breaking the will of an opponent.

I think I have trouble accepting the premise because I don't find the world of the book very well defined. The story takes place in North America sometime so far in the future and after so horrendous a war that the United States no longer exists or even seems to be remembered. People no longer use recognizable names. In fact, some names sound very Roman, as if the culture has been thrown into the past.

And yet they still have reality television?

A lot of things in this book just didn't work for me. The government of this society can create entire little worlds for the games to take place in and then turn them into theme parks for the wealthy instead of reusing them for the next games. It can control the weather, for crying out loud. It needs the Hunger Games to control a downtrodden population? I don't think so. The games appear to have been going on for seventy-four years. That's at least three generations. In that time the society hasn't changed in any way? How big are these districts that need to be controlled? What's going on in the rest of the world? What's with the girl who is introduced but never dealt with?

I'm guessing we'll see her in book two of what I've heard is going to be a trilogy.
In spite of all my reservations about the world building in this book, I am more than willing to admit that once the games in The Hunger Games begin, readers are in for a thrill ride. That's plenty of reason to read it.

The Hunger Games has been nominated for a Cybil in the Fantasy and Science Fiction YA category.

1 comment:

PiLibrarian said...

Thank you! Nice to know I'm not the only one who's befuddled by all the fuss over this book. I mean, I really liked it, enjoyed reading it, and recommend it, but I don't think it's knock-me-down awesome. The commentary on reality TV is excellent, though.

My personal favorites of 2008 are Neal Shusterman's Unwind, and 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Oh, and also The Dead and the Gone.