The interesting thing about visions of a dystopian future is the way that they take our modern concerns, trends and scientific developments and take them to their horrific extreme, it´s never (or rarely) a glorious extreme, it always seems to be the horror that fascinates and intrigues the writer and the reader. Is it our fascination with cruel human instincts pushed to their extreme that draws us to this type of literature? Or is it always the hope of redemption that keeps us reading until the final pages?
Suzanne Collins takes the gratuitous voyeurism that has rewarded the show Big Brother with huge success and turned the phenomenon to its most extreme. There´s a part of the human instinct that is both repulsed and fascinated by humans trapped together and forced into a series of unappetising or repugnant acts. The show has spawned many more of its ilk, with television producers flocking like sheep to catch the success of ´reality television´ and make their own profits and professional success and glory from the humiliation of others.
The Hunger Games takes Big Brother to its dystopian extreme. Children from each ´district´ entering a battle to the death against each other, with only the survivor winning the final prize, the glory, the extra food for their ´district´ and their life. In the process, of course, they have become a vicious, bloodthirsty killer, intent only on survival, culling all humanity from their bodies in striving for success. A success that is defined by a sick society.
The novel also touches on our modern fascination with image, plastic surgery and enhancement of our physical attributes, again taken to the extreme. The teenagers in the story very quickly come to realize that their appearance, the editing of the show and the things they say (or are perceived to have said) are often more important than the reality of human relationships and the complexities of moral judgements.
Katniss Everdeen is a wonderful protagonist, strongly supported by the range of fascinating characters within the novel. She is a hunter, a loner, a daughter and perhaps, most importantly, a survivor. In the manner of a modern day and younger Sarah Connor, Katniss will do what she can in order to ensure her survival. By the same token, she cares about her family and others too and this is the saving grace within the dark and depressing landscape that she lives. Katniss seeks redemption and, through her, the reader too hopes for a society that can change for the better.
The trilogy is a fast paced and gripping read. We follow Katniss´ complex journey from survivor of the Hunger Games to a symbol of hope for society against oppression. We encounter evil leaders and complex freedom fighters. From the beginning to the conclusion, Collins never lets the reader rest, with a broad range of physical tests and adventures for Katniss, accompanied by countless explorations of the moral dilemmas faced by our heroine. There are also conflicts faced by the people around her and we gain an insight into the workings of society and the morality of the huge economic differences between us. Despite being a novel set sometime in a post apocalyptic future, there are parallels that are well worth exploring and considering for the reader.