Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

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.


  1. I love this series and think the author deals very sensitively with the protagonists' emotions. There is a real sense of battle between that what is pragmatic, with which the reader entirely empathises, and that which Katniss believes "moral". Although the Hunger Games in their explicit form are post-apocalyptic, isn't it a more implicit form of exactly this dilemma that the world is actually facing? Is this really a post-apocalytic novel Siany?

  2. Honestly..historians, who would have them? First of all they question the term 'post apocalyptic' then they question my definition of a novel as post apocalyptic...on MY blog...I only need Luke Finn to join in and I'm surrounded by pedantic historians! I think a novel set in a clearly destroyed landscape where people are placed into Districts and put on live TV to kill each other is excplicitly post apocalyptic. Yes it metaphorically represents our dilemmas now and forces a teenage audience to think about morality...but the whole point is that setting it in a (not too distant) future helps us to perhaps recognise our immoral collusion with these media games in our present. The 'step outside' of reality that a post apocalyptic novel brings helps us to recognise, perhaps objectively but also with a level of emotional empathy, what we are doing now. The dystopian vision is there to help us change the present. The fantastic and horrific psychological and physical tortures in the book (which are miraculously healed by futuristic medicines!)are not deliberately horrible but conceptually unrealistic in an attempt to let us lose ourselves in an imaginary world. It's a book with a message but ultimately it is entertaining fiction too...and post apocalyptic fiction at that!! Bring on on line book club via blogs!!

  3. I have never read this series, although I will, now i get to argue about it, but based on the post and both your comments i have formulated a barely informed opinion to peddle:

    If in the novel the narrative explicitly refers to a post-cataclysmic society, then i think you have to take that as being post-apocalyptic, miss. In a novel, the author may be drawing parralells to their own reality, but it is not our reality. Even a book about a postgraduate student in a bedsit, in south manchester, in October 2010, writing these exact words, is not set in reality. The book contains its own inner universe and rules, just as as people, as much as we may be looking at the same thing at the same time, we are having different internal experiences.

    So if the book is explicitly set in a post-apocalyptic world, that is where it is set, and it can be called a post-apocalyptic novel. Parrallels and references to your own reality, if implicit, are created in the mind of the reader. You may see obvious links to your own reality, but someone, anyone, everyone, who isn't yourself, will of course see other links, more or less obvious, to their own realities. A novel is a self contained universe with its own rules it must run by (if it is a good novel). Any inferring is done by the reader.

    (I also wrote a rebuttal to Mr. Greens concerns with the term "Post-apocalyptic" - its under the appropriate post.)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.