14 April 2014

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

OK, so this is how it begins. I have seen the first two films and am well aware that there is a book series but have no desire to read it despite my love of reading. Why you ask? It’s quite simple. I thought both films were brilliant, but as most of you know any film based on a book can never be as good as the book itself, for obvious reasons. So my logic is this ‘why would I want to read the books and ruin the films for myself when the last one hasn’t even come out yet?’. This whole scenario is going on with my girlfriend, by the way, and my logic seems to have won out, but then you must be thinking 'why this report?' If you worked that out, well done my learned friend! The problem came when the announcement that the third film would be split into two films. This of course means my missus will have to wait two years for me to read that books and this isn’t good enough! So the nagging begins...nag nag nag nag nag nag nag. This is of course when I give in. Oh, you thought at the start of this paragraph that I was talking about how the book begins. Don’t be stupid! I called you clever earlier and now you throw it back in my face, shame on you! For this is not necessarily a review of the books but a review of the franchise itself! And of course in order for me to tell you this I have to tell you about not only the books, but the film and my personal experience with it all.

So this is how it begins...no, still not the book, will you get over that? I open the book onto page one to see the size of the font and the spacing used throughout the book. At this point I should probably tell you I am dyslexic; so you will understand when I thought I would finish this book in just over a week, I meant it would not take me long to do so, by my standards anyway. Secondly, I read the first couple of lines and discover to my horror that it is written in the first person. Now as you may have guessed from this statement that I am not a fan of books written in this style. However, when I first picked up a David Gemmell book I did not like the style it was written in but after reading the first book, Legend, I fell so in love with the character he created that I ended up with him as one of my favourite authors. So for this reason I give it a chance...

Now as the book unfolds I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the book plays out more or less exactly like the film, with a couple of minor bits that couldn’t be less relevant. The book follows a young girl who lives in a country called Panem that consists of twelve districts plus a city called the Capitol. A civil war 74 years ago between the districts and the Capitol, which the Capitol won, has lead to an event called the ‘Hunger Games’. In these game two ‘tributes’, one male and one female, are selected from each district to go to the Capitol and fight to the death on a television show in which the last person alive is the ‘victor’. Events ensue and our main girl ends up winning the ‘Hunger Games’ along with her male competitor from twelve, which is unheard of since there should only be one winner. In doing this she embarrasses the Capital and insights a small uprising in a couple of the districts. The whole story is told from the point of view of our main girl as she does everything possible to protect herself from death in the arena, enemies in the Capitol and her eventual return to her district.

 You begin to feel for some of her characters and as things go on you meet more characters that you actually like rather than ‘feel for’. The main character, Katniss Everdeen, is obviously meant to be your strong independent female character but this is often challenged as she is young and often relies on other characters to help her deal with situations. This is not completely clear at the start of the book but is made more apparent as you read on. However, she is ruthless and is solely focused on her own survival, even when at a later date she is protecting her fellow tribute, Peeta Mallark. The best character is without a question Haymitch Abernathy, a drunken former champion who acts as a ‘mentor’. Of course I already wanted to like this character since he is played in the film by Woody Harrelson, one of my favourite actors. He offers an often outspoken and straightforward view on events as well as being able to ‘play the game’ as it were.

Now I said at the start of this rant that I expected to finish this book in just over a week, so imagine my surprise when less than three days after I began the book that I had already finished it. Despite having seen the film and knowing what was coming, I completely bought into the characters and their struggle for survival. The complexity of events, the consequences of every action and the game itself are so elaborate that they keep your attention from start to finish, with your mind always working to keep up with all the information you are allowed by the author. All in all I am very glad that I read this book despite my reservations about ruining the film and would recommend it to anyone who was on the edge like me!
8 out of 10