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Before I started reading Hunger Games, I had read some reviews going gaga over the book, but I was still not ready for it. The basic story premise goes something like this:
Set in a post-apocalyptic future, America is now divided into 12 districts ruled with an iron hand by the Capitol. The 12 districts each supplies the Capitol with different products such as coal, agricultural goods, etc. Years ago, there had been a rebellion by the districts against the Capitol which had been quashed mercilessly and utterly by the Capitol. As a reminder of the power the Capitol holds over the destinies of the districts, every year the Capitol chooses 2 children from each district, between the ages of 12 and 18, to fight in the ‘Hunger Games’, a fight to the death. The winner is treated as a hero uplifted from the poverty that hounds everyone else in the districts.
The event is of course televised, with compulsory viewing by the people in the districts. The inhumanity of this comes out when the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen’s younger sister, with no survival skills is chosen for the Games. Long story short, Katniss volunteers to take her place and enters the Games.
The way in which Katniss and Peta are readied for the Games, they seem like lambs being fattened before they are sacrificed at the altar. Though well-meaning, the team provided to them comes across as being immune to the horrors of the Games. They can only see the glory this could get them. Not to be overly critical, they do help both Katniss and Peta get into a position to win the Games.
Each character has been perfectly created and moulded.
Katniss comes across as a hugely determined girl, who is extremely competent for the task for which she has been chosen. Her training in hunting and survival skills holds her in good stead during the Games. Her unwavering need to get back to her family, who she believes would not survive without her, keeps her focused on winning the Games. I found the moral tug-of-war going on in her head to have She does come across as brutal and manipulative in the way she uses Peta’s love for her to win support from sponsors during the games.
Peta Mellark, who is the other contestant chosen for the Games from Katniss’ district, has been in love with her throughout his life. This is initially used as a tactic to garner sponsors for them by their mentor, but it really comes across during the games, where he sacrifices himself on a number of occasions to save Katniss’ life.
Katniss and Peta seem to be on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. Katniss is brutal while Peta Is lovable, Katniss is competent, while Peta seems to stumble along, Katniss is driven by the love for her family while Peta is driven by her love for Katniss.
Haymitch is the team’s mentor who initially comes across as a highly incompetent drunk. He however, has a big role to play in the team’s winning the Games.
Gale is Katniss’ best friend and hunting partner. They have a relationship where they can tell each other anything, and there seems to be a connection between him and Katniss. This gets sidelined due to the publicised love story of Peta and Katniss.
This is a story that touches on so many of the social aspects that everyone seems to just glide over and brings them into the spotlight.
Each part of the book is a subtle reference to the ills in our society today. The description of the districts gives us the stark difference between the haves and have-not in the world today. While people in the Capitol, without realising it, have too much of everything, those in the districts barely subsist from one day to the next. The broadcasting of the Games seems like a direct reference to the excess of reality shows on television today, and how they seem to pull in viewers and get them addicted to even the grossest and meanest of images. Katniss and her friend Gale are afraid of talking ill about the Capitol in their district and have to go into the jungle to vent their anger. This alludes to the growing Big Brother attitude of governments today, where everyone and everything seems to be tracked. There is a section of the story, where people in the Capitol regurgitate whatever they have eaten, so that they can stuff themselves some more. Not being satisfied ever, no matter what you have seems to be the mantra of today’s materialistic world with ne end to ‘the want for more’ in sight.
Although the build up to the Games seems to stretch out a bit, the Games are fast paced with not a single dull moment. I found myself holding my breath on a number of occasions to see what would happen next. The killings are not unnecessarily brutal, and the blood and gore which is there in the book seems necessary to get the message across. The description of scenes is beautiful and left me imagining them as happening right before my eyes.
The book had a hold it had on me and I could not stop reading it, once the actual Games started. The story, though brutal left me rooting for the underdog and when, towards the end Katniss defies the Capitol, I was cheering for the humiliation this caused the Capitol. It has gotten me thinking of the direction our world is heading and whether it is something I endorse or oppose. For this I give the book 5 stars.