The Hunger Games–Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games, first in the trilogy by Suzanne Collins, is the story of Katniss Everdeen, a teenage girl living in a community known as District 12, one of a dozen that make up the country of Panem.   Panem itself is a future version of North America, ravaged by war and natural disasters, a dystopian society set in the near(ish) future.

It is a society of haves and have-nots, the haves populating what is simply known as the Capital, the have-nots (or proletariat) inhabiting the rest of the country.  While citizens of the Capital have all the amenities that modern medicine and technology (and wealth) afford, those in the other regions live lives of mere subsistence, each district tasked with a distinct function by the central government.

Katniss and her family live in what was formerly called the Appalachians–coal country–and eke out an existence supplying the Capital with fuel.  Having lost her father many years before in a mining accident, Katniss has become a skilled hunter, supplementing their meagre supply of food with poached game and various nuts and berries, painstakingly collected day by day.  It is a life of fear of starvation and starvation, interspersed with the daily struggle to make sure the former does not become the latter.  Yet Katniss is content with her family, if not her situation, and shoulders the burden without much complaint. 

However, there is one other thing each district must supply the Capital.  Every year each district supplies contestants  for the spectacle which is The Hunger Games.

Inaugurated 74 years earlier after a failed rebellion by the Districts, the Hunger Games pit two teens (between the ages of 12 and 17, one male–one female) from each District in a battle royale with their counterparts from the others.  It is a battle to the death with only one possible “winner”.  Used both as a means to terrorize the populace and demonstrate their absolute authority, the government of Panem ruthlessly exploits the children to keep the people submissive.

When Katniss’ younger sister Prim is chosen for the games, she makes the choice to volunteer in her stead,  knowing that it’s a death sentence, yet willing to make that sacrifice for her kin.  Within days she and the male contender of District 12, the baker’s son Peeta, are whisked off to the Capital for a bit of training and a lot of promotion.  And then the games begin.

Dropped into an arena consisting of varied environments and climates, each competitor must rely on their wits and physical skill with (if they’re lucky) a weapon to eliminate the others.  They also have to make it a show–if things get boring, the gamemakers will “move things along” by either altering the environment in an unpleasant manner or introducing deadly obstacles such as mutated animals, flame throwers, etc.  Of course, without giving away too much, this is the story of Katniss and her time in the arena.

For a young adult novel, Collins has crafted a remarkably serious yet not overly graphic tale that manages to hold the attention of her market audience while appealing to those of us who fall into the category of adult.  Not just a story for kids, Collins manages to explore several complex themes: oppression vs. liberty; authority vs. non-conformity; proletariat vs. oligarchy, etc.

Her novel can have different meanings to the reader depending on your political persuasion.  A progressive might see it as the story of fascism stifling the free expression of the people, while a conservative might see it as an example of the intrusive nature of big government–the aforementioned liberty to live our lives without too much interference.  I think Collin’s intent falls somewhere in between–more of a cautionary tale of how easily society can be controlled once they cede authority to a small minority, and also a condemnation of today’s “reality television” society.

It’s also a ripping good read that doesn’t require a huge time investment–just an emotional investment in several appealing characters, knowing that not all will survive The Hunger Games.

B+

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The Hunger Games vs. Battle Royale

With the movie forthcoming, it seemed time to read Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games, the story of a post apocalyptic society in which children are forced to fight to the death in an arena both as a way to assert control over the populace and entertain the ruling class.  Ruthless, yet endearing, it’s the story of Katniss Everdeen, the contestant from District 12 who volunteers in place of her younger sister knowing full well she’s signing her own death warrant.

However, this is not the first time a writer has addressed the idea of a dystopian society sacrificing their children to appease a government that rules the people, rather than being ruled by them.  Koushun Takami tackled a similar storyline in his 1999 novel, Battle Royale, which became a film in his native Japan in 2000.

I’ve been wanting to read this for a while and it seems a good follow on from The Hunger Games.  Has anyone read both?  If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  For now, here’s The Hunger Games trailer:


Justin Cronin’s The Twelve gets a release date.

Of all the books I didn’t review last year, the one I most regret was Justin Cronin’s The Passage Not only was it a post-apocalyptic story with a vampiresque feel, the writing was brilliant and had a vein of seriousness not often seen in a horror novel.  Awhile back I heard Cronin was writing a sequel but it was only today that I became aware of a release date.  Lovers of The Passage will be pleased to note that The Twelve will be released October 16th of this year.  

Thanks to EW.com for the heads up!

Also important to note:  Ridley Scott’s production company has optioned all three books of the eventual trilogy for $1.75 million.  Let’s hope they don’t muck it up.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:The Movie

Elizabeth was not at all happy with her body double.

 Okay, technically this isn’t a “literary” post, but considering that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is soon to be a motion picture, I’m bending the rules a bit.

Moving on.

Entertainment Weekly announced yesterday on their Inside Movies blog (story by Anthony Breznican) that the upcoming zombie flick has a director signed on in the person of Craig Gillespie, formerly director of such films as Lars and the Real Girl and the remake of Fright Night.  Principle filming is planned to begin at the end of summer 2011.  David O. Russell was originally set to direct, but backed out over what was described as a “budget dispute” (his or the film, I do not know), however, according to Gillespie, he will be working from a script penned by the former director.

Some thoughts:

David O. Russell sounded like the perfect director, coming off the Oscar-winning film, The Fighter, but as often happens, things simply didn’t pan out.  Gillespie (to me) is a bit of an unknown element, but Lars and the Real Girl managed an 81% freshness rating on rottentomatoes.com so that can’t be bad.

In the same interview, Gillespie claims that the roles of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy have yet to be cast.  However, back in December of 2009, Natalie Portman’s name was attached as producer and star.  As things stand though, and according to her IMDB listing, there appears to be no connection to the upcoming feature.  I highly doubt there’s a dearth of English actresses capable of taking on the role, so there’s that.  All in all good news for those looking to see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies lurch from page to big screen!

The Walking Dead Lurches From Page to Small Screen!

  “In a World ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living.”

The Walking Dead made its debut in 2003, and over the past seven years, writer Robert Kirkman and illustrator Tony Moore have crafted a World that Thomas Hobbes would appreciate…a World in which life is cheap: nasty, brutal and short.  The question they asked themselves in moulding this world: “How do people deal with extreme situations and how do those same situations change people?”  What better way to explore the psyche of society than to explore the reactions of everyday people to an event so horrifying and final that every societal norm we take for granted comes into question?

That event… Zombie apocalypse. 

 

Over the course of 13 graphic novels, Kirkman and Moore have introduced a variety of characters trying to deal with everyday life in a World that is no longer everyday.  Centered around Rick Grimes, formerly a police officer in rural Kentucky, The Walking Dead tells the story of a ragtag group of survivors and their quest not so much for answers as  for mere survival in what could only be described as life after the end of the world.  Rick becomes a natural leader in this world, and The Walking Dead chronicles his attempts to keep a small segment of society alive under impossible conditions.  His story contains every element of human nature, from courage and duty to  cowardice and treachery, love of life to suicide…pretty much every human emotion and quality…or  inferiority that one can think of.  Every  facet of the human condition (whether enlightened or banal) has been explored at one point or another within the series.

 

My favourite feature of  The Walking Dead?

You never know where it’s going to go.  No one is safe.  Whether a character has been there from the start, or is simply a plot device, any and all characters are expendable.  And that is simply refreshing.  No cookie cutter heroes and villains…simply humanity, with all the warts.

 

So, it was with great excitement that I found out the other day that The Walking Dead has been translated into an original television series, premiering on October 31st, 2010, (Otherwise known as Hallowe’en) on AMC 

 

Thank you Frank Darabont!