Herr Doktor Bizarro's Bookshelf of Horrors
May the odds be ever in your favor.
Hunger Games: A Bite to Eat
Today's book is one that received a good bit of attention as of this writing. There is good reason for it. It's primarily targeted at the hormonal, angsty demographic known as young adults. The works aimed at this underwhelming group demonstrate some range from the average to the awful. Recent examples include Harry Potter (a mildly entertaining, if rather predictable, series) to Twilight (a downright disgusting abomination, as covered earlier).
All too often in young adult literature, we have children and teenagers kept alive despite being faced with repeated dangers. This is often done solely to keep parental guardians away, as well as ensuring fan favorite characters don't die. After all, imagine having to endure the whining of a million angsty teenagers if their favorite fictional character was killed off. Or worse, imagine being an author facing angry responses from a million moronic parents trying to shield their fucking crouch-droppings from the realities of violence.
Today's book is the first in a trilogy that was surprisingly enjoyable. It was compared (rightfully) to a Japanese novel and movie called "Battle Royale" for a similar plot (teenagers forced to kill each other in a dystopian future), as well as works like "The Running Man" and "The Long Walk." This novel is "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins. This work rips childhood innocence from the cradle, dashes it against a rock, and then burns the twitching remains in gasoline.
The plot involves a post-apocalyptic state (with very little mention events that came before that matter) called Panem, a police state divided into several Districts based on jobs. There are periodic contests where two youths from each district are sent to a gladiatorial reality show/death-match called the Hunger Games. A girl from a rural coal-mining District, Katniss, volunteers to go to the Games in place of her younger sister. The other contestant from her District is a childhood friend, Peeta. They get shipped off to prepare, and things unfold from there. Starvation is common in this nightmarish future, so it's unlikely they'd call the event the Obesity Games or Anorexia Games.
One thing I enjoyed about this novel (in addition to the brutal subject matter) is the amount of work shown regarding weaponry, injuries, and survival techniques. The contestants in the Games are told to add drama, so that fans and sponsors give them gifts. When there is no drama, the game-masters use traps in the arena itself (such as booby traps and mutant animals) to drive the remaining contestants together. The narrator was raised in a rural environment, and knows wilderness survival techniques and treatments. The detail of injuries, foraging for food and water, and other details are also covered well. Katniss, our narrator, is also an accomplished archer who turns the other contestants into her prey. She's also rather vulnerable, and the details of her (and other) injuries are vividly described. As a mad scientist, I'm very familiar with your species' anatomy, and the novel does a compelling job at describing its destruction.
The novel is not perfect. Some of the contestants are not fleshed out, being mentioned only as corpses or cannon fodder. It is highly similar to "Battle Royale" in a number of ways, especially giving the nigh-identical premise. "Battle Royale" fleshed out all of its victims, but as a result, the flow often dragged or suffered. "Hunger Games" has a faster pace and keeps it, especially once the games begin. The character of Peeta, especially, comes across as irritating during a number of times. A number of the antagonists are rather imposing, ruthless, and capable, and come across as a bit more developed than "Battle Royale" in some cases. However, the context of both novels should be kept in mind. One is about an underperforming high-school class told to murder each other, and the other is a combination of reality TV and gladiatorial sporting event. Both "contests" are orchestrated by dystopian regimes upon their populations as a "punishment," but one is a popular event (in the case of the Hunger Games) and the other is a punishment for subpar students (in the case of Battle Royale).
This is a rather enjoyable novel, and while the premise has been done before, this is my personal favorite interpretation of it. Consider this novel and review to be a gift from myself, a superior mad cyborg intellect, to you simpering simpletons in time for the holidays. Greetings from my Bookshelf of Horrors, where your worst tomes are my favorite tortures. And may the odds be ever in my favor. After all, you'll all be in a real life Hunger Games (of a sort) when my hordes of zomborgs are devouring your flesh and mind before adding you to their ranks. MWUHAHAHA!