I'm not usually into science fiction. My only real visit with that genre has been with Adam's Hitchhikers books which are really just comedy with a space theme and I suppose don't really count so I was surprised when this book caught my fancy...and then took it and ran off, ruining me for pretty much anything else I'm going to read for a long time. This is by far the best book I've read this year, and beyond I think.
From the ruins of what was once North America, emerges the nation of Panem, a cruel, domineering nation who's rule reaches from its rich, lush Capitol to the twelve downtrodden, emaciated districts it controls. Once the districts had the vitality and drive to rebel against the nation, and they were defeated. As a reminder of who holds the power, the capitol rations the amount of food that the general population can receive, keeping the people broken and starving. In addition, so that they never forget, it is mandated that once a year each of the twelve districts will conduct a reaping day, in which a lottery chooses the name of one boy child and one girl. The chosen pair will journey to the capitol and take part in an event that captures the attention of the entire nation, the Hunger Games. Within an arena, a small world created just for the Games, the players from each district must compete against each other to become the winner of the Hunger Games, an accomplishment that means honor, recognition, fame and most importantly, food and comfort for the rest of their lives. Only one player can win, and to win, all the other players must die. From the moment the games begin they are in danger, everything can be a weapon, and not just the players, but the arena itself, is thirsty for death.
You don't just read this book, you take part in it. I was amazed, once I finished the book, to discover where I fit into the story. All this time she is speaking of the viewers, of the elite within the capital who crave the suspense and the carnage. Of the simpler folks of the twelve districts who are rooting for their children, for recognition and the praise that winning will bring while some watch from defeat, for being unable to do anything to stop the games and because watching is what you just do. Either way, they are caught up in the production, the way the Gamemasters want them to be. People who would never cheer for a death find themselves hoping for the death of a child who is made to seem like the "bad guy". They are rooting for a child to defeat and murder her opponents. You want Katniss to do more than survive, you want her to best the other players in anyway necessary and you watch with a sick fascination as she does so.
And as I read this book, I wanted these things, just as the Gamemasters meant me to. I feel the emotions that I'm set up to feel and I want the story they are feeding me to go just as it is. I am the viewer. I can try to console myself by saying "Well we all want what's best for Katniss, what will keep her alive" but that's a lie, I want all this to happen to Katniss.
The author has remarkable insight into the darker parts of human nature and how we all respond to the train-wreck phenomenon and can't help but stare at what we're not suppose to. We can all be easily drawn in and subdued with the promise of a story of star-crossed love. As the little guys we feel the hunger and injustice of the districts but we all want the life of excess that exists within the Capitol. I kept looking for holes in this logic, for plot dips and changes that would sway the writer from the focus of her story. A rather pessimistic view to take while reading a book that I COULD NOT GET ENOUGH OF but usually when something is too good to be true someone drops the ball, and the story. Not even a hiccup. It was seamless.
Well played Ms. Collins.