Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Hunger Games

This week I was planning on reviewing John Green's The Fault in our Stars, but I wasn't able to get the bloody eBook reader to work properly, so it's time to review Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games.
Back in 2008, when the book was first published you'd have been forgiven for not knowing what gender Katniss Everdeen was, because Katniss is exotic enough a name that it doesn't really have any binding to either gender. (Although given that it's been six years since it was first published it certainly does now)
Given that I already knew Katniss was a girl, the only reason I bring this up is because she's not referred to with any pronouns until about ten pages in. Maximum Ride did this as well, considering that the main character is named Max and that they don't refer to her as female until several chapters in.
Now, I feel I need to say this because even though the book has been out for six years, if you're just getting into it you need to avoid reading the cover blurbs for the books. They give away too much of the story and in this day and age I'd like to put this out there: If you're interested in something you shouldn't read the covers. Be it a game, a movie or a book. The people who design them CANNOT get it into their heads not to give away the twists and turns of a thing in the promotional material. This isn't like Uncle Ben dying, or Anakin Skywalker being Darth Vader, where the thing's been around for long enough that's it's permeated popular culture. Then again, I didn't know anything about it aside from what the title gave away, so maybe I'm talking nonsense. The Hunger games is a riveting book about tactical survival in a constructed situation for the entertainment of the masses. So it's like a Gladiator type thing, only more crossed with Metal Gear Solid 3. I'll get around to talking about that later, but for now let's talk about the book.
There are moments in it that almost physically hurt me. The writing style is as such that it seems like it is actually happening as you read it. Ready Player One felt like that as well. But something I haven't seen in any book ever is the first person present tense display, which really does a lot to make it come alive.
Something I loved about the book is that it doesn't spend too much time doing things that don't matter. The way it flows is as such that it seems like you're along for the ride inside Katniss's head, and outside a handful of books I've not felt this immersed in a story in years. It's amazing how well written this is.
The book to the very end had me riveted to my seat. I spent a morning reading through it and by the end I was awestruck to the point of speechlessness. Throughout the book it felt like the world was alive, and that's something that a lot of books don't do. An example of a book that seems like the only things that're happening happen around the main character is The Dangerous Days of Daniel X. It's like Splinter Cell, nothing going on outside of the prearranged and strictly linear stages, and as such it's not very interesting.
So very few pieces of fiction paint a world that feels like there are things going on in it outside the focus of the main characters. So few works have things in them that are out of the control of the main character, and I applaud The Hunger Games for that. It's nice to have something that is willing to break from the cliches of writing. Although given that it's been a few years since the series started out, so breaking cliches may indeed be a cliche by now.
So all in all I really liked the book. It's something that needs to be read and I'm sorry it took me so long to read it. Since summertime is the season I set aside for catching up on popular books I haven't read, you can expect me to review some more books over this sweltering hot time of year.
Now, onto the thing I put off earlier.
The Hunger Games is a great book, but it doesn't strike me as something that would make the transition to the silver screen successfully. And I know the movies are popular, but haven't seen them (BTW, expect reviews on them as well) so I don't know how well it's transitioned. But the jaded literary and cinema critics inside me keeps reminding me how poorly the adaptations of Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix turned out. The Hunger Games strikes me as a game that would do good as a video game. And by video game, I mean something like Metal Gear Solid 3, crossed with Hitman and Mass Effect, or Skyrim. The open assassination approaches of Hitman, some RPG elements from Bioware or maybe Bethesda games for conversations and choices, and the survival and stealth elements from MGS3 (But tweaked to be a little less annoying). It would be such a great game, and the sad thing is, there's no chance of Konami, Bethesda, Square-Enix, Scholastic and Lions Gate combining forces to make a game like this. I've got the first two movies reserved at the local library, and I've already finished Catching Fire. So I've got the whole franchise pretty much lined up for the summer.
I might as well post the score, since I've rambled on about the book and modern literature for several paragraphs long enough. 10.5*. I'll see you next week with either Catching Fire, Fire Emblem Awakening or TFIOS depending on which one I'm in the mood for.
Check out my Catching Fire review.