Harvey Dent said in The Dark Knight, ” You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”  The Hunger Games trilogy, a bunch so called “Young-Adult” novels, does more justice (and on a larger magnitude) to that beautiful piece of insight than Christopher Nolan himself could do in his hard-hitting and emotionally draining masterpiece. In the series, Suzanne Collins paints a haunting picture of a post-apocalyptic North America through the eyes of Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl who is the protagonist of the novels.

The three novels in the trilogy are “The Hunger Games“, “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay“. The story takes place in an indefinite future, in a post apocalyptic North America where there exists a country called Panem. Panem consists of a magnificently rich Capitol and twelve(once 13) poorer districts identified only by numbers which the capitol rules with an iron fist. As punishment for a previous rebellion against the Capitol in which a 13th district was destroyed, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected by annual lottery to participate in the “Hunger Games”. The Hunger Games is a televised event where those 24 participants from the 12 districts must fight to the death until only one of them is alive.

Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, the first book follows Katniss through the 74th Hunger games as she volunteers to save her sister prim. Joining her from District 12 is Peeta, a baker’s son who predictably falls in love with her. Katniss survives the games and also forces the capitol to accept two winners instead of one to ensure that Peeta also emerges alive.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

Catching Fire, the second book starts by telling us that the capitol isn’t happy with Katniss and Peeta’s little show of defiance and is planning on retribution. We also learn that Katniss and Peeta have sparked rebellious sentiments in the other districts and the population is turning restive. To get their revenge, the Capitol forces Katniss and Peeta into the Hunger Games an unprecedented second time. This, however, doesn’t work as the Capitol intended it to.  The participants, along with some people from the Capitol itself have made a plan with the rebels of District 13 and they whisk Katniss and most of the other participants off to district 13 as Katniss destroys the arena.

Mockingjay

Mockingjay, the final novel of the trilogy begins with an all-out war raging between the Capitol and the Districts. Katniss is dubbed the Mockingjay, the rallying point of the rebels and the face of the revolution. The narrative of the war is gripping. Katniss, however, has her doubts. She is not happy with the way she is being used as a propaganda tool. The people conducting the war also seem to have their little agendas. What happens next is something you should find out from the book, not from a review. Especially if you have liked the plot so far. When you are deciding whether to read the book or not, remember two things : One, the quote I opened this article with. Two, It doesn’t have a happy ending.

Conclusion : The problem with going through a much-hyped book or movie is that your expectations are already set sky-high. And the book or the movie, most of the time through no fault of their own, fails to live up to them. The Hunger Games, in this hobo’s humble opinion, suffers the same unfair fate. When I started reading the novels, I had already read hundreds of lines of praise for the series. It features in Wikipedia’s most read books of all time. It has been called the book of the decade and so on.  As a result, I started reading it while sub-consciously expecting it to be something in the class of Harry Potter, Shantaram or Erich Segal. And when you begin with that, you are going to end up disappointed.

In all honesty, the story, or the overall plot, is very good. Although the influence of television is pretty obvious throughout, the story will be able to hold you till the last page. The main characters : Katniss, Gale, Peeta, Haymitch, Cinna, Coin, Snow… they all are endearing or loathsome, depending on which side you are on. The good thing about the series it has so many layers and faces. Poverty, luxury, family values, love, romance, war, brutality, betrayal, good guy-turned-bad,  sci-fi, a little bit of innocent sounding sexual appeal, it has them all. The not-so-good thing is that it visibly struggles balancing so many things. For example, the love triangle is pretty lame. So is often the conversation. Some ideas are, frankly, too preposterous even in a sci-fi fantasy novel. The “Muttations” for example. Also, it’s not really very scientific that when it comes to aviation, a race capable of creating force-fields and ballistic missiles can do no better than planes which can be brought down with arrows. Finally, the most absurd thing about the series is the names used. Seriously, Peeta? Muttations?? Tracker-jackers??? Worst of all, a tech-wizard named BeeTee? I mean, come on, you could have rather named him Sony or T-Mobile for crying out loud. This and other small goof-ups are what spoil the overall experience to a large extent. The narrative, I mean the quality and grip on the language too, could have been better. It is not very smooth of pleasant to read, which is why you might feel the story is progressing on short jerks instead of a smooth flow. All in all, it could have been better, and it is not as good as the publicity it has enjoyed. Having said that, it’s a good story. Definitely worth a read.

P.S : I know there’s a movie out. As a great man once said : Never judge a book by its movie. Happy Reading!

A map of the fictional nation of Panem from Su...

A map of the fictional nation of Panem from Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games." (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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