September 09, 2010

Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, what a rollercoaster of a book. In clean, simple prose, we're drawn in quickly to the characters and sympathize with the protagonist effortlessly, and become involved in the twisty, headlong plot. The writing is a little TOO vernacular -- it's a bit strange that teenagers of a dystopian post-apocalyptic future, especially an underclass, don't have their own pervasive slang -- but it's immensely readable.

The plot moves so breathlessly that it's easy to overlook how well-plotted The Hunger Games is. The events and twists come so fast that they become expected, even inevitable.

The most impressive thing to me was the setting. The world of Panem, and the interior of the arena, are clearly drawn with specific details and never lose their credibility. The same goes for the rules of the Hunger Games -- everything is fully believable and quickly sketched in, answering almost all questions before they arise. It seems easy, even offhand, but it takes an incredible amount of planning and plotting and consideration to make the final product seem so coherent.

My biggest criticism has to do with the originality of the story. The book reminds me of The Long Walk by Stephen King (under the name Richard Bachman), with some of Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood mixed in. They're both excellent books, so the source ideas are more than solid. While Suzanne Collins certainly adds her own take on the ideas of a competition to the death in a dystopian future -- and runs with it -- it's hard to shake memories of those stories and the references linger.

I'm not complaining, really -- I read The Hunger Games overnight in one great gulp, and I'm ready for the sequels. The book is fast, entertaining, frightening, philosophical, psychological, edgy, and suspenseful. In all, a great read.

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