Monday, April 16, 2012
Book Review: The Hunger Games (2008)
This book should not be taken lightly. This isn’t just another science fiction book. It is THE nightmare scenario for conservatives, and it is a nightmare for liberals because it clearly shows what an unrestrained state does to people. Then again, liberals may be taking notes and licking their chops.
** spoiler alert **
The Hunger Games is the first book in a trilogy created by author Suzanne Collins. Technically, this is in the Science Fiction genre, but it isn't overdone. You don't get starships, ray guns, invisibility or Star Wars-like elements. Instead, you get grace notes which can easily be switched out for our current equivalents.
The enemy in Hunger Games is the state, PANEM. It forces 12 districts to supply two people, a male and a female between the ages of 12 and 18, each year on the appropriately named Reaper Day. These people are called tributes. To add insult to injury, each district MUST celebrate Reaper Day. Attendance at the town square is mandatory, where a Capitol Person picks the tributes. Every person between the ages of 12 and 18 has to put their name in a pot. The names gets pulled out and announced. These tributes are then taken to the capital to be primped, prepped and readied to be thrown into an arena where they fight for survival against each other including the other tribute from their own district. Only the Capitol is immune from this tribute requirement.
This tribute system has been set up to remind the people that their children are the state's. Also, at various times pictures of a thirteen district, which was destroyed, are shown as reminders of what happens to districts that rebel.
Life in most districts is hard. Actual doctors and advanced medicine are only available in the Capitol. Apothecaries (primitive druggists/doctors) are few and far between in the districts. Simple amenities like electricity are strictly controlled and turned on part of each day. Weapons like bows and arrows are outlawed and the districts resemble prisons. Hardy individuals choose to knowingly break the law in order to feed their families. The local authorities look the other way because they buy the foodstuffs from the hunter/gatherers and usually are the best customers. Getting caught hunting and/or even just being outside the fence is punishable by death. Travel to other districts is forbidden upon pain of death. Similar to Russia under Soviet rule.
Technology and refinements are kept at the Capitol. They are never allowed in the districts unless it helps the Capitol. So a newer train might be used to transport the coal to the Capitol, but aren't used to travel between the districts. In comparison, the level of technology in most districts is slightly above Medieval unless you are talking about the screens which are turned on when announcements are made from the Capitol. And the concept of "Do not bind the mouths of the kine who tread the grain" is unheard of. So, coal miners can heat their home only if they have enough money to pay for the coal. The coal is the property of the Capitol.
As a reader, you experience this world from Katniss living in it. She is the heroine. Her daily life is one long adventure after another. This is what interests young boys, the adventure and excitement -- it unapologetically has blood, guts, action, and nerve. Conservatives will be interested because it shows what an unchecked State can do to its citizens. Indeed, even if you remove all science fiction elements, this book still holds up as a fictional version of THE nightmare scenario for conservatives. I mean it could really happen here in the United States.
This book also gives hope, because Katniss creates a chink in the state’s armor. How she does it. . . well you will have to read the book.
Read it and ponder.