The Hunger Games – Book Review

A Remake of Battle Royale? Running Man? Lord of the Flies?

I know my title is a little brutal for a book – I’m ALMOST accusing Mrs. Collins of a rip off. But reviews are supposed to be honest; and one feeling that I was unable to shake off while reading this book was that I was reading Lord of the Flies all over again. Or The Running Man. Or The Long Walk. Or, most closely, the Battle Royale.

Totalitarian government – check. Dystopian world – check. Teens fighting to their deaths – check. Only one survivor must remain – check. 42 kids at the start – nope, 24. Same digits, big difference. A simplification, if you will.

And this is where I believe this book wins; a simplification of the complex, foreign, deeply disturbing and graphic Battle Royale for the mass Western audience. For us.

The strengths of the book are fantastic: a past paced thriller, a likable character, lives of innocent children at stake.

The weaknesses are no less formidable. The plot and the writing are unbelievably formulaic. Here are just a few I care to mention:
– Make your character lovable by: (a) being an orphan; (b) having a defenseless relative, preferably a child; (c) taking care of a hurt pet;
– Make your character fight against all odds, ideally for the survival of humanity;
– Make sure she of he are visibly running out of either (a) time or (b) options;
– Have someone (“a guardian”) warn them against the coming dangers…

The check list goes on.

I know this review is a collection of checklists; but this is exactly how I felt reading the book. A set of checklists to create an irresistible thriller.

Having said all that, the result is a fast-paced page turner that’s impossible to put down. Well done. I truly enjoyed this book (although not the two that followed) and will watch the movie.

If only Katniss were less repeatedly whiny about the same issues over and over and over again… oh father… or mother… oh Prim… oh father… oh mother… oh Prim… as if no other thoughts exist to choose from. Sadly, this part gets worse as the series goes on: ad nauseum.

It’s also amazing how Katniss gets through the Games without … spoiler beep … almost anyone. Lucky, I guess.

One major flaw that may call for a re-write, in my opinion, is the missed opportunity to create a hero. Good female leads are few and far between. Katniss (despite the name) could have been one. What do we get instead? A self-centered teen who can’t decide what she wants, does as she told, doesn’t stand for much apart from her family, and manipulates the poor, sincere Peeta. Later on, it gets so bad I don’t want to talk about it. Oh well.

  • Jeff Faria

    Very insightful review, thanks.

  • GnosticismVacuum
  • Dani J

    Great review! Finally someone who tells it how it really is!!
    Actually, this is a retake on Le Prix du Danger (1983), which Running Man copied, then..etc etc