Monday, February 27, 2012

Light in Darkness

Originally I resisted reading The Hunger Games trilogy, thinking that it had to do with teenage vampires or zombies or such.  I was wrong.

I've been immersed in this dark world for the past few days and am reporting back to recommend this compelling, well-told story -- highly, highly recommend!

Set in a dystopian future,  in a place that was once the USA but is now a highly repressive authoritarian society, the trilogy takes its name from a yearly ritual designed to keep the twelve different districts of the country ever aware of the power of the central government.  

Every year each district must send a boy and a girl to compete in the deadly Arena in a fight to the death where there can be but one winner.  It's a kind of mash-up of Roman Circuses, the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, and our present-day reality shows.


And it's the story of Katniss, a young girl chosen to represent her district in the Games. The first book focuses on the fragile alliances she forges during the game -- always knowing that eventually she must kill or be killed.
   
I raced through the first and second books, caught up in the ever-shifting alliances and dilemmas. One truly surreal moment came as I was reading Catching Fire, in which the government is bombing a district that had seemed rebellious. The radio was on and I suddenly realized that the words on the page were being echoed by NPR -- news from Syria of the bombing of Homs -- and that the dystopia wasn't as far removed from reality as one might wish.

When I came to the third book, I began to slow down -- partially because I didn't want the story to be over  but mainly because there was so much to think about and so many possible outcomes. I found myself trying to anticipate what choices the author had made.

When I finally allowed myself to  finish reading the last book (standing outside in the cold on Sunday morning while at the other end of her leash Willa dug holes in a flowerbed,) I was completely satisfied with the ending.

I don't want to say anything that would be a spoiler but I will say that I think this is a wonderful book, dealing as it does with heavy matters such as the corrupting influence of power, the strength of propaganda, the nature of love and loyalty, the nature of courage, the joy of small things . . . I could go on and on.

The books are brilliantly visual; the author's world-building skills are amazing. I kept imagining the trilogy as a movie and, indeed, there's one coming soon.  But I already doubt that any movie could do full justice to this complicated dance of love and loyalty, right and wrong, life and death.

Yes, it's a dark story, to be sure. But a story that's shot through with light, with beauty, and with moments that answer the question of what it is to be human. 

As Pat predicted in the comments on a previous post, I haven't picked up another book to read yet -- my mind is still too full of this world, these characters, these moral dilemmas.


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17 comments:

Ms. A said...

I don't think I've ever enjoyed a movie, over the book. (the ones I've read, anyway) I'm sure that's a drop in the bucket, compared to all the ones you read.

That top photo is SPECTACULAR!

Joan said...

Wow Vicki , what a review! It's such a crazy world we live in..your photos
so amazing.. and yes, we still kill each other and suffer from the power crazy and greedy.

Merisi said...

Wonderful book review, and it is so beautifully illustrated. A treat, thank you!

I think I already told you that my youngest wished for the first book for Christmas, and she loved it.

(I am reading Nancy Mitford's "Voltaire in Love", first published in 1957. I bought it before I left the States and finally got around to open it. I am enjoying it immensely. Love her writing skills and her wit.)

Martin said...

I think you may have just shunted these title up the list, somewhat. I'll get there, eventually. I've almost finished 'A Visit from the Goon Squad'.

Julienne said...

Oh dear more books to order!!!
I have such a lovely pile at the moment I don't know where to start though most of them are Australian which is not usual!!! xx

Pat in east TN said...

You're review was outstanding Vicki, and I agree with you whole-heartedly!

I did as you did, raced through the first two books and then just took my tme with the third, knowing it was the last one and wanting to savor every moment. I think what kept me from reading this trilogy was the fact I had heard it was written for teenagers, but is that really true? Not that there would be anything wrong with that, but I also thought it was full of vampires and weirdness.

I really don't know if I want to see the movie. I honestly don't know how they could do the books justice.

Brian Miller said...

oh my..ok i picked up the second this weekend...so i think i am going to go ahead and start...great review....

Deanna said...

I bought these books for my grandson not too long ago. Wonder if he will loan them to me... There is no doubt in my mind that he has devoured them by now.

Carolyn said...

The book I just finished reading? UNDER THE SKIN. Loved it. I've been avoiding THE HUNGER GAMES. I have friends who read them when they first came out (they're in the library/publishing worlds) and raved about them, but I've always been reluctant to read dystopian YA novels. My husband just finished listening to them on audio and thought they were only OK. My son, who liked the books, met several of the crew and saw some of the actors from the movie in Asheville when they came to studios/screening rooms in town where he works. Since it's filmed in NC, I'll probably see the movie. I typically prefer books to movies, so am debating whether to read before seeing.

Friko said...

You make the trilogy sound unmissable. It's not been mentioned here at all.

I have not opened a book since 'The Help'; a really gripping book does that to you, you miss the characters and want to continue living with them.

Darla said...

An amazing review; I'm intrigued now...
And that first photo?! Wow...

Susan M. Bell said...

I was a bit disappointed in the ended of the third book, but I do think it is a good ending (if that makes sense). The loss was one I did not expect and I hated it. But then, all endings can't be happiness and light, and people can't just go on like everything's totally grand and the things that happened didn't touch them in some way. Katniss was touched to her very soul. She had to be.

I have high hopes for the movie, although I know no movie ever totally does the book justice. (Silence of the Lambs came very close, but that's the only one that comes to mind.)

Southwest Arkie said...

I love getting so immersed in a book that I want to stay with it for days after I finish the last page. Sounds like another set to add to my list!

NCmountainwoman said...

Well, I dropped by Highland Books today and picked up the first one. I figured that you and I were the two remaining readers who hadn't read the trilogy. Then you caved in and so I must read them. I don't suppose I will get much knitting done for a while. But you have whetted my appetite for the books.

Brenda said...

My Book Club picked The Hunger Games as our book of the month. I finished that one and jumped right into the next, even though our next meeting isn't till next week. I'm glad you didn't include any spoilers here. I was so interested in your post I couldn't stop reading it, even though I was sort of flinching waiting for something to be revealed. I should have known better - you wouldn't do that. One of your readers almost did though! So the last book ends with a loss... hmmm....

I haven't let myself watch any of the trailers for the movie - I have this picture in my mind of what Katniss looks like, and Peeta, and the rest... I feel so reluctant to see what Hollywood has decided they look like. But I'm sure I'll eventually see the movie.

The Hunger Games trilogy is some amazing storytelling. It has really captured me. Our culture's fascination with reality shows has made this seem creepily within the realm of possiblity, even as far fetched as it appears at first glance.

Thérèse said...

The review is so good that the only outcome is to get the books...

Tipper said...

Well I have to read them now!! : )