Hunger Games

By Dan Dunkle | Jan 12, 2012

While I dread the darkness and heating bills of winter, I find there are a great many things to enjoy this time of year.

Chief among them is some down time to sit and read by the heater while I watch the snow fall outside.

Just yesterday I was home with Sami-Jo and I finished reading "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins. I bought the book with a gift certificate I received for Christmas. I had briefly looked at it before, and the first few paragraphs were enough for the author to get her hooks into me.

I read the whole story very quickly for me, in a matter of two or three days. It's the story of Katniss Everdeen, a teenage girl living in a place called District 12, which we are told was once part of North America. Various global crises have apparently brought and end to the good old United States and in its place is a barbaric society called Panem.

This society is divided into two distinct classes — the vicious controlling elite of the Capitol and the working classes who labor in the districts to provide for their betters' needs. Katniss is from the coal-mining region.

Each year, 24 young persons from the districts, age 12 to 18, are selected by lottery to compete in the hunger games, a fight to the death that is televised before the entire nation. The competitors are placed in a wilderness arena and must find their own food and shelter while trying to avoid being killed by their peers.

The callous and shallow rich folks in the Capitol use these games to keep the working class divided and subservient.

While the rich in the big city surgically alter their bodies and fuss over their pink and blue hair, the people in the districts live a simple life where they come to know hunger, illness and hardship. It's not that there isn't enough food or enough medicine to go around. The rich simply don't care about the plight of the districts. It's even deeper than that. They're too distracted by what isn't at all important to see what really matters.

And I've given away very little here because the book is really a very fast-paced adventure story.

I loved it. It offers a new spin on the overused post-apocalypse genre. Katniss is one of the most sympathetic, strong female characters I've ever encountered. And I love the message. Here's a look at a society that's totally different from ours, but some of the fundamental problems with human nature are still the same.

Being shallow is no excuse, the author seems to argue. Refusing to look at the problem is sin enough.

I'll be interested to see if the movie does it justice. From the trailer, I can see it has a strong cast.

Just before that, I read, "In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex," by Nathaniel Philbrick.

This was an outstanding book of an entirely different kind. It's the true story of the Essex, which was sunk in the Pacific by a sperm whale. The men on the ship survived the sinking and were left to travel for long weeks across open ocean in their small, under-supplied whaleboats. Some eventually turned to cannibalism. For a history book, I found it to be quite fast-paced, which is always good for my diminished attention span.

Hunger seemed to be the common denominator for both books.



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