Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Audiobook Review

I finally got around reading the 11-hour long audiobook of The Hunger Games which I got through earlier but kind of forgot about for awhile. It's written by the all-time bestselling Kindle author Suzanne Collins, so I had high expectations. I started listening in the evening and eight hours later, I finally got to be at least a little bit as brave as its heroine, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen - hunter, gatherer and main bread-winner for her family, and pushed a stiff, bloody, muddy finger to my iPhone’s Pause button regardless of the fact that only three hours of the book remained. A couple of hours later as I came back to consciousness, I immediately checked to see the state of my burns and cuts and surprisingly found out they were OK. Wait a minute; those things hadn't happened to me but the characters in the audiobook.

After all the hype about the The Hunger Games film-release buzz I was curious enough to decide to read the thing before watching it on the big screen. Until that point the remarks I had heard about it were only about a action packed story in a cruel future which wasn't enough to interest me but then a few early reviews of the flick suggested that there might actually be a deep and important message beneath. Indeed there is.

We all know the classic way of showing what a dystopian oppressive regime does to the people and there are plenty of works that convey this message by magnifying and hyperbolizing different issues. This is a new and fresh approach towards this theme. Collins very successfully manages to humanize the state's cruel reality game show revealing the characters motivation, fears and feelings with a not-so-distant-future version of North America.
The Hunger Games are held annually as painful reminder for a failed rebellion against the government decades before. The government wants the 12 peripheral districts, each also kept isolated from the others, not to forget their subservient place and that there's no point in rebelling. Twenty-four tributes between the ages of 12 and 18, one male and one female from each districts are chosen by a lottery called “the reaping” and are transported via luxury express train to the glorious and wealthy “Capitol” to compete in a fight-to-the-death last man standing type of reality TV game that is mandatory to watch for the entire nation. Maybe a little bit like our Olympics.

I loved the message of this audiobook - that just the act of looking for opportunities to “cheat” the authority allows players to be their own person and keep their humanity — even if in the end they might not get out alive at least it was by their choice. Still, the potential for that rebellious spark that seeks a way out of such hopeless situations is exactly the thing that the Game Makers and their bosses - even with all their technology and backstabbing can not prevent or take away from the characters. That is a tremendously important message for anybody at any age or time.
The takeaway for me from this book is to question authority, to question why things are happening the way they are and change them where possible. Just a friendly tip though - don’t start listening or reading The Hunger Games at night if you have to wake up early the next morning.