The Hunger Games

A photo of my Harley and I taken by my friend Katie.
As part of an internal dogfooding effort for Google Wallet, I was able to receive a free copy of The Hunger Games from the Android Marketplace Google Play Bookstore.  I had been hearing a lot of good things about this book from some of my friends and figured it would be worth giving a shot.  Also, since the movie is coming out later this month and the trailer looks pretty entertaining (Woody Harrelson FTW), it seemed like a no brainer.

The book was a fairly easy read and generally well written.  I legitimately thought the author Suzanne Collins was British based on her writing mannerisms, but apparently she is a full blooded american.  The fact that she was a writer for Clarissa Explains It All also lends her additional creditability at the very least to any kid who grew up watching Nickelodeon in the 90's.

Without giving away too much of the actual book, the story is set in a post-apocalyptic version of the United States.  Thirteen 'Districts', each specializing in a specific type of manufacturing, surround a central 'Capitol'.  The citizens of the capitol live lavish lifestyles while the inhabitants of each district are treated like slaves.  As one means of subduing the separate districts into submission, each year a boy and girl from each district are forced into a tournament during which they are forced to kill one another.  The 'games' as they are called, are televised nationwide and are mandatory viewing.  The Hunger Games is written in the first person narrative from the point of view of a girl included in these games, Katniss Everdeen.

While Katniss is something of a tomboy in the story, her on-screen debut has her looking like nothing short of a supermodel.

While the book is generally entertaining, I would have enjoyed it a lot more had the author not shamelessly ripped-off a far more interesting book, Battle Royale.  Battle Royale, written by Koushun Takami in 1999 essentially follows the same exact plot.  A group of school children living under an authoritarian dictator are selected for a 'game' each year during which the goal is to kill all of their friends. The results of the games are carefully recorded and televised for the entire nation to watch.  With the exception of a few minor details, the books are identical, and Battlye Royale is the deeper and more entertaining story by far.

After doing some research I found that I was not the only one making this comparison.  While Collins adamantly maintains that she had never even heard of Battle Royale until after her book had been submitted to her publisher, I'm calling bullshit on that.  Battle Royale came out almost a full ten years before her book was ever published and it had two major motion pictures released in it's wake.  It's unbelievable that she was unaware of its existence while writing The Hunger Games.  The NYTimes agrees.

Despite the unoriginality of her idea and her inability to admit that she copied a superior novel, I would still recommend reading The Hunger Games. It's entertaining, light reading, and ultimately a half way decent novel.

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A photo of my Harley and I taken by my friend Katie.