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Shelf Indulgence

Books. Reviews.

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Aftermath
Chuck Wendig
Dhalgren
Samuel R. Delany
Jackals
Charles L. Grant

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games - Suzanne  Collins I think it would have been relatively impossible for me not to have read this series after learning about it. It's a dystopian-future science fiction series about rebellion, with honest characters, a solid plot, and enough action sequences to (I'm sure) draw a lot of offers from Hollywood to adapt it. What surprises me is that I hadn't heard of it until the last book came out, about a week ago. That I finished the entire series in that time speaks a lot to how good the novels are.

Aside from the well-drawn characters, the addicting plot, and the tense action sequences, the story has a strong sense of immediacy to it, in part because it's told in the first person, in the present tense. This helps establish the tension of the story, and it helps draw the reader in. Had the author chosen to write the novel in the first person past tense, then it would be clear that the narrator is telling events that she's survived; by placing the narrative in the first person, it removes that certainty and keeps the reader guessing. And guess you will! Chances are, though, you won't be right. I can't relate the number of times I thought I knew what was going to happen, only to have the author prove me wrong.

The author wastes no time in creating the setting. This dystopia of a United States in the future where the population has been decimated, reducing it to 12 districts commanded by a fierce Capitol helps create the key elements of the theme. The main character, Katniss, lives in a district where life is hard, and deaths due to starvation are common; the Capitol is depicted as a cruel place of money and excess, where the torments of those from the lower districts become a form of entertainment for the population. This setting clearly establishes the theme of the series, but even then, the author will play with your expectations. Beyond that, I will say no more about the stories.

Why? Because I went into all three novels without a clue as to what they were about. All I knew about Mockingjay was that it was the final volume in a popular series, and that it was set in a dystopian future. That was enough to get me interested, so I didn't bother getting any details about the main plot. I've talked about this particular habit before, so I won't bore you with why I do it, but rest assured: The less you know about this story, the better.

I highly recommend this series. Yes, it's dark, and might be a little too much for more sensitive readers, but even then, the story, theme, and message of this series is important enough for me to try to get as many people as possible to read this book. If nothing else, people who enjoyed Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series should really enjoy this one.