Tuesday, 18 October 2011
A dystopian young adult novel and R.I.P.
by Suzanne Collins
Last week I finally got round to reading The Hunger Games, a disturbing dystopia tale set in a world of persecution and exploitation, where reality television is carried to its frightening and entirely logical conclusion. In this world, what was once North America has been transformed into an exploitative dictatorship where the society is divided into districts based on what they produce, those districts are then forced each year to send two of their young residents to participate in what is the society's equivalent of gladiatorial games. A ritual designed to maintain fear and control in a subjugated society.
The main character, Katniss volunteers to take her younger sister's place when she is selected as one of district twelve's two tributes. The idea of young tributes selected and sent to appease the capital's appetite for violence is very reminiscent of the classical Greek tale of the Minotaur, where Athens is forced to send tributes to Crete to appease the blood lust of the monster but even by classical standards this is a bloody and violent tale. This is a world where each district must send two tributes each, a boy and a girl, chosen from amongst their youngest and most vulnerable members to be transported to a unique arena to literally fight to the death, forced to kill each other not only in order survive themselves but also in order to ensure the safety of their communities and families back home, and all of this dramatic violence is televised for the entertainment of the capital and the society at large, a kind of Logan's Run for this generation, or a televised Lord of the Flies, Survivor with real consequences.
This is a dark and dramatic, if essentially simple tale, Collins throws in some romance in a love story, sub plot between the two adolescents from district twelve but even this romance is something the capital essentially seeks to exploit for entertainment. Mutation and genetic engineering also feature within this dystopian mythology. The big brother themantics of 1984 are also a feature of this dark thriller. Certainly this is a very pacy narrative, one that grabs the reader and demands their continued attention until the very end, the end of this book is, however, not the end, as the story continues into two more titles making up a trilogy, I must admit I am intrigued to know how Collings will resolve this dark drama. Will the districts rebel and ultimately overthrow the capital or will the story continue at the merely personal level? This is an interesting young adult title, interesting for the dark nature of the story line as much for the gripping quality of the narrative. Collings effectively draws the reader into Katniss'world making this a very diverting novel, compelling and hard to escape.
I have not yet read my second R.I.P. novel and while I have a couple of books on the shelves that might satisfy the criteria, I think I could safely count The Hunger Games as a R.I.P. title, certainly it is a thriller and a kind of dark fantasy set as it is a disturbing dystopian future where the state forces children to kill while it also engineers monsters to add to the bloody drama of their conflicts.