Thursday, September 16, 2010

Recent Read - Hunger Games Series

This will be a review (which I believe is spoiler-free) of The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Mockingjay has mixed reviews with strong reactions, but I will not get into specifics in mine. Rather, I am doing a simple rundown of what I think Suzanne Collins did right. As Katniss says, list the goodness.

(The art on the left is something I drew a while back.)

Why I appreciate The Hunger Games:

1) It's entertaining, gets right to the point, and most chapters end with a punch.

2) It's got great world-building. Collins give Panem and the Capitol and districts fine detail WITHOUT going on a long tangent about the backstory. She picks the right information to convey. The world has its own distinct visual style, names, and symbolism that all tie together nicely.

3) The Hunger Games is focused. (Even the book cover!) It's got a theme, and that's the Hunger Games itself. From the start, Collins constrains the story and characters down to the Games. They are thrown in one conceptual pot, and there, in their little fishbowl, they create an interesting story as different scenarios and symbols about the Game unfolds.

4) It's visual. A lot of the fun for me was being able to imagine Katniss' fire dress in great detail, seeing each scene as if it were a movie, and I can imagine exactly how the citizens of Capitol look like...and sound like. Speaking of which, Collins uses visual contrast to separate Panem from the Capitol. The Capitol is colorful, while the District workers are grayed.

As an artist, I really appreciate the focus on theme, constraint, and visual clarity. Her process of crafting this story made a lot of sense to me.

5) It didn't sugar-coat anything. The romance was sparse and the war was unglorified. By the way, my least favorite theme of all is war. I think too many movies, for example, use war...whether it's about Alice and Wonderland (the CG one), Avatar, Harry Potter, or that upcoming CG owl movie...somehow, everything is about war and about the grand final battle at the end. That's one thing I'm extremely tired of. Personally, forcing myself to not write about war has made me a better storyteller. In any case, though the war aspect of Hunger Games didn't interest me, I did appreciate the fact that Collins didn't put in the heroic sparkles and cheers and glorified battles and what have you. She portrayed it as it is.

I once complained that Hunger Games wasn't "hardcore" enough...but I think Mockingjay squelched my complaint. It's exciting to see an edgy, sci-fi book for young adults - a category we don't see too often these days - do so well. And it's a category I love to work in.

My favorites were the first two books. And my favorite character? Peeta, of course! Second, Johanna.

If you've finished Mockingjay, you probably feel worn out, tired, and perhaps in the mood to stare at the ceiling for a bit...That's how I felt.

Listen to this...it's a great closure song (thanks, Jennifer!) :




--Realm

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