On Sunday, amid mounting curiosity and peer pressure (oh, and that direct order from my boss, complete with a copy of the book), I finally broke down and read The Hunger Games. So now, just a week after brazenly declaring that I knew nothing about The Hunger Games, I can now claim to know quite a bit about the first book in the series. I still haven't seen the film (that will change tonight), but there were quite a few things about the book that I found surprising. Here are six misconceptions I had about The Hunger Games before reading the book.
Over the past few months, several people have taken it upon themselves to explain to me, in exhaustive detail, the backstory of the Hunger Games. Which is something that the book does not do. I mean, yes, there's a short description of the 13 districts that formed after North America collapsed. And we are told that the Hunger Games was set up to punish the districts for their failed uprising against the capital. But, really, that's about it. There's no real mention of the rest of the world or whether there's a working United Nations that strongly opposes the slaughter of children. To be honest, I think this is all for the best. No matter how much you like these books, the premise is a tad far-fetched (obviously), and the less we know about it, the easier it is to accept. It's also nice that we don't get too bogged down in boring nonsense too early. In fact, the pacing is so fast right from the start that I was surprised by the ...
I read this book in one day. So there's no denying that it flows pretty smoothly. But, boy, does it come to a screeching halt about two-thirds of the way through - which is not what I expected at all. I mean, the final third should be the exciting part, right? I assumed it would take some time to get going, but the book does a pretty great job of sucking a reader in immediately. What's surprising (without giving too much away) is that, once the game is down to four players, for some reason the book runs out of gas. I can only assume that Collins' goal was to flesh out the romantic angle in the book, but, good lord, I feel like I'm still hiding in that cave. And the story about the goat that Katniss bought for her sister? I mean, one full true story, followed by a full made-up story for the capital's cameras, just killed the momentum. Speaking (carefully) of the ending ...
First of all, I am deathly afraid of wasps. I could have happily gone the rest of my life not knowing what a tracker jacker is. Regardless, yes, there is some back-story on genetic mutations, which I had no idea was part of this story. But then, with three tributes left, there's that turn of events (If you've read the book, you know the one I'm talking about), and it's pretty ridiculous and completely took me out of the story. In a, "what, wait, wait... where did this all come from?," sort of way. I can only hope the movie either (A) changes this or (B) presents it in a less ridiculous way. Because I'm very skeptical that the scenario, as presented in the book, can work onscreen.
I had been warned that The Hunger Game is very gory. "They're murdering children!" True. And it is disturbing, but the book is fairly light on gore. Descriptive gore, at least. Put it this way: I had been warned so many times, I was concerned that I was getting myself into some sort of American Psycho (the book) situation -- which is a very hard book to read. All in all, Suzanne Collins' novel, for the most part, spares the gruesome details. Actually, the most gruesome scene turns out to be a hallucination.
I have no desire to read Catching Fire. I'm not saying that I won't, but it's odd to feel that way, since Collins is so good at writing cliffhangers that I generally couldn't wait to flip from the end of one chapter to the beginning of the next. But the cliffhanger at the end of the book, if there is one, hinges on the romance, which was the least interesting part of the book to me. And the other dangers that are hinted at come to nothing -- at least in this installment.
Books Versus Film
Everybody knows that the book is usually better than the film. However! There's great source material here that just screams "movie!," and, with some (needed) tweaks, I believe this can be adapted into something very special indeed. (I know reviews for the film have been positive, but I have yet to read one in full.) This may be that rare case where the movie ends up being better than the book.
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com and GQ.com. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter