I lift my chin and stand as straight as I can. The cylinder begins to rise. For maybe fifteen seconds, I'm in darkness, and then I can feel the metal plate pushing me out of the cylinder, into the open air. For a moment, my eyes are dazzled by the bright sunlight and I'm conscious only of a strong wind with the hopeful smell of pine trees.
Then I hear the legendary announcer, Claudius Templesmith, as his voice booms all around me.
"Ladies and gentleman, let the Seventy-fourth Hunger Games begin!"
For a long time I kept hearing things about these books. How they were so amazing and best-sellers all over the world and rapidly becoming the new phenomenon to replace the Twilight series (good luck with that... sigh). I always knew I'd read these some day - the idea sounded fascinating and my taste (in books and in films, too) usually goes with the flow, pretty much hand in hand in the mainstream's taste.
Earlier this week I checked if the first book happened to be available at my local library. And it was! And so was the original version (I definitely prefer reading a book in English, if that's the original language. I can't remember what was the last time I read fiction in Finnish... It somehow sounds very stiff and clumsy to me)! And it wasn't on loan at the moment! And when I went to fetch it I found the second book right next to it! Knowing me and my mainstream-like taste, I borrowed it, too. Good thing I did, I'll begin with it later today. (Actually I did already. My hands felt a bit empty while I was having lunch.) I might have to buy the third one online, who knows when it'll reach our little library, since it only came out last month.
The Hunger Games takes place in the near future, in Panem - a country that rose out from the ashes of North America. Panem was divided into 13 Districts, and all was swell until the Dark Days and the rebellion of District 13. The District was destoryed, and Capitol - the central city of Panem, from where the goverment holds power over the whole country - creates the Hunger Games to demonstrate how feeble and powerless the people in the Districts are.
Every year a boy and a girl from each District is chosen to compete in the Hunger Games. The idea is simple: the contestants, called tributes, are left in a huge outdoor arena by themselves and the last one alive wins. Everything is televised, and made into a massive media event, with gambling, sponsors, stylists and interviews... prompting - or forcing - people to regard the Games as high-class entertainment.
Katniss Everdeen is a sixteen-year-old girl, living in District 12 with her mother and little sister. They lead a very simple life, living from hand to mouth. Since the death of her father, Katniss has been forced to keep the family alive, bringing the food to the table by hunting and gathering illegally outside the city walls. This has really toughed her up and taught her survival skills that will be vital for her as she ends up volunteering to be a tribute in the place of her sister. The boy tribute from her District is Peeta Mellark, who once helped Katniss' family, and so she feels she already ows him. Which of course isn't good, knowing they soon have to try and kill each other.
The Hunger Games is a real page turner, just like everyone's been saying. It's suspenseful, fascinating despite the dark and grim nature of the subject, it keeps you in its grip and makes you want to glance a page or two ahead, or the last page, just to learn how it ends and let yourself breath normally again, but you don't because you know a fastening pulse is only a good thing in a case like this and anticipation isn't always the worst part.
I grew very fond of the characters. No main character syndrome this time (meaning, I liked them unlike I often do). Katniss is very cool - fiery, termperamental, witty, smart and cabable, harded by life, but still kind-hearted and empathic under that shell. Peeta stole my heart at once, and I was glad to let him. He is just very likable without being boring. He's very sincere, yet there's always that little mystery about him. As much as I enjoyed the brutal action and surviving and struggling to stay alive, the romantic aspect of the book really worked for me, too.
The Hunger Games is a violent book, of course, but it's not gorging with the blood and murdering and dying in any way. It is a "young-adult novel", after all. It's all up to your imagination how bestial it becomes. For me, it's not the actual act of killing that is so horrifying - it's the concept, the cruelty of it all. Forcing kids kill each other. Which of course isn't fiction in some parts of our world. This actually gave Suzanne Collins the idea for the book: she was surfing the channels between a reality TV competition and actual war coverage. That's what the Hunger Games is after all - reality TV gone bad.
I haven't been hooked in a book series like this since Harry Potter, and I'm so looking forward to the following novels (not to forget the film version on the way). The first one definitely left me wanting more, and I will shamelessly let myself dive into the world of Katniss at the expense of my school work. Essays can wait, right?