I love dystopian stories, almost as much as I love hard science fiction about the singularity. I could not get enough of books like 1984, A Clockwork Orange, The Immortals, Ubik, Brave New World, Animal Farm, and Fahrenheit 451 during my formative years as a young adult. So, I had some curiosity about the Hunger Games Trilogy. This series is targeted to young adults and explores a lot of the same ideas. I read it while traveling to Portland (on the Kindle, but more about that later). It’s the first “Young Adult” literature I’ve read (to my knowledge) since Harry Potter, so I may just not be particularly calibrated, as a warning..
The trilogy reads as a bildungsroman that pulls elements of 1984, near singularity science fiction, and Lord of the Flies. I don’t know if it’s a characteristic of the target audience or what, but I found most of the thing extremely predictable, and a lot of the “surprises” were telegraphed and foreshadowed to the point where it gives you a headache. I think Collins was attempting to create the same sense of dilemma and chaos in the reader’s mind as she’s trying to illustrate in her world, but I just found it a little verbose and heavy-handed. That said, Collins does a good job of not trying to be so brutal in beating you over the head with allegory, and leaves some thoughts up to the reader, which is encouraging.
The unbundling of the story in the terminal novel seems a bit protracted and awkward; I don’t get the sense that Collins had the conviction to really take the story anywhere. The loose ends that get tied up feel like they’ve been hacked together at best. The ideas explored by the last novel are interesting, but the novel itself is not particularly compelling.
The series is science fiction, no more realistic than Harry Potter, but some of the ideas in it about war and its effects on youth are interesting. Still, I find myself thinking back to the novels I read as a young adult. I feel that there was some depth of thought and quality of prose versus this young adult literature, and that the ultimate experience was more enriching and satisfying.
Trying to calibrate my expectations to young adult levels (and perhaps this is a flaw in my approach; should they just be judged as adult novels), I would give the series a 7, I think. Individual novels would be a 7, 8, and 5, in that order. The last book had the promise to be the most interesting in terms of ideas, but was pretty much a disaster in execution.