Over the last week or so I have been caught up in a story... Suzanne Collins’ distopian view of the future called “the Hunger Games”.
It was a novel recommended to me by both my wife and my eldest daughter... both loved it... both obsessed with it... and, after a small amount of persuasion, I read it too.
The plan was to finish the novel before watching the film - I finished the book on Monday night and we then watched the film as a family on Tuesday night.
I loved it. It was my kind of science fiction... the best kind... the kind the *could* happen if we let it. It disturbed me and challenged me... mostly because I saw its truth... it's possibility... it's almost inevitability.
The themes of Reality TV, oppressive governments ruling with an iron fist, and the battle-to-the-death of “tributes” have all been covered before... but I don’t think Collins’ has plagiarised any of these themes. Yes, I can see the comparison with “Battle Royale” and I do believe she has tapped into the same collective fear with her idea... but I see something different about this story... about the decadence of the elite and the destitution of the rest... that sets it apart.
The theme of Reality TV has been covered in “The Running Man” too... but, again, I see Collins tapping into a collective idea rather an ripping off anyone.
She has seen a possible future... one that could come true if we were to let it... just as Stephen King did when he wrote his novel.
I view Collins’ story as being a wonderful critique of Western culture at the moment... our obsession with “celebrity” and of violence... our obsession with our vanity whilst folks in the rest of the world can only obsess with what their next meal is.
I guess this is why I loved it so. It was a return to sci-fi as social critique... in the same class as the original “Planet of the Apes” or “Silent Running”. Films that challenged convention and made you think.
This is why I happily encouraged my daughter to obsess about it... I hope the message gets through to her: the need for justice and equality... the need for a Government to fear her people rather than for the people to fear their Government... the need for collaboration rather than just competition.
Most importantly I want her to know that hope can and does win out in the end. As President Snow says... “Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear.” And it is. We need this message to be told. We live in a climate of perpetual fear... and it is only hope that can help us change.
We need new stories that remind us of these timeless truths... that can and do help us to change. We don’t just need old stories rehashed... and we don't need any more reminiscing about the past. What we need is authors who see the world in which we live in and can take our preoccupations and our oversights to their natural conclusions... or further... the ends that we may meet if we don't keep these preoccupations and oversights in check.
Suzanne Collins has done just this and I welcome her contribution. “the Hunger Games” was my kind of sci-fi and I would heartily recommend it... albeit it may be too much for someone under 12.