The Hunger Games Trilogy is a trilogy of science fiction novels written for young adults, published between 2008 and 2010. The books take place in a dystopian North America, where the ruling city, The Capitol, punishes the outlying districts by making their children participate in the titular Hunger Games, a reality show of murderous gladiatorial combat. The books were written by Suzanne Collins, who had previously written Gregor the Overlander series, which were also fairly gritty, but nothing like the dystopian nightmare of The Hunger Games.
The books are:
- The Hunger Games: In the first book, the heroine, Katniss Everdeen, volunteers to take her younger sister's place in The Hunger Games, where she, along with her companion from District 12, a boy named Peeta, must survive in the arena. Although this book provides background on the social and political situation, the action and plot are mostly confined to the arena itself. The hinge of the plot is Katniss faking a romantic interest in Peeta to gain the support of the audience. In doing so, she unwittingly fans a rebellion.
- Catching Fire: In the second book, the rebellion that Katniss and Peeta unintentionally start heats up, and The Capitol strikes back, leading to a new wave of oppression, in a world that was already oppressed enough. Through a (somewhat unlikely) plot twist, Katniss and Peeta are forced back into the Hunger Games, which is brought to a twist conclusion as it seems a conspiracy has come about to free Katniss to head a larger rebellion.
- Mockingjay: In the third book, the world becomes much broader, and much more complicated, as various factions try to use Katniss and her associates as pawns in a bloody civil war. While the first two books had a tight, highly focused type of action, this book's geographic and emotional range is much broader. It is also even more intense and frightening then the first two.
The brief synopsis of the books hardly does them justice. There is a great many twists in the plot and action, some great images and scenes, and even a few parts that are humorous. The characterization is also well done, although the action-oriented nature of the books prevents too much introspection or character development.
The books also work on a number of levels. There is a fairly complicated and unpredictable romantic situation in them, that may not appeal to all readers. There is a large, large dose of social and political commentary, and while the books do not appear to be a polemic on any specific issue, it is certainly applicable to many current situations.
It is also interesting to note that the books are fairly straight-forward science-fiction. Those familiar with young adult works know that while fantasy seems to be a very common element, science-fiction as such is somewhat rarer. Although the books are interesting for character and plot, they also do what a good science-fiction story does: take a single concept about the application of science and extrapolate it. In some ways, much of the science mentioned in the book seems to be made of unobtanium, such as the hovercraft and genetic engineering. The single aspect of science that is explored in most depth in the novels, however, is the science of appearance. The political domination of The Capitol, and the open war between The Capitol and The Rebellion in the third books, is not directly a matter of weaponry or force. Instead, the most important tools of the war are propaganda, in many forms, both overt and covert. The lynchpin of the rebellion is the moment that Katniss appears on television, subversively wearing a symbolic dress that goads people into rebellion. In some ways, it could be seen as an exaggeration, or even slightly ridiculous, but it also seems terribly apropos in a decade when revolutions are launched over youtube and twitter.
While there are many rough spots in the books, and some things seem to be hand waved away, I think that the books will become classics of their type, read both for their explosive action, and also that they will help raise the bar for young adult books.