Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Hunger Games Companion: The Unauthorized Guide to the Series by Lois H. Gresh

With the Release of the new "Hunger Games" movie, the series has exploded worldwide. It seems like everyone is reading the books, and this book attempts to explore the world of the books in more detail, linking it to both the past of our world and our possible future.

What exactly was the cause of the world of the Hunger Games and Panem being the way that it is. Was it a nuclear war? An environmental disaster? Or something else? Gresh explores other post-apocalyptic worlds and how the world of Panem resembles that of Ancient Rome, with want in the outlying sreas, whereas in Rome itself, decadence and overeating abound.

Panem itself means "Bread", as in the ancient Roman cure for unrest, Panem et Circensies, or "Bread and Circuses", with the Roman elite keeping the poor in line with a free grain dole and entertainments, like the bloody gladatorial games held in the Circus Maximus and other Amphitheatres throughout Rome and the Provinces. But in the world of the Hunger Games, that idea is married with our modern-day spectacles, that of "Reality Television" and shows like "The Greatest Race" and "Survivor" in the way that the contestants on these shows are groomed beforehand, and eliminated throughout the life of the show. While elimination in game shows now doesn't mean that the people get killed, in Ancient Roman times, gladatorial games did only end with the death of either the opposing gladiator, or of the animals he was being paid to kill. The more death, for the ancient Romans, the better.

And just like in Ancient Rome, the Hunger Games are also meant to kill every participant but one- and these are supported not only by the government of Panem, but the parents and families of the various tribunes. The suthor looks at every aspect of Panem society, including the problem of Evil- are the authorities of Panem evil? Is the entire society of Panem evil? And what about the effects of killing and having to kill other children on the participants in the Hunger Games? Is the deep depression Katniss falls into realistic, along with the portrayal of her as a drug addict after her experiences in the Hunger Games and the Fourth Quarter Quell? Why does she vote to continue the Hunger Games after Coin becomes President?

These and other questions are examined very thoroughly throughout the book, and the idea of an Apocalypse is also examined, along with "End of the World" type panics, and how people have so often been wrong when it comes to the timing of the End of the World.

The science of the various drugs known to Katniss, her mother, and the other inhabitants of Panem and the districts is examined in detail, and the scientific concepts between the tacker jacker venom, the muttations, and other aspects of the books are all tied to scientific fact and how things work in the real world. It's a fascinating look at how well-constructed the world of Panem is, and why there is no contact with other nations- as well as why many of the scientific advances we take for granted today, like cellphones and computers, are no more.

This is an interesting, well-constructed book that examines everything in the world of Panem, from the kind of starvation diet that the people of the districts are subsisting on (if all you have is bread and cheese, and you consider that a "feast", you are likely not eating all that much daily), to the kind of luxuries that the people of Panem enjoy on a daily basis. I found the book fascinating, and very enjoyable, but occasionally overly long-winded. Recommended.

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