“Bread and Circuses” – Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I was pleasantly surprised by this book.  One of the many benefits of my joining the blogging community this year is that I’ve been made aware of many more books than in previous years.  This book, and the Hunger Games Series was frequently touted by the book blogs that I browse.  It’s another YA book (I seem to have read a lot of them this year: Beastly, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Twilight, etc.) that is told in the first person by a young, teenaged girl.  Maybe hard for me to relate to – but this was a good, quick-moving story that held my attention.

Described in one place online as “Gladiator meets Project Runway” (well, that’s catchy but not really accurate), it is a “dystopian novel” set in a future North America, where the tyrannical capital city oppresses twelve provinces (“Districts”) that once had the audacity to rebel, an action that reduced the number of districts from thirteen to twelve.  As punishment, there is an annual “Hunger Games” where two youths (one boy, one girl) from each district are chosen (by a complicated lottery) to participate in a battle to the death (nice central government, huh?).  The result is an imaginative story which, though not wholly original in concept, is very well done (reminiscent of, for example, the Theseus & the Minotaur myths, with similarities to the gladiator contests of ancient Rome, with bloodthirsty tv audiences – think of the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, The Running Man.  I was also reminded of the classic Shirley Jackson short story, The Lottery).

Oh, and the term “Bread and Circuses” comes down to us from the original satirist, Decimus Junius Juvenalis (commonly known as Juvenal) who lived in the 1st & 2nd Century A.D. who lamented that the once great Roman populace who “once bestowed commands, consulships, legions, and all else, now meddle no more and long eagerly for just two things – bread and circuses.”  Read “gladiatorial games” for circuses.  This is a sentiment those in the Capital City of “Panem” (the fictional country in these novels) would be familiar with.  In fact (wow) I just realized that panem is the latin word for bread, as in “panem et circenses”… I’m sure that’s intentional.  At least I think I am.

below: a close-up of Katniss’s “Mockingjay” pin.  In the novels, the Mockingjay is a new species of bird, resulting from the unintended breeding of the government’s genetically engineered “Jabber Jays” and female Mockingbirds.

The book is the first of three in the series, followed by Catching Fire (which I’ve already downloaded and begun reading) and Mockingjay, which was released just over a month ago, and for which the buzz about pointed me to Hunger Games.  I won’t spoil any more of the plot in this post, but I would recommend it as an entertaining and diverting read, no matter what your age.

Author Suzanne Collins

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9 Comments

  1. Alex said,

    September 30, 2010 at 5:54 am

    “Gladiator meets Project Runway” LOL! That’s precious! I though the Hunger Games were the embodiment of a page turner.

    Maybe not Nobel worthy, plenty of faults, but pure entertainment! Looking forward to your thoughts on the other two in the series. I finished the last one recently.

  2. Dale Barthauer said,

    September 30, 2010 at 6:52 am

    All my kids love these books! I haven’t gotten around to reading them, yet.

  3. stentorpub said,

    October 3, 2010 at 6:56 am

    I’m almost done with the second one now. Hope to be finished before the NFL games start kicking off today…

    I probably won’t post on Catching Fire individually, just write up something when I’m done with the whole trilogy.

  4. Ann Marie said,

    October 11, 2010 at 11:57 am

    As you noted in your other post, I finished this book in record time. That was partly because I couldn’t put it down. It was creative and I couldn’t predict what would happen next (for the most part). I especially liked the strong, young heroine who didn’t waste time mooning over boys (a la Twilight) but simply did what needed to be done.

    I still prefer the character of Lisbeth from the “Girl Who” books to Katniss, the main character of the Hunger Games trilogy. I think that is because Lisbeth was more proactive whereas Katniss spends most of her time reacting to what is occurring around her. In addition, I love Lisbeth’s moral code.

    I have passed them on to Katie and expect that she will also enjoy the books.

  5. stentorpub said,

    October 11, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Good point – in regards to Katniss not “mooning over boys (a la twilight)” I think this series has often been compared to The “Twilight Saga” (Saga?!? Certainly some Norse Hero is turning over in his grave at that!) due to the popularity of the series, but also due to the main character in each being a young girl, and each having to make a choice between two potential lovers.

    You already know I’m a Lisbeth Salander guy. I’d much rather go out with her than someone like Katniss. (Though I’m sure she wouldn’t rather go out with ME…) :-)

  6. stentorpub said,

    October 11, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    P.S. I’ll be curious to hear how Katie likes them. I’m sure you’ll let me know :-)

  7. Ann Marie said,

    October 11, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    The fact that there are two potential lovers is the only similarity I see between the two series, although I am probably being overly harsh. I would have preferred the Twilight series if they had cut out the teenage angst and relationship drama and just made it about vampires. I thought the Bella character was a pathetic, weak female who made her life all about a man. I much prefer Katniss who went through life being independent and equals with the men. (Often she almost seemed to be simply “tolerating” them!) Lisbeth is on a whole other level. I want to be her!

  8. stentorpub said,

    October 12, 2010 at 5:40 am

    it may be time for me to finally read the rest of the Twilight books. I feel my “cultural literacy” (or at least my pop-culture literacy) slipping again.

    Speaking of Lisbeth Salander, I wonder if there has been any movement or progress with the idea of ghost writing any additional books. Rumor had it that Larsson had outlined several more. I’m not sure how I would feel about that, though.

    AND think of how much Lisbeth could’ve done for the rebellion in Hunger Games. I mean, Beetee was a competent “hacker” but he was no Lisbeth. And I’m sure she could have carried out a more just end for the evil President Snow…

  9. Ann Marie said,

    October 12, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I do not know how many of the Twilight books you finished, but if you can get past all the relationship “crap” (over which I often simply skimmed) the story line is pretty interesting. There is also a novella out there “The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner” which is very interesting. It takes a minor character from Eclipse and gives a background story for her. It was very cleverly done. The character was so minor that I had to pull out Eclipse to remind myself who she was.


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