17 May 2010

More poison games

I posted "Poison games", last night, on a momentary whim that moved from peripheral thought to keyboard without passing though critical faculties, just before going to bed. I then woke in the night to the thought that it was a pointless post: the chances of any given reader having read both novels seemed small. I resolved to take it down again this morning.

This morning, however, there are more than thirty incoming emails about the post. I obviously have more like minded readers (or, more egotistically and less credibly, more influence) than I could have imagined.

The common thread linking every one of those email responses was a suggestion that my linkage of Due preparations for the plague to one section in Catching fire is too timid and restricted. All of my correspondents suggest that there are strong parallels between Hospital's novel and the whole setting for the Hunger Games idea.

Both are built around groups of people snatched from their usual lives by an arrogant, malevolent other to live or die by criteria they cannot foresee or influence in a constrained area specifically designed for the purpose. In both cases, the other is an interaction of political forces playing games at a level where individuals are merely counters – but where individual pique can prompt the very personal torturing of a particular victim or victims. Love, loyalty, compassion, and other flashes of and humanity, manage to flicker intermittently and surprisingly through the sordid grime of both scenarios. Both ask fundamental questions about the contradictions at the heart of ordered society.

It's an interesting and compelling comparison. So, I shall leave the post in place and recommend both books to those who have not yet encountered them.

  • Suzanne Collins, Catching fire. (The Hunger Games trilogy.) 2009, New York: Scholastic Press. 9780439023498 or 0439023491
  • Janette Turner Hospital Due preparations for the plague. 2003, Pymble, NSW: Fourth Estate 0732277302 (pbk.)


David P said...

I haven't read the first Hunger Games book; would I be able to to make sense of "Catching Fire"?

Felix said...

David P: "Make sense" intellectually, definitely yes. Make sense emotionally, yes but only to an extent sufficient to follow the action and not to follow the underlying story.

As a reader, I personally feel that you would lose a lot by not beginning at the beginning. Reading the second book you will understand what; reading the first book you will fully understand why.