I don’t read very much fiction. My reading list of business, self-help, and US history tends to be long enough that its only occasionally that the pressure of society (or my wife) is strong enough to get me to pick up the newest critically acclaimed novel. When this does happen I read them with a different motivation or intention than I suspect most people do. I don’t crave or desire entertainment from any of my reading. Even with fiction, I want to be inspired and educated and the best fiction stories do both.
Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins made up a story that still has my head spinning even a few days after finishing. Intending to tell you enough to inspire, while holding back enough to prevent from spoiling the story, is a challenge I’m willing to tackle.
For me, this is above all else a story about the nature of humanity, the human need for power, and the individual struggle of discovery one’s identity, deeper purpose and place in the games of life. The story is different from many of the traditionally popular literary epics that tell a story of Good VS Evil (Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc). In The Hunger Games the good guys and bad guys are not so easily discernible and this turns out to not be a story about a triumph over evil.
The story tackles the age old debate around the sanctity of human life. How easily we justify the taking of life in order to save a greater number of lives. “The Greater Good” debate has allowed mankind to justify monstrous acts as well as smaller more evil acts as well. It is indeed a fuzzy place where man tries to justify the loss of life and yet we know that it often must be in order to maintain the freedom of others. In the Hunger Games, the Capital City of the country conducts these games of death in order to keep the various districts in check against a potential war and uprising. When the war comes the good guys don’t think twice about the death they have to inflict in order to restore freedom. This seemingly cold position between the rock and the hard place forces the lead character to question the sanity of both sides of the debate.
The author does such a good job of pulling us into the lead character to understand and identify with her humanly flawed personality. We go on a journey of self discovery as she (Katniss) tries to understand survival, love, and purpose. This led me to consider how many people in our world truly don’t know what their own deeper purpose really is. As Katniss attempts to understand who she is and what she must do she becomes indefinitely lost in trying to understand WHY she is. What is her deeper purpose in life. As she discovers her purpose she begins to understand what she must do and how she must do it. It is the same for each of us.
I read all three books in December of 2013 and while I enjoyed the story as a whole I was often frustrated or crushed. These are signs of being sucked into a powerful read. The story wasn’t perfect. It had its flaws, and as it turned out, was never meant to have a happy ending. I’m not sure if it inspired me. It made me think about some critical ideas and questions and I suppose that is enough. On the bad side the last book is bound to leave the reader broken. You become so invested into the characters that you can’t help but feel empty and lost when the book details the breaking of the lead characters followed by an epilogue of only a few pages that leaves you to imagine a semi-fuzzy return to life by the same.