Book Review: The Hunger Games Companion

The Hunger Games Companion:  The Unauthorized Guide To The Series, by Lois H. Gresh

Although all of the movies and books of this series have come out and we may not see any future books from this series [1], this book still does a good job at showing the appeal of an unauthorized look at a series that is likely to be remembered as a classic of YA dystopian literature.  I must admit that I have some mixed feelings about this book, as I would have preferred to see an authorized version, and it feels as if this book is more than a little bit of a cash grab.  That is not to say that this book does not offer some insight into the context of the Hunger Games, but this is the sort of book that one reads knowing that someone wrote it not necessarily out of love for a series, but of some sort of knowledge that writing more books about a popular series allows one to sell copies of books and burnish one’s own reputation as a somewhat parasitic best selling author.  Perhaps that is not kind, but that is how I think of works like this, even as I read them.

In terms of its contents, this book begins with a discussion about the trilogy and what it means to survive until the end of the world.  After that the author talks about the realism of the portrayal of Panem’s repressive government, the starvation of the ordinary people of the Hunger Games, as well as the nature of the gladiators in the arena who serve as tributes.  The author spends a great deal of time talking about weapons, torture and execution, the nature of evil in President Snow and his associates as well as the damage suffered by the killer kids.  The author looks at the Hunger Games as a mirror of contemporary hype as well as having an echo of of ancient myths like Theseus and the Minotaur.  The author looks at Katniss’ instincts and strategies, the importance of medicine and poisons, as well as the realism of muttations and some more weird science of the novels.  The book c loses with two appendices, one of end-of-the-world scenarios and the other of further reading in the genre of apocalyptic and dystopian fiction.  To be sure, there is a lot to appreciate in this book and the author clearly shows her knowledge of the context of the Hunger Games and other literature like it.

So, given this, why are my feelings so mixed about this book?  Well, every chapter includes some failed predictions of the end of days, which gives the author the sense of being smug when it comes to failed predictions, especially of a religious stripe.  Then the author turns around and makes a lot of comments that suggest that she is alarmist when it comes to issues of global warming and supposed anthropogenic climate change.  The author wants to get the best of both ways, being ironic and smug when it comes to looking down on the apocalyptic follies of religious people in times past and the present day but holding to her own beliefs in the dangers of an apocalypse.  That sense of playing both sides carries its way throughout the entire book, and it makes this book a lot less enjoyable than it could have been otherwise.  It is easy to see, given the author’s desire to make herself appear to be a literary expert, that this is not the sort of book that is going to be approved by anyone involved in a series, but is written to make a quick book and try to toot the horn of the author herself, and that is more than a little bit disappointing.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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