The movie version of The Hunger Games has opened to great popular acclaim. (In my more cynical moments, I view the concept's popularity as the unspoken naughty wish that a real-world Survivor would have real-world non-survivors.) I had occasion to read the first book, and skimmed through the next two over coffee at Borders (before Borders went away), but read neither of those carefully enough to include them in the Fifty Book Challenge. Now comes Lois Gresh with The Hunger Games Companion. It's explicitly written for younger readers, and Book Review No. 8 will accordingly cut the author a great deal of slack for not attempting a rigorous treatment of the social dynamic by which a rise in the oceans and unspecified other fractures of the social order lead to the emergence of a tyranny with the most primitive division of labor and the most degenerate of ruling classes. (It's unlikely that even the most imaginative Marxist could visualize the accumulation and repression that would lead to such contradictions, without perpetual crises of the existing order.) Companion is more successful in explaining to readers that many of the nasty features of the Hunger Games world existed -- in the case of tributes, in mythology; gladiatorial combat, in Rome; instruments of torture, ubiquitous; explosives disguised as toys, Soviet Union in Afghanistan (oops, missed opportunity, not the only one!) The author notes a number of other oddities in the post-apocalyptic world, including the absence of religion or prayer, and the probably shrunken population. All the children of the coal mining district can be assembled in one town square for the lottery: perhaps the coal mining district is modelled on a Soviet corrective labor camp? The book might have some value in the middle school classroom as supplementary reading in social studies. The political economy of the Hunger Games world remains a topic for research.
(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)