I managed to polish this one off before bedtime! I'm now really glad that I read the book before seeing the movie because I think that the movie would have ruined it for me.
The Hunger Games was in two distinct halves for me. The first half, which involved everything leading up to the Hunger Games and then the second half being the games themselves. Pretty much everything that happens in the first half is portrayed in the film trailer so there were no surprises for me, but I had no idea what would occur in the latter half.
The first half fell down a bit for a few reasons. One was that, because of the trailer, I knew what was happening every step of the way and that obviously killed a lot of the suspense. But mostly, I felt it was because of the speed of the narrative; it really seemed like Collins was in a huge rush to get to the games and spend as little time on the preliminaries as possible. I was really interested in the world, the characters and the other pre-game elements, but all of these received only the briefest of explanations. I was actually starting to feel incredibly let down and my opinion of the book continued to slump.
I justified this by thinking that perhaps the novel was aimed at a much younger audience than myself, but even then it was still little more than the bare bones of a story.
This all turned around the moment the games commenced. While I admit that the story and prose itself is nothing ground breaking, the pace became a lot more appropriate here. With a lot of running around the same old wilderness, Collins' cut-to-the-chase tactics save us a lot of drawn out and repetitive scenes and keeps the focus honed and the energy high. Now that I think about it, there was never really a lull, which is what you would hope for in something as danger fraught at The Hunger Games. For me, unlike the first half, there was just the right amount of detail.
While the reasoning behind the ruling government holding the games didn't sit quite right with me, the games themselves are an interesting concept and I can easily see how it played right into a movie deal. Collins does a good job of not woosing out of the true nature of the games, but then simultaneously ensures that her protagonists are never caught out actually killing in cold blood. We couldn't have that, could we?
One of the best parts of The Hunger Games are the relationships between characters. Nothing is ever black or white with Katniss who is thrown into a world where everyone's true intentions are called into question. Characters such as Effie and Haymitch who at first seem hostile and little more than useless to Katniss' cause develop quite surprisingly. Best of all though is her relationship with fellow tribute Peeta which keeps us guessing right until the very end.
I did feel a genuine attachment to all of the characters portrayed and there were times that I felt overwhelmed alongside Katniss and close to tears. This evocative empathy was a strong point and highlight of Collin's work for me.
While in the end a very satisfying and fast read, I can't help but think I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if it had fallen more into the 'epic fantasy' category - if it was much longer, darker and much braver in its execution. With The Hunger Games now over, I am interested to see what the two sequels hold.