There is nothing particularly original in The Hunger Games. After all, it is a case of Running Man meets Lord of the Flies. Still, it isn’t which story you chose to tell, but how you tell it . . .

Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games may clock in at 374 pages (albeit typeset in a widely spaced Adobe Garamond Pro font) but it is the sort of book you easily devour within a day or two, a testament to just how slickly it is written. Set in a post-collapse near future in which America is now called Panem and based more on ancient Rome than anything the Founding Fathers may have in mind.

Panem is a technologically advanced central district which rules over 12 outlying poorer districts following a devastating civil war. Each year Panem reminds the other districts just exactly who won the civil war 70 years ago with the so-called Hunger Games: children between the age of twelve and eighteen are randomly chosen to fight each other to the death on live TV until only one victor remains.

The story is narrated by sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen who lives in one of the poorer districts along with her younger sister and single mother. When her sister “wins” the lottery to fight in the Hunger Games, Katniss steps in as a substitute for her. For Katniss life is a harsh battle for survival in any case: she is a poacher who is quite handy with a bow and arrow, a skill which means a lot in the arena of death that is the Hunger Games.

The movie rights for Hunger Games have been, er, hungrily snatched up by Lionsgate in “a highly competitive environment” as one news article puts it. Author Suzanne Collins is currently busy on the screenplay. It is easy to see why Hollywood producers would be keen on making a movie out of The Hunger Games. It may not be particularly original, but the book is an action-packed page turner and one can easily see it being filmed for relatively cheap in those same Canadian woods that always double as alien planets in Stargate episodes.

It’s Predator-lite, but should make a welcome respite from over-stylized testosterone drenched straight-to-video efforts in which muscled-bound idiots beat each other senselessly. (Not that we have too much of a problem with that . . .) After all, the contestants in the Hunger Games are innocent young kids and teens, not battle-hardened vets. (Although there are some “professional” participants who are the villains of the piece – Hunger Games roots for the weakling underdogs.)

All of which brings us to one big problem though, at least from a Hollywood point of view. The Hunger Games falls under the “young adult” banner and unlike many similar efforts in this genre or category it doesn’t short change its intended audience. It is a thrilling read, and the fact that its protagonists are children makes it all the more poignant. It however breaks unwritten Hollywood Commandment # 1: No harm shall befall small children or dogs.

Making the kids somewhat older will solve the problem from a Hollywood point of view, but will also probably make them more unsympathetic. Then The Hunger Games will be a sci-fi version of Scream or any other teen slasher flick in which we get to see hubba-hubba teens get killed off. It will also rob the story of its pathos and make The Hunger Games yet another shallow Gamer . . . a tough wire act for any film-maker!

Anyway, The Hunger Games is only the first part of a trilogy, the third book of which will be released on August 24, 2010. How interesting the Katniss leading a rebellion against Panem storyline will be in future installments I can’t really say, but considering what a bang-up job author Collins did with The Hunger Games’ hackneyed Most Dangerous Game plot this is one “trilogy” we wouldn’t mind reading or see getting made into a movie franchise . . .



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