I read the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins yesterday recognizing that I am way behind the times on this one. The book is already four years old and millions of others have already experienced it. The movie has already been made (We actually tried to see it a while ago, but that’s a whole other story). While I enjoyed the book, it reminded me of the words of Ecclesiastes 1:9:
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
The Hunger Games really feels like a spin-off of Richard Bachmann’s Long Walk. Richard Bachmann is a pseudonym used by Steven King. The Long Walk was published in 1979 and was, I think, groundbreaking, because it looked at reality TV, which was not as pervasive as it is today, and took it to a deadly extreme. Bachmann’s story also has young people, representing their communities, competing to the death. It also ends on a note of defiance to an oppressive and disconnected culture seeking thrills at the expense of others. Of course, Collins has the advantage of being able to imagine a broader array of believable technology just by ramping up the advances of the last thirty years. Ever present video and tracking implants along with environments that could be modified to suit the Gamemakers, were not part of the 1979 world Bachmann was writing from.
When I first read The Long Walk, over twenty years ago, it had a real impact on the way that I thought about technology and entertainment. Bachmann (King) had joined a few dots in our time and drawn a line that ended in a world we could arrive at. Collins contribution to the genre doesn’t seem so outlandish today as Bachmann’s did then. The world of reality TV continues to look for more dangerous and difficult challenges to hold the attention of audiences and advertisers. Video games have made the hunt and the kill a regular occurrence on desktops and living rooms everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book. It was a quick read. I liked the characters. There was a nice level of tension, an unresolved love triangle, and a satisfying ending. It’s just that I felt like I had read it before.