The Hunger Games prequel is completely unnecessary | Literary Arts | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Hunger Games prequel is completely unnecessary

click to enlarge Suzanne Collins - PHOTO: TODD PLITT
Photo: Todd Plitt
Suzanne Collins
Oh, the rush of pleasure that filled my body when I heard that Suzanne Collins was releasing The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, a prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy. I bought the book as soon as it hit shelves, ready to immerse myself in the land of Panem. But while I enjoyed being back in that world, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was a complete disappointment.

The prequel is written from the perspective of a young President Snow, or Coriolanus Snow, as the 10th annual Hunger Games are about to take place. It's 64 years before we meet Katniss Everdeen and her fiery persona, and The Captial is trying to figure out how to get the Districts interested in watching children murder each other. To do so, they tap the graduation class at The Capital's Academy, which Snow is part of. There is none of the flair  insane costumes, vigorous training, etc.  that is seen in the trilogy. These Hunger Games are only a shadow of what comes later.

Snow spends much of the book rationalizing the violence of the games to himself and others. He offers ideas to try and enhance the games in hopes of getting a full-ride to the University. The war between the Districts and the Captial that brought on The Hunger Games left the Snows poor and most of his motivations are driven by his family's potential loss of privilege and status.

It was interesting to see how someone thinks when they are in a position of privilege which the fear that their scope of power can be dismantled at any time. It's enhanced by the fear of outsiders, people different and less fortunate than him. It was hard not to equate the book to what is happening in our world right now, and the call for a shift of power from police and those in charge.

"Unless there's a law, and someone enforcing it, I think we might as well be animals," Snow says towards the end of the book. "Like it or not, the Capital is the only thing keeping anyone safe."

Readers aren't supposed to like Snow and his nearly sociopathic world views. I believe Collins meant to offer an alternative viewpoint to the story of resistance and uprising seen in the trilogy. But without the glimmers of hope, those moments that pull on the heartstrings, the prequel didn't sit the same way.

The best part to me was the games portion and the action to see who will win. I honestly could care less about Snow's clouded and obtuse point of view when I'm seeing the similar abuses of power in the news and media. You see the oppression grow in the prequel and it was disheartening. While it's a fictional dystopia, who's to say we aren't just a few steps away from being Panem?


Collins, though, is still a fantastic writer. She’s a master at ending a chapter with a cliff hanger and as like the rest of her works, it's engaging and well written. But the series would have been fine without adding this prequel in. It just doesn't have what gave The Hunger Games  the powerful moments, the sadness mixed with anger  its enormous success. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes seems more like a cash grab than a necessary new chapter to enrich the series.

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