Wednesday, 4 January 2012
While trying not to give too much away (although someone's making a movie of the first book now, so I guess the premise is pretty easy to come by) I have to say that the series really made me think. The first book is mainly about man's inhumanity to man, and also how you can NEVER TRUST THE MEDIA! Seriously, I'll never watch television the same again. It was like reading a Ben Elton book, only with death instead of sarcasm. In the second and third books it becomes more about what happens when you upset the status quo, the emotional and psychological toll violence and hardship takes on people and how it changes them. The end chapters of the final book were really quite sad and poignant because while we see (some of) the characters go on to live out their lives, we also find out that they're so irreparably damaged by what they've experienced that they are unable to enjoy the freedom they fought for. Even grimmer is the fact that in some ways they have taken on the very characteristics that angered them to the point of rebellion earlier on in the series - they have become the kind of people they were trying to beat. You see several characters make a decision about whether or not to treat the losing side the same way they were treated at the beginning of the books. The motivation is partially to make them understand what they did, but mostly it is revenge. Some vote Yes, some No, and it is genuinely hard to blame those that agreed.
I am very fortunate to live in a country which hasn't seen war on it's own land for over sixty years, but it's happening in other places as I type this, and it would be very naive to think that it will never happen here again. I wonder what atrocities will we stoop to when it happens, and how the victors will treat the defeated side in the aftermath. At the end of every conflict there has to be a delicate balance of justice and mercy to account for those wronged, but also provide the conditions for a peaceful future to grow, but when it's your own neighbours or family who have been hurt it must be extremely difficult to be objective. Take the gap between the First and Second World Wars; the Allied powers got that balance wrong, bringing Germany to it's knees in a combination of debt and shame that contributed to the economic depression and starvation of the 1920s. That desparation in turn paved the way for a more radical leader who claimed he could restore his people's wellbeing and pride. Which he did. It was just a shame that he also wanted his own revenge too, not to mention dictatorship over the free world. Oops.
Not that history is ever that simple to dissect, but the anger of one set of people leads to anger in another, and soon events begin to spiral out of control. I think it might take the end of the world before we break that cycle.