The ruins of North America have been transformed into the totalitarian state of Panem: twelve districts, in abject poverty, surround the utopian Capitol, a centre of glamour and decadence. In repentance for a past rebellion, every year each district is forced to offer up two of their children to fight to the death in the televised Hunger Games, for the enjoyment of the Capitol citizens.
This is the backdrop for Suzanne Collins' novel The Hunger Games, now a Hollywood film and a huge success, as she follows the strong heroine Katniss Everdeen and her exploits in the Capitol's twisted games.
Intricate, intense, poignant, and quite relevant: the story is entirely fantasy. Yet, in a lesser sense, it holds some resonance with modern Western society. There does seem to be a touch of satire throughout.
A Socialist Party member described it as "capitalism on speed"; the lucky few get richer and richer, while the millions are buried in insolvency. Couldn't that apply to both worlds, fantasy and real? Panem is a far greater extremity, certainly, but the parallel - however small - is there. The later books see the districts in rebellion. Perhaps it's time we did the same.