Faces of Death," or "Grand Theft Auto" served the same purpose in our contemporary society as the gladiatorial contests served for the Romans, and the public execution of witches served for the residents of Salem. This was the post-modern version, watching not the real thing, but a reification, a projection of violence in order to vicariously experience the animal impulses that humans repress because because they are forbidden by law (and often counter to the survival of the species). Of course, throughout human history, we have made exceptions.
Suzanne Collins is addressing all of these issues. In her terrifying dystopia, we have returned to the real thing, putting children from each "district" in an arena to fight to the death, or to die of starvation or other causes in the process. This is all broadcast across the nation, like the ultimate in reality television. Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of the story, volunteers to take the place of her younger sister, Prim, who is drawn to participate in the games. As a career, illegal hunter, she possesses many of the needed skills to be successful in the games. She, however, lacks the desire to kill, or the lack of compassion of many of her fellow players.
I thought that the games themselves were going to be a rip off of the fabulous Battle Royal; however, these games really drew from many sources, including Ancient Rome. Often when I read futuristic, dystopic novels, I become really focused on learning what has happened to turn the world upside down (hello, The Road). In this book, I was so engaged in the story and found the characters so realistically drawn, that I didn't even question the authenticity of the setting and situation.
Bottom Line: I thought that this would be a quick, young adult read that I would enjoy and then sell back to the used bookstore. However, I think that this is one that I might keep on my shelf. I would highly recommend it and I'm going to pick up the second (and probably third) in the series tomorrow.