Sunday, August 29, 2010
My reviews never have spoilers in them, but I have to make an exception for MOCKINGJAY. If you read the first two books, my opinion is not going to keep you from reading it anyway, and if you haven’t read any of the series, well, no time like the present to get started!
So, ahem….MOCKINGJAY starts off with Katniss in District 13, which we find out went deep underground and because of its possession of nukes, was able to strike a deal with the capitol to remain off the map. President Coin wants to use Katniss as the face of the revolution, the Mockingjay. And Katniss is understandably reluctant at first. But it’s no big surprise when she agrees. But here’s the thing – I am not sure Katniss understood how much being the Mockingjay would ultimately diminish her. If you think of it in LORD OF THE RINGS/Frodo terms, Katniss carries the heaviest burden, is in fact key to bringing down the evil empire, but does it at great cost to herself. She may not sail off to the undying lands, but she is exiled back to district 12, broken in body and spirit.
At first, I questioned why Katniss wouldn’t keep fighting to take her rightful place as an architect of a new society. She’s known as “the girl on fire”, with an internal fire that’s kept her going through two Hunger Games and beyond. Why can’t she stay “Rock Star Katniss”? Doesn’t she realize that it’s better to burn out than to fade away? (I mean, seriously, aren’t they blasting Neil Young in Panem?). But beyond my Frodo comparison, I think it comes down to this: from the very first moment, Katniss was fighting for her sister more than herself. She wanted a world where Prim could grow up and be a doctor and be happy. Prim is the reason “Rock Star Katniss” existed, and though she was perfectly willing to go out in blaze of glory for Prim, when Prim died (by fire, ironically), Katniss’s fire died with it.
And that brings me to the Gale/Peeta debate. I’ve always been unabashedly #teampeeta, but have come to respect the arguments for #teamgale. I have even come to think that if Prim hadn’t have died, taking Katniss’ fire with her, Katniss might have chosen Gale – someone that could match her fire. But Prim did die, and a diminished Katniss realizes that what her battered spirit needs is healing. I’m not 100% happy with Peeta’s portrayal in book 3 (the hijacking thing was a bit much imho), and the ending/epilogue doesn’t quite sit right with me, but I can understand it. The fact that Katniss was able to be “talked into” having kids does not imply that Peeta browbeat her into it, but that they were able to heal each other enough that she could finally participate in the rebuilding again. And what says rebuilding better than having a couple of kids? (And, hey, at least “Paw Paw” Haymitch wasn’t giving Katniss’ kids piggy-back rides in the epilogue, right?)
Anyway, back to District 13 under President Coin. It’s a wild card through much of the novel. The rebels know they need 13’s help, but how much can they trust them? You see glimpses of President Coin’s ruthlessness throughout, and hints that once in power, she could be just as bad as President Snow. In CHAOS WALKING terms, she’s like Mistress Coyle to President Snow’s Major Prentiss. A lot of people accuse Katniss of being dim, but she was on to Coin, and did what she had to do to sideline her. If Katniss’ decision to say yes to the new Hunger Games surprises you, it shouldn’t. It was just her way of getting Coin to let down her guard. I thought it was a fitting reminder that just toppling one bad government does not automatically lead to a good government rising up in its place.
Again, like in the first two installments, Collins excels at world building. I could almost feel those slimy breakfast beets slithering down my throat. But I have to admit, after 2 novels full of them, I did get a bit tired of all the fancy traps and mutt-ations. It was like playing a third Hunger Games, but this time on a much larger scale and with a lot more players and victims. It was so pimped up in fact, that the last mission in the capitol goes by in a blur of ultra-violence. Frankly, it sucked that there was not even a pause to mourn Finnick – especially after we just celebrated his wedding with him. He needed to have a “Rue” moment. (And you know who especially needed a “Rue” moment?! PRIM!)
I’m definitely going to have to reread all three books carefully, but for now, I am giving MOCKINGJAY 4 Zombie Chickens (HG and CF both would get 5, if you’re wondering). It might just be that I am slightly disapointed right now because I overhyped this so much. Time will tell!
What are your thoughts on Mockingjay?