May 31, 2011

[Books] Mockingjay

MockingjayThe end of any series is a tricky thing. On the one hand, you're glad that it's all coming to an end and you look forward to the resolution of all the different plot threads that have been gathering steam for the past few chapters. Then again, part of you feels bad that it's all going to be over soon and you'll have to find another series of books to follow or perhaps even another author entirely. It really depends on the situation and thus such periods are difficult times to map out.

This series was been quite the enjoyable experience for me - one that I might even return to some time in the future. Maybe it's just because I had pretty low expectations of these books when I started or other factors entirely, but in the end I have to admit I really came to appreciate these books. Collins did a pretty great job of putting things all together and in such a manner that was accessible to younger audiences without alienating older ones.

And after following the various characters across two different books, naturally it was time for everything to come together in one big finale. And Collins really decided to push the limits of where this book could go by taking us out of the comfortable pattern of the past books into explored territory.

Mockingjay is the third and final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. These young adult science fiction pieces set in post-apocalyptic Panem were written by Suzanne Collins.

After the events of Catching Fire, Katniss Everdeen finds herself in the mythical District 13. While they had all been taught to believe that the district had been burned to the ground including all of its inhabitants, in truth they had survived in vast underground complexes that now made up the home of the rebellion against the Capitol. The ending events of the last book were all set in motion in order to liberate her from the games so that she may become the Mockingjay, symbol of the rebellion and a force of inspiration for the struggling Districts trying who were now trying to overthrow their Capitol handlers.

But Katniss isn't immediately sold on what District 13's President Coin is proposing, especially given everything going on. Not everyone managed to escape after the fiasco at the games, most importantly Peeta. District 12 was now dead and gone but thankfully many residents including Gale, her mother and her sister Prim managed to escape to District 13 in time. And the whole time President Snow remains secure in the Capitol and his forces engaged in military actions against the rebelling districts.

This book really stepped up the sense of conflict at work on both the physical and emotional levels. First you have the actual rebellion, which quite literally is an armed conflict that pretty much as all of Panem in a civil war of sorts. Thus we get scenes depicting the horrors of war while at the same time trying to demonstrate the nuances of the behind-the-scenes propaganda struggle that drives wars of ideals like this.

But then there's all that Katniss has to deal with. The only home that she has ever known is lost in the war. District 13 is a completely different environment with stricter rules and other regulations given their highly militarized nature. There's the knowledge of so many of her friends such as Cinna and others already missing or perhaps dead because of the roles they all had to play in the rebellion. And of course you the constant pain caused by Peeta being held captive by President Snow and being used as a counter propaganda agent in service to the Capitol.

This photo is from the Time 100 Gala - click h...Image via WikipediaOf course on the slightly "softer" side of things, there's the whole question of Katniss' feelings for the two men in her life. Her experiences in the Arena have certainly changed the way that she looks at Peeta Mellark, but then there's her long-time best friend Gale who has always been the strong support that she's needed over the years. I'm not sure if everyone will agree with how this plot angle gets resolved, but I suppose it does make sense.

As much as the games in themselves were pretty violent, this book reminds us that the struggle for independence is no cakewalk either. Instead of the organized traps of the Arena, this time we have to deal with the rigors of war and all the vile, nearly inhuman things people end up doing just to achieve their respective goals. War does something to people, and this experience was what Collins tried to give her readers a fair taste of. While I've read far more violent depictions of war, given the context of the target audience I still think she did a rather tremendous job.

The book felt a tad long towards the end. There were a few points when I felt we could have ended the story right there, but then it had to go as far as an epilogue to try and settle things a bit further. Was it too much? That's hard to say, really. I know she wanted to give a sense of finality to the series but I'm not sure if we really got that. The lack of certain aspects of plot development at the tail end left things a bit abrupt and thus the epilogue didn't sit all too well with me. Or maybe I just didn't like who Katniss ended up choosing to be with, hehe.

Still, Mockingjay is a great book and a pretty good end to this rather daunting book series. I reiterate my thoughts how this really isn't just a young adult book and this side of the book market may prove useful for budding science fiction writers. It gets 4 striking moments of Katniss captured on camera out of a possible 5.

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