Sunday, September 19, 2010

Review: Mockingjay

Mockingjay is the last book of the Hunger Games serious. The Hunger Games and Catching Fire were previously reviewed here on this blog.

Both the previous books centered around the Hunger Games, a reality-TV show where children fight to the death in a pre-set arena. The protagonist of the first two novels, Katniss, showed herself to be resourceful in both action and in terms of manipulating the audience. This last book in the series, however, broadens out our view of the battlefield, which is that of the Rebels versus the Capitol. Katniss is rescued by the Rebels and turned into a PR symbol for anger against the regime.

In many ways, this book is more "realistic" than the previous ones. You wouldn't put a 17-year old in charge of running a battle plan, for instance. For another, if you did have a unique PR symbol, you wouldn't put her in danger or allow the enemy to score a PR coup by being able to attack her. On the other hand, what this did for the novel was to neuter the protagonist, making her helpless and powerless to make decisions that actually affect her world. This made me very impatient with the book. And seriously, there's not much realism about children killing each other off in a reality TV show anyway, so I think Collins should have just given in to the fantasy.

Then there's the interaction between Katniss and the rest of the characters that we've come to care about from the previous books. I certainly did not think that her behavior towards Peeta (a love interest from the previous book) was consistent with her loyalty in the previous books. Her relationship with Gale (the other point in the romantic triangle) didn't come across as being any better. If Katniss wasn't already established as a sympathetic heroine in the previous book I would think that she's an anti-hero. She's selfish, unthinking, and seemed to spend a lot of time whining.

The action picks up in the last third of the book, but even then, it all seemed futile. Any vestiges of competence seemed to have been wiped away from the characters, as they move only to serve the plot of the book, which I stopped caring about. The finale, when it came, seemed to tie up all the loose ends, but in reality glossed away all the complications that the author introduced, implying that she had written herself into a corner and did not know what to do. The first two books of the series carried a "recommended" tag, but I can't imagine that many readers being satisfied with this ending.
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