Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Index

MOCKINGJAY

A novel by Suzanne Collins (2010, Scholastic Press)
Book 3 of The Hunger Games Trilogy

Recruited by the rebels into rousing the districts against the Capitol, a shell-shocked Katniss starts to wonder if humanity will learn from its past.

 

 

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Read June 10th to July 2nd, 2016, in hardcover  
    When I read this book for the second time, I’d already seen the movies a couple of times. It’s amazing how much more the books offer compared with the movies, but that’s normal. I think they are mutually beneficial in this case.

I started reading this one to my son, but I was apparently too slow, because he raced on without me after a couple of chapters. I guess that’s a good recommendation. For me, however, this book didn’t have the emotional punch that the first two did. As mentioned in my review below (the first time I read it), the fact that it is dark and depressing, and that the main character never has any hope, not to mention that most of her friends die in the trek through the Capitol, makes it more difficult to enjoy.

I think one of the more interesting moments in the book is where Katniss reflects back on how she hadn’t understood what Peeta meant the night before the first Hunger Games started, when he said he didn’t want them to change him. He wanted to die being true to himself. The events of the last couple of years has changed them both, and when she prepares to die deciding to murder President Coin, she tries to go back to her true self, the selfish person who only wanted to protect Prim and her mother and Gale. Coin took all of that away, changed her even more than the games did. I think that’s what she resented most.

Fortunately, the writing style was terrific, keeping everything interesting even when it was more difficult to read. The internal struggles, or Katniss’ internal thoughts about everything that was going on, made everything more interesting.
 

 

Read April 29th to May 11th, 2012, in hardcover  
    Like its predecessors, this book is very well written, which makes up for the awkwardness of some of the plot, and the understandably depressing state of mind of the main character. After all she's been through, it's normal that she would be questioning herself more. Fortunately, the intermittent action sequences kept the story moving.

Spoiler review:

Unlike the previous two books, this one had real ups and downs. The ups were very exciting, and reminiscent of those books, while the downs felt a lot more depressing, which made for a more difficult read. Fortunately, the writing was superb throughout, which eased the transition from exciting parts of the book to those that could have dragged on a lot more than they actually did. I hope the movie version of The Hunger Games didn't influence my mood when reading the conclusion to the trilogy.

The novel picks up very soon after Katniss was extracted from the arena at the end of Catching Fire, as she wakes up in District 13, under the care of her mother and Prim and the others who escaped the bombing of District 12. It was Gale who led the survivors to safety, where they were picked up by hovercraft from District 13. District 13 has lived for the last 75 years underground, adhering to rigid schedules, with almost no joy in their lives. The question to be asked is whether it is worth living under such conditions? I suppose it is living in the hopes that revolution will come and they will be free of the threat from the Capitol one day. And that day finally does arrive in this book. Throughout, I kept waiting for Katniss to wonder if President Coin was any better than President Snow of the Capitol, as her methods do seem to be almost as bad as his. But they are desperate, after all, and her rigidness probably kept everyone alive.

After her defiance in both of the arenas, Katniss has become a symbol for the hope the districts have been sorely lacking. Although she wants nothing to do with it at first, running away to find hidey-holes in closets, retreating to her hospital room, she eventually decides to be their Mockingjay, their symbol. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol, after all, and is being tortured, brainwashed, and used in television broadcasts to have her surrender.

But every time she thinks that maybe the Capitol isn't so bad, she finds out otherwise. Cinna designed the suit she wears while filming promotional material for the rebels. While she is terrible at scripted lines, putting her in a war zone allows her spontaneity to shine through, and she is brilliant. In district 8, she visits a field hospital, which brings hope to the rebels there. But her visit is timed (accidentally?) with a bombing raid by the Capitol, which destroys the hospital. She and Gale take up their bows with the special exploding arrows, and take down a couple of the hovercraft, disobeying orders to get out of the war zone. It was that kind of action that the author did a terrific job at describing, especially since Katniss always thinks she will be getting in trouble for doing it.

As with the previous novels, it is the small details that really make the book a joy to read. Things like Prim growing up enough to help in the hospital and tell Katniss that she could ask for anything in return for being District 13's Mockingjay. Like getting out to hunt again. Unfortunately, I much prefer the Katniss who knows what she needs to do, constantly analyzing the situation and making active choices, to the one we get here about half the time. She spends much too much time feeling uncertain and lost, though that's probably very natural. She spends a lot of the book angry at Gale for no reason, which is probably also very natural. Wouldn't it have been extraordinary to have them work together more, though, and be a real team? Though he helped her through everything, they never got as close as she did to Peeta.

Once again, like in the hunger games arenas, the war is a reality-TV contest. Not only are battles fought in the streets of the districts, but people battle it out on the airwaves. Haymich is relegated to a TV councilor, who turns out to be not all that useful, since Katniss ignores him most of the time. Every time Peeta shows up on screen, Katniss knows that he is being used against her. He even speaks out of turn at one point, warning District 13 that a wave of bombers is coming for them.

The bombing was one of the few interludes that really had me riveted. I really, really enjoyed the conversations between Prim and Katniss, and the descriptions of Buttercup (Katniss found him on a visit to the ruins of District 12) were so smack-on that the author must have a cat! The single setting of the bomb shelter could have been boring, but was anything but!

When it becomes clear that Katniss will go crazy unless Peeta is taken from the clutches of the Capitol, a rescue mission is mounted, from which she is excluded. When she sees him, he tries to kill her, so suddenly that even her well-honed survival instincts don't kick in. He has been brainwashed by the Capitol, in a manner that seems entirely consistent with what we've seen so far in these books.

They try to rehabilitate him, and I wonder at the effort they spend on him. Is it just for Katniss? When the districts were nearly united, she became more of a liability, so why did Coin do it? So she could send Peeta out to kill the threat to her leadership while in the field?

The assault on the mountain stronghold in District 2 is the next real climax of this book, as she and Gale travel there to aid in the assault. Katniss decides Peeta is dead to her, so turns to Gale to fill that void, and they do a lot of kissing (it's vague if they do any more). But Gale turns out to be a lot less forgiving than she is, and a lot more mean in thinking up ways to hurt his enemies -she's been tempered by the Hunger Games in more ways than one. At this point, I kept waiting for somebody to ask how they differed from Snow in the tactics they were proposing. That admonition didn't occur until much later on than I expected. They actually bombed the top of the mountain, until pieces of it crashed down in an avalanche that sealed up all the exits, trapping the people inside, except for one train line, which Katniss insisted be kept open. When the train finally appears, hours later, she presents herself to the survivors, all of whom were actively fighting against her. The person whom she addresses decides not to shoot her, but someone else does, which was a shock.

Cinna's Mockingjay suit, however, stopped the bullet from penetrating too far, and she survives, but ends up back in the hospital in District 13. By now, she is completely useless to President Coin, because the war is over everywhere except in the Capitol. So they round up all the survivors of previous Hunger Games, including a somewhat stable Peeta (thanks to healing ideas from Prim), and send them to the front lines, to pose for the cameras, and maybe do a little fighting, if the opportunity presents itself. Like Katniss, I got the feeling that Coin wouldn't be too sorry if her Mockingjay ended up dying then and there.

And she almost does.

The third part of the book was the least interesting, unfortunately, even though the author wrote it well enough that it never became boring. We get to see all of the people Katniss cares about disappear, one by one, or sometimes in groups. I quite liked Lieutenant Boggs, her commander for the missions, who gets killed when they trigger various "pods", which can be filled with anything from tracker-jackers to machine gun fire to a giant wave of poisonous powder, which takes out more people. I don't remember the pods from the arenas, but both Katniss and Finnick remember them. Her group, now separated from the rest of the rebel army, winds its way through the underground passages of the Capitol, always making its way closer to President Snow. As usual, Katniss doesn't really have a plan beyond the immediate. Peeta doesn't consider himself trustworthy, so wants them to kill him, as he often can't control his implanted rage at her. Her camera crew, the twins Castor and Pollux, follow her down every path, even as they have to abandon their gear at some point, and one of them dies. But they all show what she inspires in others, even though she doesn't believe it herself, a reluctant hero.

By the time they get to Snow's mansion, the rebels have also arrived. This is rather disappointing, but it becomes necessary in order for Katniss to really lose everything she ever loved. A group of children act as a human shield to the mansion, and a hovercraft releases dozens of parachutes to them, as in the Games. Some explode, causing the rebel medics to rush in to the carnage, after which the rest of the parachutes blow up. One of the rebel medics, of course, if Prim, and both Katniss and Peeta are badly burned in the process.

The capture of Snow and his mansion are done off-screen, so to speak. But she gets to meet him when she wakes up, after her burn treatments are completed. It begs to wonder, though, why Coin didn't just let Katniss die from her burns. I guess once somebody saw her, Coin was stuck with her, and they were forced to do everything they could to save her, probably to Coin's chagrin.

Katniss is totally useless after this, until she meets with Snow again. Snow voices the opinions that made sense of things for me in the attack on the children. I was wondering how it was possible that a bunch of rebel medics could have been waiting so close to the front lines, when we've not seen them before, and how Prim could have been with them. Snow raises the suspicion that Coin did this, to get rid of the threat that was Katniss.

Indeed, the brief glimpse of the new world we see makes it look just as unlikable as the old one. When Katniss is given the arrow to kill Snow, I was certain she would kill Coin, instead -and I was right (Snow is killed by a mob, afterwards). Katniss is sent to solitary confinement, and though she tries to kill herself, is unsuccessful. It seems that a great many people didn't like Coin, because Katniss is acquitted (mental insanity), against all odds (and this seems a stretch to me, too), and sent to live in District 12. Should the districts be renamed, now, with real names?

The book could have used another chapter of denouement, because it was over so very quickly. More of her rehabilitation could have been nice, as we only get a whir of information when Peeta starts to heal her, as much as that is possible. Gale has stayed away, now that he believes his usefulness is over, after failing to protect her family. Katniss doesn't even have to choose Peeta, then, but it becomes official in the epilog.

I don't see how the book could have ended any differently, as this dystopian world had to come crashing down somehow, and war is never pretty. The author doesn't shy away from any gore or pain, and we get deep into Katniss' thoughts. They were very grim and depressing, so it was fortunate that they were so well written.

 
   

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