Suzanne Collins - Shastrix Books

Suzanne Collins

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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Suzanne Collins

8th June 2020

The fourth novel in the Hunger Games series - a prequel set many decades before the original trilogy - tells the story of a 16 year old Coriolanus Snow, as he experiences the Hunger Games first hand as one of the first Capitol student-mentors, adopting a tribute to support through the brutal contest.

To be honest, it wasn’t the best week to be reading this. The events of the real world weighed quite heavily on my mind, and so a dystopian future in which an extremely privileged, prejudiced, and naive boy whose name is almost literally White comes of age into a world-view that we as readers already know from reading the original trilogy, did not make to comfortable reading.

Don’t get me wrong - it’s actually a fantastic story, and really well written to set up the character in a way that encourages the reader to keep going despite already knowing some significant aspects of the conclusion. Collins is absolutely on top of her game - presenting the world from a new perspective, and covering somewhat familiar ground with a new twist and a lot of worldbuilding background information naturally fitting into the plot.

It’s a really really good book, and might be one of the tales that we really need in our time. But maybe, just maybe, buy it and put it on the shelf for a few months until it will be easier to read - when we’ve started fixing our world first.

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Gregor the Overlander

Gregor the Overlander

Suzanne Collins

2nd February 2020

I had no idea until recently that Suzanne Collins had written a series before The Hunger Games, but when I found out I decided to keep my eyes open, and it wasn’t long before I found a copy of this - the tale of Gregor, a down-on-his-luck teenager from New York who accidentally follows his younger sister into an unusual subterranean world.

It’s a fairly straightforward tale of rescue, with a classic set of main characters, plus a well considered amount of world-building. There’s a feeling that is reminiscent of Hunger Games somehow, but not in a way I can quite put my finger on.

The narrative is clearly written for a younger reader, though this doesn’t spoil the enjoyment for an older one, and it would likely serve as a good adventure for generations to read together. My only real criticism would be that I wasn’t quite able to picture some parts of the world - although to be fair that might be a deficiency of my imagination rather than the author’s descriptive skills.

While I’m not planning to dive into the sequels right away, if I see them around then I think I’d be tempted to pick them up.

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Mockingjay

Mockingjay

Suzanne Collins

5th July 2012

The final book in the Hunger Games trilogy surprised me by being the weakest of the three. I had thought that it would surpass the second book, Catching Fire, at least. Katniss is forced to become the face of a rebellion against the Capitol, and spends an inordinate amount of time acting confused and emotional.

Gone is the strong character of the previous two novels, and in her place is a weak and snivelling character who gets caught up in events rather than setting out with any real intent. The ideas are all there - the set up for the story is great, but the execution leaves much to be desired.

The entire plot feels rushed. Whereas the previous novel dragged out its first half, this one races through big important scenes leaving the reader lost. Four or five times I wondered whether I'd skipped a page of explanation as new concepts appeared, but on double checking I found that the exposition was just absent.

I felt let down by this book. I was looking forward to an epic final battle and got a rushed tale about a dripping girl who was barely recognisable as the strong (albeit reluctant) heroine from earlier in the series. Yes, there should be room for her emotions and character development, but it still needs to make for an entertaining novel.

The first book is the best in the series, and although I'm glad I've read the remainder, I wouldn't criticise anyone for stopping there.

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Catching Fire

Catching Fire

Suzanne Collins

20th May 2012

Book two of the Hunger Games trilogy begins shortly after the end of the first, where Katniss is required to take part in a tour of the 12 districts of Panem. Things don't quite go to the Capitol's plan though, as despite threats to Katniss she can't help but put her foot in it, and the Capitol decide they must do something about her.

Catching Fire certainly has that 'middle book' feel to it - that it's a transitional book, purely to set up what's going to happen in book three, and not too concerned about having a self-contained plot of its own. The story starts quite slowly, recapping some stuff from the previous story, re-establishing the characters and lining things up for later, and it's only towards the second half where speed picks up, and there I felt things were moving too fast.

Maybe I was reading too fast, and I know the events were meant to be passing quickly, but this was the part that I thought was going to be the story for this volume, and I didn't feel it has quite the weight necessary for the book to stand alone.

Katniss continues to be an interesting heroine. She's changed slightly by her experiences in the first book; she's grown older, and feels slightly less naïve. Collins is clearly attempting to show her changing, and draws attention through the narrative to some of these changes in a way which seems a little too obvious. As the narrator she was always going to dominate, but it seems like the other characters have become even more shallow - she sees each of them with only one characteristic - Peeta has love, Haymitch has drunkeness, and so on.

I have to confess though that I found it difficult to put down. I'm not sure whether it will survive the test of time, but like Harry Potter, it is a series that is easy to read despite the subject matter, and that's probably why it's doing so well.

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The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins

18th March 2012

I was a little surprised at how much I enjoyed reading The Hunger Games. I'd been given the impression that it was a kids' story that was a lighter version of 'Battle Royale' (which I haven't read, so can't draw a conclusion on), however it's quite a violent book that is perhaps aimed at an older age group than I had been led to believe - perhaps early teens (the main character is 16, and typically the intended audience is a little younger than the protagonist).

The writing style took a little getting used to - I often find it hard to fall into a first person narrative without having any knowledge of the character in advance, but more distracting was the use of the present tense to tell most of the story. While this makes perfect sense from the view of not giving away later events, it was a little unusual and I was a good few chapters in before I stopped noticing it.

The main character is a strong, if slightly naïve, female selected to participate in the annual Hunger Games - a deadly reality TV series with 24 contestants, of whom only one can survive. The majority of the supporting cast are less well defined, though some make for memorable appearances. For the most part the male characters are surprisingly unlikable (although there are a couple of exceptions), but despite that I didn't think that the book wouldn't appeal to male readers at all.

I'm not sure that the book is deserving of all the hype its been given (particularly in the build up to a film version, which I'm intrigued by as I'm not sure how all the depth of character will come across in a visual medium), but I've bought the second and third books in the series and am looking forward to reading them.

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