Monday, 8 November 2010
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
Since I first heard of the book, one question bothered me: What is a mockingjay? In case I'm not alone in be plagued by little details, I will answer this now. I guessed that it was a bird, a hybrid species. In fact it is the offspring of a female mockingbird and a male jabberjay - a genetically altered species developed by the Capitol with the ability to repeat speech, used for spying purposes. By the time of The Hunger Games, the jabberjay has more or less died out, but the mockingjay lives on, unable to imitate speech but with a skill for repeating song. When she volunteered for the Games, Katniss was given a brooch in the shape of the mockingjay, and it came to be a secret symbol of the rebellion against the Capitol. Katniss is rescued from the second round of the Hunger Games by rebels and taken to District 13, hitherto believed to have been utterly destroyed in the last uprising. She is elected as their mockingjay personified: a mascot, a spokesperson for those fighting against President Snow and the Capitol, the face of the revolution.
For the second time, Katniss Everdeen has survived the death trap set by the Gamemakers to silence the dissentors against the Capitol's regime. But her freedom has come at a terrible cost. Now Panem is openly at war, and Peeta is held captive by President Snow.
The fantasy genre is full of uneven battles that you just know the good guys will win, eventually. Usually, overthrowing an evil government is portrayed as part of the hero's day's work. But in Mockingjay there are no heroes, and though you know that the Capitol must be defeated, the odds are not in our protagonists' favour and we really feel the near-impossibility of their task and what it will cost them.