So, I read and adored The Hunger Games.
Upon accidentally discovering that Suzanne Collins had also written a children’s series I was super excited so several months later when I had money or felt like I needed a treat or something I acquired a copy of Gregor the Overlander (in the dark days when I didn’t have a library card where I was living so I had to buy the book).
I don’t mean to come down too hard on this novel because it was pretty good. It was also Collin’s first novel and those usually have some forgivable faults. The problem was that I had The Hunger Games in my mind the whole way through. The Hunger Games is much more awesome.
The story is about an eleven year old boy named Gregor, who is living with his mother, grandmother and sisters (although the older one is away at camp for the whole book) in an apartment in New York City. The younger sister, an adorable two year old named Boots falls down a grate in the laundry room and Gregor follows her. They end up in another world, called the Underland that is populated by people, cockroaches, rats, bats and spiders and end up going on a good old quest to save the whole world and find their father.
There were some parts of the book that I thought were really neat. The mood of it, the atmosphere in the dark Underworld which obviously has very little natural light, was incredibly pervasive (or maybe it’s just been really cloudy and gloomy the last few days) and fantastically well written. The different people in the Underworld were also really interesting. Each species felt very unique and lovable in their own ways. Boots, the two year old was adorable and her interactions with the cockroaches were consistently my favourite parts. In reality I’m glad that there are no six foot cockroaches in the world but after reading this book I almost wanted a few.
Obviously this book has some big similarities to Alice in Wonderland and a long list of other stories in which children fall or in other ways stumble through a mundane object and end up in a fantastic world. Gregor is kind of a stereotypical hero in a lot of ways – he’s brave and loyal and determined to do the right thing, sufficiently reluctant until the last possible moment and clever enough to put all the pieces together in the nick of time. There are a lot of well traveled, fairly typical fantasy/sci fi tropes – preoccupation with food, a traitor in the fellowsh… I mean questers, lots of traveling through enemy lands, an old wise mentor who has to bail part way through, a semi-cryptic prophecy, a hero who just wants to go home, an absent father and hordes of bad guys who are too stupid to live. None of these things are really bad to have of course, they are well used for a reason, but it felt like there were too many of them because I had more or less worked out the end before I was half way through the book and nothing really surprised me.
Evidently Suzanne Collins is also very interested in older siblings who will do anything to save their younger sisters.
All in all, I’ve decided that Gregor and the Overlander is a perfectly good kids novel but not an exceptional one. I’m interested in seeing where the next few books in the series go, but unlike Percy Jackson I can put off picking up the next book for a while.
I will now be much nicer to cockroaches.
Last movie I watched: Sharpe’s Justice. It must seem like all I do is watch Sharpe, but I swear this is not the case. I just seem to watch Sharpe as I finish books. Anyway, it’s one of my favourite ones. Sean Bean is wonderful. As usual.
Last episode of TV I watched: Game of the Thrones!! Season finale. Which was very excellent. I can’t tell if I’m excited because the episode was fantastic or because I’m relieved that Tyrion is not dead. I don’t trust this show not to kill the characters I like. Anyway, Tyrion was awesome as usual and we got to see a different side of him, which made me love him even more. Daenerys is shaping up to be really interesting and I liked the visit from Khal Drogo, Arya is excellent and Jamie Lannister is growing on me.
Its always sad when a good season ends.