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I’m assuming the people who are reading this already read the book, so I won’t bother with story summary.

Finished it last night. Haven’t read any other reviews, not even the ones without spoilers, because I didn’t want to be influenced, but just from Twitter I can tell people are divided on this one. Here’s my 2-euro cents: I liked it. A lot. Not as entertaining as the two first, but it fitted the series. It was a solid closing, perfectly aligned with the characters and the world Suzanne Collins has woven up to now. It was perverse and messy but also hopeful and human. When I closed the book I couldn’t help feeling that somehow the human race will manage. A perfect happy ending would have sounded contrived and a betrayal of the powerful realism of this dystopia. I think one of the reasons why this series was such a success was because of how possible such a future can be. For the ending to be true to its spirit, it would also have to be realistic, even at the expense of perfectly happy endings.

The first chapters were slow and less exciting than the standards Collins set before, but in her defense, we did escaped the comfortable ringed-fenced scenarios of the actual Games. It was like abruptly jumping out of a series of those who-dunnit stories set in a moving plane/train: a closed environment, a defined group of suspects, a relatively fixed set of rules. But now all bets are off and I can imagine how it must have been nerve-racking for the author to try to meet our expectations. (You can tell she still tried to create the same scenario later in the book, but it didn’t work so well – I got a bit lost among all the pods and Holos.) The slower pace however, allowed us to  know the dynamics of District 13. Well enough so that everything that happened next had it’s deserved impact. Unlike the other books, this one wasn’t about the action and what ingenious traps lie around the corner, but about fear, doubts and what really happens after the heroic act. It’s because of this that Mockingjay is way more disturbing and powerful.

The strongest point of the series for me has always been how Collins dealt with the use of psychology in dictatorship and war – with this one she kicked up a notch. It was fascinating how in the midst of macabre physical pain and torture, it’s the mind games that are really terrifying. I’m including propaganda in this category. Isn’t it interesting how it’s used by both sides and accepted as something normal? Katniss didn’t questioned the use of staged videos, she just wasn’t good at it. This and other wickedly creative elements (the roses, the jabberjays) were brilliantly used to create a sense of nightmarish discomfort that I only remember also feeling with Orwell’s 1984. Aren’t the Hunger Games themselves a form of achieving submission through the mind? For the Districts they’re worst than physical threats and for the Capitol they’re numbing entertainment. After what I’ve been reading lately (City of Bones review shortly) it’s a breath of fresh air to have such complex issues so smartly woven into a YA story.

Katniss could not have come out of this as the happy victor. It couldn’t have ended with her as president of Panem or with a white wedding. We see her being transformed from a strong leader into a puppet in the side lines. It might have been this that disappointed so many people. In Mockingjay Katniss is taken from the centre of the action into someone who just watches it. Yes, she was strong, resourceful and cunning, with amazing survival instincts but that was in the arena. In District 13, the political game is clearly beyond her and we see the consequences. From where the reader stands, her egocentrism is at times almost too much (How many Katnisses does it take to change a light bulb? One: she holds the lamp and the whole world revolves around her – I heard this one applied to Harry Potter :)) but that’s how she’s always been from the start. Considering where she grew up and what she was doing at 17, it seems a pretty likely picture, including how this impacts the love triangle. I must admit I was on Team Gale, but once again, I felt she ended up with whom she should. Gale was absolutely right: Katniss would chose the one who would help her survive (how Scarlett O’Hara of her, don’t you think?) and that’s a fair choice for her to make in my book.

The last 3rd of the story was the one that did it for me. I can even pin-point my wow moment, when I knew I was going to love it. It was at the end of chapter 17, when Katniss asks Johanna if she really did hear Peeta scream when they were both prisoners:

“Johanna, could you really hear his screaming?”
“That was part of it”, she says. “Like the jabberjays in the arena. Only it was real. And it didn’t stop after an hour. Tick, tock.”
“Tick, tock,” I whisper back.
Roses. Wolf mutts. Tributes. Frosted dolphins. Friends. Mockingjays. Stylists. Me.
Everything screams in my dreams tonight.”

I can’t really explain why these lines had such an impact, but it hit the right chord for me.

Now that I’ve managed to be all over the place with this post, I’m finally going to read all of yours and enter the discussion. Hope I’m not too late!

In a distant future, our society has eliminated pain and hardship by converting to “Sameness”. The other side of the coin is that through a mix of medication, social control and genetic engineering, we have also eradicated emotional depth from our lives. The Giver follows the story of a boy named Jonas who on his twelfth anniversary is selected to become the “Receiver of Memory,” the person who stores all the memories of the time before Sameness, if present leaders need advice in handling new situations.

Apart from the previous Receiver, Jonas is the only person in his community who knows, for instance, what snow is, since all hard climate conditions were with the Sameness.

The book is a typical blue pill/red pill scenario: would you prefer ignorant bliss or the hard truth? I always answer the truth without hesitation, but then again, I’m not starving and have a warm and safe bed to sleep in.

The Giver is also one of the most “challenged” children books in libraries and schools across the US. It deals with harsh topics, topics we wish children wouldn’t have to deal with, but it’ done in an intelligent way, without paternalism or white lies. The euthanasia and suicide scenes creeped the hell out of me, but I remember myself at 12 and wish I had read this book at that time. It would have had a bigger impact then. Why not talk openly about depression, suicide, massification and loss of individualism then, at the threshold of adulthood? But then again, it’s easy to talk now, when I’ve been through it and still don’t have children.

Another Sunday afternoon, this time in Parc du Cinquantenaire

One of my other New Year resolutions was to read more sci-fi. When I was in my teens about half of what I read was sci-fi because my dad’s huge collection (the other half was crime because my mom’s collection). I got to know and love Robert Heinlein and Philip K. Dick, but over time I made the step into fantasy and started neglecting the final frontier. Lately I’ve been getting the itch again.

“Pushing Ice” just came to confirm there’s nothing like a good sci-fi book  to put everything into perspective. All the small annoyances of day-to-day life become nothing in comparison with the expansion of time that came before us and that will lie ahead. Facing your complete insignificance and accepting it is both scary and utterly fascinating.

In 2057 the nuclear-powered ship Rockhopper is on a routine mining expedition in the solar system when it’s unexpectedly requested to undergo a special mission. Janus, one of Saturn’s moons, has inexplicably gone off-orbit and is moving away and beyond the solar system. Rockhopper is the closest ship and accepts to go closer, tag it for a while and send valuable data back to Earth. Janus it appears, is an alien construction, an enormous and enigmatic machine that is now apparently going home to a distant galaxy.

Saying more would the plot away, but expect political intrigues and power struggles, alien encounters and (as a Space Opera must) a take on what it means to be Human. Reynolds puts humanity under a microscope and sees a grain of sand in an immense galactic background of time and space. He’s a former European Space Agency man and you can tell it by the actual and speculative science used and the intellectual imagination… or at least, even you don’t understand half of the technical descriptions, it still sounds impressive!

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