Suzanne Collins Marathon

Still counting down to Mockingjay!

In an attempt to slake my excitement over Mockingjay, I brought out all the Suzanne Collins books in my possession (and bought one more) and have been reading voraciously for the past five days. I started with Gregor the Overlander, the first book of the Underland Chronicles last Friday, but I didn’t have book 2  yet so I decided to reread Hunger Games and Catching Fire on Saturday. By Sunday, I was already reaching for the copy of Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane that I’d bought the day before. And then I started reading Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods yesterday, and now I’m out of the Underland Chronicles, so the marathon’s on hold (at least until I can find myself copies of Gregor and the Marks of Secret and Gregor and the Code of the Claw).

Now I very rarely reread books because I have too many books to read and there simply isn’t enough time — I read somewhere that a person can only read 6000 books in his or her lifetime and I intend to beat that (hah!). Even when my book club has discussions of books I’ve already read, I just skim through the book and go back to my reviews to refresh my memory.

But I decided to reread the first two books of the Hunger Games trilogy because I don’t want to drive myself crazy trying to remember certain details when I read Mockingjay, and I was also curious about how I would find the books on my second reading.

The books were every bit as good as they were the first time around. Of course, the adrenaline rush of the first read was out of the way, but I enjoyed being able to savor the characters, ponder upon the story, and of course, relive all my favorite scenes from the two books.

I thought I would be less attached to the story and the characters because I already know what’s going to happen, but I found myself crying even harder  this time, and even at random bits that didn’t even make me cry the first time around! Haha, on Saturday morning I was reading Hunger Games over morning coffee and toast, and I had a crying jag. My mom caught me swiping at my tears and blowing my nose into a napkin, and when she asked why I was crying over my breakfast, and I had to tell her it was because *** had died!

I also read the first three books of the Underland Chronicles, which I’ve been meaning to read for a year now. I got books 1 and 3 foraging around the sale bins (book 1 from the Scholastic warehouse sale, book 3 from NBS), and as soon as I finished book 1 I was panicky because I didn’t have book 2! Good thing I found a copy the next day. About thrice as expensive as books 1 and 3 (at the bargain prices I got them) combined, but I just couldn’t wait to read them.

In essence, the Underland Chronicles detail the adventures of an 11-year old New Yorker, Gregor, who accidentally discovers a passage to the Underland in their apartment building’s laundry room. The Underland is a strange subterranean realm, inhabited by humans and giant creatures (cockroaches, rats, bats, spiders, mice, ants, et cetera). The Underland holds certain prophecies sacred;Gregor’s fate is entwined with these prophecies, and this makes up the plot for the five books.

I didn’t expect to enjoy the Underland Chronicles, as I’m really not into talking animals, but I actually enjoyed reading the first three books so far.

I found Gregor to be a bit like Katniss Everdeen, although Katniss is more skilled for combat.  Like Katniss, Gregor is protective of his family (especially of his baby sister Boots, who has traveled with him on his Underland Adventures for all three books) and does his best to make ends meet for his poor family,  mainly making sure his sisters have enough to eat (to the point that he goes hungry so he can give them his share). Gregor is also thrust in the role of a reluctant hero around which the cooperating races of the Underland rally like Katniss is the mockingjay for the various districts of Panem.

The books are fast-paced and amusing, and I noticed Suzanne Collins really has no qualms about killing off characters. I think over a dozen  supporting characters (and scores of unnamed ones) have been killed off in the last three books, which surprised me because this series is meant for younger readers than The Hunger Games. But the deaths do serve their purpose; the Underland Chronicles revolves around the themes of  family, war, biological warfare, and the Holocaust, emphasizing the message that war has no victors, only casualties.

I did get a surprise that threw me for a loop — the Underland Chronicles is a dead ringer for the Percy Jackson series!

Let’s see, top of mind: each book features a quest based on a prophecy, and at the end of each book Gregor and Percy get to go back home. Character-wise, Gregor and Percy are both ordinary kids who discover they’re not so ordinary; Luxa does a good Annabeth and Temp a good Grover; Vikus can stand in for Chiron; and Ares the bat is the equivalent of Blackjack. Collins draws largely from Greek mythology, so certain Greek names cross over. Because of the basis in mythology, plot-wise, there are similar twists in both series as well — a traitor in the pack, a living oracle, an inventor trapped inside a labyrinth, and so on.

I have to say that between the Underland Chronicles and Percy Jackson, I’d have to hand the trophy to Gregor and his gang. It’s not just because I like Suzanne Collin’s writing style and humor over Rick Riordan’s, although yes, of course, that’s part of the reason. Gregor’s ragtag team (including two year old Boots and the motley crew of Underlanders) is just a lot more interesting (and more logically motivated) than the half-bloods (although the gods and goddesses were pretty cool), and Gregor doesn’t whine incessantly like Percy does. I also think there’s more depth to Gregor’s character, and while the themes in both series are similar, the Underland Chronicles is more complexly plotted and drives the message a whole lot better.

This means I definitely have to get books 4 and 5 of the Underland Chronicles this weekend!

Oh, and seven more days til Mockingjay! I. Can’t. Wait!!!!


Hunger Games and Catching Fire, both hardcover with dustjacket, both 5/5 stars

Gregor the Overlander, Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane, Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods, all paperback, all 4/5 stars

Books #102-106 for 2010


12 thoughts on “Suzanne Collins Marathon”

  1. Hi Blooey! I’ve been a lurker here in your blog for sometime now and this is the first time I’m speaking out. or commenting out. Or something. haha.

    I wish I could have a Suzanne Collins Marathon too except I’m such a cheapo, and the hardbound Catching Fire is way too pricey for me. haha. But anyway, I loved how your re-read still made you emotional. haha. Im not too keen on reading the Underland Chronicles though. Not yet anyway.

    So there, I wish I could join the Mockingjay fever but it can still wait I guess.

    1. Hey Istin! Glad to find you commenting here!

      :) Catching Fire is great although I don’t think they’ll release the paperbacks just yet. If you know anyone in Singapore though, they have the UK ed paperbacks there.

      The Underland Chronicles is really good, I am kicking myself for not reading the books sooner!

  2. Hi Blooey thanks for the quick response! :)
    I dont know anyone in Singapore so maybe I’ll stick to the ebook version floating around the net.

    And if I do endure reading the whole thing in front of the pc/mobile I’ll try to attend the FFP Mockingjay lauch on Aug 29. teehee.

  3. Wow. Your taste of books is remarkable. I’ve yet to read my first SUzanne Collins. I am still stuck in the Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin, and reading Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe at the same time. Love your post as always. Also want to add that I know of a writer, or at least read in his memoir, who has read almost 20,000 books in his lifetime. He’s also one of my favorite writers. Have you read one of his books? I’m referring to Louis L’Amour.

    1. Thanks Jonas! I’ve yet to read Louis L’Amour, but if he was able to read 20,000 books, that gives me much hope! :D

      Do let me know how you find Suzanne Collins if you have the chance to give her books a try :)

  4. Hi, Bloo! :)
    Saw your post last night (or was it early morning? hehe) on FB but was too tired already.
    Anyways, I didn’t expect to take a liking on the Underland Chronicles because at first I had a hard time getting into the story. Was carrying the first book around while we were touring Manila in September last year. But when I finally got home and found some peace and quiet to read, Suzanne Collins’ prose reeled me in. Magaling talaga siya. Too bad I still don’t have books 4 and 5 so hindi ko natapos yung series. Hehe

    1. Mauie, I don’t have books 4 and 5 as well… I saw them at Fully Booked though, I’m thinking of getting copies this weekend because I want to finish the series.

      I think you can get copies transferred to the Cebu branch if you request from customer service

  5. Hm, interesting, Blooey. I’d been seeing the Underland Chronicles in bargain bins but held off buying them because I wasn’t sure I’d like it – but now I want to read the series. Ideally borrow, not buy, because I really was not so impressed by the Percy Jackson series, though I know many people who loved it.

    1. I think you’ll like the Underland Chronicles, Iya. I had my reservations as well, so it took me a year to take the books down from my shelves and finally read them, and I really enjoyed them.

      I actually only realized the Percy Jackson connection when I was composing the review. The similarities are uncanny, from the story right down to the physical format, but I really took away more satisfaction reading the Underland Chronicles than Percy Jackson.

      Books 1 and 3 are often in the sale bins! :)

  6. I have read reviews of the Underland chronicles several times but I still have not decided to purchase the complete series yet. This is the first time I visited your site and really you have caught my attention. I have read The Hunger Games Trilogy and same spot where you shed tears, i also did. I bought the 1st book in paper back and the last 2 hard bound. Worth killing time, really. The plot sharpens your brain cells.
    At present, I’m looking for books again and I think I’ll get the underland chronicles soon.
    Feel free to email me if you may for some books worthwhile..
    Thanks a lot.

    1. Hey Chel, thanks for dropping by. The Underland Chronicles are amazing!

      Keep coming back to this site, I post all my recommendations here! :)

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