01 The Write Elements: Gregor the Overlander - Suzanne Collins

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Gregor the Overlander - Suzanne Collins

 Image result for gregor the overlander

I think I have a serious thing for books with prophecies in them. They're the most interesting to read about even when it's telling you what's going to happen. Yet, not in the way you'd ever expect. 
So because I read book 3 first I knew what was coming. But let's break it down for everyone anyway. 

The series by Suzanne Collins is quite popular, I have a hard time finding it in the library. 
Gregor the Overlander is the first of the Underlander Chronicles. 

Gregor is just 11 and home alone in the New York City apartment when he and his baby sister Boots fall through an old air duct grate in the building's basement. The two fall miles below into the Underland: a subterranean world home to humans with near-translucent skin; giant sentient batsrodents, and insects; and an escalating conflict between the human city of Regalia and the ratsKing Gorger. (I find Gorger a very suitable name heh)

They meet several "Underlanders", among them the Regalians: Vikus, princess Luxa, her cousin Henry, and the bats who are "bonded" to them Aurora and Ares (bats' names, you realise, are Grecian which is wonderful). 

Gregor learns the real reason for the rats' hatred of Overlanders: a mysterious prophecy written by the human colony's founder Bartholomew of Sandwich which hints that an Overland "warrior" will stop an attempt by the rats to take over the underground realm - once and for all. The Regalian council believes Gregor to be this warrior, and tries to convince him to undertake the quest mentioned in the "Prophecy of Gray". 

Beware, Underlanders, time hangs by a thread.

The hunters are hunted, white water runs red.

The gnawers will strike to extinguish the rest.

The hope of the hopeless resides in a quest.

An Overland warrior, a son of the sun,

May bring us back light, he may bring us back none.

But gather your neighbors and follow his call

Or rats will most surely devour us all.

Two over, two under, of royal descent,

Two flyers, two crawlers, two spinners assent.

One gnawer beside and one lost up ahead.

And eight will be left when we count up the dead.

The last who will die must decide where he stands.

The fate of the eight is contained in his hands.

So bid him take care, bid him look where he leaps,

As life may be death and death life again reaps.

Though he sympathizes, Gregor is reluctant to help until he learns a surprising fact: his father, who disappeared unexpectedly for over two years, had actually fallen down into Regalia just like Gregor and Boots and been taken prisoner by the rats. Gregor, his sister, and a group of Regalians go on a journey to rescue Gregor's father and recruit allies for a war against the rats. 

Flyers = bats, crawlers = roaches, spinners = spiders, gnawer = rat

Adapted and tweaked from Wikipedia 

It's immensely hard to write a prophecy  that's so excellently cryptic and rhyme-y. I was really muddled in the last few lines, though I had guessed that *spoiler* there will likely be a betrayal under "The last who will die must decide where he stands." As prophecies go however I favour Rick Riordan's. Perhaps it's unexpected when dealing with all human characters that makes it challenging and more interesting to decipher. 

In the beginning of the book you explore with Gregor after he Falls. He encounters roaches, and they like the spiders, tend to speak backwards. So it's "ride you" or "Hates us princess, hates us". I love how the Roaches can be, loyal and protective, and I love Temp - and Tick has to be mentioned - so I'm using a line when he's at his sulkiest. Considering how bad my phobia of bugs is it's a credit to make me throw away my preconception and have me like the roaches. 

Now the Underlanders are a curious bunch. Even with Luxa being so haughty I enjoy how Suzanne makes her act more human, rather than stay a royal. She learns of sandwiches and even words like "ick". She does have an open and honest personality too. 

I think it stems from Vikus, who turns out to be her grandfather. He's by far one of my favourite characters. The typical peacemaker and wise grandfather-y-type. Being super amiable makes him likeable. So when there came one of the plot twists, though not that shocking to me, it floored Gregor and gang. It was a touching moment for Gregor to show his maturity then; and I believe he did his best throughout the book. Remember he's only 11. 

The bats are not heard from much. They're as the "bonded" describe it, a reassuring presence. You can't get a whole lot from them till the end. Skipping ahead one of the  top scenes for me was the bonding ceremony. For a human to bond with the bat they need to hold each other's 'hands' and recite:

___ the ___, I bond to you.
Our life and death are one, we two.
In dark, in flame, in war, in strife,
I save you as I save my life.

Total aww, fist-pumping-in-air moment. 

Now the rats are portrayed as rats, the enemy, cunning, conniving and all-around creatures you don't wanna be around. I mean, besides how much I don't care for the spiders in the story, there's gotta be an enemy right? Gregor meets several that basically try to kill him, among other things, and we get a glimpse of foreshadowing in later books. His warrior gene, as I put it. 

Of course not every rat is a rat. 

We come to Ripred. Okay with his personality Ripred is quite ratty. He has the qualities up till the enemy part, he becomes the guide and aid of the questers; and obviously has his own depth as a main character. As Gregor puts it, looking into Ripred's eyes there's pain and intelligence there. 

Bring on the cynicism, it was needed. As a cynical person (who ironically teaches kids) it was a relief after 20-30% in the story was Boots being Boots. I'm sorry to those who like her. I concede she is integral in some parts like giving hints to the story without giving the scene away yet (it's good in book 3 though I haven't seen 2 yet) but, ugh the prattling made it annoying. Kudos to Temp and Tick for putting up with it. 

And then  there's  the beauty in the Underland while it's shown in war - nice contrast. There's gorgeous description of how the city looks like; and with such a vivid scene you can easily imagine it. A clean, bright NYC I suppose. It makes a difference if you're able to show your world to a reader,( it's something I even strive to do). 

The pacing of the story is alright  and it really makes you want to keep reading especially near the end. Being the climax, there's  greater impact and the characters start to get livelier. 

Again, since there's a prophecy (I've tried to come up with some myself) you're able to wheedle out who's gonna die. I didn't like that one bit. 3 out of 4 of the deaths was upsetting in different ways. I have not much love for the last death but there was enough disbelief from the remaining characters - it was really severe. 

So one of the deaths being absolutely gruesome while another ...deserves mention. A quick death but sudden and leaves you reeling. Though the character doesn't show themselves you get a sense through their actions. I found comfort when Gregor could cry for them. 

Obviously a must-read, it's compelling because there's Yet another pXXXXXXX 

if anything skip through the Boots parts. Heh.

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