Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: A Hunger Games Novel

The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes is a standalone Hunger Games prequel novel. Knowledge of the main series will help to quickly understand the universe, but is probably not necessary to enjoy the novel. The name of the main character seemed vaguely familiar to me since it had been a while since I read the main series. This may have made the novel more enjoyable. I kept hoping for him to succeed and make it against the odds. Only after completing the book did I realize he was the "bad guy" from the main Hunger Games series. Perhaps this book explains why he was so "bad."

In this book, Coriolanus Snow hopes to be able to get the education and career he wants. However, the odds seem to be stacked against him. He has an opportunity to serve as a mentor to a Hunger Game tribute. He discovers that the tributes are treated horribly - often like expendable animals. (After all, they all will be fighting each other to the death.) His tribute is a small girl with a great singing voice. He befriends her and even falls in love. He makes suggestions to make the games more "exciting" for the viewers. He also ends up actively participating - going into the games kill somebody and training snakes to help his tribute to win. He believes he will get a full scholarship by winning. Alas, they find out about his cheating and he loses out on education. Dejected, he seeks escape in the military and is stationed in the district of his tribute. He finds out that the Hunger Games was originally conceived as a drunken joke, but ended up getting implemented. His friend ends up getting stationed with him, and later plotting an escape. Coriolanus nearly joins the escape with his girl, but ends up making it back to the capital where he has been hardened by his experiences to engage in subterfuge for personal gain. It seems like there were so many simple ways that the future "evil" life could have been avoided. Alas, the accumulated life experiences result in a psychopathy rather than empathy.

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