Saturday, July 20, 2013

Gregor and the Code of Claw, Suzanne Collins

The final book in the Underland Chronicles. In some ways I liked it a lot and in others, I didn't.

Gregor's mother has had a relapse of sickness from the plague in the form of pneumonia. The war that Luxa declared is in full swing. Everything hangs on the thread of the Prophecy of Time and the Code of Claw. The Code of Claw is the secret code made of taps, clicks and scratches-not too unlike Morse Code-in order to transmit information. The rats have made a new code and in order to receive the intelligence of their movings and strategies, they must crack the code. The prophecy calls for the "Princess" to help. Boots is less than helpful with the code team as all she does is sing and use strips of code as a "tail." Everything changes when suddenly Lizzie turns up on the scene. Their father has had a relapse of sickness and their grandma is sick in the hospital. She wants Gregor to come home, but also agrees upon seeing the plight of the Regalian's that his-and her own-help is needed. Lizzie who is so smart and loves to work on math and puzzles is enlisted to help break the code.

The romance between Luxa and Gregor blossoms. Which I thought was rather ridiculous. I mean, these kids are 12. I know they've been through a LOT to make them grow up faster than any kid should have to. Luxa facing the reality of leading her people as a queen at age 12 and Gregor being a key player in the war as a warrior at age 12. But seriously, they even kiss in this book. I don't want to think of a 12 year old kissing.  And they say "I love you" which is true because I'm sure they love each other as friends and beyond that is just a crush. To think that 12 year olds are capable of knowing what real romantic love is before their hormones are even fully there yet, despite their particular circumstances, just seems like a bit of a stretch.

The other part I didn't care for is the obvious blatant anti-war agenda and anti-Christopher Columbus agenda, and even a bit of anti-early America agenda. Yes, I do understand that war is bad. And she does point out that it would take EVERYONE in the world rejecting that war is an acceptable way to settle differences. But as long as there are still groups of people bent on killing as a means to their end, we must accept that war in defense of our freedom is inevitable. We do not have to like it, but unless we are willing to sit and die and watch everyone else die because others do not agree with a philosophy of not fighting, we don't really have options. Of course, things get a lot more complicated when you have to consider whether or not you get involved with a conflict outside of your immediate country's safety and have to consider allies and helping them etc. But I'm not going to into that. Anti-Christopher Columbus. Yes. I realize he was not a good person, really. He discovered this land-and don't tell me he didn't because it was new to HIM and it was new to all the OTHER people who weren't aware of its existence. I just discovered a new way to avoid the construction and get to the grocery store with less hassel. It was MY discovery. Sure, it existed before I knew about it and many other people have been using it before me, but it doesn't discount that I found out about it without anyone else telling me it was there. And he didn't treat the natives well. And the fact that Spain just hoped he would be killed in the process of finding this land so they wouldn't have to deal with him (most likely) doesn't help his case either. But you can't decide that he didn't do something incredible just because he wasn't a good person. You have to separate that. You can't just re-write history because he was bad. Good or bad, what he did was what he did. And you shouldn't try to teach that we shouldn't celebrate Columbus day because he was bad. You can lay out the facts and let people decide for themselves their view of him. But he wasn't the only person on the ship. There were other people on other ships as well who WEREN'T bad people who probably DIDN'T agree with all of Columbus' decisions, but we don't know about them. And I admit it's a shame that we know very little about those other people. And the anti-early America agenda. I couldn't help making connections between what early European settlers and the American government did to Native Americans and the things that Sandwhich and the early Regalian's did to other species in the Underland in order to take possession of the land they wanted. Including the poisoning of water sources. And then the references to the plague being used as a weapon. Which reminded me of the Native American's being given a "gift" of blankets that just also happened to be infested with small pox. I'm not saying any of this was RIGHT. It was downright REPULSIVE. But we don't do that anymore. Well, at least as so far as our government lets on.....I'm just saying the attitude it was portrayed in wasn't conducive to what I think she wanted to accomplish. You need to accept that mistakes were made, and it's a shame that they did, but that the best way to show you believe that is to make an individual change. Don't condemn our nation because of some really bad mistakes. Is Germany forever condemned as a nation because of the Holocaust? Do all of Germany's citizens walk around with their heads hanging because of how ashamed they were that Hitler duped them all into becoming a horror symbol to the world of some of the most heinous crimes against humanity AND the most RECENT horrific offenses in world history of that magnitude? I don't think so. I mean, I've never been to Germany, but I've had several friends live there for varying durations from 18-24 months and that's not the scene they paint of the people of Germany. They acknowledge and they say that they regret it happened. That they wish they could change the past, but they can't, so instead they are looking to build a better future to ensure they are never sweet talked by another leader again or allow such crimes to repeat themselves. At least not on their watch.

The character of Mrs. Cormaci makes a comment about war and how we're brought up to treat others kindly and to hurt someone is a crime and then you become a soldier and shipped out and told to kill and how that has to do something to you. It does. But I think the soldiers who are most resilient are the ones who know exactly what and who they are fighting for. They are fighting for the freedoms they want and the for the people they love. They never  get to the point where they ENJOY what they do, but they realize that in order to prevent extreme suffering, they must do what they must do.

There was even a touch on "pupettering" I don't know how to spell the term correctly, but when there is a person who is the leader, but not the mastermind. Some wonder if Hitler was the mastermind behind the Holocaust or if it was really one of his advisors who used flattery and manipulation because he couldn't rally the people the way Hitler could. The Bane is really only the leader of the rats because of the coincidence of his color and size in relation to the Prophecy of Bane, and because of how Twirltongue flatters and manipulates him to believe certain things. But Twirltongue knows she could never BE the leader. So she simply controls the leader with her agenda.

Anyway, despite all of that going on....and my daughter and I read this one out loud to each other, and she didn't pick up on most of this, and a few things I pointed out and we discussed how we felt about it and how it plays into our Christian value system and when war is ok and when it is not, etc. and when God sanctions an act that is a "thou shalt not" in the commandments. So it did open up some good dialog, even if it was a bit annoying in its blatancy.

The other thing I couldn't quite figure out if there was an agenda to it or not was the Prophecy's. Ripred admits to Gregor that he doesn't-and has never-believed in the prophecy's written by Sandwhich that if you stayed long enough, any number of things could be made to fit into it. And if something looks like it's going along and then changes, they say they must not have fully understood it. Also, it brings up the power of suggestion-did people do things in the prophesy because it suggested they should? Or would it have happened regardless? They've had to re-interpret things to fit what was written before, and chalked it up to lack of understanding. Ripred has used it to his advantage, but has manipulated it too in order to accomplish a task at hand. I don't know if this was a stab at religion or not, because Sandwhich was not a religious figure, and therefore, we have no idea where his "authority" to even make prophecy's would be. Although I guess a prophecy doesn't need to be religious in nature, although when it's not I've usually seen it referenced as something else, like predictions or foreseeing. I think the word prophecy denotes that it came from a prophet, which is a religious figure. Anyhow, giving something the title of prophecy makes it sound more serious, more legitimate, and more weighty and therefore have more power over the mind.

I'm not entirely sure I like where things ended, but when you go on a journey with characters, the story has to end somewhere and you will always be left wondering what happened to them after, but this series left with more questions unanswered than others. Even Hunger Games at least let you know what happened with key players-whether you liked it was a different story-and Harry Potter had a great epilogue. Here, Gregor's family still doesn't know what they are going to do, Regalia has a brighter future than ever, but you still wonder if it can be pulled off, and how.

There were still twists and turns and very unexpected things that kept you hanging on the brink. I would still recommend this series, but I would also highly recommend that if your child is reading them, that you read them as well and have some really great conversations with them.

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