You can listen to the Soundcloud audiobook excerpt right here.
“It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute. The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined—every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute…and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.”
— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) January 21, 2020
The story begins with a teenage Snow as a senior student at The Academy. He’s charming, friendly, and quick with a (strategic) compliment. Everyone likes him. He’s also been selected as one of the first ever mentors for the tributes. But while he is a child of privilege, he is lower on the totem pole than most of his classmates, and gets assigned to mentor the District 12 girl. It’s not what he wanted. Just like during Katniss and Peeta’s time, the lower Districts were always long shots to win.
But that’s one of the few similarities the 10th Games had with the event depicted in the original novels. This passage provides more backstory on the Capital’s child-killing show. We meet the man who created them, a morphling named Dean Casca Highbottom. A decade after he invented his televised yearly retribution for the districts’ rebellion, during an era Panem calls the “Dark Days,” Highbottom’s murder bowl is no hit with Capital viewers.
Back then tributes still fought without the heinous pageantry of pre-event interviews and shows. No one taught them survival or fighting skills. They simply fought to the death like anonymous combatants unprepared to battle. And that’s why most Panem residents “avoided” watching it. As this excerpt reveals, the challenge facing the games was “how to make it more engaging.”
The cold and inhuman tone of this passage is like experiencing the original books through the eyes of Effie. (At least the Effie of the first novel.) By reversing the perspective this could be a powerful story about how bad people exploit others. It could also explore the tools they employ to do so. That’s also exactly why this story also comes with more risk. It will require a deft hand from Collins. Unlike young Anakin Skywalker or even the orphaned Tom Riddle, we shouldn’t feel any empathy for young Coriolanus Snow.
It’s easy to imagine how someone as cunning and ruthless as him established himself during this time period. But there’s nothing redeeming about a rich young man using the oppression and murder of others to gain power, no matter how charming he once was. He might be the book’s protagonist, but he’s no hero.