Suzanne Collins

Gregor the Overlander

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Gregor the Overlander Summary

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Gregor the Overlander is a young adult fantasy novel by American author and television writer Suzanne Collins. The first book in the series The Underland Chronicles, it follows a young protagonist, Gregor, who travels with his little sister, Boots, to a subterranean society reminiscent of the hidden worlds of fantasy author Jules Verne and of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Here, the vermin of the human world grow as big and as sentient as humans, running an underground kingdom called Regalia. Gregor meets the world’s queen, Luxa, and gets roped into a prophecy which holds that two “overlanders,” or humans from Gregor’s world, will team up with ten “underlanders” to save an unknown hostage. Gregor and Boots join Luxa and her cousin, Henry, and with a cast of friendly vermin, to fulfill the prophecy.

The novel begins at Gregor and Boots’ apartment in New York City. Gregor, age eleven, is helping Boots do laundry. Boots, only two years old, decides to fool around instead, accidentally falling through an open grate in the floor of the laundry room. Gregor rushes to save her, squeezing through the vent. He falls a long distance, landing in an underground world called the Underland.

Gregor and Boots discover they have emerged in the Underland, on the outskirts of its capital city, Regalia. This forgotten world is home to societies of inordinately large spiders, rats, bats, and cockroaches, as well as a number of humans, who discovered the land in the 1600s and founded a colony. The colony originated when an immigrant Stonemason from England, anticipating an apocalypse on the surface world, led his devout followers underground. Gregor learns that the vent in his laundry room is one of the only surviving tunnels to the Underland.

When they land in the Underland, Boots and Gregor are approached by a group of huge cockroaches. Convinced that Gregor is the human spoken of in a prophecy, the cockroaches take the children into the city. Gregor’s arrival had been anticipated by the prophet Bartholomew of Sandwich, one of the original human colonists of the Underland. In the city, Gregor is introduced to Luxa, who is slated to become Regalia’s queen when she comes of age. Luxa is joined by her cousins, Henry and Nerissa. Gregor quickly dislikes Henry and Luxa, who appear unfriendly and hostile to their arrival.

Gregor learns more about the Prophecy of Gray, which told of his arrival. The prophecy claims that two overlanders, who are taken to be himself and Boots, will team up with ten Underlanders to find his father, who went missing long ago. Initially doubtful that they are the chosen “questers,” as soon as they learn that their father may be alive, Gregor and Boots resolve to make the journey. They join forces with two cockroaches named Tick and Temp; two spiders, Treflex and Gox; two Underlander humans, Henry and Luxa; and a rat, Ripred.

As they journey through the wilderness outside of Regalia, to a destination named King Gorger’s Cave where Henry believes Gregor’s father is located, they are beset by many foes. In a skirmish with wild vermin, Treflex is severely wounded and dies. Boots is nearly taken, but Tick sacrifices his life to rescue her. Disheartened, the remaining questers press on so the loss of their friends might not be in vain.

Eventually, they reach the cave of King Gorger. King Gorger sends out an army of vicious rats that hugely outnumbers them. They realize that King Gorger expected them, and that they have been betrayed by Henry, who had been the King’s double agent all along. Knowing that King Gorger wants to destroy him to foil the prophecy, Gregor leaps into an abyss beside King Gorger’s cave. Everyone else falls down via a rockslide. Ares, Henry’s bat who is bound to protect him, refuses to save him, picking up Gregor instead. Ares flies him to his father, and they return together to Regalia. As the novel ends, Gregor, Boots, and their father are sent back to the Overland to reunite with the rest of their family. Though the fates of much of its cast remain unknown, the epic of Gregor the Overlander continues in its sequel, Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane.