*a review of Catching Fire, this article may contain possible spoilers for this novel and the first novel, The Hunger Games
So, pursuant to my last entry, I just finished reading the second installment in the Hunger Games series (okay, I don’t know if that’s what the series is actuallycalled, but by now, everyone who isn’t living under a rock has probably at least seen that name on a book or movie poster somewhere.)
Catching Fire, the second book in Suzanne Collins’ ‘catching‘ new series (see what I did there, huh? Huh?) starts off a bit slow. Picking up shortly after the main character, Katniss, and her friend Peeta become the first pair to ever win the deadly Hunger Games, the story begins with Katniss describing her life and the life of those close to her since then. Anxious and dreading the Victory Tour, (a tour strategically timed to keep the horror of the games fresh in the minds of the oppressed Districts, and half-heartedly cloaked as a festivity), Katniss receives an impromptu visit from the President of the Capital. It seems that Katniss and Peeta’s very public thwarting of the Game’s design, by forcing the hand of the Capital to allow both of them to live and be victors of the Games, has had the unintended effect of inciting uprising among the Districts.
Continuing to play on the ploy she used to garner the affections of the Capitol, she claims she and Peeta are in love and that is the only reason for the actions that led to their survival of the games (an action that looked so much like intentional defiance of the Capitol.) President Snow is not fooled and claims that not all the districts are either. He tells Katniss that she and Peeta had better effectively sell their love to the districts during the Victory Tour (under threat of injury to her family and friends.)
Suffice it to say, Katniss’ best efforts would never be good enough. President Snow already has a plan to rid himself of Katniss and eradicate the unrest she has unwittingly created by proving that no one is above the Capitol.
The book really picks up when the President unveils his devious plan and Katniss and Peeta find themselves in a position they never dreamed possible- headed back into the Games arena, and against former victors!
This book was even better than the first. More visceral and emotionally provoking than the last book, (perhaps in part on account of the fact that we ‘know’ the characters and have presumably become at least a little attached to them), I was more and more impressed the further I read into Catching Fire. Collins artfully weaves a tale of friendship and love in with bigger concepts of oppression and humanity. The plot twists manage to be both predictable and then utterly surprising in ingenuity.
The only complaint I would have would probably be Katniss’ obtuseness when it came to interpreting obvious ‘clues’ about other characters’ motives that are given throughout the story. Her lack of recognition and insight into what was going on with the people around her was irritating at times, and bordered on improbable in other instances. The only thing I can assume is that it was an intentional plot device on the author’s part, but one would wonder, is Collins underestimating her younger audience, or merely ambivalent to the fact that some of the plot twists are a tad transparent? Either way, I suppose this is made up for by the twists that the reader doesn’t expect, the ones that seem to come out of nowhere, and set The Hunger Games series apart from other tales of similar plot design (The Running Man, Battle Royale, etc.)
I can honestly say that I can’t wait to see what the next installment brings.