Monday, October 5, 2009 | |

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins ***Small Spoilers, Clearly Marked***

NOTE: To get my overall opinion of the book, spoiler free, just skip the clearly marked spoiler section. If you can't see it, please go back to bed grandma, you know the little text just isn't your thing. I'll print it out for you in the morning. Sheesh.

As a reviewer of new fantasy and sci-fi books, I am a glutton for punishment. I almost never think about whether or not a series is complete before I start reading. In fact, since the blog attempts, albeit weakly, to stay on the cutting edge of what's out there, that's usually the last thing on my mind.

This brings me to Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, the second book in the incredibly popular Hunger Games Trilogy. You can read my review of the first book here. In short, I loved it in that "can't get enough" way that had me clamoring for more.

***************************here there be spoilers****************************

This second book in The Hunger Games didn't disappoint. Katniss realizes, on a somewhat smaller scale, that she's the face of a rebellion starting to take place throughout the districts. President Snow, in an attempt to quell the rebellion before it can spread to all the districts, uses the Quarter Quell, an event that takes place every 25 years, to kill the poster child of the rebellion by placing Katniss and Peeta in the games yet again, this time against the victors from previous years.

**************************here be the end of them***************************

Hopefully that paragraph isn't too spoilerific for you. If so, sorry. It's my review, and I did mention that there were slight spoilers, so you had it coming.

The inherent weakness in a second book comes, I feel, from expectations ingrained in us from birth as readers. We want a happy ending, and a second book simply cannot deliver that. So, I fully expect there to be much gnashing of teeth and bemoaning the fact that we'll have to wait another year, perhaps more, to see the grand finale of what happens to our heroes. That's to be expected, and I'll try not to let that cloud my judgement in reviewing the book.

Something that was somewhat unexpected was the seeming drop in intelligence of our hero, Katniss. I expected her to be a little more on the ball, considering what she'd been through in the last book. I was left wanting somewhat in that regard. Don't read too much into this, she's still a great character. I was just looking for her to brighten up a bit, and I suppose she did, just not as much as I wanted.

Another minor beef I had with this book was the entirely-too-convenient plot twists. It's almost like Collins couldn't think of anything more dramatic than the original Hunger Games as a story, and so she just moved the characters back into that environment. I'm not complaining too much, since it's always good to see Katniss at her best, killing and surviving, but I was hoping for a little more character growth. This section of the overarching plot almost seemed more like a middle grade book rather than a young adult, in that Katniss spent entirely too much time reacting to things, and not enough time acting. All the clever defiances of the capitol were set up for her, and the big reveal of what's really going on at the end (a staple of almost any second book) was completely given to her, rather than puzzled out. She did make a couple of discoveries, so I guess I might just be grasping at straws, I'm not. This was a weakness in the book, and that's that. For a character as strong as Katniss is, she was weaker in the thinking department in this second book.

On the plus side of things, I felt that the writing was top notch, again. The love scenes and the romance of Katniss and Gale, and Katniss and Peeta was well done, and thankfully much briefer than I expected given the first act of the book and what Katniss and Peeta were trying to accomplish. Also, the contrived plot that I mentioned above could be forgiven for being thought up by the antagonist rather than the author trying to write her way back into her comfort zone.

Despite my complaints above, I give this book a 8.5/10. It's a must read for fans of the series, and fans of post-apocalyptic sci-fi in general, especially if they happen to be between the ages of 14 and 18. My hats off to Collins, for delivering an excellent second book. I'm sure that the second book is the hardest to write, and although she didn't break any ground here as far as how to write it, it was still well done. And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to surfing the web, looking for a convenient way to get an ARC of the third book and avoid the pain of waiting a whole year.


Eric said...

the hunger games and catching fire were so good can't wait for book 3 and the movie.

Bryce said...

I don't really know that I'd like a movie, to be honest. I think that the first person present tense is really what seals the deal for me in the books, and you'd completely lose that with a movie.

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