Every year in Panem, the dystopic nation that exists where the U.S. used to be, the Capitol holds a televised tournament in which two teen "tributes"Every year in Panem, the dystopic nation that exists where the U.S. used to be, the Capitol holds a televised tournament in which two teen "tributes" from each of the surrounding districts fight a gruesome battle to the death. In ”The Hunger Games”, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, the tributes from impoverished District Twelve, thwarted the Gamemakers, forcing them to let both teens survive.
In this rabidly anticipated sequel, Katniss, again the narrator, returns home to find herself more the center of attention than ever. The sinister President Snow surprises her with a visit and Katniss’s fear when Snow meets with her alone is both palpable and justified. The inner turmoil Katniss faces is incredibly palpable--every person she ever cares about is put in danger, and she has to live with that, decide what sacrifices she is willing to make, and how to ensure their safety.
”Catching Fire” is divided into three parts: Katniss and Peeta’s mandatory Victory Tour through the districts, preparations for the 75th Annual Hunger Games, and a truncated version of the Games themselves. Actually, I think the title accurately reflects what this novel is all about--things in Katniss's world begin to catch fire. They don't actually “catch fire”--it just begins; it's "catching," so to speak.
The biggest problem with ”Catching Fire” is its pacing. The first third of the novel is really told in summary--Katniss explains what happened when she and Peeta came home, what happened on their tour of the Districts, what happened when she talked to Gale, etc. By telling it all in long paragraphs of summary, Collins removes the reader from the immediacy of the action--and it's both disappointing and disengaging. I wanted to experience Katniss's first meeting with Gale after she returned from the Games. I wanted be part of her trying to get her life together after her horrific experiences. But that's not the way this story is told. Then, about midway through the novel, things start to feel very much like ”The Hunger Games” revisited.
Additionally, Gale plays such a peripheral role in this novel that it's hard to really know him. Peeta is present in almost every chapter--the sweet, loving, doting boyfriend who will be eternally true to Katniss. Gale, however, appears in only a few brief scenes, and never says more than a few words. ”Mockingjay” may give us a better picture of what these two young men really meant to Katniss; ”Catching Fire” does not.
Slower paced than its predecessor, this sequel explores the nation of Panem: its power structure, rumors of a secret district, and a spreading rebellion, ignited by Katniss and Peeta’s subversive victory. Katniss also deepens as a character. Though initially bewildered by the attention paid to her, she comes almost to embrace her status as the rebels’ symbolic leader.
In terms of sheer adventure and thrills, Collins really knows how to step it up, especially once Katniss re-enters the arena. The author comes up with some really messed up perils for the tributes, plus there's the added nuance of the contestants all being past champions. This time, Katniss isn't contending with inexperienced children.
I do have a problem with the way the book ends. There were signposts along the way, so it's not like it came out of left field, but still I feel that the plot switcheroo comes along too abruptly and feels rushed, and so there's a jarring whiplash effect.
In the meantime, I'll need to try to find something to keep myself occupied until I can finally read the conclusion to this compelling, disturbing, and deeply layered tale. Collins has crafted a really impressive work of literature and it is one I will definitely be recommending to friends.
I was barely able to put this book down for a second after the first few pages got me completely hooked. Suzanne Collins narrative here has an immediaI was barely able to put this book down for a second after the first few pages got me completely hooked. Suzanne Collins narrative here has an immediacy to it that, when combined with the very dramatic life-or-death plot, is incredibly compelling. It's entertaining, and incredibly disturbing all at once.
In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch.
When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart, Peeta, the son of the town baker (who seems to have all the fighting skills of a lump of bread dough), will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives. Collins's characters are completely realistic and sympathetic as they form alliances and friendships in the face of overwhelming odds; the plot is tense, dramatic, and engrossing.
So many topics are touched upon; a nation filled with so many poor and a handful of very rich, the use of fear to govern, Big Brother watching every move, even the issue of our addiction to "reality tv" and questioning how real it is. To have a female character that uses her brains to survive, without losing her humanity, is a great achievement, although the games and deaths are very, very brutal.
This book is very well written, the scenes sharp and crisp, the world believable and detailed. The characters become real as you read. You reach the end and are left hungry for more, which is what you will get as this is book one in a trilogy. The only drawback in my opinion is the lack of a map. I keep hoping for a map of Panem, with the 12 districts, the mysterious destroyed 13th district and the wilderness areas between them. Maybe this can be part of a companion book to this trilogy?
There is action, romance, deception, humans hunting humans, surgically altered stylists (reminiscent of Westerfeld's "Uglies"), genetically enhanced mutants, a cruel totalitarian government, and a unspoken mandatory creed to treat the entire event as if it were a holiday.