Yair Ben-Zvi's Reviews > Catching Fire

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
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's review
Jul 29, 2011

really liked it

Wow, surprised, dig out the crayon box and color me whatever the hell designates 'surprised'. I read the first Hunger Games and was appreciative of it. It wasn't fantastic and I certainly had my issues with it (wooden characters, stilted dialogue, hamstrung attempts at world building that felt, at times, more than a little derivative of other stories) but it not only kept my attention but compelled to read on with genuine interest and growing pleasure. Almost as if Ms. Collins was loosening the strain of her authorial reigns and was instead letting the story grow and metastasize something more human and genuine.

And now I can say with little hyperbole that the novel's sequel "Catching Fire" is not only superior to the first installment but is in fact, to me, the current heart and brains of the series. Far from just being a grossly unsubtle satire of the near Roman gladiatorial audience lusting for brutality that seems to be the modern Western media consumer, this book is also, now, fast becoming a well told story in its own right. The characters are distinct and the depth and nuance of their relationships with one another (especially in light of the oncoming rebellion and the odious nature of the totalitarian horror of The Capital and its President Snow) are much more at the fore here than in the first book. I actually cared about Katniss Everdeen here as more than just 'protagonist' but as this character going through, fairly realistically, the trials and travails connected with being a celebrity come seditious symbol of proletariat rebellion.

It's still a bit simple, though. Now I'm not expecting Pynchon here but Harry Potter as a young adult series was able to juggle a lot of complexities along with a likable and even empathetic cast. And all this in a modern fantasy setting. Go Rowling. Collins isn't there, yet. The 'Y' is emphasized more than the 'A'. But she's already far surpassed Stephane Meyer and her dreadful "Twilight" series by conceiving a story where actions have consequences, the ethics and morals at play are well delineated and pleasurably complex, and the story, while again simple, is well told. Sparkly vampires can continue to suck it, if you'll pardon the crassness.

So read this book and see the gradual but very real evolution of a rock solid writer's voice who clearly cares about the world she's created and it's conflicts and characters (though the latter, thankfully, not enough to prevent necessarily jarring death scenes).

PS Haven't seen then the films, have no real desire too. Jennifer Lawrence doesn't need my 12 dollars quite as much as I do at this point (even frustrated writers have to eat, apparently).

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Reading Progress

July 29, 2011 – Shelved
December 13, 2013 – Started Reading
December 13, 2013 –
page 30
December 17, 2013 –
page 90
23.02% "Getting whiplash from the pacing but aside from that this book feels like the heart and brains of the series so far, getting into it bit by bit..."
December 18, 2013 –
page 106
December 18, 2013 –
page 139
December 19, 2013 –
page 151
December 19, 2013 –
page 164
December 19, 2013 –
page 188
48.08% "Schizo pacing but definitely more heart and brains than the first installment."
December 25, 2013 –
page 218
December 26, 2013 –
page 238
December 29, 2013 –
page 253
December 31, 2013 – Finished Reading

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