The games themselves are less prominent in Catching Fire, with the stirrings of a revolution and the totalitarian politics of the Capitol coming to the fore. This makes for a more interesting read, as the games were the weakest part of the The Hunger Games, and a more detailed exploration of the world of Panem is welcome. With small uprisings in some of the districts, one begins to see the power of an idea; Katniss and her Mockingjay acting as a symbol for the revolution and bringing hope to the oppressed. This is in stark contrast to the increasing hopelessness of Katniss's own life. It's a tough irony that, in saving herself and Peeta by a small act of rebellion, Katniss inadvertently locked herself into a life over which she has no control; forced to continue the pretence of loving Peeta, and living out her life with him, else risk the wrath of the Capitol and almost certain death. This sense of inevitability and lack of control perfectly captures a teenage angst, an oppression against which one feels compelled to rebel.
With the plot now focusing more on the political and social climate, and building tension around a potential uprising, the lazy characterisation is brought more sharply into focus. It's hard, in particular, to understand the motivations of characters like Cinna, who seem intent on damaging the Capitol, despite being part of the process of creating the games. Equally strange is Katniss's affection for characters like Effy and the prep team, all vacuous Capitol employees who are as complicit in her plight as the game-makers. Katniss herself bounces between naïve ignorance, and perceptive resourcefulness.
The writing is consistently simplistic, with the added irritant that in this instalment the reader is constantly talked down to, having neat allusions to The Hunger Games, explained in condescending detail, and foreshadowing spelt out in the clearest of manners. There are also scenes that feel entirely unnecessary in the context of Catching Fire, and one can only imagine they will become relevant in Mockingjay, the final book in the trilogy. Equally, there appears to be a disconnect between the events in District 12, and the events in the Capitol; almost two distinct story lines, with only Katniss's occasional references providing a link.
Collins's treatment of Katniss is disappointing. With such a potentially strong, female character, it's a pity that some of her story is given over to a fairly mindless love triangle, which feels slung in to suit the YA audience, and which the story, and Katniss, would be all the stronger for not having to bear. Equally, it's a shame that Katniss couldn't simply be tough and resourceful, but that she also has to be attractive under it all; Collins really chickens out of giving us the strong and unusual character that Katniss Everdeen could have been. The real problem with having your protagonist and narrator involved in a fight to the death, twice, around which the whole series is based, is that it's fairly evident that she will survive, thus sucking a lot of the dramatic tension from the passages within the arena. Indeed, up to this point no characters of consequence have died, and thus there is a distinct lack of peril, which somewhat undermines the whole concept. One final gripe: there is increasingly elaborate violence in this instalment of the games, and yet none of the participants baulk at this. One would hope that, rather than plotting to kill fellow competitors in agonising and brutal ways, they would want to make their ends as short and as clinical as possible.
Having pulled apart some of the main problems with the book, it has to be said that the series is addictive, and it’s clear that YA readers will become really involved in the story. There are some brilliant ideas, and Collins frequently demonstrates a complete harmony with the logic of the world she has created; this really affirms the story as a whole.
Reviews of Catching Fire on Amazon (UK)
Reviews of Catching Fire on Amazon (US)
|Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Book 1, The Hunger Games)|
The Hunger Games (2008) is a dystopian novel that imagines a North American of the future, where the country has been split into 12 separate districts, which are presided over by the... [Read More]
|Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Book 3, The Hunger Games)|
Mockingjay (2010) is the final book in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games Trilogy. Having escaped her second Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is cared for, with her family, in district 13; stronghold of the rebels. As she recovers her strength Katniss... [Read More]
|Word Search #002: The Hunger Games Characters|
The Hunger Games is full of fantastically named characters. Hidden within the word search below are the names of eight characters from the series (first names only). How many can you find? (Hint: this is very difficult, so I have posted the 8 names... [Read More]
|Anagrams #002: The Hunger Games Characters|
Suzanne Collins created some memorable characters in The Hunger Games, with a range of unusual names. But, how many characters from the series can you recognise from the list of anagrams below?... [Read More]
|Review: Katniss the Cattail by Valerie Estelle Frankel|
Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games (2012) is Valerie Estelle Frankel's guide to The Hunger Games series, most specifically the symbolism used within the trilogy. This is... [Read More]