Tuesday, March 6, 2012

“Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins

After I jotted down my thoughts on “The Hunger Games,” I took up “Catching Fire.” Suzanne’s talent and skill for telling an engaging story are once again confirmed as I am unable to put the book down until the wee hours of the morning. It is even more impressive considering all the nagging problems that spring to mind throughout the course of the book.

This is the middle of a planned trilogy, so you expect a certain amount of transition and a lack of resolution. (Although that dissatisfaction begins at the beginning of the first volume; so who knows where the trilogy will end up?) However, in this story the transitional, place-holder feel is there early and persists. We begin thinking that the games are over and the quite telegraphed rebellion our heroine has inspired will be the topic of the book. The book seems to think so as well. The only person who never sees it coming, and overlooks all the hints piling up everywhere, is Katniss. In fact, her cluelessness is a bit annoying seeing as she is our narrator.

Nothing produces more frustration for the reader here than the romance, if you could call it that. The book spends far too much time having Katniss struggle to define her feelings for two guys who are so completely interchangeable. They are both perfectly good for her, and both perfectly boring. In most stories at least one of these guys would be bad news and we would have the other one for which to root. Not here. The love story is so difficult because there is no clear choice.

That is the problem shaping up for the rebellion as well. No one would argue that there needs to be an end to the oppression in Panem. However, the fact that a government is evil is not enough to produce a good rebellion. There has to be an understanding of an alternative. Compare the American and French revolutions to see what I mean. One had an ideal it was aiming for and produced a government that continues to try to get things right to this day, even if it fails to be perfect. The other simply sought to throw off oppression and managed to find another equally devastating.

All of that is getting ahead of ourselves, though. Ultimately this book is about reveling in the cruelty of evil again. We have to revisit the games. Only this time there is a lesser sense of the way they are used to appease, entertain and control the populace. We think very little about the audience. We are the audience.

(See here for thoughts on "The Hunger Games")

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