Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Index

CATCHING FIRE

A novel by Suzanne Collins (2009, Scholastic Press)
Book 2 of The Hunger Games Trilogy

The survival of two victors in the hunger games leads to repercussions, as unrest builds among the districts and an ugly surprise awaits for their seventy-fifth anniversary.

 

 

Read June 6th to 17th, 2011 in hardcover, for the 2nd time  
    I remember enjoying this book just as much, or even more, than the first one –and that feeling is repeated, as I couldn’t get enough of it, all the way through.

As with The Hunger Games, I’ve been reading this book with my son. I barely remembered the movie; for some reason it wasn’t as memorable to me. However, what struck me throughout the book was how angry Katniss was. She started out with repressed feelings, wanting to avoid Peeta, and hiding out beyond the fence. After Snow’s visit, she’s more scared than anything. Finally, after the Victory Tour, she becomes resigned to the fact that she will die, probably sooner than later. And this is when she gets really angry. Every action she takes directs this anger, which is a lot more visible than it was in the movie. The fact that the book is a first-person narrative makes this easier, of course.

Then there were the smaller plots that got left out of the movie, like Darius’ fate, the refugees from District 4, Plutarch’s hints, her artificial ear and Peeta’s artificial leg, and so on. These are all little details that make a book work, that make this world so much larger than it would have been.

Inside the arena, things progressed rather quickly, and were, as in The Hunger Games, very intense and interesting. I loved Katniss’ confusion about who was on her side, and how everybody was protecting Peeta, so that she wouldn’t give up on life, as would have occurred if Finnick hadn’t revived him.

There are some conceits, though, but they don’t harm the story at all. The gamemakers appear to alternate whether it’s Ladies First, or Gentlemen First, depending on the effect it would have on the audience. The reaping is ladies first, while the demonstration of skills is gentlemen first, and so are the score announcements. Still, that’s a minor complaint in a book that I think holds my interest even more than the first book did, which I thought was already amazing.
 

 

Read June 6th to 17th, 2011 in hardcover  
    I thought there was no way this book could be as good as the first one, but hoped it was, and also hoped that my excitement for it wouldn't diminish it. I need not have worried. This book is almost as good as its predecessor, and in different ways.

The sequel picks up six months after The Hunger Games ended, with the Capitol still furious and impotent to do anything about Katniss. Peeta has kept his distance after her revelation at the end of the last book, and Haymitch continues to drink heavily. It's a wonder that Katniss hasn't started! Things have changed in District 12, though Katniss doesn't really change. She still likes to go out hunting, and is angered by the constant media attention that doesn't let her sneak out of the District fence. The winners have moved into an area of the district that has huge houses, and they are supplied with considerable food. Katniss is poor no longer. When she finally does escape into the woods, she realizes that Gale did understand what she had to do to survive, and to prove it, gives her a big kiss.

But halfway to the next Hunger Games comes the Victory Tour. Katniss and Peeta take a train through the twelve districts, where they get to see how different the world is. We get a lot of detail from District 11, because this is where Rue was from. Unlike District 12, this one has a live fence to keep the people in. Peeta gives a nice warm speech at the ceremony, and just as they are ready to leave the balcony in the square, Katniss suddenly gives a heartfelt speech of her own, praising Rue and earning cheers from the crowd. But people take up the mockingjay call, which results in a television shutdown and the victors being ushered away. Nobody is permitted to show any act of defiance toward the Capitol, and at least a couple of them have been shot in public view.

It turns out the other districts are ready for revolution as well, which is good, because otherwise this world is truly a depressing one. The first book looked like a young girl beating adversity, but it was much more than that. Katniss and Peeta's last act of defiance at the end of the Hunger Games stirred up revolts in several districts. Her mockingjay pin has become a symbol for the rebellion.

And because of her and Peeta's defiant speeches during the public tour, things in District 12 change again, but not for the better -who could think it could get worse? One day while she and Gale go out into the forest, they have a fight, and when she gets back in, she sees that Gale has been captured by new police and is being whipped. She tries to intervene and gets lashings, herself, which upsets her make-up artists when they arrive (so naive, those people from the Capitol).

For at the end of their tour, Peeta proposed to Katniss, so their wedding is being planned now, for the public. The President himself has told Katniss to try harder at making her love for Peeta real, to avoid stirring up trouble for the Capitol, but by the end of the tour, she has failed. He promises to have her mother, sister and Gale tortured or killed. Katniss really has two choices, and she does both. She sulks around, wondering what her life is worth now, then she talks to Gale and they think of ways they could stir up rebellion in District 12.

But with the new police force, things are harder for everyone, especially the black market, which goes up in smoke one day. Then, when Katniss sneaks out again, they electrify the fence, and she has trouble getting back in. Fortunately, a massive snowstorm stalls everything in the district for a couple of weeks, and things settle down a little.

That's when the next bombshell is dropped: in celebration of the 75th Hunger Games, twenty four previous winners will be sent back! Being the only female from District 12 means Katniss once again gets to go.

The detail in the first person perspective by this author is incredible. Every emotion from the teenage main character is raw. She jumps to conclusions, takes rash action, and wonders about everything she holds dear, which is so very little, anymore. Especially since she understands, now, the larger world, and how the Capitol is exploiting it. The people who live there are completely unaware of how tough it is to live in some of the districts.

And they really enjoy the Hunger Games.

As can be imagined, Katniss doesn't take well to getting back in the Games. At the training, she is detached, not wanting to get to know all the others, some of whom are very old, and others who are in the prime of their lives. But she trains before the Games, and she trains in the Capitol, watching videos of the winners of the previous games, to better learn their styles and skills. Instead of impressing the judges with her prowess with a bow (she does gain the admiration of most candidates as she shoots down target after target, though), she mocks them, and so does Peeta, in his own way.

It might seem like a cheat, having the characters go through the Arena twice in two books. But the arenas and the moods are very different from one another. For one thing, all the candidates have been in an arena before, and won. They know how to play the game. For another, most of them are playing a different game, now. During the interview, they all say how sad it is that this couple, which the Capitol loved so much, are being forced to fight again. Cinna, Katniss' designer, turns her wedding-interview gown into a burning mockingjay for all the Districts to see. Peeta, being such a good speaker, tells the crowd how they already are married in the ways of District 12, and that Katniss is pregnant (both lies, of course, but used to stir up sympathy).

Meanwhile, Katniss is still made to suffer. The old peacekeeper chief from District 12 has been rendered mute and forced to serve her. Just before she is raised into the arena, Cinna is beaten and taken away before her eyes for his act of defiance. Inside the arena, she hears mockingjays screeching in terror with Prim's voice.

But almost all of the candidates are coming to protect Peeta when he is in need. One uses CPR training to revive him after he hits a forcefield. Another sacrifices herself to a deadly fog so somebody can carry Peeta to safety. Still another takes a vicious monkey bite to the chest, dying, after throwing herself between the monkey and Peeta. Katniss doesn't understand, but her goal in this game is to make Peeta survive, so as long as their goals are the same as hers, she doesn't question it out loud. Inside, though, she wonders what is going on, and this is the real strength of the book. It should seem obvious to the reader that everyone is rebelling against the Capitol by trying to save Peeta. But Katniss is distrustful by nature, and it's nice to see her jump to the wrong conclusions. It's also interesting to see her fool herself. She has convinced herself that she no longer cares about anything in this world, and that it would be best for everyone if she dies in the arena. That way, there would be no point in the Capitol torturing her mother or sister or Gale. But she wants to protect Peeta, to make sure that good heart survives. But she doesn't really understand what kind of survivor she is, and it is with that she is able to fool herself.

The Arena this time is shaped like a clock, and every hour something new appears in one-twelfth of it, from the mockingjays, to lightning, the monkeys, a huge tidal wave, flesh-devouring bugs, the fog, and others. When the candidates are thinned considerably, one electrical specialist, Beetee, devises a plan to use the lightning to electrocute the players who are not part of their group. But this, too, is a ruse, to fool the Capitol. Instead, he was supposed to deflect the lightning with his wire and his knife into the forcefield, shorting it out.

But as usual, nobody's plans go as planned, and Beetee dies somehow -possibly from one of the non-aligned players. At the last moment, to thwart everybody and save Peeta, she shoots a wire-coated arrow into the forcefield, which serves the same purpose, but does a lot more bodily damage. The last two chapters of the book are a sort of chaos, as the survivors closest to the lightning tree are picked up by the rebels, which include Haymitch and the creator of the clock-Arena. But their enemies have taken Peeta, who Katniss could not abandon if she tried. Then Gale is there with them, telling her that District 12 has been bombed out of existence! And that they are headed for District 13, the old district that revolted and was presumed to be completely destroyed, too. Rumor has it that this district is thriving, and with their nuclear weapon threat the Capitol has not gone to war with them.

So this book ends on a cliff-hanger, too, but it is much more of a desperate one, which makes the reader want even more, and soon. I doubt I'll be able to wait so long before reading the third book in the trilogy after this. But at the same time, I didn't want this book to end, so I tried to spread out the end over several days before finally finishing it. That's kind of how I feel about the series, too.

 
   

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