Book Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsPosted: February 18, 2013
One of major strengths of The Hunger Games was it’s simple concept- in a dystopian future teenagers are sent into gladiatorial combat, their exploits televised by a government to entertain the elite and show their power and control to the masses. A follow up has to build on the original premise and continue the story of its protagonist, but often this can lead to disappointment.
Collins however, pulls off a great example of a follow up, expanding on the themes raised in the first book and also cleverly developing the story outwards, widening the scope and raising the stakes.
Shortly after her triumph in the games Katniss has returned to District 12, but the act of defiance to the games rules which resulted in her surviving with her partner Peeta, has consequences. Fearing potential rebellion spurred on by her behaviour, President Snow delivers a threat and she must continue with the ruse of being in love with Peeta, as the Capital tightens its grip and displays its power.
Things worsen with the approach of the Quarter Quell, the event every 25 years where the Games are altered to include new twists to further the Capital’s message of power and control. This year, every district must chose from it’s past victors to represent in the Games. Katniss must return to the arena, against proven killers, and someone she cares about.
I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot, but I will say that I totally loved this movie. Like the first installment Collins makes it a thoroughly gripping adventure and a real page turner, and I stormed through this in less than 48 hours, which is always a sign of a good (or short) book.
From the off there’s this great sense of tension, as Katniss has to adjust to life in the spotlight again and a growing awareness of the way the government works and the lengths it will go to. It’s all building up to the Games, of course, but there’s plenty of interesting back story filled in and the more of the world of Panem is explored, and all the sneaking around and shady behind the scenes movements are just as interesting.
One of the few flaws with the original book is that aside from the core characters the others felt a little shallow and two dimensional. Katniss’ enemies in the arena were largely anonymous, but here they’re fleshed out a little more. Facing ex-champions is a neat twist as it gives Katniss a glimpse into what might be her future and the cast of damaged, burnt out champions are far more engaging than a bunch of scared kids and junior psychos.
It’s also cool to get a bit more information about the history of characters like Katniss’ mentor Haymitch, and even more insight into why he’s become a drunken wreck, but he never becomes a caricature and there are flashes of intelligence and grit within him, which explains how he was once a champion.
In the arena it’s another tense, violent fight to the death, with the arena throwing up fresh challenges and uncomfortable alliances having to be made. There’s a palpable feeling of dread and raised stakes, with Katniss having far more to fight for this time around, and her character develops, she has to deal with her conflicting emotions about Peeta again and she grows in confidence and resourcefulness.
Again, the novel’s great strength is our narrator and heroine, Katniss. She’s resourceful and tough, but Collins never stops her from being what she is- a teenager struggling with changes in her personal life and slowly growing to understand the world she lives in. There are times when she’s just as lost and confused as the reader, and her flaws are never deleted, making her incredibly human heroine. She’s such a bright, personable narrator and that’s what really engages you in the story.
All in all it’s a brilliant book and as soon as I finished I had to fight the urge to start in on part 3.
Verdict: A fantastic read, with heightened tensions and a great main character. It’s a thrilling sci-fi adventure, set in a well crafted future world and Collins does a great job in expanding and improving on the work she did in part 1. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.