Thursday, 15 December 2011
Review: Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
Extent: 472 pages
Pub Date: 7th September 2009
After winning the brutal Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen returns to her district, hoping for a peaceful future. But Katniss starts to hear rumours of a deadly rebellion against the Capitol. A rebellion that she and Peeta have helped to create. As Katniss and Peeta are forced to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. Unless Katniss and Peeta can convince the world that they are still lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying. The terrifying sequel to The Hunger Games.
I pretty much looked like a fish washed up on the shore when I turned the last page of Catching Fire – gasp, gasp, gasp. I didn’t go anywhere without this book clutched in my left hand, it was so important that I keep it near me at all times in case something horrible were to happen to the characters.
I’d been waiting a long time to get back to Katniss and Peeta and investigate the fallout of their time in the Hunger Games. I think Katniss has developed wonderfully, she’s taken on a new kind of fragility along with her tough exterior. Naturally, she is still utterly confused and has a defensive wall so thick it must be impossible for any other character to read her. But that’s the great thing about being the reader, you are inside Kat’s head which actually makes her very easy for you to read. She comes across as a tough nut, which on occasion she really is, but you can understand the kind of emotional turmoil she is in. She’s pretty screwed up and I know in her situation anyone would be but she does have an enviable ability to keep it together and do what is necessary.
I can’t believe Suzanne Collins sent them back into the Games again! After a while I was actually pretty irritated at this. It began to feel a bit like the same record. I thought we had dealt with the sick horror of the Games in The Hunger Games and this book would be all about an uprising. Well, I know it is quite a lot about an uprising and when, at the beginning of the book, there was news of rebellions in some district I thought we were in for a great story. And then Kat and Peeta get stuck back in the Games and it’s the same old for over half the book. I thought at least that the tributes would have some kind of tacit understanding that when the Games began so did their rebellion and each of them refused to kill the others.
But then, I thought, maybe the author was trying to be a bit more subtle than that. The aim of the story is not to slap you in the face with what you expect – because how boring and predictable would that be? – but to listen more carefully to the dynamics of a rebellion in such a setting as the districts. A rebellion can only be effective if every district acts at once but when they are cut off from each other, how do they know when to act? I was being too simplistic and Suzanne Collins, of course, knows her story a thousand times better than I do. She’s really listened to the situation she has constructed and produced the best answer, that an uprising must happen from inside the Capitol. That, yes, the victors of previous Games must go back to the Games because despite what President Snow thinks, the worst thing to do is put experienced players back into the ring. It’s not a punishment, these tributes will have gone through it all before, will know the tricks of the gamemakers and will be rational enough to find a way out. Brilliant!
I’m so glad Suzanne Collins wrote this and not me, I would have made a terrible hash of it, wielding my sledge hammer of predictability. All credit to her for truly understanding the dynamics of the world she has created and the mechanics of the characters she has populated it with. I’m finding it very hard not to reach for Mockingjay!