Friday, September 18, 2009

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

In the aftermath of Katniss and Peeta winning the Hunger Games, Katniss must come to terms with the consequences of thwarting the Capitol. Leading up to the Quarter Quell, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the games, she must prove to everyone, including President Snow, that she's head-over-heels in love with Peeta and that her "cousin" Gale means nothing to her. There will be dire consequences for Katniss and the people she loves if she fails.

Reading Catching Fire made me angry, and there's nothing I like better than a dystopian novel making me angry. Down with the President! Chunks of this reminded me of the sweet parts of Nineteen Eighty-four, the middle third in which Winston and Julia have their dalliances in the forest and the room above the shop, talking carelessly and indulging in love-making, a big no-no in Oceania. (I've always rather fancied going to a party dressed in overalls with a red sash tied around my waist like a member of the Anti-Sex League, but I think the reference might be a tad obscure.) I half expected Katniss to spy a microphone hidden in the woods or for a painting to fall down in her house revealing a telescreen inhabited by President Snow sporting a Stalin mo. "TWO MINUTES HATE!!" Unlike in The Hunger Games, I found the romance in Catching Fire to be touching and thoroughly heart-wrenching. The love triangle isn't just about who Katniss thinks is spunky and can play up to the audience with; it becomes a matter of life and death for many people.

The pacing starts off a tad slowly, but it's hardly a disadvantage. It's like the calm before the storm, the ominous quiet before everything "catches fire". Fantastic title, by the way! It works literally and metaphorically on several levels. Where does Collins get her ideas? Such imaginitive ways to kill people. So sadistic and flamboyant! Rather like the thoughtless indulgences of the people of the Capitol. While Collins borrows from your typical grey, stony totalitarian dystopian novels, she also throws in a bit the destructive extravagance of Brave New World and Westerfeld's Uglies as a wonderful contrast between the bleakness of several districts and the frivilousness of the Capitol.

Gale remains a mystery. Peeta I have gained rather more respect for. He's the one to watch in book three I think. Gale needs to really pick up his game or he's going to fall off the radar for good! So have I picked a team? You bet I have!


Yep. The boys just pale into comparison to Katniss's awesomeness. This girl rocks. I don't think I've ever adored a female protagonist so much. I love hearing what's going on in her head, the way she pieces things together. Her voice (and Collins' writing) is thoroughly readable. And boy is she feisty when she's angry. I think I feel a girl crush coming on.

It's the people that really make Catching Fire, and not only the main cast of characters. There's a real sense of the masses, how people are reacting to this or that bit of footage; the unrest; the partying. Every bit character has a personality sketched in just a few short sentences, and they all have a purpose in Collins' grand scheme. (I had to look up who Seneca Crane was, but the bit with the dummy was genius!) Those who called The Hunger Games "simple" can't do the same for book two.

Catching Fire goes off with a bang. I adore it.

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If you've reviewed Catching Fire or know someone who has, leave a link in my comments as I've been avoiding them all like the plague until I could read the book myself!

14 comments:

  1. Catching Fire dumped into my mailbox yesterday. I'm so looking forward to reading it! Glad to hear that you liked it, Rhiannon! Thanks for the great review!

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  2. Okay, so while I didn't enjoy CF as much as I hoped I would--the blandness of the love triangle bothered me, we didn't get to see enough of the boys, Katniss was pretty mentally self-destructive for a lot of the part, and there were a lot of moments that just seemed kind of thrown into the book without any integration--I still liked it for nearly all of the points you make. Definitely Team Katniss! And I, too, want to know where Suzanne gets her ideas. The lady is clever. I wish I could be clever too.

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  3. LOVED CF. Any word on when the next book will be out??!!!! That's the bad thing about reading a book in a series right when it comes out.....gotta wait FOREVER for the next one!

    Did feel the ending was a little rushed....

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  4. I'm glad you loved it, too! I was afraid I was the only one. It might be a blind love, but it is love all the same.

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  5. My GOD, I love this series. I am desperate for the third. Like, break into her house, kidnap her and pull a "Misery" desperate.

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  6. Glad to hear you liked it! I agree about the boys paling in comparison with Katniss. While I think the love stuff is well done, and I did find myself leaning towards team Gale, Katniss is definitely the main draw for me. Thanks for the review, you've just reminded me how great this one is all over again.

    My review is right here.

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  7. Hi Rhiannon!
    I'm about 100 pages in Catching Fire and am definitely Team Katniss as well. I love following her thoughts and can totally feel her internal struggles. Overall, I am more partial to Gale than Peeta, but both young men are admirable, so I leave it to Katniss.

    FYI, I found your blog via The Book Smugglers. ;)

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  8. Steph--we must discuss this further!

    Mollie--No word on the next one, not even a title! September 2010 release date. *sigh*

    Leslie--my love is given eyes wide open! There's a lot in this book that recommends itself. Do you mean other people haven't been liking it??

    Misty--lets do it. Cat suits and grappling hooks coming up.

    Lauren I'm gonna go read your review!

    Christine--glad you came by! I adore the smugglers, they have such good taste and are hilarious girls.

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  9. haven't read it yet... but your review has got me excited. love the fact that you picked team katniss!

    btw: you've just been awarded
    http://vvb32reads.blogspot.com/2009/09/superior-scribbler-award.html

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  10. Great review, I agree w/ everything you said...but I'm on Team Peeta ;] Maybe Book 3 will change my mind, we'll have to see!

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  11. Great review! And Team Katniss is a given. But so far as the boys are concerned, I'm still with Peeta ;)

    I agree that this book really delved deeper than THG did, exposing the workings of the government, the uprising districts, etc. And I loved that. I feel like Ms. Collins finally moved out of the shadow of mimicking Battle Royale and The Running Man and finally gives us something new and completely original. (The similarities were huge detractors for me while reading THG.) For that, and for so many other reasons, I really loved Catching Fire, much more than its predecessor!

    I cannot wait to see what happens in the next book. Only a year to go!

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  12. I haven't got a chance to read it yet (there are a gazillion holds at the library) but your review makes me look forward to it. :)

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  13. Guys, the next book is called Mockingjay. Look on the website. Its following with the whole bird theme thing. Catching fire was great. I think i like the first one better, just because its more exciting reading something good the first time. LOVE this series. The dates for the third book are all messed up. The U.S. one is on August 24th 2010, but the UK date is either the same as the U.S. one or in July. Lots of confusion there.

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