Newest Review: ... Games left the districts surrounding the Capitol with more than a hint of rebellion with an uprising threatening due to the outcome of ... more
The Games Continue
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
Member Name: helenc72
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
Advantages: Gripping, more character development, further exploration of the regime of Panem
This is the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy and I don't want to spoil anything for anyone, so I will say that if you want to read this trilogy but have not read the first book, maybe you should look away now because this review will inevitably give away some of the things which happened in book one.
=== The Hunger Games Trilogy ===
The Hunger Games is a trilogy by Suzanne Collins which can be classified as literature for "young adults" but can definitely be enjoyed by older people too. Don't be put off by the young adult tag, as these books are gripping, well written and deal with big, important themes like power, justice, love and friendship. It is not just trivial nonsense for teenagers! The trilogy plays out in a dystopian world of the near future where a rebellion years earlier has caused the regime to instigate a shocking annual game show - The Hunger Games, where the participants must fight to the death until one remains - so that the people never forget that it is the Capitol which has the power.
=== Book Two: Catching Fire ===
At the end of Book One: The Hunger Games, we saw Katniss and Peeta change the game as they were both allowed to survive. Katniss had the idea that they should both eat poisoned berries, to undermine the games, as the Capitol would be faced with a choice between letting the two of them survive, or having a Hunger Games with no victor. The Capitol chose the latter, but this act of rebellion meant there would be trouble for Katniss.
She is back in district 12, living a different standard of life as a victor when we start Catching Fire. It is interesting to see some of her uncertainty about the two men in her life - Gale and Peeta - as she is not sure of her feelings towards either of them. She loves them both in different ways and doesn't want to hurt anyone, but as both have made their romantic feelings for her clear, she knows she is never going to be able to please them both.
Since returning as victor from the games, Katniss has become an iconic figure and her little trick with the berries has been interpreted as rebellion by people in some of the districts, although in the Capitol it has been taken as the desperate act of a girl trying to save the love of her life, Peeta. On the Victor's tour, Katniss gets her eyes opened about life in some of the other districts and sees that there is some unrest. I liked the way that we were shown a wider range of lifestyles in the different districts, allowing us a greater insight into Panem than in the previous book, where we mainly just saw district 12, the Capitol and the Arena where the Games take place.
In Catching Fire, it is the 75th Hunger Games, which means it is a "Quarter Quell". Every 25th year, the Games organisers do something even more and extreme and more shocking in order to intensify the reminder that rebels will never be stronger than the Capitol. This year, the tributes (game participants) will be picked from each district's pool of surviving Hunger Games victors! I did see something like this coming, as I had a feeling that Katniss and Peeta may have to take part in another Games. However I did still feel a bit shocked when I read it, as Suzanne Collins does such a good job of making the reader identify with Katniss, as she did not have a clue that this was coming.
Even though we see a full Hunger Games play out in book one, the fact that we experience a second Games in book two does not make the story repetitive. This second games is very different, as the dynamic has changed due to all the participants being previous victors, meaning many of them know each other, they have a wider range of ages and experience. The alliances and tactics at play are more complex. Katniss and Peeta feel they have more at stake, as they have seen the regimes in their home district become stricter and Katniss has been threatened that if she tries anything again, her family will be killed. I was gripped by this second games, and again the relationship between Katniss and Peeta is explored and develops further.
This Games has quite a surprising twist to it and the book ends quite abruptly, clearly leading into the final book of the trilogy, Mockingjay. I am glad I have bought the whole trilogy now as I will start reading Mockingjay straight away this evening!
Catching Fire is an extremely readable page turner. Book one already set the scene, so Catching Fire was able to go straight into more character development and further exploration of the regime in Panem without having to spend time building up this world for the reader first of all. It has 472 pages so is a fairly lengthy book but, as with The Hunger Games, I read this within an afternoon.
In my review of the first book I mentioned the similarities with the Japanese novel and film, Battle Royale. The sequel film, Battle Royale 2, was pretty rubbish, so here is another difference between the two versions of these "fight to the death gameshow" scenarios, as Catching Fire is by no means a weak sequel.
Summary: If you liked the Hunger Games, you need to read this!