Saturday, May 24, 2014

Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins

   2009; 391 pages. Book Two of the “Hunger Games” trilogy.  New Author? : No.  Genre : YA; Dystopian Thriller.  Laurels : Publishers Weekly : Best Book of 2009; Time Magazine : #4 on its "Top Fiction Books of 2009"; People Magazine : 8th best book of 2009.  Overall Rating : 9*/10.

    It’s going to be a busy year for Katniss Everdeen.  There’s the victory tour (since she co-won the Hunger Games) through all the Districts, followed by a gala celebration in the Capitol itself.  After that, it’ll be time to prep and preen for attending next year’s Hunger Games.  But at least Katniss will be a spectator this time, or even a mentor.

    But that tournament, the 75th one, will be something special.  Every 25 years, the games are called the “Quarter Quells”, and the rules get bent in some novel way.  Last time (#50), each district had to supply twice as many participants.

    I wonder what twist President Snow has planned for this Quell.

What’s To Like...
     Catching Fire is, of course, the second book in Suzanne Collins’ megahit series, The Hunger Games.  I‘ve read the first book; it is reviewed here.  There is no gap in the storyline; CF begins immediately after THG ends, with Katniss back in her home District resting and recuperating.

    The writing and storytelling are once again superb.  Suzanne Collins breaks the book into three more-or-less equally-long sections : The Spark, The Quell, and The Enemy.  Think of them as “Home”, “Prep”, and “Fight”.

    All your favorite (surviving) characters are back – Haymitch, Peeta, Gale, Cinna, etc.  And the resourceful Head Gamemaker with the fantastic name of Plutarch Heavensbee, plays a larger part here.  But Collins also introduces you to some new folks – Finnick, Johanna, Twill, Bonnie, and my personal favorite, Beetee.  They are all developed nicely, and you'll enjoy meeting them..

    The backstory is fleshed out a bit more this time around.  Details about the origin of the Mockingjay, the catastrophe in District 13, and short bios of some of the past winners of the Hunger Games are added.  The terrain for this year’s tournament is much more complex, which is fitting for a Quarter Quell.  Katniss’ “love triangle” is not resolved; indeed it morphs into a “love quadrilateral”.

    The ending is great and completes Book 2’s main storyline.  Collins closes with a nice “hook” for Book 3.  As if anyone needed incentive to read the concluding book.

    “This tour will be your only chance to turn things around.”
    “I know.  I will.  I’ll convince everyone in the districts that I wasn’t defying the Capitol, that I was crazy with love,” I say.
    President Snow rises and dabs his puffy lips with a napkin.  “Aim higher in case you fall short.”
    “What do you mean?  How can I aim higher? I ask.
    “Convince me,” he says.  (pg. 29)

    There’s someone behind me.  I’m alerted by, I don’t know, a soft shift of sand or maybe just a change in the air currents.  I pull an arrow from the sheath that’s still wedged in the pile and arm my bow as I turn.
    Finnick, glistening and gorgeous, stands a few yards away, with a trident poised to attack.  A net dangles from his other hand.  He’s smiling a little, but the muscles in his upper body are rigid in anticipation.  “You can swim, too,” he says.  “Where did you learn that in District Twelve?”
    “We have a big bathtub,” I answer.  (pg. 269)

 I really can’t think about kissing when I’ve got a rebellion to incite.  (pg.  125-126)
    There is no letdown from Book 1 to Book 2 in this series.  To mix metaphors, if you hungered for more after reading the first book, this one is going to be your cup of tea.  Katniss is still the star, but Catching Fire puts a bit more focus on the rebellion itself.

    My only quibble is that the book’s structure is identical to what was used in The Hunger Games – “Home, Prep, Fight”.  The first time around, it was a fantastic page-turning device.  This time, I could anticipate what was going to happen next.

     But that doesn’t mean Catching Fire isn’t still one heckuva fantastic read.   Hey, (as of today) 14,330 people took the time to review it at Amazon.  And since, inexplicably, Mockingjay is not on my TBR shelf, it appears I am going to have to make a trip to the bookstore this weekend. 

    9 Stars.  Add  ½-1 star if you think “Home-Prep-Fight” is a perfectly fine repeat performance, thank you very much.  And for the record, 21,116 people have left reviews of The Hunger Games at Amazon, with 15,779 of them doing the same for Mockingjay.  Wowza.

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