Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Catching Fire is the second novel in Suzanne Collins' trilogy. I've noticed that the middle books in other trilogies have a tendency to advance the plot only sightly and to have no ending. True to form this book left me hanging, but I'm pleased to say my other expectation was proven wrong. Catching Fire has Katniss and most everyone around her expanding their views on what is important in life. She unexpectedly returns to the arena, but this time there is less of a sense of each tribute fighting for his or herself. The Capitol was always the clear villain, but this time it seems that most of the participants understand that fact. And Katniss, instead of begrudgingly accepting the fact that she will have to be the last one standing, is prepared to sacrifice her own life. The sentiment behind her “poison berry” tact in book one has taken hold.
The pacing of the writing is excellent once again. The fight scenes give the reader a sense that we're watching super heroes, but not to the extent that the book loses its sense of reality. However, the problems in the arena have shifted for the most part to struggles against disasters the Capitol has prepared rather than struggles against other tributes.
The politics of the book have shifted somewhat as well. In The Hunger Games the people of the districts are kept in place by an elaborate economic system that funnels most of the money to the Capitol. The tesserae is the clearest example of this. Here the poor people trade chances that their children will be chosen to fight in the arena for food to feed their families. But in Catching Fire that system is starting to fail and more emphasis has been placed on the “peace keepers,” who are brutal, sadistic soldiers. The government officials are less like wall street brokers and more like ruthless dictators (although I believe the concept that the two are similar is at the heart of both plots).
Suzanne Collins seamlessly switches back and forth between the problems of an unfair world and the problems of a young girl trying to understand her own emotions, creating a book that is appropriate for all ages. Once again her writing grabs the reader and doesn't let go. I'm looking forward to the third book.
Steve Lindahl - author of Motherless Soul
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