It doesn’t take long for me to finish Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins’s second book in her Hunger Games Trilogy. After the face paced finish of the first book, I was hungry for more Hunger Games [I bet THAT hasn’t been used before]. And with only 50 pages in, I got exactly what I was looking for. Catching Fire forgoes a lot of the character development and setting up of Panem and dives deeper into its infrastructure and functionality. It was overall neat as I was wondering how Katniss would be involved in all this, but I definitely wasn’t disappointed.
Although it seemed rushed and devoid of any of the vivid descriptions that made the first one more interesting and other books overall more colorful [George R.R. Martin could’ve spent an entire chapter of the Hunger Games describing a room vs. the quick plot advances in Collins’s style], I think Catching Fire was an overall better book plot wise and kept me even more glued to the pages than the first book. And that’s definitely saying something. Major books spoilers below!
Faster Paced than Before
The first book was pretty fast paced, as it had to introduce Panem, District 12, the characters, etc. Now that all of that was out of the way, Catching Fire jumped right into where the last book left off. Occasionally, there was a couple of moments of redundancy where Katniss had to explain things we were already aware of, but I felt those moments were just reminders put in place to catch anybody reading it for the first time or maybe someone who hasn’t picked up Hunger Games in a long time.
Regardless of the real reason, this book was even more fast paced seeming to pass weeks or even months at a time between chapters and paragraphs. The 6 months after the Hunger Games, the Victory Tour, it was all very fast paced, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I feel as though some things fell in the cracks or there are parts I was interested in, but wasn’t given the opportunity to see or find out [more on that below].
The Aftermath, District 12, and the Victory Tour
We open up what appears to be some time after the winners were announced. There was a fallout between Katniss and Peeta, the government is pissed at Katniss, and the Everdeens are living on nice estate now. Life has gotten stricter for Katniss as she’s constantly in the eyes of the Capitol and many others. This makes hunting with Gale harder as he has taken a full time job as a coal miner and he hasn’t entirely ‘forgiven’ her for actions in the Games.
Some crazy things shake up the town, like an impromptu blackmail visit from President Snow and a new Peacekeeper commander, but Katniss leaves all that behind to go on a Victory Tour around the other Districts. We’re given a very good description of District 11 and residents reacting to Katniss was very touching and very emotional. It was a shame that we weren’t able to get better description of the other districts as I am very interested in what these looked like. But like I said, the fast pace of the novel apparently didn’t allow that.
We’re On Your Side
Interestingly enough, Katniss stumbles onto some escaped rebels from a revolting district on one of her hunting trips. It was neat for her to catch up on other districts and how they reacted to both the games and the revolts. However the true point of this conversation was to point out the importance of the Mockingjay pin she carries as well as her significance in this so-called rebellion. They open up their introduction with ‘We’re On Your Side’, meaning they believe her to be in on the entire rebellion all along. Also significant is the possibility of District 13 being more than just ash as what the Capitol expects its citizens to be. It’s at this point where Katniss truly believes that the Capitol is hiding much more than she originally anticipated and thinks life might be better elsewhere…
President Snow turns things around when he announces the Quell, a celebration of every 25th Hunger Games, as a means to spice things up. The Quell is a special spin on the year of the Hunger Games and the gimmick was just unfortunate enough to be that the previous victors are supposed to compete against each other. This throws Katniss into a fit as she once believed to have been past it all to only unfortunately be put in the ring again.
This time around she realizes she’s facing other previous victors as well as Haymitch’s old friends. Katniss and Peeta take the opportunity to watch Haymitch’s old tape to see how he won and I was very shocked and satisfied in the manner of his victory. I wanted to know how he won after reading the previous book and it seemed I got what I wanted.
Preparation for Another Games and the Other Victors
Katniss and Peeta are heartlessly thrown back into the train without saying goodbye to their loved ones to go back to the Capitol. The book doesn’t spend near as close to enough time describing the train unlike the first book, so we’re quickly moved back to the Capitol. Training begins and she meets her competitors. Some are old, others still fairly young, all decently likable. Alliances are formed, friendships forged, and some enemies are already made.
It’s during this time we meet a slew of new people, some more likable than others: Finnick, Johanna, Gloss, Enobaria, Mags, Beetee, Wiress, etc. etc. In both our eyes and Katniss’s eyes, the idea of killing them all is tough considering that we’re given a lot more character development to these ‘tributes’ than tributes in the past.
The Race Against Time
As soon as the games start, something is amiss. Their platforms are surrounded by water with only a beach in sight. As soon as Katniss and Peeta get their bearings, they quickly befriend a number of people with the max number of the alliance to be as big as 6 or 7 at one time. They soon deduct that the ring is set up like a clock with certain disasters occurring at different times. They plan their winning strategy around this and Katniss is hurt to believe that despite her entire team is coming up with a strategy to kill others, that she unfortunately has to kill them to make Peeta win.
The new games are quite delicious as horrible as it sounds. Volcanoes of blood, mockingjays repeating loved ones voices, and thunder rods are all amazing death traps. It was neat following along with the group as they figured out what each time meant and the disaster that corresponded.
The Finale and Fingernails
This is however turned around when something amazing happens. Their plan to kill the others wasn’t actually the originally intended plan. When trying to use a lightning rod to electrocute their foes, they actually used it to destroy the barrier of the ring instead. Katniss is caught up in the explosion and is carried away only to awake in a hospital room of some sort.
She wakes up to see Haymitch in which he tells her about the grand scheme of how they never intended to kill each other and that escaping was the original plan. This slightly ticks off, but not near as close to as when Haymitch tells her that the Capitol has Peeta. In a brilliant sentence, she claims everyone underestimates the damage nails can do as she claws into Haymitch’s face, which she is soon sedated afterwards.
There is No District 12 and Mockingjay
Gale arrives to calm her down to tell her that she got Prim and her mother out safely. But not without words of sadness. Gale solemnly reports that District 12 has been seemingly obliterated as a result of the events of the most recent games. We’re left on that cliffhanger before the book ends.
It’s tough to say if I liked Catching Fire more than the Hunger Games. In the Hunger Games, Katniss was a much stronger female figure who directed her own actions to achieve her goal. It seemed as though in Catching Fire, she was powerless and essentially ‘duped’ the entire time. I felt as though everyone else was doing stuff and she was just a punk kid who tagged along helplessly. However, a lot more exciting stuff happened in Catching Fire, which makes this decision really difficult. Maybe that’s where Mockingjay will stand out as my favorite. I feel as though Katniss will have to take the role as a leader and then have interesting things happen. We’ll find out. My review on Mockingjay will be out next week.