Monday, October 18, 2010

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

This is the sequel to The Hunger Games, and compared to the first book it was very disappointing. It was still good, but Hunger Games was stellar and good when you are expecting stellar is disappointing.

Too much of Catching Fire was devoted to that old, comfortable teen romance routine, e.g., "oh no, two boys love me and I am sort of in love with both of them, and I don't know what I really want but I refuse to actually talk to anyone about what I am feeling." Really lame. A lot of Catching Fire is, unfortunately, devoted to Katniss bellyaching in her head about her relationships with Gale and Peeta. This was extremely repetitive and boring.

The writing in this book was the same as in Hunger Games: first person, present tense. This is awesome in the more action packed parts of the book, but just weird when Katniss is worrying about hurting people's feelings for endless pages or speculating about what may or may not happen eventually. First person present tense does not lend itself to introspection well, it turns out.

Don't get me wrong, there are good parts of this book. It really picks up about 60% of the way through and is as exciting and engaging as Hunger Games, if not as original. A few of the peripheral characters became more interesting, and there were a ton of unexpected twists and turns. You can't help empathizing with Katniss and her friends in this book. The setting is so cruel and heartless to them that I definitely choked up once or twice.

I am not sure that this book should exist. Hunger Games was amazing, and the third book (Mockingjay) promises to take the reader to very interesting places, but Catching Fire couldn't decide if it was setting up the third book or rehashing the first. Literally, when it wasn't setting up stuff that didn't even begin to happen in this book, remarkably similar things were happening to the first book. It's pretty much like if there was a sequel to "Titanic" where Rose took another cruise where the boat crashed into an iceberg. Oh, and half the movie would be devoted to her discussing her feelings. So maybe the plot of Catching Fire could have been abbreviated and stuck in "Mockingjay." Or not. We'll see.

I hesitate to recommend or disparage this book too much before I read "Mockingjay" since how much I like the third book will determine my feelings on the series as a whole. Stay tuned for that!

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