Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

March 31, 2010

sequel to The Hunger Games
Read by Carolyn McCormick
Scholastic audiobooks, 2009
Finished: late march 2010
Source: the aether
Genre: dystopic YA novel
On the Scales: welterweight

“Katniss, Katniss!  Just when we thought you’d made up your mind!”

I must have said this twenty times while I was listening to the audio version of Catching Fire.  Well, not actually said it; I was thinking it, groaning and holding my hands over my ears and wagging my head from side to side.

Katniss emotes a lot in Catching Fire, which is different from having emotions.  She emotes more than in the Hunger Games.  Strange, because it seems to me she’s forfeited some of her emoting rights by not facing mortal danger the whole time.  I’m no longer a fan of Carolyn McCormick.  She gives Katniss this throb in her voice, as though every decision puts her into complete bewilderment, and every conflict inspires her to desperate pleading.  It made some sense in the arena, but not anymore.

I can’t write a review of Catching Fire that isn’t a spoiler.  It’s very existence is a spoiler for The Hunger Games: by now you know that Katniss survives the arena in that book.  I wasn’t sure she would.  I didn’t know if she’d show up in the sequel, and I purposely didn’t find out.  I like to come to a book totally raw.  My atrocious memory helps me with this, since I can read a review, and as long as there are no earth-shattering spoilers, the plot details are all gone in a couple of weeks.  How about you?  Do you mind knowing the plot ahead of time, even when it’s a popular novel?

While I enjoyed Catching Fire, I found I couldn’t listen to it while I was eating dinner because I was apt to snort and cringe.  The Hunger Games was a very tightly focussed story, whereas Catching Fire covers a lot of time and space.  This is often a problem for me.  It is hard for an author, unless she is Jean Webster, to write the kind of chapter that begins “It was a chilly spring,” then proceeds to cover several months in several pages, and do it well.  As a reader I usually feel alienated by this device.  I can’t believe nothing much worth mentioning happened in a whole three months.  And if it didn’t, that’s your fault, author lady, for not making every moment count!  You’re the one who decides when character-developing incidents take place, and how!  You could have done a lot more with that spring than just making it chilly, and having a lot of people get whipped half to death!

Oops.  Spoiler.  Sorry.

Well, not so much of a spoiler, because if you read Hunger Games you knew the Districts of Panem were a powder keg.  That’s the way trilogies go:  First book: personal.  Second book: personal and political.  Third book: political with frantic action, then personal at the very end.

Yeah, it’s a trilogy.  At least.  I didn’t know that for sure, coming in.  Not on a conscious level, but I soon realized there wasn’t going to be time to wrap everything up in Catching Fire–beside the fact that publishers don’t believe in duologies when the first book is a smash-hit-sensation.  Then I kept thinking, “How is there going to be a third book, the way things are going?  The pacing is all wrong.”  Then right at the end it became pretty clear how there was going to be a third book, and just what it was going to be about.

Half an hour after we popped out the last CD, Der Mann and I looked at each other.  “It’s just like Star Wars.”  And then I had an uncontrollable urge to go listen to “Fists Up” by the Blow because of the lines:

The vigilantes can’t agree on who’s in charge.
They gave their souls for the cause,
but the love that they were after’s still at large.
See this faith in which they found allegiance
Ripping at the seams as hope is running its course.
The rebels just can’t muster the force…

Really, the whole song is perfect for the Hunger Games series.  I am listening to it now.  I proclaim it the official Katniss anthem.  Or maybe Suzanne Collins’.

I don’t want to come to the point of this song, because the point of this song would have to be so long (long long long long long long long)…

3 Responses to “Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins”

  1. Agree entirely about the pacing, I kept looking at the number of pages left and thinking ‘how, how how?!’ then shrieking some more and reading. So impatient for book 3! *rubs hands together with glee*
    I was wondering who recorded it? I have a wariness of audio books if I don’t know the voice already (which is rather restrictive of me, I know) especially if I’ve read it first. Going to have to look up that song!

  2. Jenny said

    I am ready for the third book now. Wish they would release it. Though I don’t think I’ll probably revisit this trilogy, after I’ve finished it. It’s exciting, but I don’t know that it’ll cry out for a reread.

  3. Aarti said

    I am reading this now, and I agree with you (Though I still have about 100 pages to go). I feel like there is far more emotional angst in this book than the last one, where Katniss was much more practical. Here, for the first 200 pages, I just wanted her to pick a guy so that she could stop looking longingly at the other one.

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