Last week I blogged about the first of The Hunger Games novels and I was, I admitted, not convinced when I started and somewhat addicted to it – flaws and a few misgivings aside – by the end. So much so, that I dived straight into Catching Fire.
Here, from the beginning, were things I liked. The strain of [SPOILERS] the fake-or-is-it relationship with Peeta. Picking up the friendship-or-more with Gale again. And, particularly, the sense that while they’ve escaped the arena The Hunger Games aren’t over. Not by a long way.
I’ve had the impression online that those who loved The Hunger Games were less impressed by Catching Fire. There’s certainly a sense of inevitability that Katniss and Peeta will be drawn back into the arena again, and against tougher odds. I think Catching Fire suffers from being a second novel, too, because we’re already familiar with the concept and we expect our heroes to survive – the question, to the book’s detriment, is how and not if they’ll escape a second time. I also felt that the second games ended too soon. We seem to reach the fight slowly, and finish it very quickly which certainly left me feeling a touch frustrated.
But I’m a fan of the way Collins uses her world to make points about entertainment and propaganda, politics and celebrity and that seemed a greater part of the story than ever before. The relationship and quest for survival may have taken a step back, but the survival of all twelve districts took a big step forward at the same time. So it may be less personal a novel, and the balance between visiting the twelve districts and the games may not entirely work, but for me the purpose of Catching Fire was altogether stronger and the series more engaging as a result. There are also some clever ideas about the arena, the background politics, and the character interactions which are neatly deployed and for the first time in a while I found myself reading into the early morning to find out what happened in the end. While I didn’t find the ending entirely satisfactory (where The Hunger Games stands alone, this feels far more like a two-parter, with the story to be concluded in Mockingjay) it was still an engaging, more thoughtful read which I enjoyed.
And with that in mind . . . on to Mockingjay.