Friday, December 10, 2010

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)
So, all is not peaches and cream, sweetness and light for Katniss and Peeta as they return to District 12, victors in the Hunger Games (subtitle: There's no such thing as happily ever after?). Though they are given beautiful homes to live in, and their families are taken care of, they're not content, and neither are all of the districts. It seems that Katniss unwittingly became a symbol for those who chafe under the rule of the Capitol, and the unrest is beginning.

President Snow pays her a visit to warn her that she mustn't encourage the rebels in any way, threatening harm to her family and her...maybe boyfriend...Gale. When the rebels don't settle down, despite her best efforts to calm things - she's really clueless, and it turns out that her handlers are in cahoots with the rebels, themselves - Snow gets really nasty.

Every twenty five years, there is a special Hunger Games event, called The Quell (from quelling the rebellion?). This time it is announced that the games will be played by previous victors, one male, one female, from each district. Since Katniss is the only living female victor from district 12, guess who gets to play? Snow can arrange to kill off Katniss in the games and deprive the rebels of their mascot. I wonder why the danger of creating a motivational martyr doesn't occur to him?

So, once more unto the breach, dear friends, for Katniss and Peeta. But they're not alone this time, and have acquired some unlikely allies with interesting skills among the other former victors. Things don't work out exactly as Snow had hoped, and when it's over, he's got an all out war on his hands.

Ok, this is a fast and amusing read, but not terribly deep.

Some things that bother me a bit have to do with the world-building Collins has done, or not done, in this series. The whole setup with the Capitol dominating all of the districts through threat of violence, and keeping them all starving, despite the obviously high tech gadgets, medicine and so forth available within the story (convenient to the story line), just doesn't make sense from an economic point of view. It has a bit of a gulag-like tone. I'm not sure just how you sustain a level of industry and high tech seventy five years after a rebellion that gives the people in the capitol access to synthetic limbs indistinguishable from the real thing, regeneration of tissue from wounds, force fields, the ability to manipulate the environment within the Arena to the extent of having a volcano wipe out a group of tributes, not to mention genetic engineering, all sustained on the backs of low tech slave labor.

Read the books, but keep your critical functions turned down.

1 comment:

Pen said...

I'm actually stopping by from the Blog Hop, but I got sidetracked by your review of Catching Fire.

I liked your review; it's nice to see why people didn't like something.

My conclusion was that a) not everything was as low-tech as District 12, and b) there's a whole side the the Capitol that we didn't see. A sizable Capitol workforce had to have been present, as well.

The culprit is a lot of ultra-implicit world-building. As readers, we are limited to Katniss' viewpoint, and she not in a position to tell us the exact conditions of Panem's operation. This means we are left to search for the reasons behind every little thing.

Your review made me think more about the construction of the story, which, as a writer, is something I need to do. I very much enjoyed reading your review.