Friday, December 6, 2013

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (2009)

I didn't dislike Catching Fire, but I didn't exactly like it either.  I was so made - twice - at the end of The Hunger Games that I said (to myself and to others) that I wasn't going to read any further in the series.  I was sick of series, and more sick of love triangles, and I wasn't having anything to do with The Hunger Games trilogy.  But the Catching Fire movie has gotten so many good reviews, and a colleague at work convinced me that the love triangle bullshittery was minimal in the book - this double whammy convinced me to give it a try.  

My expectations were low to begin with - the only direction my feelings about this book could go were up, so I certainly wasn't disappointed in any way.  My colleague was mostly correct, although I felt like Rollie Welch wrote in her review in The Plain Dealer:  "But after 150 pages of romantic dithering, I was tapping my foot to move on."   My colleague actually said: "Once the Hunger Games starts, then the book gets good."  And it did, I guess.  

Except.  What is the point of the book (s) ?  I thought maybe Collins was trying to say something about our obsession with reality television, our glorification of violence, maybe even the whole "bread and circuses" thing.  And I guess she still is.  But if you set a series in a dystopian future of our country, shouldn't we at least find out what happened to our country for it to get that way?  And what about the rest of the world?  Is Canada sitting idly by while this is all going on?  What about Mexico?  NATO?  China?  Okay, you may say - we are seeing things from Katniss's point of view, and she may not know anything about that.  Panem is like North Korea, the media is strictly controlled...  and maybe The Hunger Games is a parable or an allegory or a metaphor for America past present and possible future... except that doesn't seem plausible.  Maybe this is all explained in the final installment.  Which now that I'm sucked in, I probably am going to have to read - and I do feel that way.

Something I hate about the book:  the violence committed against Katniss.  It almost has this pornographic (non-sexual), sadistic quality.  So many, many bad things happen to Katniss in this book, quite frankly least of all the Hunger Games themselves.  The leaders of Panem are obviously sadists, but aren't we also, to devour this?  I will say that Collins isn't glorifying the violence of the Hunger Games in any way.  It's there, it's disgusting, I hated every minute of it, but there is definitely a tone about the Games that (hopefully anyway) helps the reader understand that the violence perpetrated against these people is disgusting.

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

My expectations were quite low for Catching Fire, and really had no place other to go than up.  I did not hate this book, but neither did I particularly enjoy it either.  Certainly not as much as I did The Hunger Games.  There was the prerequisite (too many goddamn) pages about the mushy gushy love triangle which I knew was going to be lurking within this book (I'm neither Team Peeta or Team Gale; rather, I'm Team Why Do We Need a Love Triangle How Boring or Team Katniss Don't Need a Man).  There was not nearly enough historical background as to why Panem is the way it is - exactly what happened to Canada, Mexico, China, Great Britain, NATO, Russia, Hawaii... I want to know.  And Suzanne Collins could cleverly figure out a way for Katniss to figure it out and tell us.  I love the politics though - whenever the book gets political, that's when it gets really interesting.  The initial interactions between the Hunger Games participants was interesting too, and I wished there had been more of that.  I'm completely (and reluctantly, I must say) sucked in, and feel like I have to read Mockingjay now. 

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