I consider myself an avid science fiction fan, so I already had an inkling that I would enjoy the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Add to this the fact that Kim loved the series and continuously bugged me to read it and you could say that I had my work cut out for me. So, with the first book in the series already read and reviewed, I turned my attention to the sophomore novel, Catching Fire. In this work, we meet up with Katniss and company soon after she and Peeta triumphantly conquer the 74th Hunger Games.
At the start of Catching Fire, we follow Katniss as she prepares for the “victory tour”. This is held every year for the victor of the previous Hunger Games, as he or she tours all of the 12 districts as well as the Capitol to commemorate his or her victory in the games. Of course, this year the tour will feature two tributes: Katniss and Peeta, who triumphantly conquered the previous Games and defied the Capitol with a double suicide attempt that was blocked at the last second. Although Katniss attempted the suicide to rid herself of the oppression and hate that embodies the Capitol, she was conversely hailed as a hero along with Peeta; their act was viewed as the spark that ignited rebellion in several of the districts following the Games. Therefore, facing this potential threat, President Snow visits Katniss in her home, telling her in no uncertain terms that he will kill her family and those that she loves (most especially Gale) if she makes an attempt to incite further uprising amongst the districts. Determined to save her family and friends and please Snow, Katniss tries to act as if her actions are those of a girl disillusioned by love, and acts out her infatuation to Peeta in the fullest. However, the turning point comes when Katniss again meets with Snow on stage in the Capitol, discreetly asking him whether or not all the work she put in was enough to save herself and Panem from full-scale rebellion. Sadly, he answers no. Not only does Katniss feel a sense of dread that Snow will carry out his threat, but she is further faced with the revelation that for this year’s Hunger Games (a quarter quell, as it is known), will consist of tributes being pulled from the pool of existing victors of the previous Games. In short, she will have to face the Games again for the second year in a row. Will Katniss be able to survive the games? Will she be able to save her family, Gale, and Peeta from the threat of President Snow? Will they be able to survive a full-scale rebellion against the Capitol by the districts?
As I stated in the opening of this post, I really enjoy a good sci-fi story. Of course, often these go hand-in-hand with a dystopian society, such as Farenheit 451 or 1984. Collins’ Catching Fire had both of these elements: a cool science fiction component that integrated futuristic technology and ideas, as well as the totalitarian regime of the Capitol presiding over all of the outlying districts. Perhaps what I like most about these two elements is that they dovetail so well into a story of revolt and rebellion against overwhelming odds. The mixture of years of oppression coupled with the inequality between those have control versus those who don’t makes for an amazing and inspiring story. This is perhaps why I liked Catching Fire so much. You can easily feel the aggression and anger that all of the citizens of the districts carry around as they watch the Capitol parade around in their wealth, using the Hunger Games as a means of cruel and sadistic entertainment. They are so removed from day-to-day life that the only thing that brings them the greatest joy and entertainment is the killing of others. Therefore, when this illusion is broken and the citizens of the districts begin to rightfully revolt and take back what is theirs, I can’t help but feel excited and root for them as I read. The only complaint I had with the novel was that it took a while for the plot to build. I realize that in any good story it takes time to lay the groundwork, but at times I felt that Katniss’ inner turmoil over her love life was a bit too drawn out and over-analyzed. However, despite this I truly enjoyed the novel. Watching Katniss grow from her position in the initial Hunger Games to what she becomes in this novel is inspiring. Katniss unwillingly becomes the greatest symbol and unifier of these people, and makes her journey that much more important and inspirational. Collins definitely does not disappoint in this follow-up to The Hunger Games, and it’s definitely a powerful addition to the series.
4 out of 5 Stars