Catching Fire: Review
Lucky number thirteen (which is somewhat ironic, since the other book I'm reading right now is actually called Thirteen), we arrive at Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, book 2 of the Hunger Games trilogy.
I've already written about the Hunger Games, so I'll do my best not to rehash that subject. Catching Fire is a fun continuation of the series, following Katniss six-months after the events of the first book as she tries to cope with the challenges that the evil Capital and their Hunger Games have brought into her life.
Now, there really aren't any surprises here as to the main focus of the book. If you were paying any attention at all in the first book, you'll know where this is going. The Capital is pissed with Katniss, and President Snow (quite possibly the most incompetent public relations president since Stalin) has it in for Katniss & Co.
I'll avoid spoilers here, so I won't go into what that entails. Instead I'll just speak to the merits of the book, and the problems I have with it.
It's a fun read, there's no doubt about that in my mind. I enjoyed it, the characters and the events are all things that keep me interested. I sometimes balk at President Snow's ideas for punishment, but I guess he's just not that great at actual manipulation. Katniss is a decent narrator, though she does get a little annoying at times.
To be honest, the biggest problems I have with the book are two; first, like the Hunger Games, it takes a little while to get off the ground. It took me almost a week to get past the first 30% of the book, but once I got over that hump only about two days to finish it. The other problem I have with the series at large is Collins' actual writing ability. Yes, I know it's aimed at "young adults," but I think we're somewhat shortchanging them here if this is intentionally written down to them.
Collins has a pretty great imagination, I really enjoy the ideas she presents here and the overall story. It's just when you get into the actual writing that things become rather weak. Near the end of the book I thought of a completely different conclusion based on a simple sentence that could have easily been glossed over. "Wow, that's a really clever use of foreshadowing!" I thought, and read on only to find that it was just an accidental turn of a phrase that meant exactly what it was saying.
Then there is the end, which takes a lot of important information, wrapping up just about every loose story thread and explaining it in a brief one-paragraph summary. Don't tell me what has been happening, show me! There's a pretty big (though obvious) reveal that I would have loved to have Katniss describe in shock and wonder, instead of just lumping it in with a half dozen other "revelations" that seem rather boring when put down in such a brief synopsis.
There's just not very much depth to Collins'writing, and I think that the series would really benefit from a little more emphasis on the "adult" in "young adult." See Heinlein's YA books for what I mean.
Catching Fire is an entertaining read, no doubt in my mind about that, and worth the time it takes to actually pick up the pace. For someone who is interested in YA books at all, I certainly would recommend them, and I can see why they enjoy the popularity that they do.