Catching Fire

Catching Fire - Suzanne  Collins Much of what I said about the previous book can be read as applying to this second title in the trilogy as well. The story is still fast paced and interesting, even more-so as the lens draws back and we understand more of what's truly at stake beyond the protagonist's survival. Katniss is still terribly unlikeable, and we are still drawn in to wanting to see her win despite this, and the love triangle, if possible, has become even more irritating.

The main difference between this book and the previous is definitely the drawing back of perspective. Now a victor in the games, she has unwittingly laid the groundwork for revolution against the central government (though careful readers, after the revelations in this book, will realise that she has been manipulated into this all along - the signs were placed with careful foreshadowing and clever foresight.)

There are a lot more deaths unrelated to the games this time around, as the government tightens it's totalitarian grip harder against the sand slipping through its fingers.

The biggest issue this story has, at this point, is the behaviour of the government itself. This is a totalitarian dictatorship that has held 12 districts under its thumb for seventy-five years, yet everything they do during this book seems to serve two purposes: one, to put a dark underline under "EVIL" against their name (there are no shades of gray in this story, not where the government is concerned) which makes it a bit one dimensional, and also to provide more reasons for the districts to rise against their oppressors.

This seems counterproductive to me, and to any student of history I imagine. Every action they take seems calculated to make the situation worse instead of better, despite the fact that President Snow (the man who is described, inexplicably, as having 'the scent of blood' on his breath) appears both intelligent, and to want to prevent these uprisings rather than force them into existence.

If anything, that's the biggest issue I have. The government, the president, it's minions, are all faceless, cliche evil, one dimensional and boring. They aren't so much people as emotionless obstacles for the characters to overcome and be afraid of, and to act as a reason for the uprising. The main conceit of this novel's central part, the competitors chosen for the next year's games, could not have been more poorly chosen if their goal was really to prevent an uprising.

There is one more book to go, and although this one does a far better job of making some important revelations at the end, it still leaves a lot dangling. That will tell if the government's inexplicably stupid behaviour is explained in the final book, and if the dangling plot threads are fully resolved by the end. As before, this book does not tell a full story and taken on its own the ending would be unsatisfying. Hower, taken as part of one, long story, it's a decent middle that keeps the pages turning and the tension high.