This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

06 May, 2014

REVIEW: CATCHING FIRE

Cover image adapted by Scholastic UK from an original by Tim O'Brien

CATCHING FIRE
THE HUNGER GAMES BOOK TWO
BY
SUZANNE COLLINS

ISBN: 978-1-407-13209-9
Pages: 439
Publisher: Scholastic UK
First published: 1 September 2009
This edition published: 1 December 2011

On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)

Katniss survived the Hunger Games. Now the Capitol wants revenge. It’s payback time, and her chance of survival is even slimmer than ever…

After winning the brutal Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta have returned to District 12, hoping for a peaceful future. But their victory has caused rebellion to break out – and the Capitol has decided that someone must pay. As Katniss and Peeta are forced to visit the other districts on the Capitol’s Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. Unless they can convince the world that they are still lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying. Then comes the cruellest twist: the contestants for the next Hunger Games are announced, and Katniss and Peeta are forced into the arena once more…


   This picks up where book one ended. Some time has passed, but nothing mayor has happened. Well, not that the main character, Katniss, knows of anyway.
   Collins doesn't waste any time at all, and more or less throws the reader in at the deep end at the beginning. It does calm down pretty quickly though, and we get a look at the aftermath of the previous novel. This is very much a middle novel in a trilogy, it doesn't have a real beginning and its end is just the lead up to the concluding volume. That's not a bad thing, but it makes it impossible to read this story on its own.

   Like in the first book, I have some problems relating to Katniss. She is becoming more of a complete person, but I still think she lacks personality. It doesn't help that despite everything she is still extremely naive, I'd have liked her to show a little bit more cynicism after what she went through in the previous book. Peeta, on the other hand, is blindingly clever for the son of a baker who lives in a place with very limited opportunity to learn about the rest of the world.
   To me the characters feel a bit to shallow, more defined by their place in the plot than by any real personality. But despite that Katniss is quite fascinating. The situation she is in does give her some good moments to shine, and Collins write her in such a way that you have to empathise with her.

   The plot is mostly fast paced, more happens at times than in your average Science Fiction novel. There are passages that are more quiet though, and these are used to great effect to give the readers at least some insight into people, places, and events.
   It is without doubt the action, and the suspense that comes with it, that is the main driving force of this novel. Collins writes really good action, and you are compelled to read on every time she ends the chapter on a cliffhanger.

   The plot isn't anywhere near groundbraking, there is so much here that is pretty common in Dystopic Science Fiction, Collins does manage to leave her own distinct mark of it though. Where the originality falls through most is in the way this book follows in the footsteps of the previous volume. There is a lot here that feels like repetition, with just some details changed, and in some ways that is exactly what this is. Much is familiar here, but the stakes are turned up a notch from what we saw the last time.
   Where this novel deviates from its predecessor, it does so in very predictable ways. The extra stakes are there from the beginning, and for me it was just a matter of waiting for it to bear fruit. Unfortunately I never got the feeling of how it turned out the way it did. The worldbuilding is too slight for me to get a grip on how things took the turn they do here. And what details I do know doesn't really seem to hang quite together. The setting/worldbuilding is definitely this series's weakest point.

   I've been mostly critical above, highlighting the flaws of this novel. But even with its flaws this is a very entertaining read. It's light reading, in most ways but especially in the worldbuilding, but the plot itself is a very engaging one.
   I said of the first novel that it was a good introduction to this subgenre of Science Fiction, and that still holds true. The lack of depth is more pronounced here than in the predecessor, but the basic story is an engaging one and Collins writes it well.
   Even for someone as well-read in SFF as me this holds up as light entertainment. Your enjoyment of it will most probably depend of how much you care about the lack of details and depth, and how much you just let go and come along for a quite entertaining ride. Despite being flawed, I can absolutely recommend this for those that are after an uncomplicated and enjoyable read.

REVIEW: The Hunger Games

LINKS: Suzanne Collins   Scholastic UK

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