Thursday, August 27, 2009

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

About a month ago I got my little hands on an advanced reader’s copy of Catching Fire, the sequel to Suzanne Collins’ thrilling dystopian novel, The Hunger Games. I gobbled the book up in a few days and decided to wait a while to review it. Why? Because I needed time, man, to think this over. I mean, how do you match The Hunger Games? You don’t. You can’t. It's darn close to an impossible task. Then how do you review a sequel to it? With patience. An open mind. Some objectivity. Then have someone else read it and get their opinion.

Catching Fire will be released on Tuesday, and fans of the first book should grab it, because you will gobble it up like a hungry piranha. I did. It’s a fast read, and the early reviews I’ve read have raved. After finishing The Hunger Games – and being an avid reader of dystopian fiction (it’s way too easy to get addicted to the stuff) – I had a feeling I knew where Collins was going to take her story. I was wrong with this book, but I think I’ll be right with her direction for the entire series. So, it's been a month and what do I think?

I loved reading the book, but did I love the book? Probably not. I enjoyed the book; I loved certain elements, like introducing the president of Panem, President Snow (nice name, sounds so soft and fluffy, but can also be so cold and deadly). Like The Hunger Games it is exceedingly well written, but I had some pangs of disappointment as I made my way through the book. To explain this I’ll have to give up a key plot element. SPOILER ALERT: The next paragraph gives up the plot element.

As I gripped Catching Fire and was about to dive into it, a thought ran through by brain: How is Collins going to keep that same exhilarating action going in this book without having another hunger games? Well, she solves that by having another hunger games. So, on one hand, I am reading and excited and actually a bit fascinated by the games’ concept she slowly serves up, but on another hand I am feeling… well… been there, done that. I’ve already been to the hunger games; do I want to go back? It’s a different setting for the games to be sure, but I felt like this book needed something new. That, I assume (and hope) will be book three. (Which I will also ravenously devour.)

It’s probably the ending that gave me the biggest disappointment. First, I saw a piece of it coming from a long way off. Second, it did not really end, but more like just stopped. The ending was too easy. So, I gave the book to my niece, Melanie, who is 17 and also could not wait to get her paws on it. I was eager to hear her review. Did she agree with me? Yep, she did, especially about the ending. This is a good book, but when the bar is so high – and The Hunger Games is a very high bar indeed – it is a Herculean task to match it the second time. So, what should a rabid fan of The Hunger Games do? There is no doubt what you should do: read this book! Enjoy it. Run with Katniss. But don’t expect to match The Hunger Games. Is that okay? You decide.


Heather Perkinson said...

I thought Catching Fire was better than Hunger Games--and yes, that's a high bar to get over--and that the ending was perfect--satisfying yet still tantalizing.

Rich F. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rich F. said...

Hey there - check out our cool video with Suzanne Collins for Catching Fire. Great stuff!

Unknown said...

yes! finally, someone who feels the same way! after reading the book, i was left unsatisfied. "been there, done that" is a good way to put it. i had expected so much from this book. i only hope the third one will make up for this.