Review: Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

This is the sequel to The Hunger Games, and it forms the middle of the Hunger Games trilogy. I would have read it much sooner, but I intentionally put it off so I wouldn’t end up reviewing the same author three weeks in a row.

I have to admit that when I finished the Hunger Games, I wasn’t sure where the author could take us that would be all that interesting. It ended with our protagonist Katniss in relative safely, and it seemed that her biggest concerns were around relationships, not life and death struggles. So I went into this book not really sure what to expect. Fortunately, the author put more thought into it than I had, and she did indeed find an interesting place to take us, and when the jeopardy ramped up, it really ramped up.

The writing is quite good. In fact, the writing is good enough for me to rarely notice a stylistic choice that I sometimes despise. Specifically, these books are written in first person present-tense. Instead of “I ran down the hill,” we have, “I run down the hill.” It does give a bit of immediacy, but many times when I have seen this done, it hasn’t worked well, at least not for me. It often leaves me feeling detached from the story, unsure of how much time is actually passing. However, Collins does it so seamlessly that more than once I found myself thinking, “Of course she’s going to make it. She’s the narrator. But… shit, this is written in present tense. For all I know, it ends in ‘I die.’” So yeah, it’s smooth enough I didn’t notice it.

Often, the middle book in a trilogy suffers the problem of just acting as a bridge between the first novel which introduced the idea and the third novel which ultimately resolves the conflict. In some cases, this leaves the middle book as nothing but a longwinded setup. That’s not the case here. While it does point me towards what’s coming in the third book, I think it’s a legitimate story in its own right.

I think my only complaint was with the climax. It kind of snuck up on me. Yes, I saw the tensions building, but when it happened, it felt like it happened suddenly, and I wasn’t intellectually prepared to recognize it as the actual climax. In that respect, it did fall a little flat, but now that I have some theory as the story for the third novel, I’m eager to get to it.

Just not next week.