Sunday, May 5, 2013

Book Review #23

Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins. Unabridged audio.

There are many best-selling authors, both in YA and adult fiction, who I can't quite figure out how they became best-selling authors. They write predictable stories, involving plain characters, and demonstrate average literary skill.

And then there is Suzanne Collins. She is a best-selling author who deserves all of the accolades (and big sales) that she gets.

Before she hit it big with the Hunger Games series, Collins wrote the terrific Underland Chronicles for younger children, starting with the book Gregor the Overlander, released in 2003. These books sold well, but she did not become a superstar writer until The Hunger Games came out in 2008.

The events of Catching Fire follow very logically from the first book, and that is all I ask for in a sequel. There are murmurs of political uprising in some of the districts, which was touched on in the first book. Katniss is able to verify these uprising, ironically, only because of an ominous visit from President Snow. After he leaves, Katniss hears word that the mysterious District 13 may actually exist, and may actually be thriving.

When the details of the quarter quell games are announced, it becomes apparent that destroying Katniss and Peeta are Snow's main priority. Killing them is the best way to put down the brewing rebellion.

By the time we get into the second half of the novel, there is a sense of repetition, as Katniss and Peeta engage in another version of the brutal Games. There are new allies, new enemies, new aspects to this version of the Games, but there are a few chapters that make it seem that we've been there before. But Collins focuses on character moments here, and even when the action seems familiar, the political tensions manifest.

The ending of the novel comes quickly, and it does end on a cliff-hanger, which is standard for the second volume in a trilogy. There is a sense of the society teetering on the edge, and I have no idea how the series will end. But I am looking forward to reading the next one, to find out.

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