Saturday, June 11, 2011

Catching Fire

As the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire seemed destined to be as riveting as its predecessor. It was therefore a bit surprising that I didn't find myself eager to absorb the whole thing in one sitting.

I don't want to give away too much here, as I'm not a huge fan of spoiling another person's reading experience. I do think it's worth reading despite not enjoying it quite as much as The Hunger Games. There were certainly enough plot twists to keep me entertained; in a lot of ways, the direction the story went was far more unexpected than that of the predictable first book.

But I found myself let down by the lack of character development, some plot elements that seemed distinctively repetitive from the first book, and the increasing lack of plausibility of the overall premise. On the one hand, it seems unlikely that a government could enact such cruelty and avoid a full-scale rebellion powerful enough to overthrow it. On the other hand, as I kept telling myself, there are countries - North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya - where this happens every day with varying degrees of success. (Libya might be faltering, but North Korea certainly shows no signs of its own weakness.)

I also cared about the characters significantly less in this installment. Maybe it's like losing the thrill of a new relationship: in the initial, supposed falling-in-love phase, you want to be with the person nonstop and you think of him endlessly, desiring nothing but to get to know him more. You assume him to be "the one." Eventually, though, you come to your senses and realize that perhaps he isn't. Maybe the characters in Catching Fire aren't as interesting to me after I've gotten to know them.

I completed the first book in the series so totally in love with Katniss, Peetra, and Gale. At the end of the second book, I am less than enthusiastic about Katniss, Peetra seems entirely too knight-in-shining-armor-like to be believable, and Gale is somewhere preoccupied in the mines. The magic has worn off and I wonder if this is really going to be the be-all, end-all series of my summer as so many claim.

Regardless, I will definitely read the third installment. I am eager to see how the author will wrap up this trilogy, and of course I think it will continue to contain thought-provoking parallels to what happens when society deviates too far from compassion, goodness, and love.

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