Warning: this review is rated NSFW. Why? Because Jason has a foul mouth and was extremely pissed off at the end of this book.
I loved — absolutely loved — The Hunger Games. Let me get that out of the way now. In no way, shape or form could I have predicted that the marvelous story that was the entire Hunger Games experience would become the complete and utter train wreck that was Catching Fire.
I feel ashamed even mentioning that the two books are in the same series (I should, by the way, throw in a quick review of Mockingjay
in this so that the horrible trifecta can be complete… naw, maybe some other time) and, perhaps, throw up a disclaimer:
Dear The Hunger Games fans: don’t kill me, but I hated Catching Fire. With a fiery (pun totally intended) passion. Seriously. Light me on fire (you see where I went there?) and scorch my brain to remove the blackened, wasteful filth that the author calls the second book of this trilogy which is currently destroying the darkest crevices of where I once had a soul, for the love of all that is unholy and black in this wretched, horrid world. Sincerely, Me.
The story starts off soon after the end of The Hunger Games. The books makes it seem like it was both forever ago and yesterday (an interesting – and confusing – trick) as Katniss struggles to adjust to her new role as victor. Of course, she now lives in Victor’s Village, which had never been used before (other than Haymitch) and feels absolutely horrified to be there. She is preparing for the Victory Tour, which is when the Capitol sends the Victor (or in this case, victors) on a tour of the 12 districts to “celebrate” her win over their tributes. Barbaric, but sets just the right tone for the novel. Katniss just wants to forget the Hunger Games ever happened, but you know that can never happen. It was too horrific, too… well, the testosterone-laced male part of me wants to scream “AWESOME!” here but I know that it’s inappropriate.
Then President Snow arrives in District 12 to speak with Katniss and basically threatens her with her life (and her loved ones) if he isn’t convinced by the end of the tour that her love for Peeta is real. He drops a bomb on her as he walks out – he knows the truth about Gale, her “cousin”, as they’ve claimed to the world. She kissed him, but she “loves” Peeta, Snow knows, yada yada, read Twilight if you want to see this love triangle really sparkle.
Anyways, Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch all leave on the Victory Tour and Katniss’s nightmares continue (because, you know, totally mentioned earlier- uh, nevermind) and Peeta, feeling sorry for her (Peeta, by the way, becomes the saint to Katniss’s sinner – which totally makes sense. It’s about the only thing that made sense) lies with her when she sleeps, which takes the nightmares away. Peeta is portrayed as the strong one here, with Katniss being the weak female – which was completely absurd, because I’d read The Hunger Games (as have millions of others… am I the only one who actually “read” it or what?) and Katniss was anything but a weak female needing a strong boy to protect her…. dammit.
Really? You’re going to turn the strong, reliable and independent Katniss Everdeen into Bella fucking Swan? Really?
As I said before, this review is most definitely Not Safe For Work.
So our new lead character, Not-Katniss Everdeen, traverses quickly through the districts, where nothing of note happens – except in District 11, where she witnesses a man get shot in the head for whistling the theme from
Final Fantasy X the first book, when Rue is calling out to her (the whistle). Okay, that was unfair of me. The movie whistle is definitely not the whistle from the book (oh God oh God please tell me it’s different?). She freaks, and once more it’s up to Peeta and Haymitch to calm our hysterical young woman down. Not-Katniss is helped back to the train, and the rest of the trip goes quickly – until they reach the Capitol, where President Snow shakes his head at her. This means that she has not convinced Snow of her “love” for Peeta. Not-Katniss is suddenly relieved, and for a minute we are tricked into believing that the real Katniss is back because she decides “screw it all, I’m having a good time”, which I read as a direct challenge to President Snow. This was the Katniss I loved from the first book. This strong female lead- oops, cut back to the Not-Katniss. She’s about to go all weepy eyed again.
Right here is where you can virtually see the point in the book where the author throws her hands up into the air and screams in anger, rage and just a little bit of helplessness. I can relate. I can also just imagine the conversation between her and her agent at this point:
Collins: I hate this book. I don’t know what to do with it, I’ve dragged it out as long as I can. There’s nothing more but to start the-
Agent: (cutting her off) What about what worked before? What made your book so amazing the first time around?
Collins: …the horror and heroism Katniss shows during the Hunger Games?
Agent: (nodding) Yes, now…
Collins: You… want me to rewrite the Hunger Games? Won’t that be an obvious sign that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing – or care about the characters anymore?
Agent: Sue, it’ll be brilliant! People will buy whatever you write! Seriously! You can smash your face into the keyboard ala Stephanie Meyers and they’ll buy it!
Collins: You think so?
Agent: Trust me…
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Not-Katniss is going back to the Hunger Games for the Quarter Quell (a sort of 25th anniversary celebration of murder, mayhem and convenient plot device that has never been mentioned before).
Yes, that noise you’re hearing is my teeth grinding. I’m still ticked off and shedding my mild-mannered Bruce Banner soul right now.
Catching Fire is just that, a very slow, agonizing setup for the third book of the trilogy, Mockingjay. Yes, you read that right. This book does nothing but set up the final book of the series. It just takes forever to get to that damned point.
There is no plot. There is a semblance of a story (which, as I may have mentioned before, sets up the third book (buy the third book! is the theme for book 2 apparently) though the pacing is atrocious. My anger here burns brighter than a thousand suns because damn it, I didn’t want to be pitched a third book but to read a second one! I didn’t want to read about Bella Katniss Swan Everdeen but Katniss Everdeen, kickass heroine and all-around badass. I wanted to be entertained and I was most definitely not entertained.
I don’t know if the author deliberately copied Meyers’ playbook here, but I can say for certain that some amount of influence has taken place.
Okay, repeating myself multiple times, but… I hated this book. Still hate, too. I’ve reread it twice since my initial, brain-numbing horrifying experience and still cannot shake the feeling that I’m reading about two different people across the romantic lines of a Rocky and Boris slash fic. Now, if this is the author’s unstated goal (bridging two personas in one soul; having the reader scream out in agony as Boris ignored Rocky’s pleas of “No, Boris! Nooo!!!”) then congratulations, you succeeded. If not, then what the flying squirrel raging against the windy tree bark of doom is your message? What is your story? Where is your story? Please, please tell me that this was not written just to make a buck. Convince me that this is all just a horrible dream, and when I take the blue pill and ignore that damnable rabbit hole I’ll wake up and Not-Katniss will be long gone and Mockingjay will be the second book of the trilogy?
Of course, you must buy this book because it completely sets up the third and final installment. As I said, gotta make a dollar?
—Reviewed by Jason