Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Hunger Games Series: Catching Fire & Mockingjay

Title: Catching Fire (2nd in the Hunger Games Series)

Author: Suzanne Collins

Genre: Dystopian / Speculative / Young Adult

First Published: 2009 (472 pages)

Catching Fire is the 2nd book in the Hunger Games Series and picks off from where Katniss and Peeta survive the 12th annual Hunger Games event. Their controversial victory had unknowingly sparked a revolution in some of the districts and made them a target of Panem’s ruthless government. Under the watchful eyes of President Snow, Katniss and Peeta embark on their victory tour throughout the districts, in an attempt to convince the public that their actions in the arena were nothing more than an act of love, rather than defiance. But as Katniss begins her tour in District 11, she starts to realize that her actions, no matter how well planned have already elicited hope and strength in the people of Panem.  In an attempt to suppress the uprising, President Snow sends Katniss back to the pits of the arena as part of the 3rd Quarter Quell celebrations, and together with her, Peeta volunteers to be part of it too.

Catching Fire continues to provide the nail-biting suspense and fast-pace adventure as that of the first book. But where much of the thrills and chills of the Hunger Games were derived from Katniss’ survival in the arena, Catching Fire’s tension came from different angles: the looming threat of President Snow; the fearless uprising of the districts and Katniss’ and Peeta’s attempt at making allies and surviving the unpredictable Quarter Quells. As usual, Katniss is the star in this un-nerving saga. Her independent and nurturing character, gives a strong presence and unsurprisingly resulted in her being a rebel instigator. Her forced unity with Peeta makes for a cute story as they are both as different as night and day. Whilst Katniss is completely aloof when it comes to social and romantic situations, Peeta is forever the sweet and smooth gentleman. In Catching Fire, Collins also introduces the audience to new characters like Finnick Odair (a male victor from District 4), Johanna Mason (female victor from District 7) and Beetee (male victor from District 3), all of which are featured more in the 3rd installation to the series; Mockingjay. My slight contention with Catching Fire was that I was expecting more coverage on Gale’s personality and the development of his relationship with Katniss, which was sadly lacking. Overall though, Catching Fire is still a great read and does not disappoint.

Title: Mockingjay (3rd in the Hunger Games Series)

Author: Suzanne Collins

Genre: Dystopian / Speculative / Young Adult

First Published: 2010 (455 pages)

In Mockingjay, the tale of the rebellion intensifies after Katniss escapes the 3rd Quarter Quells through the rescue of an undercover group aimed at over throwing the government. The plot thickens as Katniss comes to grips with the existence of a 13th District, her role as the Mockingjay, and the capture of Peeta by the Capitol. Whilst Katniss regains her strength and is being briefed by the powers behind the rebellion group, Peeta remains in the clutches of the snake-like President and endures both physical and mental torture.

I have mixed feelings about this one. I really enjoyed the intensity and suspense felt in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire and thus expected nothing less from Mockingjay. Whilst book 1 introduced the readers to the nature of the games and Katniss, book 2 gave more insight into Katniss’ character; her strengths and her weaknesses. Book 3, was the much anticipated conclusion to the distorted world of Panem, but with so much exposure to Katniss’ character and romantic life in the first 2 books, many had expected a lot more from it, including myself. In Mockingjay, Katniss is faced with the harshness of real war – she’s no longer a pawn in one of the Capitol’s games but rather a mentally strung participant and witness to the mercilessness of President Snow. Her mental situation doesn’t do much for her character development and instead of growing to her full potential of becoming a real leader she is forced into a rebellion that she’s not even sure she wants to be part of. The love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale also seems to meet a stump and falls well below expectations. With Peeta mostly being under torture and losing most of his original personality as a result, the underdevelopment of Gale’s character, and Katniss’ continuous indecisiveness, there wasn’t really much to look forward to here. Although Katniss does end up with Peeta in the end, it felt forced and unnatural. Mockingjay wasn’t all that bad though. It still had the elements of thrill and suspense, but it was less fast-paced than the first 2 and definitely my least favourite in the entire series.

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