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Bookends: Hunger Games – The Second Act is as Good as the First August 2, 2012

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Hunger Games – The Second Act is as Good as the First
By Dan Davidson
May 16, 2012
– 790 words –

Catching Fire: The Second Book of The Hunger Games
By Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press
400 pages
$19.99

The success of the movie based on the first volume of Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy has guaranteed the production of a second, and most likely a third, film. Given the tendency of the movie studios to stretch out a franchise, it would not surprise me if the final book were to be split into two movies, as with the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises and the upcoming Hobbit movie.
Lots of people were concerned about the level of violence in the film, and part of that is certainly due to the transition from a first person narrative to the preferred third person perspective that filmmakers like to use. When you are privy to Katniss Everdeen’s innermost thoughts, as you are in the books, you are aware of the reluctance with which she approaches the “bread and circuses” mayhem of the state mandated Games, how much trouble she has coming to terms with the kill or be killed nature of the Games, and how torn she is by each new act of violence she is forced to commit.
What the movie did give you was some time away from Katniss, particularly time to see what a nasty cuss President Snow is, and how he reacts to the stunt that Katniss and Peta pull in order to save each other’s lives. So, moving into the second book, you are aware, if you’ve seen the film, that Snow is particularly upset by the idea that the two winners from District 12 might have actually planted some seeds of hope in a populace that is supposed to be completely cowed after 75 years of this regime.
This cannot be, and he fully intends to do something about it.
Catching Fire is structured in three parts. In “The Spark” we catch up with our triumphant duo both at home and on the road, as they try to settle back into their lives (as much as the new one percent can) and also fulfill their obligations to the state by doing a victory tour as the star-crossed lovers. The false romance that they created – false on her part, at least – to save themselves in the Games, comes back to haunt them in a variety of ways, not the least of which is that they unintentionally do spark a bit of resistance in some of the other districts.
The ramifications are almost immediate, as Snow tightens security, sends new and brutal enforcers to the districts, and threatens the lives of everyone Katniss holds dear if she doesn’t toe the line. That’s really a lie, though. He has no intention of letting their victory at the Games go unpunished.
Suddenly in part two, the Quell Games are announced. In these new games everyone who has ever been a victor will have their names put in the lottery for the reaping, and two from each district will have to participate again, and once more fight until only one is alive.
Much of this middle section is taken up with the preparation for these new Games. Collins takes us through some familiar ground here, but manages to do more than simply repeat what we already know. This time things are different. There is an undercurrent of something else going on in the society, exemplified by the symbol of the mockingjay, the hybrid bird that was pictured on the brooch Katniss wore in the first book. It is the symbol of a shadowy resistance, which may be everything that the President and his advisors were afraid of.
Part three is called “The Enemy” and is the story of the actual Quell Games themselves. The arena is different. The threats are different and the response of the tributes is different. We saw in the first book that the arena could be turned into one of the obstacles the tributes had to face. In these games, the arena is an actual antagonist, and the tributes have to figure out what threats it holds in order to survive.
This is as much as I can say without giving too much away. If you were concerned that this book would simply repeat the success of the first, you can set that aside. In trilogies middle books are often the weakest of the three, but this one does a pretty good job of avoiding that pitfall.
I warn you though, it ends on a cliffhanger not unlike that of the fifth Star Wars movie, and you will want to get on to the final book right away.

-30-

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