Catching Fire: Open Thread

September 2, 2009 @ 6:17 pm | Filed under:

catchingfire Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, the sequel to The Hunger Games.

I don’t care if this book got a zillion volts of buzz. I loved it anyway.


What I thought before reading  The Hunger Games, upon hearing the premise (dystopic society sends lottery-selected teenagers to horrific danger dome where they must battle to the death on compulsory national television): Really? Sounds sick, twisted, so grim, so brutal…and it’s YA? Really??

What I thought after reading The Hunger Games: BRILLIANT. Compelling, sensitive, deeply thought-provoking, not gratuitiously violent—necessarily violent, filled with believable, complex, imperfect characters, and totally, totally relevant.

What I thought after reading Catching Fire: this series is going to turn out to be one of the most important (and again, relevant) of the decade. And I don’t mean YA series: I mean one of the most important book series, period. Because on top of being incredibly gripping, chew-your-nails-off storytelling about characters you will never, ever forget (Haymitch!), these books explore the dangerous possibilities of a government that manipulates the media and erases civil liberties. And the power of reality television to alter people’s actions—and to influence public opinion. And the power of public opinion to alter people’s actions. And the compromises people will make in the name of security. And the paralytic effect of loss of privacy. Suzanne Collins has tackled (is tackling: the story is far from over) some of the thorniest issues we are facing here in the early days of the 21st century.

I’m not going to say anything about the plot of Catching Fire. Better to experience it as it unfolds, page by breath-stealing page.

Read it? Let’s talk in the comments.

Haven’t read it? Do! (Read Hunger Games first.) (And beware— spoilers are inevitable in any discussion of this book. I have been sitting on my fingers for months—thank goodness for Scott and Jane to talk it over with in person.)

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19 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. trish says:

    I mean to re-read both books during the month of September. Then I will come back to discuss! 🙂

  2. BookMoot says:

    I find myself thinking about The Hunger Games and Lois Lowery’s The Giver on almost a daily basis recently. Will be back to discuss when I finish Catching Fire.

  3. Sara says:

    On hold at the library now. Looking forward to it!

  4. Penny in VT says:

    Sounds like terrifying reading, and essential…

    I’ll be seeing if the library has Hunger Games today.

  5. yasmara says:

    Read it last night & my only problem is how long I have to wait for the conclusion! What a cliffhanger ending…

    I’m really hoping there’s more Gale in the 3rd book because I’ve been waiting to get to know him like we have Peeta.

  6. Kelly says:

    I don’t know how I’m going to wait a year to see what happens next.

    The last part was read in one sitting, with me forgetting to breathe for many pages (and me scaring my dog by muttering at what was going on).

    The last chapter? HOLY CRAP.

  7. Celeste says:

    It’s “It Transit” to me at the library right now, so I should have it in my hands this weekend. Looking forward to reading it over Labor Day and then I’ll be back. I almost unsubbed from your comments feed to avoid any spoilers, but now that I know it’s on its way to me already, I’m just scrolling through quickly for now!

  8. MelanieB says:

    Ok I’m going to jump in with lots of spoilers. My thoughts are a bit scattered, though, because it’s hard to think with big construction equipment growling outside my windows.

    1. I totally did not see Haymitch coming as one of the leaders of the rebellion. That was awesome. I’m really looking forward to seeing her develop his character and this whole rebellion storyline. Is this the end of the games or will the Capitol continue to try to exert its control?

    2. On the other hand was anyone else super frustrated by Katniss’ oblivion when it came to the Head Gamemaker’s mockingjay watch? I found it a little unbelievable that she was so clueless about its meaning.

    3. I loved the bridal gown that turned into a mockinjay’s feathers. Great visuals on the costumes. I’d love to see this done as a movie.

    4. One of our guilty pleasures is watching Survivor– it’s one of those things we do together as a couple.

    I love the way she really gets that interpersonal dynamic of making alliances while worrying and waiting to be stabbed in the back. There’s the moment when Katniss wonders if this is her opportunity to kill her allies before they turn on her. I’ve seen it played out time and again on Survivor. And then connecting that with the paranoia of living in a totalitarian society when you live in constant fear, wondering if your friends and family will be informing on you to the government…. chilling.

    Speaking of which, Lissa, have you read Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay? Another excellent novel, fantasy but not YA, that gives a chilling look at the way totalitarian societies tear apart those familial bonds and shred interpersonal relationships.

  9. susanna eve says:

    I too am waiting to get a copy from the library. There are 39 people ahead of me. I put a hold on the catch fire too, it is still on order.

  10. Karen Edmisten says:

    You’ve convinced me to read Hunger Games. My initial reaction was the same as yours. Melanie, I had to skip your comment because I don’t want spoilers. 🙂

  11. Ellisa says:

    After I finished Hunger Games (on your earlier recommendation actually, thanks!!) I turned right around and read it again. Now I’m reading it out loud to my husband. Catching Fire is on its way to me now in the mail. Hopefully it’ll be in my box tomorrow!

  12. Carmen says:

    I was sucked in immediately with The Hunger Games. I was so intrigued with Katniss’s thought processes for survival during the games. Her ability to think clearly and calculate each move was just transfixing…can’t wait for Catching Fire!!

  13. Anne says:

    I read CATCHING FIRE this weekend. And I loved it [as I did THE HUNGER GAMES]. My one criticism of the book is that many parts felt “skimmed over”. I think that there were many opportunities for the author to delve more deeply into certain situations. For example, the victory tour seemed rushed. I wanted more about what it felt like to have to face the families of the other tributes, I wanted to see more of what it was like for Peeta, I wanted to see more about how Katniss dealt with what happened in the arena [I know nightmares were mentioned, but it seemed it should have impacted her more than that … Finnick’s Annie seemed more like what you would expect]. As I sit here I can’t think up all the areas where I would have liked more depth, but there were a couple others.

    But having said that, I LOVED this book. I hate that I have to wait to find out what happens next. Will it be a triology or will we get more [I’m realistic in that it will probably be a triology but I’m hoping against hope that it will be longer]. One of my favorite things in this was the relationship between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. Her love of Gale was obvious in the first book and really develops depth in the second. Her relationship with Peeta is what I find most interesting however. It’s obvious that if the government hadn’t stepped in nothing would have happened there. She is so obviously not in love with him, but it’s like she wants to be. Knowing he is virtuous, loves her more than his own life, would sacrifice anything for her …. but you can still feel her reluctance. You can feel her being pulled between the men she loves and her complete unwillingness to ever marry or have children. Which is SO understandable. And then her relationship with Gale and with Peeta .. both of them wanting her to love them, and while she does, her unwillingness to love one to the exclusion of the other.

    I am assuming that this book takes place in post-apocalyptic US [isn’t the Capitol in what used to be Colorado?]. What I thought was interesting was President Snow. When the Second Quarter Quell is announced 25 years earlier, President Snow is the president then as well. It makes you wonder what other changes have happened in the government that the president could rule that long. The title “president” is subtly deceiving in a way that I like. Just one of those little tricky things that make the book that much more fascinating.

    And addressing MelanieB’s comments .. Yes! I was totally annoyed at Katniss’ obliviousness when shown the Mockingjay watch. There were many times in both books when I felt that Katniss was being obtuse. Yes, she was smart and clever and could think fast, but she definitely didn’t come off as a planner or schemer. Part of me liked that and part of me was aghast since living in the society in which she did, survival really depends on the ablilty to think ahead.

    And as for Haymitch, mostly what I felt was Katniss’ betrayal by him. His mockery and sarcasm were ways to survive, but given what was going on I would have thought he could have hinted or directed her more. I know having said in the previous paragraph that I didn’t think she was much of a planner that seems contradictory, but I think subtle clues could have been given [to the readers even if Katniss didn’t pick up on them]. And I would hate Haymitch even more because he had used me as a pawn. When you are a pawn of the government and then you find out the people you think of as family are using you for their own purposes without taking you into account … well it made me livid and I was hoping that Haymitch suffered something terrible for it.

    And I’m with you on the bridal gown. I’d love to see these books as movies [if they are really well done] which I hear is in the works. Who would you have play Katniss, Peeta, Haymitch, Finnick, Primrose, Gale, President Snow, Cinnia, etc

  14. Mary says:

    I am reading “hunger Games,” and I like it, can’t put it down, love the characters and the story. I was determined that I wouldn’t like it, but I do. Is that a funny review or what. I have notions of what I will like and what I want to like, but sometimes I like what I like. I am looking forward to the next book.

  15. Ellisa says:

    I just finished Catching Fire -just now- and I’m still reeling too much to be able to comment coherently!

    There are a few moments I loved, which I’ll try to list without spoilers: Mags’s sacrifice(s). Katniss’s emotional prep team. *Cinna.* Spilling the peas on purpose. Peeta and the morphling.

    In retrospect, I love one part where Katniss is considering killing Finnick (p. 276). She thinks she knows what he’s thinking (calculating killing each other), but it must have been something so entirely different!

    I also have some questions. Like why does the President smell like blood? I think it’s more than just symbolic. What were the threats in all of the areas? I’m also still curious from The Hunger Games what items were in the other two backpacks at the feast.

    Finally, I love that Katniss recognizes her shortocmings throughout the book and tries to make more heroic choices. I love her character’s growth.

    Oh, and I whole-heartedly second Melanie’s mention of Tigana as a must-read. So many shades of beautiful, heart-twisting gray.

  16. Celeste says:

    Just finished Catching Fire yesterday and wanted to share a few very disjointed first impressions:

    1. I agree with Anne that I wanted to see *more* of so many of the scenes, especially the Victory Tour. I really thought that the Victory Tour (with its whispers of rebellion) and its aftermath could have made a whole book in itself, so I was shocked when Katniss found herself back in another Hunger Games.

    2. Loved Peeta’s “if it weren’t for the baby” comment–too funny. (Though I certainly don’t condone lying in any way! ;)) I like that Peeta is so smooth and clever for the cameras and so emotionally candid with Katniss, despite knowing where she stands. I also loved his painting Rue for the gamemasters. Although Gale is apparently still in the forefront of Katniss’ mind, he really faded to the background for the audience in this book, I think, much as he did after the first few scenes of the last one. I’d like to have seen more of him.

    3. Like Melanie, I wonder whether this is the end of the Games or not. I rather liked that each of the first two novels had a Hunger Games in it–they have been such an important organizing element of the plot line, which I think it fitting since the Games is really the heart of the book’s themes, the culmination of concerns over media, politics, privacy, public opinion, and the rest. I suppose, though, that a full-scale rebellion would become a universal Hunger Games if the rebels could get the media involved: a fight to the death with all the country watching. I’m interested to see the media’s role in the next book since the Capitol may not have complete control over it anymore.

    Anyway, looking forward to reading the thoughts of others just finishing!

  17. MelanieB says:

    My sister just finished both books. Raced through Catching Fire in just 24 hours. Now that she’s read them we’re having some good discussions.

    One point I wanted to ask others about. How believable do you find Haymitch as a ringleader of the rebellion? Did you buy it when that was revealed? Because I had a bit of a hard time jumping from Haymitch the drunk to Haymitch the mastermind.

  18. Mary says:

    For a variety of reasons, I lost some interest in Catching Fire, but I picked it up again last night (our T.V. died). I was also reading The Actor and the Housewife, and while I was drifting off to sleep, I was thinking about both books and confusing the two, a strange and crazy ride. I think I will pick one and finish before I pick up the other again. I am looking for a World Atlas for my son. Any thoughs, recommendations, ideas would be appreciated.