Today is our last day of our Catching Fire reading, just in time for the Mockingjay, Part One movie. Now you’re all caught up, your memory is refreshed, and you can go get disappointed because Mockingjay was one of the worst books I’ve ever read. And I do this blog. Enjoy the movie!
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OH MY GOD WE ALREADY KILLED OFF PEETA. Nah, he’ll be fine, I’m sure. He got knocked out by a force field, which actually probably means worse things for us than it does for Peeta, because it’s just gonna mean a couple more chapters of nothing but Katniss and her feelings about boys. Man, Peeta really takes a lot of shit every time he’s in the Hunger Games. Anybody else notice that? Collins can’t actually kill him off, but she’ll push him within an inch of death as often as she fucking can and he’ll spend most of the narrative hobbling along being adorable while Katniss takes care of him.
In terms of things that are actually interesting, however, there’s Finnick and the bangle and the “haha, we are the best of friends!” thing. I really don’t know what to make of Finnick so far, largely because I’ve been given very little to go off of aside from HE IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MAN IN THE UNIVERSE, which does surprisingly little to help characterize him.
You know how in The Hunger Games, the Hunger Games themselves were roughly 2/3 of the narrative? And how it got really slow every couple chapters, either to focus on the survival element (which was not a bad thing), or to focus on Katniss and Peeta and young adult fiction (which was)? Well, in Catching Fire, the Hunger Games are only about a 1/3 of the narrative, which is fine, but the problem is that it’s still following this “one page of action means twenty pages of young adult fiction” formula, and so the dull bits hurt the narrative to a greater degree.
Also, how come Katniss is the only one who ever seems to get gifts?
Okay, I am a fan of the nerve gas. That shit was legitimately terrifying, and probably the high point so far in terms of the survival horror the series is supposedly known for but actually rather shies away from. The monkey attack afterwards is a bit underwhelming, but in all fairness, it’s a bit hard to immediately come up with something more sinister and frightening in quite the same way as nerve gas.
The surprise District 6 sacrifice out of nowhere seems to confirm my “everybody is on Katniss’s side” theory, and it’ll be interesting to see where this goes, because, as I’ve said earlier, there’s no way these Hunger Games are actually going to go according to the Capitol’s plan.
Finnick’s reaction to Mag’s death finally made me realize what it is that struck me as somehow worse when they put adults in the Hunger Games: adults have different reasons to die. Adult characters have lived more, understand more, and will sacrifice more, which for the most part you won’t get from the children and young adult characters previously thrown into the Hunger Games. In this way, the Capitol has totally screwed itself over, and they’re probably starting to figure that out.
the combination of the scabs and the ointment looks hideous. I can’t help enjoying his distress.
“Poor Finnick. Is this the first time in your life you haven’t looked pretty?” I say.
“It must be. The sensation’s completely new. How have you managed it all these years?” he asks.
Can I point out how awesome Finnick is? I really want to guy to actually be okay.
“No, wait,” says Finnick. “Let’s do it together. Put our faces right in front of his.”
Well, there’s so little opportunity for fun left in my life, I agree. … [Peeta’s] eyelids flutter open and then he jumps like we’ve stabbed him. “Aa!”
Finnick and I fall back in the sand, laughing our heads of. Every time we try to stop, we look at Peeta’s attempt to maintain a disdainful expression and it sets us off again.
This is simultaneously the funniest and most heartbreaking thing that’s happened so far in the novel. If this scene gets cut from the movie, the movie will be terrible – I am calling it right now.
So anyway, we soon run into Johanna and Wiress and Beetee, and I’m refraining from making any clever jokes about their stupid names because there’s totally something up with the “tick tock” thing and if I can’t figure it out before Katniss does, that will be incredibly embarrassing. My guess right now is that the threats in the arena are linked to time? So the nerve gas is coming back. And the monkeys, I guess, but the nerve gas is scarier.
What’s interesting is that Katniss has tons of allies now, so it’s obvious that something big is going on. The biggest threat isn’t the other tributes: it’s the arena, and, by extension, the gamemakers, the Capitol, President Snow, etc.
Slowly I rise up and survey the arena. The lightning there. In the next pie wedge over came the blood rain. … We would have been in the third section, right next to that when the fog appeared. And as soon as it was sucked away, the monkeys began to gather in the fourth.
WAIT I GOT IT. The arena is a clock!
My eyes sweep around the full circle of the arena and I know she’s right. “Tick, tock. This is a clock.”
Okay, I figured it out like half a paragraph before Katniss did, whatever. I’m still going to consider this a win on my part.
You know what just occurred to me? The Hunger Games books like to go into all kinds of gritty realism about the survival elements of the narrative, from dehydration to getting cold at night. So when does anybody go to the bathroom?
Basically not much happens in this chapter and it’s just Katniss trying to think about her plan for survival, which is rather complicated with how many people are trying really hard to be her friend. And then we have the cliffhanger. Jesus Christ, Suzanne Collins and her requisite “I will do whatever it takes to end this chapter with a twist” cliffhangers. Katniss runs off into the woods because she hears her little sister screaming. I’m going to call this right now: it is not actually her sister! Daring prediction, I know.
Her next wail rings out, clear as a bell, and there’s no mistaking the source. It’s coming from the mouth of a small, crested black bird perched on a branch about three metres over my head. And then I understand
It’s a jabberjay.
I’d just like to refer everybody to something I wrote back during the third chapter of the first book, if I may:
A bird that can memorize and repeat human noises ranging from whimpers to entire conversations. In a novel about teenagers who are forced to fight each other to the death in some big outdoor setting. Yeah, I’m sure that’s never going to pop up at an inopportune time and terrify the shit out of everyone.
Sure enough, it is absolutely terrifying. What I really like about this is that it’s not just Katniss who falls victim, but Finnick gets caught up in the psychological hell too, which really helps us understand a character who isn’t Katniss or is in love with Katniss, and this is really nice. Although we do get some of that too in this chapter, and sweet fancy Moses, Peeta’s selflessness is getting increasingly heartbreaking.
I join them for another delivery of bread. It’s identical to the one we received the night before. Twenty-four rolls from District 3.
GUYS. DO YOU THINK THIS IS A CODE?
I mean, I have no idea what it is, but this stands out so much. Aside from that, it’s a pretty uneventful chapter. It’s got some nice humor in it, but it’s very calm before the storm. Literally, as there’s a plan to use the lightning to electrocute the other tributes, which would basically just leave this huge team of allied tributes alone in the arena, which seems like not the greatest plan, but there’s only two chapters left so I can’t really be bothered to be too critical.
What the hell is going on?! I think everybody just died in this chapter, but I can’t be sure because people just sort of show up and fight and disappear and this is very confusing. I think the whole thing ended with Katniss shooting an arrow tied to wire at the force field tom complete the circuit to the “electrocute everybody standing on the goddamned beach” trap, while standing on the goddamned beach, and somehow she’s not dead. I think. This was very confusingly written. Fuck it. Last chapter. Let’s go.
Well, the chapter begins with everything exploding and that’s certainly exciting. And Katniss is picked up by a hovercraft, and I’m a bit confused by this because the only times anybody gets picked up by a hovercraft is when 1) they’re dead, or 2) they’ve won, and, well, neither of those things apply to Katniss, so something’s up.
When I swim back into semi-consciousness, I can feel I’m lying on a padded table. There’s the pinching sensation of tubes in my left arm. They are trying to keep me alive because, if I slide quietly, privately into death, it will be a victory. … Directly across from me I see Beetee with about ten different machines hooked up to him. Just let us die! I scream in my mind.
Okay, um, Beetee is there too? And also not dead? Well, there is literally only one reason why this is the case: revolution. Of course, Katniss takes some time to figure these things out and decides to kill everybody on the ship with a syringe full of sedative.
So Katniss is Solid Snake-ing her way through the hovercraft and overhears Plutarch and Haymitch consoling a distraught Finnick, and still doesn’t have any idea what’s going on.
[Haymitch] looks at my hand. “So it’s you and a syringe against the Capitol? See, this is why no one lets you make the plans.”
Haymitch, I love you.
Haymitch sits directly in front of me. “Katniss, I’m going to explain what happened. I don’t want you to ask any questions until I’m through. Do you understand?”
Yay, now we’re finally going to know what’s been going on.
Plutarch Heavensbee has been, for several years, part of an undercover group aiming to overthrow the Capitol.
“Where is Peeta?” I hiss at him.
“He was picked up by the Capitol along with Johanna and Enobaria,” says Haymitch.
Peeta gets the shit end of the stick. Who did not see this coming.
“I wanted to go back for him and Johanna, but I couldn’t move.”
I don’t answer. Finnick Odair’s good intentions mean less than nothing.
“It’s better for him than Johanna. They’ll figure out he doesn’t know anything pretty fast. And they won’t kill him if they think they can use him against you,” says Finnick.
“Like bait?” I say to the ceiling. “Like how they’ll use Annie for bait, Finnick?”
Jesus Haymitch Christ, Katniss.
Until one time, I open my eyes and find someone I cannot block out looking down at me. …
“Gale,” I whisper.
Oh my God, guys, Gale has lines!
“Katniss, there is no District Twelve.”
Ok, I am actually interested in reading the last book now. This is finally interesting, and, more importantly, the novel actually ends with any sort of promise for a sequel. But to talk about any of that, let’s switch over to what my thoughts are…
The Hunger Games did not end with any particular need for a sequel, and so the sequel Catching Fire was directionless and largely boring. Catching Fire, however, ends with a perfect chapter for setting up an exciting premise, so I am actually interested in reading Mockingjay. Overall, this was an unbelievably, painfully slow novel, but it definitely picked up towards the end, although it never got anywhere near as good as it was any any point during The Hunger Games. So this definitely suffers from being the middle of a forced trilogy, where it doesn’t have a real start, nor does it have a real end, and it is very difficult to do rising action, rising action, climax, denouement when the overall story is still just rising action. It definitely makes me excited for the third novel, but I still don’t see why this got to be its own book.