You know how sometimes you're craving street meat, and finally you find a vendor, and you order a hot dog with ketchup and mustard and relish and gobble down the whole thing and then, because the first one was so satisfying, you order a SECOND hot dog, which is good but not nearly as delicious as the first one?
Catching Fire is the second hot dog.
Are you mad at me yet? Good! Book clubs are the most fun when everyone stops being polite and starts being angry at everyone else's dumb opinions (in typically articulate, respectful Sparkler fashion, of course).
To kick off today's discussion, here are five controversial claims.
Note that there are SPOILERS GALORE in this post! If you haven't read Catching Fire yet, go away and come back when you're done!
1. Catching Fire isn't as exciting as The Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games has the kind of simple, memorable premise that screenwriters dream of creating: in the future, kids are made to compete to the death on a reality TV show. We hit the ground running in the first chapter, and though there are surprises around every corner, the novel plays out in a satisfying, straightforward arc: Katniss leaves her district, goes to the capitol, goes to the arena, fights for her life, survives, and comes home.
Catching Fire doesn't have such a beautiful rainbow of an arc. Collins spends the first third of the book setting up the countrywide unrest and the president's hatred of Katniss. When she finally gets to the premise, it turns out to be a pale retread of what happened in The Hunger Games: all the victors from seasons past have to go back to the arena. It's still exciting, but the situation is familiar from the first book. And instead of the satisfying home-arena-home progression, we get home-home-home-home-arena.
2. Catching Fire is a section of a trilogy, not a stand-alone novel.
It seems clear that Mockingjay, the third book in the trilogy, will be about the overthrow of the government. Catching Fire acts like a bridge from the reality TV death match to the uprising—and that will be a lot more palatable once Mockingjay comes out on August 24. For now, it's mostly annoying. I don't want a bridge! I want a fully-realized novel!
3. Gale and Peeta are essentially the same character.
Gale is sarcastic and has beautiful hands and loves Katniss; Peeta is kind and has an artistic soul and loves Katniss. Both would give up their lives for her. Neither seems to mind much when the other one makes out with her. What's the difference between these two saintly characters?
I can't really tell Peeta and Gale apart, so I don't care which one Katniss winds up with. Collins doesn't make these boys three-dimensional. They lie on the page like attractive paper dolls, and that's boring.
4. Some of the dramatic moments fall flat (and maybe that's my fault).
In Chapter 16, the victors have to show off their skills to the Gamemakers. Katniss hangs a dummy and writes "SENECA CRANE" on its body. My response: "WHO?!?" I had no idea who Seneca Crane was. Admit it, neither did you! (You did? OK, you're a more attentive reader than I am.)
I think my confusion points to the sketchy way Collins describes her non-central characters. We get some memorable details to associate with President Snow—blood, roses, beady eyes—but very little to help us remember people like Seneca—which is a problem when a cliffhanger's success hinges on him.
5. No one can dream up a dress like Collins.
If you didn't get chills when Katniss's wedding dress burned up to reveal a mockingjay's feathers, you have a microchip where your heart should be.
OK, let's start talking! Disagree with my claims, bring up new ideas, tell me why you love the novel, whatever you want. I'll be around all day in the comments.
(And feel free to discuss the ending. I think it's important to analyze books as a whole, rather than sticking to the first chapters.)