SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
Catching Fire wasn’t quite as good as The Hunger Games, but it was definitely entertaining and held my interest. Like Games, it’s written in first person, present tense, as though the reader is following events as they happen. It’s a little slow starting, though, as we spend a while following Kat and Peeta around on their “victory tour,” traveling by train from district to district. Kat is still in trouble, though, with the Capitol, and this becomes more and more evident as she see people sporting the mockingjay symbol that she wore in the games. Her defiance of the Capitol and its rules has earned her much disdain from the government, and people in various districts are rising up in defiance of the Capitol, as well. She must try to put on an act as her and Peeta travel around and pretend to be in love, when, in fact, she still loves Gale, back in District 12. After the tour, she runs into two girls from District 8 who have escaped from the Capitol’s attach against the uprising that is going on there. She gives them food and listens to their story. Up to that point, she had decided that her best course of action was to take her family and friends and try to run away. But when she finds out that people are actually looking up to her as a symbol of possible freedom from the Capitol’s oppression, she feels that she must stay and help. The two runaways from D8 are on their way to District 13, which was supposedly destroyed in the original revolution, the result of which was the beginning of the Hunger Games, 75 years ago. They think that the people in D13 were not all killed, but have gone “underground.”
Right about then was when everyone is informed of the “special” rules for this year’s games. Being on a quarter-century mark, they are called the “Quarter Quell.” President Snow reads the stunning rule for the year which states that this year’s games will be “played” by two tributes from each district, which will be reaped from the district’s previous winners. Of course, D12 has only one female victor, which means that Katniss is going right back into the arena. By this time, the book has begun to pick up the pace.
Haymitch’s name is selected for the male tribute, but, as expected, Peeta immediately volunteers to be substitute for him. It’s sad, really, because some of the tributes from the other districts are old, some of them are strung out on pain meds (they call them “morphlings”). But some of them are still rather young and strong.
The training sessions are similar to the previous ones, and don’t occupy a lot of time in the book. Kat learns a few things as she, unwillingly, tries to gain some allies at Haymitch’s demand. I found one thing to be amusing…if they manage to make a movie of this one, they will either have to change a few things are flirt with an “R” rating, as there is one female tribute that likes to walk around naked. There might be sex, too…I’m actually not sure. Katniss and Peeta spend several nights together, but there’s never an overt reference to them actually having sex.
When the games begin, each tribute is standing on his/her metal plate, in the middle of an ocean of water. The cornucopia is a short distance away on what, at first, appears to be a floating island of sand. Katniss finally finds the very thin bar that runs from her plate to the island, but she also determines that the water is safe; salty and undrinkable, but safe. But she has one benefit that very few of the others have; she can swim. Her and her new found “friend” Finnick make it to the cornucopia first and gets some supplies before the “bloodbath” begins. Eight tributes die at the initial bloodbath while Finnick, Peeta, Katniss and um…another girl, can’t remember if it was Johanna or not, get away and form a team, at least for now. It is eventually discovered that the arena is a giant “clock,” and the Gamemaker’s traps happen at different quadrants, right on the hour. The 12 hour marks are signaled by a giant lightning strike. There is poison, acidic fog at one hour, blood rain at another hour, attacking monkeys at one hour, and a few other traps that our heroes never encounter. The strange thing is that, for some reason, other tributes seem to be protecting Katniss and Peeta. Katniss wants to make sure Peeta is the winner this year, but Peeta has the opposite idea. As time is running out and the tribute count is dying down, one of Kat’s allies has a plan. He has some “wire” that he invented, and he wants to wire one of the lightning trees with it and run the wire down to the beach, which will still be wet from the previous rain storm. He believes that this will successfully electrocute the other band of tributes and get it down to their small group. What Kat doesn’t know is that he is planning to blow up the force field around the arena. As Kat and Johanna are running the wire down to the beach, Johanna knocks Kat up side the head with the wire real, throws her down and “attacks” her with a knife. As two other tributes (from the “enemy” group) run by, Johanna forces Kat to stay down. What Kat doesn’t know at this point is that Johanna has dug the sensor out of Kat’s arm to keep her hidden. Kat regains some composure and runs back to where the guy with the plan is barely conscious from the attack. She sees that he is holding a knife that is wrapped in the wire attached to the tree. Two of the other tributes approach, but cannot see Kat crouched by the tree. She is about to shoot one of them with an arrow when she remembers what Haymitch told her, “You just remember who the enemy is.” She realize that her true enemy is not these tributes, but the Capitol. She grabs the knife, attaches it to an arrow, turns and points it at the nearby force field and shoots, just in time for the lightning strike. The ensuing explosion pretty much knock her out for a while.
When she comes to, there are fireworks shooting off (presumably so the Capitol can mask what is going on with the arena), and one of the hovercrafts is showing up to pick up Kat. She assumes that the Capitol is taking her in to kill her. She has no idea what has happened to anyone else.
When she wakes up where she wakes up, Beetee is in the room with her, barely sustained by life support. She fades in and out of consciousness, but finally wakes up enough to grab a syringe and get up to hunt for Peeta. She plans to kill him before the Capitol can torture him to death. What she doesn’t expect is to find Haymitch, Finnick, and Plutarch, one of the gamemasters conversing in a nearby room. Haymitch grabs the syringe from her, they subdue her with a sedative, and then she hears the story. There had always been a plan to break her and Peeta out of the arena! Most of the other tributes knew something about this plan, which explained why they were working so hard to protect Kat and Peeta. Even Plutarch was in on this, and was part of an undercover group planning to overthrow the Capitol. Unfortunately, Peeta has been captured by the Capitol, but is likely still alive. They tell Kat that she is the “Mockingjay;” the symbol of the uprising. She finds out that her mother and sister are still alive when Gale shows up to see her. He says he got them out in time. After the games, the Capitol fire-bombed District 12. The final line in Catching Fire is, “Katniss, there is no District Twelve.”
Huge twist at the end, made me really anxious to read the third book, Mockingjay. But I don’t have it yet, so I will have to wait. Besides, I really need to read The Wind Through the Keyhole, now.