Catching Fire Ch1

So.

Catching Fire.

I was thinking I really need to take some time to let my hatred die down to a nice simmer (and my fingers recover from endless typing and copy-pasting), but I couldn’t resist seeing how the next book began with all these lovely comments about DON’T GO ON IT JUST GETS WORSE ESCAPE WHILE YOU CAN.

It’s not too bad.


It opens with Katniss in the woods being cold.

If a pack of wild dogs were to appear at this moment, the odds of scaling a tree before they attacked are not in my favor.

You climbed a tree with second degree burns on your hands. I really don’t think a little cold stiffness will lead to your death.

The opening is very similar in tone to last book’s opening. Katniss sounds depressed and beaten down. But just as time eventually led to me saying it made no sense for her to be complaining about being that hungry, this too falls apart with knowledge of what’s already happened. The book is just not very good at writing emoing that’s consistent with past events. I feel bad for telling Katniss not to complain, because her life does suck, yet why does she have to be so over the top when her life already sucks?

This is probably going to be a common thing, so I think I’ll just assume from here on that events in the last book only happened in a general sort of way and that the current description in the current book reflects the accurate state of things, and try to judge it in that light.

I mean, climbing with second degree burns on your hands is pretty ridiculous, if the book wants to put that behind us then fine.

Anyway, today’s the day she’s been dreading, when she starts her victory tour.

I wonder if Effie will still be wearing that silly pink wig, or if she’ll be sporting some other unnatural color especially for the Victory Tour. There will be others waiting, too. A staff to cater to my every need on the long train trip. A prep team to beautify me for public appearances. My stylist and friend, Cinna, who designed the gorgeous outfits that first made the audience take notice of me in the Hunger Games.

Oh book, how fast my hatred returns. And I was just trying to make allowances for you.

Because CINNA THE BESTEST MOST WONDERFULEST PERSON IN THE WORLD’s outfits were different. Synthetic flame is totally all natural, but nothing has ever naturally been pink. Pink was invented in the 1950s by a team of scientists.

Katniss, understandably, doesn’t want to be reminded of the games. (Her suggestion that she can otherwise just forget I find suspect, but it is possible for people to just block things out.) But that’s the whole point of this tour, to remind everyone.

I will have to travel from district to district, to stand before the cheering crowds who secretly loathe me

This is rather like Katniss saying that everyone hates the trained kids. Resent that they won and not your kid, yes, but loathe them, when they had no more choice in it than anyone?

I mean, I guess this could be a take on how people would prefer to blame each other, but the games are outright stated to be a punishment imposed by the capital. And Katniss’ original descriptions of the games were quite neutral, just “horrible things happening to children”. It’s hard to believe that you could watch twenty-four children suffer year after year and decide that you should hate whoever survived it.

If there was any suggestion this was voluntary, this would make more sense too, because it’d be easy to say the other districts were taking part for bad reasons while theirs were noble. But imposing a punishment on everyone is the fastest way to make everyone work together.

(Plus we know District 11, at least, loves Katniss.)

Katniss says she’s supposed to be hunting, but she hasn’t really been making much of an effort. It’s okay, since her family can afford to buy meat now.

But my best friend, Gale Hawthorne, and his family will be depending on today’s haul and I can’t let them down.

Wait. Your family can afford meat, but his family will starve if you don’t bring in game? Contrived situation is contrived.

Gale’s finally old enough for the coal mines, so he’s no longer able to hunt most of the time. Somehow they’re still going hungry? I really don’t get it. The book says he’s doing it to feed his family, so it must be better than hunting, except apparently it’s not enough and he still needs meat from hunting?

I guess the fact he’s no longer able to get tesserae might be the relevant difference here.

Katniss doesn’t know how he can stand it. She’s been there on school trips.

When I was little, it was just unpleasant. The claustrophobic tunnels, foul air, suffocating darkness on all sides. But after my father and several other miners were killed in an explosion, I could barely force myself onto the elevator.

So on the one hand, psychological damage from trauma! On the other hand, my that’s pretty mild as psychological damage goes. I’m just going to call it now – she’s not going to show any sort of PTSD symptoms for anything.

And here I am with buckets of money, far more than enough to feed both our families now, and he won’t take a single coin.

That’s dumb. No, that’s really, really dumb. He’s not just nobly refusing to use her money to eat himself, but starving the rest of his family, when Katniss has enough that it wouldn’t even make a difference. For some reason he’ll take game she drops off, though. She should try just buying sides of beef and dumping them there.

Actually, wait, his mom is still alive, right? Why the fuck is it his decision, then?

I’m assuming it won’t occur to Katniss that she could use those buckets of money to feed anyone else.

it’s not like it used to be before, when we could tell each other anything. The Games have spoiled even that.

Why can’t she tell him? I mean, I can see if perhaps she feels isolated and like she doesn’t have the words for things, but she really doesn’t seem any different, so it’s more likely she means Gale is mad about the Peeta thing. Which really could have been fixed by telling him everything. I really hate mobius logic about how you’ve having trouble talking because you aren’t talking.

She goes back to her old house, which is still technically theirs as well as her shiny victor house, in order to change her clothing.

Exchange my father’s old leather jacket for a fine wool coat that always seems too tight in the shoulders.

You’re rich. Buy another one that fits.

No, really, I have absolutely no sympathy for how hard it is for you to have new clothes. I can put up with it if it’s explicitly you being forced to wear fancy uncomfortable things (not that you did, you loved it when Cinna made things solely to look pretty), but no nonsense about how pure and wonderful your regular clothes are and all expensive things suck.

Leave my soft, worn hunting boots for a pair of expensive machine-made shoes that my mother thinks are more appropriate for someone of my status

Not quite sure I like the implication here. Can’t her mother just want her to have better shoes? (Also, why would machine-made shoes be more expensive? Industrial revolution, you’re doing it wrong.)

Katniss spends a few minutes thinking about how much better it was back before the games. Starving, but she knew where she stood. Interestingly, her thoughts seem to kind of skip over the actual childmurdering part of this – her issues are simply that the capital now has their eye on her and her general fame. That’s a really self-centered way of looking at things, like the biggest change is just that she’s rich now.

You know, if they have their eye on her, shouldn’t they be cracking down on hunting? Seems like that’s a good way to get her.

A wailing at the back door demands my attention. I open it to find Buttercup, Prim’s scruffy old tomcat. He dislikes the new house almost as much as I do and always leaves it when my sister’s at school. We’ve never been particularly fond of each other, but now we have this new bond. I let him in, feed him a chunk of beaver fat, and even rub him between the ears for a bit. “You’re hideous, you know that, right?” I ask him. Buttercup nudges my hand for more petting

This is the cat she originally tried to drown as a kitten and she said understandably hated her. So I’m getting the impression the bad stuff from the first book is just gone and this book it’s going to be about how the district is quite nice except for some external oppression.

I like Hazelle. Respect her. The explosion that killed my father took out her husband as well, leaving her with three boys and a baby due any day. Less than a week after she gave birth, she was out hunting the streets for work.

We’re doing better on the female characters front. I’m sort of wondering if someone mentioned this to the author, because they suddenly start appearing near the end of the last book and now here we are.

I’m not actually going to give feminist points for this, because it still hasn’t addressed my complaint about how women can’t seem to do real work. It explains she couldn’t work in the mines because of the new baby, but not why, four years later, she still isn’t and is still doing laundry instead. (Also, the district gives a month’s worth of money to them in compensation for the death, so maternity leave pay doesn’t seem impossible, or some sort of childcare. Possibly mandatory childcare, since you want them in the mines working. Or you have one woman stay up top taking care of everyone’s kids. Or something.)

Apparently, it was the father that knew how to hunt, because Gale’s the only one left who can do that.

But they are determined, Hazelle and Gale, that the other boys, twelve-year-old Rory and ten-year-old Vick, and the baby, four-year-old Posy, will never have to sign up for tesserae.

I mentioned this last time, but it’s bugging me now for a new reason. The insistence that it’s possible to avoid taking tesserae does exactly what I mentioned about blame. I was saying people should use the fact you don’t absolutely need to in order to blame the kids who end up chosen as greedy, when the system is set up so that there’s no way you don’t have to take some. Instead, we have the book saying it’s quite possible, and it’s only extraordinary circumstances when it’s different. Very different from the original bit saying most children in the Seam, at least, are going hungry. BOOTSTRAPS!!!

She offers to take the oldest kid out to teach him to hunt. Now, Katniss could hunt and gather at age eleven, so why they weren’t getting taught before now is a bit weird. It’d also be nice to see some other girl involved in this – Katniss is the only one we know of who hunts, and she’s from an all-girl family where there was no male kid to teach. It’d be really good to hear that it’s a gender neutral thing and not a matter of there being no son to take it up after both parents who know hunting are male. It isn’t feminist to have your heroine is doing stuff other girls can’t do because she’s so awesome she was able to overcome her natural vagina-based inferiority.

We get a quick recap of the love triangle: Peeta was in love with her and they kissed on live television a lot, Gale was in love with her and watched it all, Katniss can’t deal, no one’s talking about it. Worse, they’re going to have to start making out again because they have to play it up for the victory tour.

(Like everything else, that’s in caps. I refuse, book.)

Hunting in the woods surrounding District 12 violates at least a dozen laws and is punishable by death.

Still no explanation why. The emphasis on this just makes me wonder why no one’s used it as an excuse to catch her yet.

Although they never mention it, I owe the people who frequent the Hob. Gale told me that Greasy Sae, the old woman who serves up soup, started a collection to sponsor Peeta and me during the Games. It was supposed to be just a Hob thing, but a lot of other people heard about it and chipped in.

Um. Wow, the plot hasn’t even started and already we’re hitting exceptionalism. They never did this to help anyone else, they did it for someone we know had tons of sponsor money pouring in, and if they raised any amount of money, then that was money that could have been spent on starving children.

Remember them? We haven’t heard about them since the first half of the original book.

It would be nice if Katniss at least paid everyone back with the pile of money she doesn’t know what to do with.

I try to hit as many stalls as possible, spreading out my purchases of coffee, buns, eggs, yarn, and oil.

…how does this black market work, exactly?

She seems to be doing this to spread her money around evenly. Book, you had better not be working up to saying direct charity is wrong and that’s why she can’t just give the money to people to help.

As an afterthought, I buy three bottles of white liquor from a one-armed woman named Ripper, a victim of a mine accident who was smart enough to find a way to stay alive.

Hi Ripper I like you.

Okay book I am very grudgingly supportive. Most of the people showing up are female.

I’m extremely confused why her name is Ripper, though. Either it’s a return to the deterministic world where naming a kid Rue = dead in childmurder games, or that’s her nickname, which seems…weird.

We also have a return to the life-sucks message, but really, the reminder that if you can’t work you starve to death just reminds me that there must be other people who didn’t find a way, and what are you doing for them?

She’s buying the alcohol for Haymitch, because a little while ago he ran out and the black market had none and withdrawal was pretty freaky and she wants to make sure there’s a stockpile next time. I’m not sure I believe there’d ever be a total lack of alcohol like that, but it’s nice of her to care.

Cray, our Head Peacekeeper, frowns when he sees me with the bottles. He’s an older man with a few strands of silver hair combed sideways above his bright red face. “That stuff’s too strong for you, girl.”

I think this is the first time we’ve actually seen a peacekeeper.

Surprisingly nice. Not sure if I like that. These people are working for the evil government. Surely someone somewhere is actually responsible for the evil part of evil government?

Also, book you are doing a lot better, and I support you, but – still looking rather patriarchal. Male mayor and now male head peacekeeper. This is taking place in the future, you can’t just say it’s how things are.

Next she sits to have a bowl of Sae’s soup and there’s another peacekeeper who’s also a great guy, in fact he’s her favorite of them.

“Shouldn’t you look better?” he asks in a loud whisper. I can’t help smiling at his teasing, in spite of my mood. “Maybe a ribbon in your hair or something?” He flicks my braid with his hand and I brush him away.
“Don’t worry. By the time they get through with me I’ll be unrecognizable,” I say.
“Good,” he says. “Let’s show a little district pride for a change, Miss Everdeen. Hm?”

…maybe it’s just me but my god it’s like the author can’t write anything without it suddenly dipping into creepy.

Gah. That final line is just skeevy.

It turns out that Gale’s been made into her cousin. When the reporters came around to interview her friends, all anyone could give them was Gale.

But it wouldn’t do, what with the romance I was playing out in the arena, to have my best friend be Gale. He was too handsome, too male, and not the least bit willing to smile and play nice for the cameras.

This is interesting, metatextually, because the whole point of the love triangle is for the audience. But I guess the capital was sick of those. God knows I am, so I suppose I have sympathy. Someone, and it’s unclear if it’s a local or reporter, decided he should be presented as her cousin instead.

Greasy Sae knows we’re not related, but even some of the people who have known us for years seem to have forgotten.

That’s dumb, book.

She heads off to her new house, but first she’s got to get Haymitch for some reason. Pretty sure Haymitch must have handlers, book, someone got him onto the stage every reaping.

Haymitch refuses to let anyone in to clean and does a poor job himself. Over the years the odors of liquor and vomit, boiled cabbage and burned meat, unwashed clothes and mouse droppings have intermingled into a stench that brings tears to my eyes.

…why? I mean, not only is that just dumb, but all he’s really accomplishing is not employing someone who needs the money. I mean, in theory I think wealth should be distributed equally, but failing that it’s better to be employing people than just sitting on it.

I fill a basin with icy cold water, dump it on his head, and spring out of the way. A guttural animal sound comes from his throat. He jumps up, kicking his chair ten feet behind him and wielding a knife. I forgot he always sleeps with one clutched in his hand.

That’s an interesting little tidbit. I’m doubtful if we’re going to actually be seeing Haymitch showing reasonable psychological affects of the whole childmurder games, but promising.

Peeta shows up with some bread for some reason. They’re very stiff talking to each other, and Katniss flees to her own house.

My mother’s been working day and night to make everything perfect for the cameras, so it’s no time to be tracking up her shiny floors

I’d kind of like some sort of direct discussion of this. Her mom’s looking rather status-climbing, which is particularly weird when it’s not poverty-to-middle-class, but poverty-to-rockstar. She has no Joneses to keep up with.

But her mom is even more anxious than that when Katniss appears, because someone’s shown up. Katniss is ushered off to a room deeper in her house.

My nose registers the conflicting scents of roses and blood.

Really, book?

Anyway, it’s President Snow, with his snake eyes.

So. My first impulse is to say the book’s looking better, but it started out quite decently the first time. Most authors can manage a good first chapter, it’s keeping that level of quality up that’s the issue. It’s definitely doing better, though not yet good, with female characters, but even worse with economics. And it’s looking like the romance is going to be a plot point this whole entire time, so unless the author’s gotten way better at writing it that’s going to be problem.

One Comment

  1. John Smith says:

    I just read your review of the Hunger Games and think it is insightful. How do you get all of these segments of text on your review? Do you type all of them out?

    0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar