Catching Fire Ch21

Last time on Catching Fire, it seems the series of unspecified disasters included maple trees producing syrup right from the tap. I guess God is dead and, like your average load-bearing boss, taking him out reverses the various curses and blessings he’s thrown around? Also, there’s death fog.

At least stuff is happening.

Tiny, searing stabs. Wherever the droplets of mist touch my skin.

The writing of this is so, so awful. Was there even an editor involved in this?

I can tell that however much he denied it during the day, the aftereffects of hitting the force field have been significant. He’s slow, much slower than usual.

While the damage from an electric shock varies widely, I’d still expect him to be showing more symptoms of the CPR than the shock. He should have cracked ribs.

A terrible impulse to flee, to abandon Peeta and save myself, shoots through me. It would be so simple, to run full out, perhaps to even climb a tree above the fog line, which seems to top out at about forty feet.

I don’t see why climbing a tree is incompatible with staying with Peeta. It seems like it’s a good idea for everyone involved. Also, why is this so terrible? Abandoning someone is bad, but only in cases where you can help if you stay. Someone isn’t terrible because they don’t stay to die.

I remember how I did just this when the muttations appeared in the last Games. Took off and only thought of Peeta when I’d reached the Cornucopia.

You mean, the time when there was absolutely nothing you could do for him anyway? Where, if anything, the one useful thing you could do was run and get enough distance you could then shoot them?

Dammit, book.

Peeta’s artificial leg catches in a knot of creepers and he sprawls forward before I can catch him.

This has come up a couple times now, that Peeta’s leg doesn’t work as well as a real one. But it actually doesn’t make sense. Current non-magitech prosthetics are already pretty good. I think by the time you can quick grow humawolves for the hell of it you can make a working leg.

The left side of his face has sagged, as if every muscle in it has died. The lid droops, almost concealing his eye. His mouth twists in an odd angle toward the ground.

Or in sum, it’s some sort of nerve gas. See this is what I mean, they can make super nerve gas fog but not a leg? But anyway, the point is this is a war of attrition, which actually is quite frightening. Every time you slow down and get caught, it’s that much harder to keep ahead of the fog.

Anyway, Millstone can’t walk so Duke Devlin comes back to carry him and Katniss has to carry Mags now. They do that for a while, then Katniss’ legs start to give out and she asks if Duke Devlin can carry them both. But he can’t, he’s badly messed up by the fog as well.

What happens next is so fast, so senseless, I can’t even move to stop it. Mags hauls herself up, plants a kiss on Finnick’s lips, and then hobbles straight into the fog. Immediately, her body is seized by wild contortions and she falls to the ground in a horrible dance.

Okay. So apparently there’s some sort of agreement to keep Katniss alive.

See, this would have worked so much better without the bloodbath. Have her group arm themselves and take off, and all the other tributes just hang out fending for themselves. They do all know each other, if some people are willing to coordinate to the point they’re willing die to help her it’s not unreasonable for the rest to be willing to take their chances on the island’s dangers rather than killing each other. The place seems to be far nastier than usual already, Katniss would still hear cannon shots either way.

Personally, the fact they’re willing to die for Millstone is forced – it makes sense on the level that Katniss wants him protected and might have a breakdown over his death, except she’s already told Haymitch she’s planning on dying for the guy. So letting Peeta die at the first opportunity is actually a good idea if the goal is keeping her alive.

And it sure as hell can’t be keeping Peeta alive for his own sake, no matter what bullshit about deep down betterness. The idea Katniss is important is enough of a stretch as it is.

Anyway, sucks to be Duke Devlin! No, seriously. The reason Mags is dead now is because he saved Peeta, something he didn’t need to do. And not only did he actually know her, but just in general she was clearly a wonderful person and doubly wonderful in comparison to fucking Millstone.

On a personal level I’m kind of underwhelmed by this, but that’s because I’m not really a fan of the whole thing where you accept your death. The mist isn’t going to go forever, because then everyone would be dead. Under the circumstances you keep going, even if it means crawling, even if you don’t really have a chance. Dying with dignity is going out without begging or screaming, but it doesn’t requiring charging into your death.

(For example? The reboot Star Trek movie opening bugged me. I mean, sure, if you have to manually pilot the thing in, do that, but if you set the autopilot, RUN. I get that there is no real chance of getting to the escape pods in time, but you should still try.)

I take one futile step in her direction when I hear the cannon blast, know her heart has stopped, that she is dead.

…that didn’t stop Peeta.

The heart-stopped thing is just painfully stupid in context. The books haven’t specified how death is determined in the arena before now, and yet here the book brings it up for the first time right after a character having their heart stopped without a cannon blast or dying.

They keep stumbling along for a while until they finally collapse, at which point they just stop because I guess crawling is undignified.

it’s becoming thicker, as if it has pressed up against a glass window and is being forced to condense. I squint harder and realize the fingers no longer protrude from it. In fact, it has stopped moving forward entirely. Like other horrors I have witnessed in the arena, it has reached the end of its territory. Either that or the Gamemakers have decided not to kill us just yet.
“It’s stopped,” I try to say, but only an awful croaking sound comes from my swollen mouth. “It’s stopped,” I say again, and this time I must be clearer, because both Peeta and Finnick turn their heads to the fog. It begins to rise upward now, as if being slowly vacuumed into the sky. We watch until it has all been sucked away and not the slightest wisp remains.

Interesting idea, but points off for execution. The fog seemed to be heavier than air and highly reactive. Valid ways for removal would have been for the fog to dissolve on its own or retreat back the way it came, not get sucked into the air. Also, the idea of it being controlled to the point of an invisible wall seems rather ridiculous, and that’s even allowing that force field technology exists, because this seems like yet another different sort of force field and why would you ever need so many different ways of doing the same thing?

It’s also a bit confused here. Two different things seem to be happening – the fog is stopping at a particular point and a particular time, but it’s doing both at together. I guess this makes sense if you assume the timing is done so that once the fog has filled the area/killed everyone it’s removed, but it just doesn’t feel quite right. It’d have been better to have Katniss watching it for a while after it stopped but still lingered, just because that’s creepier.

I look up and spot a pair of what I guess are monkeys. I have never seen a live monkey— there’s nothing like that in our woods at home. But I must have seen a picture, or one in the Games, because when I see the creatures, the same word comes to my mind.

This is the second time we’re heard the same vague explanation. What bugs me here is that it’s written like it’s admitting a plot hole when this shouldn’t be an issue – she goes to school and there’s no sign that their education is restricted to the point they wouldn’t learn about monkeys and zebras and whatever.

Also, monkeys! Once again the capital is totally failing at being decadent, Katniss should know monkeys because it should be a thing the capital has. People used to train them to act as waiters because it was just cool. Today, the illegal pet trade is a major threat to several species because people really like them as pets. And considering they can make humawolves, making genetically engineered monkeys that actually work as proper pets should be easy.

Incidentally, it doesn’t occur to Katniss that the monkeys are probably some sort of evil trap.

I think these have orange fur, although it’s hard to tell, and are about half the size of a full-grown human. I take the monkeys for a good sign. Surely they would not hang around if the air was deadly

Unless they’re robots, or just immune to whatever the stuff is. Or they are a sign the air isn’t deadly, except that they are deadly in their own right so it’s not an improvement. I mean, there was just death fog and yet the monkeys are chilling watching them instead of freaking out. I know she’s not familiar with them, but she’s familiar with animals in general, and that should be all she needs to know that this is weird behavior.

Personally, in Katniss’ position I’d assume any visually distinctive thing was a gamemaker trap. And if she knows anything at all about monkeys, even just enough to know they move in groups and draw a comparison to, say, wild dog packs, she should know that monkeys should cause a lot of trouble if they’re just normal animals. They’d set off trap and when something weird happened, like the fog, they’d panic and flee. They’d be a huge distraction.

Now that the danger’s over, they decide to try out the whole crawling thing and make it to the beach.

Katniss touches the water face-first somehow (not how you should be crawing, Katniss) and it’s incredibly painful.

But there’s another sensation, of drawing out.

Yeah I don’t recognize that as an actual sensation. This is sloppy writing. It’d have been really easy to say that her hands are stiff lumps and she gets one of them wet, then realizes she can sort of feel her fingers again and that the water’s helping somehow.

The way the book writes Katniss figuring stuff out is just so wrong. It’s not just here, either, it’s in general. Katniss always Just Knows she should try something. Here, she doesn’t figure out that it’s drawing out the poison, she Just Knows that’s what she’s feeling.

I unbuckle my belt and strip off my jumpsuit, which is little more than a perforated rag. My shoes and undergarments are inexplicably unaffected.

Minor lulz. The author just can’t bear Katniss to be naked, so they’re “inexplicably” unaffected. As I’ve said before, this kind of thing could’ve worked if it was meant as part of the capital being prudish about sex in contrast to their love of violence, rather than parading kids around dressed in nothing but coal dust. What’s particularly absurd is it’s already established that the jumpsuits are there to let water flow through easily, and given Katniss’ condition it’s surprising she even can get it off. She should have just crawled in fully dressed.

Anyway, poor Duke Devlin’s too fucked up to do anything, so he’s passed out on the beach. Katniss starts pouring handfuls of water on him.

Peeta recovers enough to help me. He cuts away Finnick’s jumpsuit.

Peeta, I know he’s really pretty, but like I just said, it’s clear the jumpsuits don’t block anything. They’re a mesh that lets water go right through and they certainly didn’t block the fog, so why would you need to cut them off to dump water and drain the fog out? I mean, it’s a great excuse to see his chest right now but if you cut up his only clothing he won’t have anything – oh. Clever.

They manage to detox Duke Devlin for the most part.

Katniss suggests tapping a tree.

“Let me make the hole first,” says Peeta. “You stay with him. You’re the healer.”

Haaaaaaaate. So the books continue Katniss’ journey to accepting her feminine place. I was irritated enough last book, when I mentioned that for all Katniss didn’t know about healing it was still the role she ended up taking with Peeta. And now it seems we’re gone one step further to the always hated device of a character just not realizing that she’s totally a whatever.

And then, of course, there’s Mags. I still don’t understand what happened there. Why he essentially abandoned her to carry Peeta. Why she not only didn’t question it, but ran straight to her death without a moment’s hesitation. Was it because she was so old that her days were numbered, anyway? Did they think that Finnick would stand a better chance of winning if he had Peeta and me as allies?

Here’s the thing. Katniss not getting this works fine. The idea of people being willing to die for her is something that’s only obvious on a metatextual level. But it’s in the context of Katniss NEVER FUCKING GETTING ANYTHING. There’s a sort of store of how much I’ll tolerate this, and the book squandered it on all sorts of far more obvious things where it wasn’t even plot-necessary. So by now I hate every new device using it, even if in a vacuum I’d’ve been fine with it.

Actually, the in a vacuum thing pretty much sums up these reviews. The further in we get, the more the weight of past issues colors the current setup.

I rescue my mockingjay pin from my ruined jumpsuit and pin it to the strap of my undershirt.

Her underclothes are that heavy? I really don’t get this. When the outfit first comes up I had the impression it was pretty sheer. If she’s wearing a whole other layer of cloth underneath, then the conversation with Cinna makes a lot less sense, as does the flow of events later on – she says the jumpsuit dries easily, but if she’s wearing real cloth underneath that shouldn’t matter. Am I supposed to read “undershirt” as “bra” and this is just some attempt to PG-ize everything?

Why is this even a thing in the first place? It’s only coming up because the author declared the jumpsuits ruined, which wasn’t necessary.

I can swim, so the flotation belt’s not really necessary, but Brutus blocked my arrow with his, so I buckle it back on

…this is just terrible, terrible reasoning. They have little in the way of supplies, you never dump stuff under those conditions. Plus, knowing how to swim doesn’t mean a floatation belt is useless. Considering Katniss thought a twenty-yard swim was a huge length, she’s obviously not an experienced swimmer, and she certainly isn’t experienced with waves. Even if she was, the floatation belt means she can spend time in the water without worrying about exhausting herself keeping her head up.

The book is spending time explaining this but it’s just making it worse. It didn’t need explaining.

Anyway. Duke Devlin swims around a bit and then they head back toward the jungle.

To the surprise of no one paying attention, the monkeys have assembled to kill them.

Not five or ten but scores of monkeys weigh down the limbs of the jungle trees. The pair we spotted when we first escaped the fog felt like a welcoming committee. This crew feels ominous.

No, the first pair were ominous. When there are scores of large unfamiliar animals staring at you in dead silence while you are in a giant death arena, it’s a bit more than ominous.

“Peeta,” I say as calmly as possible. “I need your help with something.”
“Okay, just a minute. I think I’ve just about got it,” he says, still occupied with the tree. “Yes, there. Have you got the spile?”
“I do. But we’ve found something you’d better take a look at,” I continue in a measured voice. “Only move toward us quietly, so you don’t startle it.”

It’s like lying is just a thing with her. Unless the monkeys can understand English, I don’t see why she can’t say “Peeta, you need to act calm and keep your eyes on the ground and come over here slowly.”

I assume the idea is that saying not to look up will make him look up, except that Katniss says she’s picking her words to alert him to the fact something’s wrong, and the first thing you do in that situation is look around. She’s communicating the same YOU’RE FUCKED GET OUT OF THERE thing in both cases, it’d just in the one she chose she’s failing to give him any actual information.

I don’t want him to notice the monkeys, or even glance their way. There are creatures that interpret mere eye contact as aggression.

Okay, for one thing, you were looking directly at them before and they didn’t react. So if these are normal animals you already know that’s not how they work. For another, these obviously aren’t normal animals and given the fog was clearly directed and controlled every step of the way, odds are the monkeys have a gamemaker-controlled switch. I mean, they’ve already all gathered and are staring down silently. There’s nothing natural about how they’re acting.

He’s just five yards from the beach when he senses them. His eyes only dart up for a second, but it’s as if he’s triggered a bomb. The monkeys explode into a shrieking mass of orange fur and converge on him.

See if she’d just told him to not look up this could have been avoided.

I’ve never seen any animal move so fast. They slide down the vines as if the things were greased. Leap impossible distances from tree to tree. Fangs bared, hackles raised, claws shooting out like switchblades. I may be unfamiliar with monkeys, but animals in nature don’t act like this. “Mutts!”

See, Katniss never figures anything out sanely.

The monkeys are dead silent, show no fear and assembled in a giant mass? She thinks it’s normal. Yet she’s never seen one of them in her life, but she can tell normal monkeys can’t move that fast or jump that far without genetic modification.

In short, she always knows whatever the narration wants her to know, rather than what she should based on the actual events.

Anyway remember their floatation belts? The book even made a point of saying Katniss kept hers on. Monkeys can’t swim. If the monkeys could swim, they would still not swim better than people with floatation belts who can keep their head above water with practically no effort. As if that’s not enough, we just reestablished that Duke Devlin swims like a fish, so he’d still be able to easily stab them to death if the monkeys try to follow.

But instead of trying to get to the water they decide to fight on land, because everyone is stupid. You know what would have been fine here? Saying they were trying to get to the water but were cut off. Peeta’s still a good distance in, they could have run toward him and be edging toward the beach as they fight. Fight scene proceeds as it is but with our characters showing some signs of higher thought processes.

Anyway, Millstone decides he hasn’t been quite enough of a millstone yet, so one of the monkeys lunges for him while he’s busy passing arrows to Katniss.

I throw my knife at the oncoming mutt but the creature somersaults, evading the blade, and stays on its trajectory.

This is so stupid I’m not sure where to begin, so I’ll just say that all the book had to say was that she missed.

Katniss tries to throw herself in the way, but she’s somehow too far off despite how they’re standing together fighting the monkeys. Someone else manages it, though.

The insane morphling from District 6 throws up her skeletal arms as if to embrace the monkey, and it sinks its fangs into her chest.

Ooooooookay what.

What makes her insane? She’s just a drug addict. It’s particularly bizarre in the context of what she just did, which obviously involved a degree of planning. This sentence only makes sense if you assume “insane” is an established adjective for her, which, no. Like I just said, she’s just an addict, not mentally ill.

Next, my, we’re getting Darwinist. First Mags, now the drug addict. I think it’s quite understandable for people to actually make this kind of decision when it comes down to it, but I loathe it when it shows up narratively.

See, if people are in a situation with limited resources, you should try to do the most good with what you have. This doesn’t mean the old or sick are inherently worthless, though – it means assuming all life is equal to start, you should focus on who’s got the best chance of living. When it starts cropping up metatextually, it does come off as the author thinking they’re honestly less as people. If Katniss’ millstone is going to be saved at the cost of other people’s lives, then that’s a price. That price should not just happen to be paid by the old and sick. It’s like the way last book everyone Katniss killed was carefully established as EVIL beforehand. Instead of making her seem good the way I think was intended, it made it seem like the moral was killing is okay as long as you dehumanize them first, which is even worse.

It’s really skeevy the way the author’s picking who should live and who should die here. As a minor note, both also were voiceless – Katniss couldn’t understand Mags and the morphine-addicts haven’t been talking, which aids in viewing them as less than a real person.

(Also, it’s in particular bad taste with a drug addict given drug addicts get better. Mags at least was an old woman who wouldn’t have lived much longer either way. A drug addict can and often does recover and live a good life. And given that the dominant media narrative is to pretend this isn’t true – that they’re permanently broken and should be ignored in the hopes they’ll die off and stop bothering people, and there’s no point in doing things like needle exchange programs to keep them alive – this sequence is playing into beliefs that really don’t need any encouragement.)

One Comment

  1. Star says:
    Back again as I’m determined to read the rest of these posts as I can’t begin to say how much I love these and how much you’ve managed to make these books INSANELY INTERESTING with this incredibly accurate and positivity hilarious analysis.


    And I can’t help but think of how much better the actual books would be if they actually pointed out Katniss and Peeta’s (and numerous others) absolutely horrible actions and character traits as what they truly are instead of constantly rewarding this behavior and considering them and especially Katniss as some OH-SO-SPECIAL and lovable heroes for doing basically every horrible, selfish and downright psychopathic thing possible.


    Seeing their, and later Gale’s (and I-can’t-even-think-of-who-else’s because like those 3, they were so fucked up and somehow boring as hell at the same time that I’ve probably lost the brain cells to remember them just by reading these garbage books) behaviors and actions as truly as reprehensible as they are from the perspective of an actually non-evil character and making that at least some kind of lesson (or hell, even just an interesting story) would have been so much more interesting or at least tolerable, especially if any of the nauseating love trianglers had ended up facing any actual real consequences for their actions, but… Sigh.


    Cannot wait to get to your analysis of the final one as for me that was by far the worst of the three books and I can’t wait to see you give it your proper roasting LOL.


    Not sure if you still check these threads/entries, so my apologies if I’m reviving and blowing up a dead thread with comments but I can’t help remarking on your, again, awesome work.

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