Friday, August 20, 2010

Sci Fi Friday Book Thoughts: Catching Fire

So...we're down to four days until the release of Mockingjay. Four freaking days!!! I can barely contain my excitement - especially since I'm going to the launch party to end all launch parties, the Books of Wonder event with Suzanne Collins herself on hand! I've spent the past two weekends putting together a fancy T-shirt for the event (I was hoping to have it ready to debut on the blog today, but sewing by hand takes for-freaking-ever) and will post it on Monday to show it off and give you a handy way to recognize me if you're lucky enough to be in NYC as well! I'd love to have a blogging friend to hang out with for the evening!

But this post isn't about clothes and partying - I don't live in the Capitol after all! This post is all about Catching Fire, the sequel that I first started reading in the middle of Times Square on a sunny Saturday after waiting in a long line at BEA.

So since I've already reviewed Catching Fire, let's just dive into some analysis. Once again, this section contains spoilers for The Hunger Games and Catching Fire!

I haven't read this book as often as I've read The Hunger Games, so I had to keep going back and re-reading parts to make notes because I was getting so caught up in the story I forgot to put on my analytic hat and pay attention! Once again I had to pull myself together several times because the story was making me emotional and teary while riding on the subway or sitting in the middle of Madison Square Park! New Yorkers tolerate lots of eccentricities, but I still didn't want to be the woman crying over her book on the R train.

The foreshadowing remains a forte of Collins' in Catching Fire - and what's more, reading the two books so closely together makes it clear that hints carry over from one book to another. Johanna is mentioned, albeit only by district and not by name, back when Katniss is first selected for the Games. Katniss mentions the girl who presented herself as weak and pitiful before revealing she has a deadly talent with knives in the arena. And that's exactly who's in the arena this time around with Katniss - often naked, which cracks me up. Poor Katniss! The weight of the world on her shoulders and there's this cocky naked woman at every turn.

Also a follow up - a rather large point is made about the different types of bread representing the different districts, thanks to Peeta's expert baking knowledge. First this showed up as important in The Hunger Games because it allowed Katniss to recognize the gift from District 11 (moment of silence here for Rue). Now it becomes important as a signal for the allied tributes in Catching Fire - the district the bread was from would represent what day the escape would happen.

Now, here's a little hole in that plan - apparently the date changed without anyone acknowledging it. The first bread drop is 24 rolls from District 4. The next day, it's 24 rolls from District 3. Has anyone come up with a good explanation for this yet? Was there a typo in the first edition of the book?

I wrote a bit last week about Katniss as a mockingjay herself - someone the Capitol never anticipated existing. One of the few bits of description of mockingjays in The Hunger Games comes from Rue, who notes they are fierce when their nest is threatened. Of course, mockingjay imagery is even more important this time around, and we have more opportunities to look at Katniss as a mockingjay.

Katniss' primary role has been "protector" since she was 11 and her father died. She becomes the primary provider for her family first. She steps up to take Prim's place as a Tribute. When it becomes clear she needs to team up with Peeta, he's her focus for days on end, all signs of her protecting her "nest" - her family and friends. That role becomes even more vital in Catching Fire after President Snow (boo hiss) specifically threatens her family - including Gale. Katniss tells him she wants to run away with him, their families, Peeta and Haymitch, but Gale hesitates, asking about all of the families that can't run, especially since it's the middle of winter. That's Katniss' protective instinct kicking in again - save those closest to her first.

This is also clearly why she has some conflict with Peeta throughout the book. While Katniss may not be 100% certain of her feelings for Peeta, she and him definitely have a unique bond. So Katniss' first instinct is to protect him whenever she can, but of course he instinctively does the same for her, as she notes when she greets him in front of the cameras at the start of the Victory Tour. The two are still on the outs at this point, not having aired their grievances as revealed at the end of the first book, but Peeta isn't about to betray Katniss in front of the cameras. And of course, he makes Haymitch promise that once again the goal will be to get Katniss out of the arena alive - while Katniss has made the same deal with Haymitch about Peeta.

Katniss makes an excellent point about jabberjays and the Capitol - the Capitol left the jabberjays out in the wild to die off, but the birds mated with mockingbirds and passed on their genetic code to the new bird, the mockingjay. Katniss notes the Capitol hadn't anticipated the jabberjays' will to live. Which begs the question: has the Capitol anticipated Katniss' will to live - and to keep her nest safe? President Snow seems to have been able to anticipate a lot about Katniss - he's always known just how to throw her off kilter, showing up at her house, assigning Darius as her avox, and the mysterious attack on Cinna just as she was entering the new arena. But will Mockingjay finally allow Katniss to get a step ahead of the president? We can only hope!

So let's talk romance again, since it keeps coming up, and of course the epic romance of Peeta and Katniss plays a large part in their strategy for getting through this version of the Games (omg, I still remember how I gasped and then started cackling hysterically when Peeta announced Katniss' pregnancy. That kid's a freaking GENIUS). Peeta dropped the L word last book, Gale drops it this time, and Katniss goes all Han Solo on Gale by just saying "I know."

When Gale makes his big confession, I have to admit it totally makes sense that he would be in love with Katniss. They're absolutely best friends, share a common interest, and have a fierce determination to keep each other and their families alive. And if the Hunger Games had never come along, it's very possible they would have ended up married if Katniss didn't stick to her "no marriage, no kids" guns (and of course, you can marry without ever having kids, but Gale strikes me as the type who would want some. Don't ask me why). However, it's undeniable that the Games changed Katniss, and would have even if Peeta hadn't declared his love for her first. Katniss has had a chance to see the world outside of downtrodden District 12. As a victor, she can develop any sort of talent or skill that she wants, even if she can't come up with one appropriate enough for Effie without Cinna's help. You can't blame the girl for being epically confused about where her feelings lie. And once again, she's got slightly bigger things to deal with than romance - she has a rebellion to inspire!

Now, I said in my original Catching Fire review that thanks to Suzanne Collins' excellent foreshadowing in The Hunger Games I thought I would be able to predict lots of what happened in Catching Fire and I was caught completely by surprise. However, I'm feeling fairly confident this time around to make some predictions about Mockingjay. I make these predictions without knowing a single thing about Mockingjay as I'm determined to stay spoiler free (as you may have heard, some stores and libraries broke the embargo on the book, so I bet I could find spoilers with minimal Googling, but I'm too excited to have the full experience on Monday night so I'm avoiding them all!).

  • Katniss' father was an early rebel and is still alive. So much was made about his terrible death in the mines and how there wasn't anything left to bury, that it seems a little suspicious. I bet the mine accident was a set up and the Capitol believes her father is dead, but instead he's been fighting the good fight off in District 13. He will, of course, have some sort of lingering injury. Wild Speculation - this injury will be to his leg, giving him a limp much like Peeta's, foreshadowing a Katniss/Peeta ending since the common wisdom is that girls marry men like their fathers.
  • Madge is a rebel and the mockingjay has been their symbol long before Katniss came along. Madge was awfully insistent that Katniss wear that pin into the arena. And the mockingjay in the footage of District 13 was used as a clue by the runaways from District 8 that something was happening out there in the alleged nuclear wasteland. As the governor's daughter, Madge would be in the perfect position to gain information that could help the rebels in District 12. Wild Speculation - Maybe she even inherited the mantle from her mother, who was undoubtedly traumatized by her sister's death in the Games but must have held it together for awhile in order to marry, have Madge, and not be a complete Morphling addict at this point.
  • Madge will almost certainly die - probably a rather senseless death, just to put us on edge and give us a feeling that no one is safe anymore. Either Gale or Peeta will die, and it will be a noble and sacrificial death, probably to keep Katniss alive. Katniss spends a lot of time focusing on Peeta's mortality in Catching Fire - first devoting so much effort to keeping him alive in the arena (along with the other tributes), and then at the end utterly determined to kill him so his death can't be used as a victory for the Capitol. It could definitely go either way with him.
  • No matter which of the guys survive, Katniss won't ride off happily into the sunset with one of them. Okay, maybe this is just my fervent hope rather than an actual prediction. We all know by now that I'm not a romance fan, especially in The Hunger Games. My focus is totally on Katniss and how much I love her. I forget if this happened during the Hunger Games or Catching Fire event, but Suzanne Collins noted that Katniss is only 16/17, and you generally don't find your one true love at that age, which gives me hope that the wedding is indeed well and truly called off. However, as one of my friends noted when I was discussing this with her over lunch this week, a happy romantic ending could simply conclude with Katniss and one of the guys finally free to enter a romance on their own terms, looking forward to seeing what would happen without the Capitol influencing their lives.
So what do you think? Are my predictions way off? Do you have a prediction of your own? I'd love to hear about them and how you're preparing for the release of Mockingjay!
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