The life of a reluctant rebel is a difficult one.
It was hard picking up where The Hunger Games left off. Katniss and Peeta were in many ways accidental rebels, carried away by the desire to survive on the part of Katniss and young love on the part of Peeta. Life starts to settle, being as normal as it ever could be; yet even that would not last.
It isn’t long before President Snow shows up at Katniss’s house. He has a message: convince everyone that she got carried away in her love for Peeta, or bad things happen. The inference is that her family will die. Thus begins a victory tour to all of the districts for Katniss and Peeta that lasts way too long and is way too dramatic.
Still, it’s kind of intimidating. Especially when she accidentally causes a riot in District 11. Try having those people’s deaths on your conscience.
This first section of the book, while lasting far too long, is deep, dark, and gritty. Where The Hunger Games spoke to the violent and depraved culture of the Capital, Catching Fire shows how hard the Capital works to maintain that culture. The President comes at Katniss from the angle of preventing rebellion. Indeed, the entire trilogy zones in on the corrupt government; but the way the corrupt government keeps their subjects in check is by keeping this violent culture, intent on the title of “The Games.”
Snow is so intent on his mission to squelch Katniss, now a symbol of hope among the scattered rebels, that he enacts the Quarter Quell. The participants in The Games will be chosen from the existing pool of victors, which leaves Katniss, the only female victor in District 12, to reenter the arena. They don’t stop there, even killing Cinna as she enters the arena, stopping at nothing to give her a disadvantage.
That’s a lot of work to silence one small bird who got in over her head.
The other victors add a new layer of complexity to the story. The most fascinating thing about them is not the talents that allowed them to win, but instead the lasting effects that The Games have had on them. The contrast is most vivid in Beetee and Wiress, the victors from District 3. Beetee has retained his sanity, but Wiress has nearly completely lost her mind and often leaves her sentences unfinished. Mags is a frail old lady whose speech is barely intelligible. Enobaria, a career from District 2, has gone in an opposite direction and become so depraved that she has made her teeth into razor sharp teeth, a testament to how proud she is of her violent and bloody experience. Haymitch is a drunk. The ways that The Games have changed these people is diverse; but in a very real sense, it has ruined the lives of even the “victors.” In some cases, I’d rather be one of the deceased than one of the victors. Especially when you begin to see that victors are tools of the Capital from the moment the last cannon sounds. From the moment they are chosen as tributes, they are tools, whether they end up dead or alive.
Things soon turn strange. In the games themselves, an alliance quickly forms between several of the victors. Katniss and Peeta find friends in Finnick, Beetee, Wiress, and Johanna. They figure out that the map is a clock, and are able to form a strategy based on that. After plenty of blood baths and Katniss’s boy drama, the impossible happens. They break out of the arena.
Earlier in the book, District 13 is mentioned in passing, and then eventually zoned in on. It turns out they aren’t really extinct like the Capitol wants Panem to believe. Haymitch had conspired with the other victors to break Katniss, along with their friends, out of the arena and into District 13. Here’s the catch: Peeta didn’t get out.
Thus ends book number two.
As I said in my review of the first book, this piece is really incomplete without the third book, and an analysis of the book’s message about rebellion to the government cannot be understood without it; so I will save that for that review.
That said, there’s still plenty that the book says. It’s really about the victors. The first book left the impression that once a victor, you are left to a pretty pleasant life; you just have to attend The Games and that’s pretty much it. That’s not the way it works. The premise of this book’s message is about how the government uses their citizens – the tributes – as pawns. Is any of this sounding familiar?
There’s definitely a comparable Christian theme. Satan promises pleasure. From afar it would seem that his “victors” are living pleasant and enjoyable lives. The reality is far from the truth. In the end it only leads to suffering. Not only that, but those who rebel against Satan’s rule, he will stop at nothing to destory. Such is the life of Panem’s victors. I highly doubt this was Suzanne Collins’s intended message; but it’s one that we can take from it nonetheless.