Book: Catching Fire
Have you read this Hunger Games series thing? I am both totally into it and also just a wee bit disappointed, after all the hype. I really, really loved the first book — scary, tough, good romantic (if understated) tension, super-engaging. I liked the second book too, but not as much as the first. Overall the books are very compelling, dark and scary and gripping. But on the other hand, there are some definite flaws.
I keep reading reviews that Catching Fire was (if possible!) even better than the first book. I kind of disagree. So first I’m going to gripe a bit, and then I’ll talk about what I liked, and then I’m going to gripe some more about the narrator of this audiobook.
In the first book, we are exposed to the horror of The Capitol. The Games themselves unfold with layer after layer of new terrors. Katniss is experiencing it all first-hand, as are we. Her confusing relationship with Peeta is nicely mysterious and moving. It’s gripping and fast-paced and the Games are riveting.
In the second book, there is a lot more going on, which is generally good, but I feel like it’s a bit wander-y. The big plot point is that there is possibly a revolution going on, and maybe a “Free District” somewhere out there (District 13). There is some time spent pondering these points. And then there is another Games, with a twist. And of course it’s horrible.
But not as horrible as the first. These Games are different (which is of course the point). They feel a bit rushed, a bit anti-climactic. People get killed, but off in the distance. There is rarely any immediate danger. There’s a little bit of puzzle-working, which is mildly interesting, but it is not as tense as the first book, and the ending is strange (and clearly a cliffhanger, which is fine since now the third book is out, but it’s not a stand-alone book by any means).
I know I sound ungrateful. “There’s so little killing!” What’s that all about? But it’s not about bloodlust, it’s about drama and tension. There just isn’t much in this book. Just in bits and pieces, here and there. It’s mostly expository, is what it feels like. Setting up for the final book. Which of course I’m going to listen to! Duh!
So if I’m griping and complaining about the lack of drama, was there anything I did like about the book? Of course! Plenty! First, who doesn’t love Peeta? (besides Gale) What a catch. Katniss, you are a dummy. Peeta is fantastic. I love it whenever he shows up. Also, the descriptions of the Capitol, and the other victors, is pretty great. It was very interesting to hear about how all the other victors won their games, especially Haymitch.
Also, President Snow is just creepy and awful (and therefore, terrific).
Katniss annoys me a little. She is very action-oriented, not in touch with her feelings at all. Which makes sense given her circumstances growing up, but the oblivious tough-girl act is getting a little old. She kicks butt, but she can’t seem to see what’s right in front of her. Everyone else is more interesting than Katniss, sad to say.
Oh right, back to what I liked about the book. Ummm. The first part was kind of boring. The second part was more interesting. The third part was supposed to be exciting, but it wasn’t really. I guess I mostly just enjoyed the story moving along, and am looking forward to the third book and the resolution. It wasn’t bad or anything, it just wasn’t as great as the first book. But I’m definitely reading the last book. Oh, for certain. I have to find out what happens!
Now, on to my final gripe. The narrator. Oh god, lady, you are KILLING me! Killing. It is horrible. It is by far the worst narration I have heard to date in my past year of audiobook experience. Her voices are all wrong. Her pacing is terrible. The cadence is completely disjointed, with misplaced emphasis, awkward pauses, bizarre word-forming. Instead of saying “Katniss” all in one smooth word, every single freaking time she says, “Kat–niss.” Two very, very separate syllables. The same with Peeta. “Pee-ta.” Maybe it’s her tone of voice as she narrates Katniss that is making me have negative feelings towards Katniss, because she sounds so helpless and whiny and bewildered and just plain dumb sometimes. I get that this was read for a YA audience but come on, I think young readers who are listening to this are a bit more sophisticated and are definitely beyond Sesame Street enunciations.
I really, really hate this narrator. Just pure dreck. Bad. Awful. I really wish someone would re-do it.
It makes me wish I had read the paper books for this one, so I could have “my” Katniss voice in my head instead of this stupid one. Oh well. I suppose it’s a testament to how great these books are (complaints aside) that I’ll keep listening even though the narrator makes me cringe every five minutes.
In summary, the book is good, totally listenable (or readable), and I would highly recommend it after the first. But I’m disappointed in Katniss, and I think the second book was kind of slow. I’m looking forward to seeing what the third book brings.