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I often find in trilogies that book 2 is mainly something to get you from book 1 to book 3, and that's the case here with Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire. The story definitely moves on, it's inventive and taut, but there's nothing really new here after the masterfully crafted world Collins created in book 1, The Hunger Games.
The twists are less twisty, somehow, and more than once a bit clunky. There are some smooth and powerful moments - the whole story pivots on a 3 word sentence at one point - you can actually feel it balance on the page. But in general this novel feels like a means to an end.
While the plot moves unrelentingly on, the time spent developing the characters in book 1 goes nowhere in Catching Fire. In short, this book is all plot and no story. Granted, my weakness as a writer is plot movement - I could write an entire story of characters sitting in a room revealing themselves - so maybe I value it less. But plot alone can't carry a novel any more than character development can carry a novel. And Collins has sacrificed the former in preference of the latter
It's not that there's no character development - several characters that were less vital in The Hunger Games are clearly being set up for a major role in the final installment of the trilogy. Haymitch, the town drunk, has more to offer than it seemed at first glance. And some new characters will be with us for a while and play key roles. But again, characters need to be more than just plot tools, which they are dangerously close to here. And Katniss and Peeta, the star-crossed lovers - remain the emotionally cold girl and the love-struck boy with bread that were introduced early early in the series. Their relationship grows, but we get little more insight into their psyches.
Don't get me wrong - this was a fun read. I skipped riding bikes with the family today to finish it. But about half way through it became less about the book I was reading and more about getting to book 3. Which I'm off to do right now.