Catching Fire is better than The Hunger Games in some key areas of storytelling, but it does not redeem this blockbuster trilogy of its principal flaw: its future is never fully believable. I suspect that, like Twilight fans, what appeals to the bulk of its fan base is not just the action-packed premise, but the love triangle at the heart of the tale, between put-upon teen heroine Katniss Everdeen, her Games partner Peeta Mellark (with whom she must put on a show of romantic feeling, though on his part the emotions are genuine), and Gale, her longtime friend from home whom she realizes too late is the boy she truly loves. That's all well and good, and Collins does build upon the emotional core of her story very effectively by emphasizing Katniss's internal conflict regarding both Peeta and Gale in this second volume. Her characters were already strongly relatable, and she only boosts their appeal in readers' eyes this time.
As a longtime SF reader who is just a tiny bit older than the target demographic here, I cannot help but read an SF novel for the whole package. That package includes convincing world building. This, Collins has not done. Consider: we are asked to accept a post-apocalyptic future in which the United States has been replaced by a nation, Panem, who fascism is so awesomely ruthless it would make Heinrich Himmler shudder. Fully 75 years after a series of rebellions, Panem's Capitol still feels the need to select two dozen teenagers from the twelve (formerly thirteen) Districts it controls, and have them slaughter each other in high-tech gladiatorial combat. As there could be little punitive value in the practice after 75 years, all that can be realistically motivating the Capitol is senseless bloodthirst. Why the obsession with dead kids as entertainment? Did everyone forget how to play football?
Let's look at the Capitol. It is a glistening, media-obsessed, higher-than-high-tech metropolis whose citizens lack for nothing and can indulge...
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