Catching Fire

For every innovative startup that guesses your words as you type them into your android phone, I feel a yearning for long-hand, hell, even copperplate calligraphy.

There’s an intriguing set of fonts which model old-fashioned calligraphy as closely as possible, and even the very letters prompt joy. Look at this example:

This is perhaps an example of a growing trend in “unplugging” – the lure of a non-technological, old-fashioned, simple life. Many, like me, are thoroughly overdigitised these days. Working in a field that treasures new media, I’m constantly exposed to talks from up and coming companies with the latest technology promising to change your life. And while only 2 years ago I enthusiastically lapped these up, already I find myself yearning for someone to stand up and tell me they’ve found a way to make your life harder, but more worthwhile.

Is it a stretch to feel this is part of the pleasure of the Hunger Games trilogy – the goodies slogging it out in semi-medieval conditions, able to snare, hunt, trade, sing songs down the generations – and the baddies of the “Capitol” addicted to aesthetics, gadgetry and self-change? Not for me.

Catching Fire is the second of the Hunger Games trilogy, and returns to our victors who, surprise surprise, have found that their troubles are far from over.

A problem throughout this trilogy is Collins’s narrative decision for us only to see what Katniss experiences directly. this means a fair bit of key story development is recounted to Katniss after it’s happened, which far from does it justice. Near the end, a huge explanations of what’s been going on behind the scenes are given in a couple of pages, with sentence after sentence explaining facts with great impact to the story before moving on. Combine this with quite a bit of dragging and slightly hammy cliff hangers earlier in the novel, and the pacing isn’t ideal.

Having said that, the second half of the novel is a good aggressive romp, with Collins in her comfort territory of dangerous fast action with plenty of innovation, twists, and suspicion over characters’ motives. Back in the Hunger Games arena, booby trapped to the nines, our conflicted heroine can make the most of her hostile and self-motivated instincts, which only cause trouble outside of the arena. Collins pitches fiendish attacks at our heroines, both futuristically technological and medievally gruesome. Against this, the old fashioned virtues of good character, trust, inventiveness, and bows and arrows, stand out as good, honest and true.

The dystopia setting these challenges stands in stark contrast to the rickety shacks and black market of “home” – district 12 – and make you yearn for this simpler life of deprivation but integrity. And while outraged people the world over may argue that the Hunger Games trilogy is unsuitable for the teenagers it’s aimed at, I think that in a world of games consoles, internet memes and Facebook etiquette, that ain’t half bad.


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