The Catching Fire movie marketing team has been offering up a slow and tortuous drip-feed of announcements and teasers since shortly after The Hunger Games movie came out. If you’re a dedicated fan, their schemes probably worked on you: you’ve spent the past week (or maybe two weeks, or maybe two months) counting down, re-reading or re-listening to The Hunger Games and Catching Fire to get pumped up and have the story fresh in your mind. Maybe you polished your Mockingjay brooch to a gleaming shine and daydreamed about being good at archery, and thenGgoogled “local archery ranges” for a while before posing in front of a mirror with a large coat hanger to see how you’d look with a bow. That’s totally normal and you shouldn’t be ashamed. If you didn’t do any of that, that’s cool too.
At any rate, all the hype has led up to this: the hallowed release night, where the theaters are going to be crazy-busy and everyone is going to buy soda in the over-priced but totally-worth-it commemorative cups, watch the movie, and leave somewhere between utterly pissed off and over the moon.
You’ll spend the next few days discussing it: the strengths, the flaws, where it strayed from the book and where it stayed true. You might even go back and see it again. But the high won’t last, friends; in a few days, you’ll be Hunger Games’ed out, and require something strong to fill that dystopian near-future void. Here’s my suggestion.
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
This is the book that inspired the movie that allegedly did not inspire* The Hunger Games, but they’re so incredibly similar that if you’re craving another helping of teenagers killing each other for the entertainment of the masses, this is exactly what you’re looking for. I don’t want to get into a debate about whether The Hunger Games is a rip-off of Battle Royale or not; that’s beside the point and there are plenty of other people talking about that already. They are both great books on their own merits, independently of one another. But despite their similarities, they each do different things well: while The Hunger Games trilogy excels in connecting you with major characters, world-building and creating polarizing romantic sub-plots, Battle Royale is vastly superior when it comes to presenting ethical issues and examining human nature and the child-adult relationship dynamic. While Katniss is only ever forced to face off against characters like Cato and Glimmer, who are painted as evil baddies through and through, the characters in Battle Royale are constantly pitted against their friends and lovers as well as their enemies. The scenarios in Battle Royale are more complicated as well as more diverse—I can’t say too much without spoiling things, but there are a lot of shocking moments that will leave you, as a reader, as paranoid as the characters.
Be warned that it’s considerably darker and more graphic than The Hunger Games, and much longer. Collins’ books are faster-paced and shinier somehow, while Tatun’s is definitely slower, grittier and more expansive, and definitely on the more “Adult” end of the “Young Adult” spectrum. If you’re ready to take your dystopian addiction up a notch and aren’t afraid of losing a few favorite characters along the way, check it out.
*I’m a huge Hunger Games fan but, really? Come on.
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