So this month, like most of Australia, I have been spending my spare time glued to the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It’s a page-turner in the traditional sense, and it’s very easy to see why this trilogy was quickly picked up for movie adaptation.
The novels are set a post-apocalyptic America where the Haves live in urban luxury in a futuristic Capital and the have-nots are forced to eak out a survivalist existence ruled by the type of labour their area, or District, is able to supply to the Capital. The first book, the Hunger Games, follows teenager Katniss as she is forced, by a combination of the Capital and her family ties, to compete in a televised battle with 23 other teens which only one person can survive. Which is a bit of shame because Katniss and one of her competitors have some serious chemistry going on… Fast-paced, entertaining and manages to smush a lot of themes (Dystopian future, complete with sci-fi twists! A sharp-shooting survivalist heroine straight from a fantasy novel! Her family! An unjust government! A boy! Another boy! Bullies! Surrogate sisters! Lots of other people she needs to rescue, kill or rescue and kill!) into a coherent narrative that reels you in fast and keep you hooked on what happens next.
The Hunger Games series has been frequently compared to Twilight and I can see why – in a good way. The first book is very much YA, and is set firmly in the experiences of its teenage protagonists. But, unlike Twilight, in the Hunger Games there is actually something at stake and a female protagonist who – although certainly flawed – is willing to fight for her future as opposed to mooning around tripping over inanimate objects and clumsy plot hooks. If the comparisons to Bella are putting you off, give Katniss a chance to change your mind before you write off the Trilogy completely – it’s an entertaining story well-told, and worth devoting some reading time to.
Finished the Hunger Games and starving for some set-in-the-not-too-distant-future-reality-TV-gone-mad reading? You could pick up a copy of Stephen King’s Running Man, which pits his anti-hero against the ultimate live game show in a world where reality TV contestants run from annihilation at the hands of hunters. (Jersey Shore and forthcoming Australian adaption, The Shire – it’s an idea. We’re just saying.) If you are going to go this route I would suggest getting your hands on a copy of The Bachman Books, 3 novellas he wrote as pen-name Richard Bachman, which includes Running Man and another chilling tale of reality entertainment gone mad, The Long Walk.
If you fancy some classic sci-fi on the same theme, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game fits the bill nicely. Released in 1985, it picked up both a Hugo and a Nebula award, and a movie adaptation is currently in production. Set in a future where government agencies breed child geniuses to train them as the ultimate soldiers against alien invaders, these gifted children are the best and greatest hope for humanity – if they just can survive the rigorous military training.
Or if you with a taste for violence that makes the Hunger Games looking restrained could also try Battle Royale, a novel set in an alternative-Japan where a totalitarian government abduct high school students and force them to fight each other. The novel is extremely popular – and controversial – and has been adapted into a film and a manga series to boot. Be warned though; with its exploding collars and constant gore and violence, Battle Royale and its spin-offs are not for the faint-hearted.
But if you were feeling a bit faint-hearted, chances are you weren’t hankering for a second helping of the Hunger Games anyway. I am, and if anyone wants me, I’ll be re-reading a few of my old and rather gorey friends…