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October 6, 2008 / schulerbooks

Battle Royale vs. Hunger Games vs. The Inferior – Battle to the Death

Recently the publishing powers that be have released a particularly strong slate of Young Adult titles, including two books that managed to top my infernally long “Need to Read” list – The Inferior, a stunning debut and the beginning of what looks to be an incredible fantasy series by Peadar Ó Guilín, and The Hunger Games, one of Scholastic’s lead titles for the fall season and also the beginning of a series, written by by Suzanne Collins, the popular author of The Underland Chronicles.

With their dark subject matter and unflinching portrayals of potential dystopian futures, both books will appeal to a similar audience, including mature young adult readers and adults alike.

The Inferior easily ranks in my list of top reads of the year – I found myself utterly unable to put it down over the course of the day it took me to read it, literally walking around work with the book open in my palm as I attempted to pretend to be productive. 

It is a firecracker of a story — an inventive, fast-paced fantasy of a dystopian future world where hunting for flesh among deathly dangerous predators is the central drive of daily life. Main character Stop-Mouth, considered slow-witted because of his stutter, is fiercely dedicated to protecting the ways of his village until the day a woman speaking a foreign tongue falls from the sky and changes his very view of the world. I wouldn’t want to ruin anyone’s discovery of the world Ó Guilín has carefully crafted, so I will just limit myself to saying that the book contains one of the most incredible monsters I’ve encountered, with a brilliant visual depiction that stuck in my head for many chilling days.

 

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

I read The Hunger Games at a similar pace, and found myself fully immersed in Collins’   dark future world of Panem (formerly the U.S. of A.), largely reduced to villages filled with peasants. Each district must send one boy and one girl, chosen by lottery, to compete in the Hunger Games: a televised survival battle to the death. Unflinching young heroine Katniss becomes a contender when she volunteers to keep her younger sister from being sent to the Games, as ever her family’s protector.  Despite her small size, Katniss quickly becomes a top competitor in the violent match, earning her rivals’ respect and an audience fanbase that may actually help her make it out alive.

 

At first I was put off by the book’s obvious similarities to the Japanese cult hit Battle Royale by Koushun Takami, a favorite of mine. First published in Japan in 1999, the novel ‘Battle Royale’ has become its own mini cultural phenomenon, spawning two films and a 15-volume manga series before finally being translated into English in 2003.

Highly controversial in all its various forms, the story is a powerful dystopian thriller, set in an alternate Japanese reality governed by a brutal totalitarian regime.  To exert control over a wild teen population, the government institutes The Program, a bizarre mix of defense experiment and social, physical and psychological torture: For each Battle Royale, a class of Junior High third-years (think 9th graders) is isolated and forced to fight, friend to friend, to the death until only one survivor is left the winner. The resulting events construe a “Lord of the Flies for the 21st century,” as the students try to work out who they can trust, who’s playing for real, and how they are possibly going to survive.

Obviously the overall theme of teens being forced to fight to the death for a televised “reality show” is the same for both books, but once I gave Hunger Games a chance, I found that Collins tackles the tricky subject matter in an entirely different fashion that quickly found me abandoning my reservations and reading voraciously to the end.

I wholeheartedly recommend any of these three fine books for some thought-provoking, pulse racing literature.

 

–Whitney Spotts

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14 Comments

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  1. Novroz / Feb 6 2010 9:08 pm

    I love Battle Royale….tho you’ve given recomendation on hunger game…somehow I still can’t walk to a book store to buy it and read it.

    It seems not fair that hunger game become more famous than battle royale

    • schulerbooks / Feb 11 2010 6:47 pm

      I do know exactly what you mean – did you see they issued a new edition of Battle Royale? It’s got an interview with the director of the film adaption. I approached Hunger Games with the same bias as you because I am a huge Battle Royale fan in its many forms (novel, film, manga), but Collins really takes the premise in a totally different direction. Once you get past the initial similarities, they are completely different books and both really enjoyable.

    • Becky / Mar 6 2010 8:38 pm

      its true! the hunger games IS a rip off!
      i read the hunger games first. both books. and I thought it was amazing. But then I saw all this debate about battle royale and the hunger games. Then, I bought battle royale too. and let me tell you, it was AMAZING!!! I COULD NOT put it down!!! and its true!! the supply packs, the boy and girl surviving, the government playing a big part, it being a broadcasted program, and fighting to death!!!!
      WHAT THE HECK!?!?!?!?!

      • lian92 / Nov 12 2011 9:55 am

        i liked the hunger games heaps better at least there wasnt steriotipicle gay guys and i found the way takami showed a classical violine player very offensive i mean there are enouph people who dont listen to classical music allready i was upset and i dont think hungergames is a rip off either the hunger games has strong charecters and in battle royal they are either weak or sociopaths

  2. Novroz / Feb 14 2010 12:28 am

    I am not a big fan of the movie just the book.

    Unfortunately I am a stubborn person…once I said no to a book, it’ll stay no forever…especially to books similar to my favorite ones.

    I will appreciate more if Collins makes something completely different. Why does she has to write the same story and takes more credit that supposed to go to Koushun. Maybe if people know more about Battle Royale than Hunger Game, I would forgive Collins but the truth is…most people don’t know who Koushun is and what Battle Royale is and yet they know about Collins and her copy-cat Hunger game.

    It makes me angry.

    Maybe I will read Hunger Game once the world acknowledge the existance of Battle Royale much better than it’s Copy-cat

    • Becky / Mar 6 2010 8:40 pm

      oh and if Collins says that she has NEVER read battle royale, I WILL slap her!!!!! okay, ppl who have read battle royale might say its more…GORY, but its way too similar!!

  3. schulerbooks / Mar 12 2010 7:17 pm

    I def. get your anger – the whole reason I read Hunger Games in the first place was my indignation over its initial similarity to BR.

    But you know what, it’s really not the same story at all. I don’t think she was even aware of Battle Royale when she came up with it – in an interview she said that the idea came to her one night as she was flipping channels and went from news to reality shows. The world, the society, the reasoning behind the Hunger Games, the characters, and finally, the action, are VERY different in the two books.

    Regardless, I’m doing my little part to bring Battle Royale to the world on the staff recommends section in our bookstore and word of mouth. If there were a sequel to BR I would be blabbing about that on the blog too! 😉

    • Huew123 / Mar 25 2011 12:54 am

      Just because Collins said something about inspiration you believe it must be true? Even if her stories veer off to other directions, there are still too many similarities to ignore. If she just said in interviews that BR inspired her then she could be forgiven and even supported by BR fans.

  4. the_tytan / May 15 2010 8:01 pm

    If the Hunger Games is a rip-off Battle Royale, which it isn’t, then Battle Royale is a rip-off of the Running Man. That story isn’t anything new. Plus BR is totally japanese, the characters, the culture- no Western writer would write something like that. So give it a chance because although the premise is the same, it’s like saying Shrek is the same as Aladdin because they both have a princess in peril.

    Battle Royale and the Hunger Games are to me intended for totally different audiences. Maybe if BR wasn’t so gory then Bookstore Managers and Librarians would feel comfortable putting it front and centre.

    Unfortunately, its medium- that of comic books- already has a negative stigma against it. So Concerned Parents will always be against it despite the strong story contained therein.

    • schulerbooks / May 20 2010 12:01 am

      Actually, BR was a novel first, so you can get around the comics-stigma if you want. 🙂

      • schulerbooks / May 20 2010 12:02 am

        the comics-stigma, which, I should add, is complete bunko. There are some AMAZING comics, and there are some bad comics. Same with prose fiction.

  5. the_tytan / May 23 2010 10:04 pm

    oh don’t get me wrong, as someone who used to have a lengthy pull list, i love the comics medium and not just from the big 2 either. you won’t find me saying a bad word about comics.

    still doesn’t change the fact that Concerned Parents view them with more suspicion than novels though.

  6. Janine / May 29 2010 11:10 pm

    Thanks for this post. I was seriously considering passing over The Hunger Games because of how similar it seemed to Battle Royale, which I had read and enjoyed, but now I might just pick it up and give it a chance.

  7. durasgirl / Oct 11 2010 2:51 pm

    Someone I know wrote a novel that, as far as I can tell, rips off The Hunger Games in a major way. Dystopian YA, post-apocalyptic world with a totalitarian government hiding secrets, a 16 yr old girl is plucked to go fight the bad guys, sister relationship, tone, voice, etc. The writer completely denies any association with The Hunger Games, which I find pretty ballsy. It’s probably going to be published, too. It’s good to know The Hunger Games was just a rip-off of something else. What goes around comes around, I guess.

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