It seems like nowadays you can’t flip through a magazine without coming across a mention of the upcoming The Hunger Games movie and the books it was based on. At first I avoided the books because I was afraid it was going to be another Twilight for me. I got sucked into the hype with Twilight and read the series (hated it) and then watched the movies (cheese!). But eventually I put my name on the library’s waiting list for The Hunger Games books and patiently waited. Finally, after many, many weeks I had the books in my hands.
As always, the first thing I did was check the book flaps for the basic rundowns about each book is about and also the book jacket reviews. I went into this series totally blind and had no idea what I was in for. Ack! Right on the back cover of each book was a glowing review from Stephenie Meyers, the author of the Twilight series. Immediately, my expectations for The Hunger Games dropped. Still, despite Meyers’ recommendations, I decided to give the series a shot and I’m glad I did.
I really enjoyed the series and passed it on to my sister to read. She doesn’t read books often these days but she finished the first book in a day and is making pretty good headway on the second already. The series is a very quick read; you can seriously go through all three books in one weekend.
One thing that I do have to mention is the whole time I was reading the first book in the series the story seemed so familiar to me. And then I realized what it was. It totally reminded me of a Japanese book by Koushun Takami, which was also made into a movie by the same name, called Battle Royale. It wasn’t until after I had finished the entire Hunger Games series that I did a little Googling and found out I wasn’t alone in noticing the similarities.
Warning! Spoiler talk ahead.
Similarities that I noticed right away:
- Dystopian future.
- Totalitarian government.
- An annual government sanctioned no holds barred, battle-to-the-death game in which only one can survive.
- The games are a fear tactic meant to keep the population under government control.
- Teenagers are selected for the games through a lottery system.
- Teenagers are transported to an isolated “battle ground” to fight amongst themselves.
- The game organizers supply the players with survival backpacks and deadly weapons.
- The game organizers manipulate the game and create obstacles to pit players against one another.
- Players are electronically tagged so their movements and locations can be tracked by the game organizers.
- Casualties of the game are broadcast by a public address system at the end of each day.
- The games get media coverage.
- The final players rebel against the game and, thus, the government.
At the end of the first book of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy I actually thought to myself that the only things missing were the “danger zones” and a secret plan to escape the battle ground. But then I started Catching Fire and there it was: deadly areas or “zones” that are activated by the game organizers at special times of the day, and the players mark those areas on their maps to avoid. And then, whaddya know, by the end of the second book Katniss and her cohorts pull one over on the organizers and bust out of the arena. All of the main game features of Battle Royale get covered.
It can’t be a coincidence that the frameworks of Battle Royale and The Hunger Games are so eerily similar. The novel Battle Royale came out in 1999 and the movie version followed in 2000, and both have a strong cult following. The first book in The Hunger Games trilogy came out in 2008 and I believe the first movie will be released early next year. I would not say she’s plagiarizing but author Suzanne Collins’ Young Adult novels must have been influenced by the Japanese survival horror novel/movie. The third book breaks away from Battle Royale but the similarities between the first two books and Battle Royale are difficult to ignore.
If you’ve read and liked The Hunger Games, you should definitely check out Battle Royale. The Hunger Games is basically Battle Royale-lite. If The Hunger Games is rated PG-13, Battle Royale would be the more graphically violent rated R version. The Battle Royale film was supposed to have been released in the USA years ago but then the Columbine shootings happened, and the film was shelved because distributors felt releasing a movie about kids killing one another at that time would be in bad taste. However, now with The Hungers Games film scheduled to be released and the hype surrounding it, I’ve read there’s talk to finally release Battle Royale in the States which is pretty cool.