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Dystopian young adult novels have become all the rage, the most popular of which has been Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games series of books, and later, films. A dystopian future former America where the rich and power rule over an disenfranchised populace from afar, enforcing their will with jackbooted thugs and a spectacle called the hunger games.
Super violent, terribly bleak, and garish with neon colored point, these films and books are amazing and were a hit with teens and adults alike. The following are my seven choices of things you would like if you loved watching or reading The Hunger Games.
Of course, this is on the list, and if I put it on the list, I have to start with it. They are super similar in theme, detail, and ideas, that is to be sure, and rather than expound on the controversy, I would rather talk about why this is a great book.
Published in 1999, this book has been turned into a manga, and then a cult classic film, all about a group of schoolchildren who are kidnaped and taken to an island to battle to the death. With a huge cast of characters, bloody combat, and themes that would make anyone with anti-government feelings heart swell, this Japanese novel is the closest to The Hunger Games on this list, which is the source of all the hullabaloo about it. Perhaps, when you read it, you can decide on the theories yourself.
A staple in many English classes, this award winning dystopian novel has been read by millions, and was turned into a movie in 2014. If you had gone to middle school some time after 1994 or have kids who have, you have at least heard of this novel, if not had read it yourself.
It tells the story of a young boy who is not like the rest of the people in the deeply regulated place where he lives, craving more out of life. He gets chosen to be a “Receiver of Memory”, someone who remembers how everything was before society changed to the homogenized, secure, if not bland, world that it exists now. Along the way, he learns of terrible truths that he must wrestle with. If you want young adult/children’s dystopian fiction, The Giver is one of the best examples of the genre.
The second Japanese title on this list, this hallmark and deconstruction of the mecha genre helped to popularize anime abroad in the 90’s, a time when it was in a slump, perhaps making way for the some of the successes that the industry holds today. Apocalyptic setting meets giant mecha on monster fights, with a healthy dose of conspiracy, teenage angst, and Judeo-Christian mythology, Evangelion, or Eva as it is known by fans, is one of the most influential animes in history.
Following a young boy pushed into a not-so-secret organization to pilot biological machines called Evangelions to fight monstrous creatures known as angels. Wracked with depression, self doubt, and fears of rejection, the teenaged Eva pilots struggle against angelic monsters, but their own demons as well, something viewers of The Hunger Games might just love.
Children seem to always been the weapons of dystopian future governments, don’t they? At least this one has some justified reason of doing what it’s doing, after being attacked twice by an insectoid alien race called “Buggers”, the government of earth sets up an academy for young children to train to become military leaders in the third invasion they think is on coming.
Child warriors in a technologically advanced but dark version of a future earth? Sounds like this best selling and award winning novel, which has been the inspiration for a movie and multiple comic adaptations, is a great next read if you just read or watched The Hunger Games.
Another dystopian America, another deadly game, this time people willing sign up to run around the world, get as far as they can, hunted by law enforcement officers and bounty hunters paid for by the channel themselves. Every hour you survive and every hunter or cop you kill, you earn money, but everyone is out to get you, from the local beat cop to the fan of the show who wants to see the current contestant killed up close.
In a world of incredibly and increasingly sanguine competition based reality shows, both The Hunger Games and The Running Man aren’t all that far from the mark. Point of fact, on the streaming service go90, there is a competition show called The Runner, in which teams of “Chasers” have to track down and find a “Runner”, both of which have to complete challenges to earn money. That sounds a little similar…doesn’t it? Just with a little less killing.
The world has ended, and it’s everyone for themselves. The majority of people would kill you for the shoes on your feet, or the clothes on your back, or, perhaps, the flesh on your bones. This is the world that Pulitzer Prize winning author Cormac McCarthy puts forth. The world is dying, if not already dead, and there are fewer and fewer things are around. Gas, canned goods, game, ammunition. This isn’t a world in decline, it’s already fallen.
So, put yourself in the games, forced by powers you have no control over to fight and kill or die, what would you do with that much desperation. What would be okay with doing, and what would you do anyway? How do you live with yourself after, and are you still the person you think you are.
What would happen if you left a bunch of boys to their own devices without any supervision of any sort? Would you trust their civilized upbringing, such as it is anyway, would keep them orderly, or would you expect them to devolve to violence and savagery? You have probably heard of this famous novel, you know what, in this example anyway, happens.
In The Hunger Games, there are parts of Panem that not only submits children to the murderous games, but trains them before the picking ritual. How much does civilization have to devolve for people to want to compete in a meat grinder like that, to want to kill for glory? How much would it take for us today to be reduced to that?
I had to save the very best in the genre for last, didn’t I? This book is the hallmark for dark future Earth’s, many of it’s ideas, tropes, and even it’s phrasing have entered the collective unconsciousness. It is really easy to say that nearly every book published since with a dystopian feel can say that it was inspired, intentionally or otherwise, by this novel.
The government is always watching, they shape the minds of all that live within their borders as to control every aspect of life, forcing their people to live in squalor while pretending that all is well, and moreover on the rise. The Hunger Games does this with it’s visions of the districts and the capitol, using entertainment to placate the later while viciously keeping their jackboot on the throats of the former. Nineteen Eighty-Four is a must read if you loved The Hunger Games or any other thing on this list.
Dystopian fiction is a deepening genre right now, and with all three of the films, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay out, they are a great entry into the genre. These books and anime are all amazing, and I would suggest them to anyone as related media, but do you agree? If not, what would you include? Tell me if you would replace any or all of my list with your favorite media, and most importantly why, in the comments below.
Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings -- cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.
Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings' laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha'ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings' mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings' power...if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don't find her first.
David Castro is co-editor and co-founder of Babbling of the Irrational, a submission based literary blog. Writer, Nerd, other single word descriptions. Flushing, New York