Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Read-alike Guides - The Hunger Games

Having been intrigued by its ubiquitous presence in the realm of popular culture, you (like many other adult readers) may have decided to read The Hunger Games just to see what all the fuss was about.  Perhaps after ravenously reading through Suzanne Collins’s entire young adult trilogy you find yourself hungry for more of the same, except that now you’re looking for something a little more, well, adult. You’re in luck.  We at Samuels Library have compiled a list of novels similar in action, setting, and/or theme to the enormously popular Hunger Games trilogy. Most of these novels feature futuristic dystopias much like Panem. (For clarification: dystopia is a word that pops up a lot in descriptions of The Hunger Games; it simply refers to a highly oppressive government.) Enjoy.

If you liked The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, then you might enjoy one of these books:
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
This book is probably the place to start if you’re looking for a more adult version of The Hunger Games.  The plot is very similar: 21 male and 21 female students are sent by the Japanese government to an island where they must battle each other to the death.  Longer, more violent, and every bit as exciting as The Hunger Games, Battle Royale is considered a cult classic. 

 Blindess by José Saramago
In Blindness, Nobel Prize winning author Saramago has written a complex novel that is both horrifying and profound.  A plague of blindness strikes an unnamed city, bringing about societal collapse and governmental oppression.  Amidst the chaos a varied group of citizens must rely on the only person who has not been affected by the epidemic.  Saramago’s unusual writing style of dense paragraphs and sparse punctuation makes Blindness a challenging but richly rewarding experience.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
One of the earliest examples of dystopian fiction, Brave New World’s description of a futuristic society seems amazingly prescient when read today.  In his attack on mass consumption, Huxley imagines a world where technology has replaced many natural processes and the human race has grown increasingly robotic and dissatisfied. 

The Children of Men by P.D. James
In 1994, infertility strikes England as male sperm counts mysteriously drop to zero. By 2021, the last generation of  newborns has reached maturity, and a spirit of despair besieges the nation.  When Theo, an apathetic Oxford professor, is contacted by a group of young dissidents seeking his help, he sheds his malaise and becomes an active member of the rebellion. James’s greatest strength is her ability to depict the disillusionment and hopelessness of a world with no future.   

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Those familiar with the film version of A Clockwork Orange know all about the shocking  antics of Alex and his Droogs, a gang of wild teenagers who aimlessly roam the streets of futuristic England looking for thrills.  In the novel, however, Burgess uses these sensational elements to craft a profound statement about morality and freedom of choice. 

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Spanning six stories over a period of hundreds of years, Cloud Atlas is an engrossing novel of immense scope.  Through the separate narratives, including a story about a clone who waits tables at a futuristic diner, Mitchell weaves a fascinating chronicle about the impact of the individual on the greater forces of time and history.  A film version is set to be released in October 2012. 
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
Subtitled An Ambiguous Utopia, The Dispossessed presents the reader with two societies with opposing forms of government.  Shevek is a physicist who does not seem to fit into the capitalist world of Urras or the socialist society of Anarres.  As he attempts to reconcile and unite the two governments, he starts to reevaluate his own beliefs. Le Guin refrains from choosing sides, illustrating that one man’s utopia is another man’s dystopia. 

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
It’s The Hunger Games in space! Gifted young Ender Wiggin is sent to Battle School to be trained to defend the earth against a race of aliens known as “buggers.”  Once there he must prove himself against the other cadets in a series of perilous battle games. Can Ender successfully complete his training and lead the human armies to victory?
The Games by Ted Kosmatka
Those who loved the action and thrilling suspense of The Hunger Games will enjoy The Games, a novel about a futuristic Olympic gladiator competition involving genetically engineered beasts.  When designer Evan Chandler creates a powerful mutant for the United States' entry into the games, geneticist Silas Williams and xenobiologist  Vidonia João must try to keep the monster in check before it destroys more than just the competition.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
In the near future, a revolutionary group named The Sons of Jacob has taken control of the United States and created a military dictatorship called the Republic of Gilead.  This new extremist government revokes women’s rights, such as reading and owning property, and assigns them various roles in the state.  Offred, the protagonist, is forced to become a handmaid of The Commander and is expected to bear him children.  This unforgettable novel speculates a future as plausible as it is terrifying. 

High-Rise by J.G. Ballard
High Rise is a disturbing look into total societal breakdown.  A 40-story apartment building with modern conveniences is erected, and its 2,000 inhabitants live peacefully for a short time.  However, life inside the high rise  rapidly deteriorates until survival becomes questionable.  Ballard expertly shows mankind’s inability to overcome its darkest urges despite advances in technology.

Jennifer Government by Max Barry
Max Barry shows that dystopian novels don’t always have to be bleak.  His hilarious Jennifer Government is set in a United States where corporations have taken control, employees adopt the surnames of the company they work for, and “capitalizm” runs rampant.  The story follows Hack Nike as he runs into trouble with the law and is pursued by agent Jennifer Government. 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
A plane carrying a group of British schoolboys and their teachers crashes on a deserted island in the Pacific Ocean.  No adults survive the crash, leaving the boys to fend for themselves.  They initially behave in an orderly fashion, using a democratic system to create a structured mini-society, but before long the island is thrown into disorder, as all sense of community unravels into a mess of petty rivalries and indifferent selfishness.  An electrifying classic that still resonates today.  

Neuromancer by William GibsonFirst published in 1984, Neuromancer predicted the world of cyberspace long before the internet had become a household commodity.  It tells the story of Case, a washed-up computer hacker, who is drawn back into the world of virtual reality when a mysterious ex-Green Beret offers him a job.  The dark and gritty urban setting will appeal to fans of The Matrix and Blade Runner movies.  

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The students of Hailsham, an English boarding school, are kept isolated from the outside world by their “guardians.”  In these close quarters, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy forge a strong bond.  It is only after leaving Hailsham that the trio discovers the full truth about the startling fate society has planned for them.  A  beautiful and subtle dystopian novel.

1984 by George Orwell
Every aspect of Winston Smith’s life is monitored by the totalitarian government of Oceania, which controls all forms of communication and closely watches its citizens for evidence of thought crime.  After meeting an attractive young woman named Julia, Winston is initiated into the world of the Brotherhood, a covert resistance organization.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Civilization in the Los Angeles area has deteriorated so much in the year 2025 that most communities have become gated in order to ward off the destructive masses.  18-year-old Lauren Olamina lives in one such compound until her family is murdered and her town destroyed.  She then sets out on a voyage north with a few of the remaining survivors.  Lauren is gifted with ‘hyperempathy,’ a condition that allows her to physically experience the pain of others, and on her pilgrimage she attracts a disparate group of individuals who embrace the teachings of her religion, Earthseed.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
By 2044, life in the real world has grown so terrible that most people spend all their time in OASIS, a giant online virtual reality game.  When OASIS creator James Holiday dies and  wills his immense fortune to the person who can find three keys hidden in the world of OASIS, 18-year-old Wade Watts sets out on a quest to win Holiday’s contest.  Filled with 1980s pop culture references, Ready Player One is one fun read.  

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Road follows a father and son as they journey across a post-apocalyptic American wasteland.  Armed with only a pistol to guard against the cannibals that roam the countryside, they must use every ounce of determination and ingenuity to survive the unspeakable horrors in their way.  McCarthy has created a stark testament to the power of love in even the direst of straits. 

The Running Man by Stephen King
In year 2025, unemployed Ben Richards volunteers to become a participant on a violent game show called Running Man in hopes of earning money to support his family.  Once on the show Ben will be tracked by the malicious Hunters and will earn $100 for every hour he can stay alive.  Fast-paced and action packed, The Running Man is dystopian fiction as only Stephen King can write it.

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick is considered a master of the dystopian novel by science fiction fans. Intensely personal and wildly imaginative, A Scanner Darkly is one of his most powerful and disquieting works.  A new synthetic drug called Substance D has become increasingly popular in Orange County, forcing narcotics agents to pose as drug dealers in an effort to discover the source.  Dick perfectly captures the paranoia of life in a police state, as each character suspects the others of turning informant. 
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
From the writer of The Watchmen and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V for Vendetta is a captivating graphic novel about a young woman named Evey Hammond and her encounters with a masked hero known only as V.  In a dystopian England torn apart by war, a fascist government takes control and quickly sets out to rid the country of undesirables.  The mysterious V represents the people’s final hope to defeat the regime.

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