1000 Books In 10 Years; Vol. 197 and 198: Battle Royale (by Koushun Takami) vs. The Hunger Games (by Suzanne Collins)

In the last ten years the market for young adult books has skyrocketed.  Between Harry Potter and Twilight, and other similar book franchises, there seems to be no end in sight.  One of the more popular young adult series to come out in the past ten years is the Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanna Collins.  It tells the story of a young woman who lives in a totalitarian society where every year a number of teens are forced to fight to the death in an arena.  Interesting premise, but before Collins got her book out, a book with a similar scenario came out in Japan.  I am of course talking about Battle Royale, by Koushun Takami.  Both have been adapted into films, and both have their own success, but The Hunger Games seems to be living in the shadow of its older brother and so it seems only appropriate to compare the two pieces.

 

One of the stark contrasts between the two are the narrative voices used to tell the story.  In Battle Royale, there is an omniscient narrator, where as The Hungers Games is written in first person by a female protagonist.  The approach that Battle Royale takes seems to be better suited to this type of narrative as it allows the reader to see everything going on during the games.  Battle Royale describes almost every single death that takes place in the novel, where as The Hunger Games seems to miss out on about half of the action if not more because the reader only has access through the eyes of one individual in the novel.  Indeed, half of the contestants die in the first day of the games, but only one of these scenes is witness by the narrator.  It seems the first person narrative limits the story telling.  Character development is also stunted by this approach as again, we only get to see through the eyes of a single person, where as in Battle Royale the omniscient narrator has the opportunity to follow everybody in the games and opens a door into the minds of each character.  That said, neither novel employs that much character development.    Battle Royale’s approach also helps to build suspense because the reader can see problem scenarios before they happen.  In The Hunger Games though, suspense is not built up as well as it could be, in part because of the first person narrative.  We know, that because the person is talking about events in the past tense that they have survived said events, and so the structure of the narrative ensures the safety of the protagonist, and in turn, the reader never has to actually worry about the protagonist.

 

Neither book is particularly well written.  Both are written for young adult readers and so the prose is simple.  Both touch on Hobbesian theory about man being in a natural state of war, though neither work seems to have a mastery of Hobbesian theory.

 

All in all, Battle Royale comes across as more clever, more suspenseful and offers more action.  The Hunger Games is the first book in a trilogy and to be honest, I was impressed enough with the first book to look into reading the following two, but that said, I likely wouldn’t read a sequel to Battle Royale.

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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