Stop me if you've heard this before: a group of people sent by their own government against their will into a meat-grinder arena where the rules are kill or be killed. No, it's not Suzanne Collins circa 2008, it's Japanese novelist Koushun Takami from 1999. His forty-two protagonists, armed with food, water, and one random weapon, play the game until only one student remains alive. "Battle Royale" is "Hunger Games" without the whimsy, a dystopian world where Japan's citizens lost faith in their government and the government took a hard stance to curb the rebellion. Thus: the Program now played by Shuya Nanahara and his classmates. Takami's prose is fierce and florid, laced with violence and irony, and a surprising amount of characterization and back-story for the kids who survive past the first few hours. Ultimately confronting the reader with a paralyzing scenario ("Who can you trust when everyone's playing to win?"), this is a must-read for fans of dystopian literature, "Lord of the Flies," and Star Trek's own no-win scenario, the Kobayashi Maru. By the end of this 600-page monster, you'll ask yourself, "Suzanne WHO?"
In a country ruled by a ruthless totalitarian government, a group of ninth-grade students are confined to a small isolated island, armed only with a map, some food, and various weapons, where they are forced wear special exploding collars and must fight each other for three days until only one survivor remains, as part of the ultimate in reality television. Original.