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 where they must fight each other for three days until only one survivor remains, as part of the ultimate in reality television.