Three Books you Could be Reading Instead of Hunger Games This Spring

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By: Jacob Gillred-rising-pierce-brown-cover

 

As Hunger Games slowly creeps its teen-angst tendrils into all facets of our daily lives –  books, movies, even the school curriculum –  I have decided to put forth a short list of books that do exactly what the series was trying to do, just better. As an added bonus, none of them have a final movie they decided to split into two parts for various reasons (but something tells me it had to do with money).

 

So, let’s get started, shall we?

 

#3 Survival Against All Odds

 

The Martian

 

What is amazing about The Martian is not its critical acclaim. It is not it’s hilarious protagonist. It is not its unique appeal. It is not even the cult following it has amassed.

 

It is the fact that despite meticulous ridicule, the greatest scientific fault of the story comes from the comparative wind-air velocity of a loose satellite dish on Mars. In a book with more little numbers in it than a bingo-shuffler in Vegas, almost all of it, while not probable, is possible. And while I am willing to suspend my disbelief (I am a sci-fi writer, it comes naturally) this simple fact gave the novel a new sense of awe. Not the awe of an amazing story arc (by those conventions it was quite dull) but that of a truly believable tale. One which gave you a great appreciation for its protagonist and cast.

 

The greatest form of “hunger” that took place in the supposed “Hunger Games” amounted to little more than a stomach ache. If you are looking for an actual story of survival where the odds were most definitely not in the main character’s favor, look no further. With potatoes, explosions, suggested cannibalism and Pirate-Ninjas, The Martian should be a must read for you.

 

#2 An Actually Strong Female Protagonist

 

The Mistborn Trilogy

 

One of my foremost gripes with Hunger Games was not its story; it was its main character. Katniss is held on a pedestal as the embodiment of the “strong” female lead. You cannot swing a dead cat without hitting the innumerable copy-paste versions of her that litter our library shelves: Divergent, Red-Queen, Dragon Marked, Divergent, A Thousand Faces, Cry Wolf, Divergent; and these are only the ones I have seen recently. Apparently now-a-days strong-female-protagonist involves an odd mixture of having god-like affinity to all skills no matter if they have no reason to, and the mindset of a lovestruck narcissist (I am looking at you Twilight.) I mean really, Katniss spends less time actually helping the rebellion she started, or saving the people dying for her, and more time fantasizing about either Gale or Peeta, depending on which one is currently unavailable. Now I am not saying romance doesn’t have a place in stories. But it is a method of fleshing out a character, not the other way around.

 

So, on to my recommendation, Mistborn.

 

Set in a time where ash falls from the sky, an immortal God-King rules with an iron fisted theocracy, and metal is burned to create magic. The world that the reader stumbles into through the main character Vin’s eyes takes a little getting used to. Trust me though, the story pays off. Vin is not perfect, in fact throughout the first book she is almost too real. Her mistakes at points annoy the all-but omniscient reader. Her worries occasionally seem unimportant, or even foolish. Yet, overtime these faults, these quirks, human as they are, come into their own. The author, Brandon Sanderson, fashions the trilogy in a way that leaves your hair-on-end at the conclusion. It is a place where you slowly learn not all is as it seems. Villains become heroes and heroes, villains. It is a tale of betrayal, truth, fiction and a clear, concise direction, that is hinted at from the first chapter of the first book. Vin grows from girl to woman. Not as the cookie-cutter zero to hero, protagonist archetype, though rather as an individual, a person.

 

One for whom the phrase “there is always another secret,” is all too apt.

 

#1 Gladiatorial Death Matches And the Overthrow of a Corrupt System

 

Red Rising

 

I cannot praise this book enough. Even if you loathe science fiction with all your heart I would highly, highly suggest this. Pierce Brown constructs this masterpiece trilogy with unbelievable grace. Few can form a massive and believable world. Few can make an interesting main character; fewer still can combine both of those, light it with napalm, shoot it full of jet fuel, hydrogen bombs and political intrigue. In Red Rising from page one a world is built up, only to be destroyed in Book Two, then destroyed again in Book Three. Your expectations are crushed beneath the boots of Star-shells. The characters you have come to know and love get electrocuted, hanged, beaten, decapitated, disemboweled, bludgeoned, hamstrung, suffocated, frozen, incinerated, crushed, dismembered, poisoned and crucified at the drop of a hat. Behind all of the Michael Bay-style world-burnings, a greater undertone of futility arises.

Where Hunger Games shows little other than the glorious battles of war, Red Rising makes a conscious effort to illuminate the gritty realities that are brought by the destruction of infrastructure and natural order. The oppressed are not unified, and the main character has to struggle to maintain a balance between factions. Hunger Games would have us believe that you can walk out of a war clean as a saint. In Red Rising the necessary evil is just as prevalent as the good. In Hunger Games no thought is given to the government that will occur post the dictator’s overthrow. In Red Rising the vanity of violence without solution is a prevalent focus.

Just read this book. Turn off the computer and get the free Demo off of amazon now. Seriously, do it.

In the meantime, may the force be with you.

 

(A few honorable mentions: Vicious by V.E. Schwab, Graceling by Kristin Cashore (this is by word of mouth and the few chapters I have read), Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb and Second Ship by Richard Phillips).