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BATTLE ROYALE vs THE HUNGER GAMES

It’s been a fun time over here at Haikasoru HQ as Battle Royale: The Novel has been getting a ton of ink from the mainstream news, thanks to the hype for The Hunger Games film. That’s been a common conversation in the online nerdosphere for a while, but the last week saw articles in the Wall Street Journal, on National Public Radio, and many other venues. Of course, the film is now finally available legally in the US on DVD and Blu-Ray, and is getting reviewed in major newspapers as well. The film naturally leads back to the novel. If you’ve been to Target or Hudson Booksellers (in many airports and transport hubs), you’ve likely seen Battle Royale on the shelves in great numbers recently, often next to signs suggesting it for fans of The Hunger Games.

Don’t feel bad for else—we’re doing very well. I can think of no better promotion for Battle Royale than the success of The Hunger Games. (Well, except for an American remake of the film, but such a remake could also just end up being awful…)

On the question of the link between Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, author Suzanne Collins says she was unfamiliar with the former when writing the latter. Of course there is absolutely no reason to doubt her, but Collins was working in television around the time of the initial Battle Royale controversies—the media trade followed that story pretty closely. It’s certainly easy enough to have heard of something, then forget about it, only to have it emerge in one’s mind a few years later as a “new” idea. But again, there’s no evidence of even that. (How could there be?)

There are plenty of similarities between books: teens given weapons and forced into a death match, a pair working together to undermine the game with the help of an older mentor who had previously won the game, and even bits and pieces like using signal fires and bird calls. The Hunger Games also includes a “reality show” premise, but that premise can be found in the US-version of the Battle Royale manga as well. (Then there are claims that the ancient Greek story of the minotaur and the tribute sacrifice of children is a common root for both stories—hard to believe given that the central theme is the children being compelled to kill one another, rather than being sacrificed to some outside force.)

Then there is a fact that the mere use of a premise doesn’t always or necessarily rise to the level of plagiarism. One is reminded of the controversy around author Yann Martel’s famed Life of Pi; Martel had allegedly read about the unusual premise of a man on a raft with a big cat in a review of an earlier book and created his own novel from it. Then there’s Osamu Tezuka’s manga Metropolis, which rather than being based on the Fritz Lang film of the same name was actually inspired by seeing a single still from the film. Older books such as The Long Walk, Logan’s Run and others are clear antecedents of both titles. So even if Collins had heard of Battle Royale and had later forgotten, she’s not necessarily plagiarizing.

And naturally there are differences: The Hunger Games is in the first person, Battle Royale uses roving third-person point of view. The former has many more science fiction elements than the latter. Female versus male leads, triumphalism versus an open ending. We can go on. For fans of Battle Royale who feel a little put off by the success of The Hunger Games I can only suggest taking the opportunity to share your enthusiasm for Battle Royale with your friends and others who may not have seen the book yet, rather than getting angry at the success of the other book. We’re doing just fine! Reading is not a death match!

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The Holiday Buyers’ Guide, 2011

We did a holiday shopping guide last year for our books, and now we’re doing another one. Sure, it’s a little late in the season, but let’s face it—many of you will be getting ebook readers and then actually buying books for yourselves the same day anyway. So here is our year in review.

Mardock Scramble
It’s an epic of post-cyberpunk. It’s also very strange. Yes, as is perhaps an inevitability in these post-Pokemon times, the main character has a little yellow mouse as a best friend and as a pocket-sized assistant badass. And yes, there is a three hundred page interlude of casino gambling. If you’re ready for weird SF, this is the one for you.

Rocket Girls: The Last Planet

A sequel to Rocket Girls but it can be read on its own. Lots of so-called “hard SF” isn’t very hard at all—it’s really just bellicose about tough decisions and that sort of thing. Thus, humorless, and with dubious science. The Rocket Girls series is different: it’s real hard science fiction with all the physics and rocket science intact, and is delightful and light and charming at the same time. If you have a kid, or are a kid, and want to encourage an interest in science, buy ’em both.

Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince

Epic fantasy, Japanese style. Not a sequel to Dragon Sword and Wind Child but set in the same ancient Japan, this is a story of conquest, betrayal and true love. It’s also heavily influenced by anime and traditional Japanese legends and folklore. I did a little interview with the fantasy magazine Black Gate in May, and that will get you up to speed.

Good Luck, Yukikaze

Yes, there were a lot of sequels and continuations in the summer of ’11. While Yukikaze was more a novel-in-stories, this sequel is a large philosophical novel. The real battle is in inner space, in the recesses of Rei’s mind. The alien JAM are as enigmatic as ever, though we do learn more about them, and who they are really at war with. A must for lovers of the anime, or the first book.

ICO: Castle in the Mist

This was a big hit for us! A novelization of the cult classic videogame, ICO was also a labor of love for its author, Miyuki Miyabe. She loved the game (and games in general) and really brought all the skills she does to any of her hit novels to this book. It’s not quite “canon”, but its interpretation of Ico’s quest and Yorda’s past is wonderful. You don’t need to be a fan of the game to read the book, but if you do love the game, you need this.

The Cage of Zeus

Hard SF with a gender theme. Nothing seems so natural as a world of men and women, but gender—how we act as men and women—isn’t nearly so permanent or obvious as we may think. This book explores those issues in a deep-space setting, and provides plenty of actions as a terrorist group targets the genetically engineered Rounds (for “round-trip gender”), who have the sex organs of both genders.

The Book of Heroes

Now in paperback! And in ebook form as well! Miyuki Miyabe’s story of school bullying, a bratty Chosen One, and the evil King in Yellow from the classic nineteenth century horror tales of Robert W. Chambers has never been less expensive, and makes a great present. (Or self-present.)

Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights

Japanese fans voted this the greatest Japanese SF novel of all time, for its epic sensibility and eon-spanning story. Here in the US National Public Radio loved it too. Indeed, we had to rush back to print already. And it makes a good Christmas present especially as cyber-Jesus and robo-Buddha have a high-tech laser battle twenty million years in the future! So, a holiday theme!

Keep an eye out online and in your local bookstore for our titles. They make great presents, and if you happen to get a gift certificate to a store or amazon or whatnot yourself, add our books to your list!

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All Things Considered…including THE HEAT DEATH OF THE UNIVERSE!

Well, look what happened this morning on amazon.com’s Movers and Shakers list for digital books!

(Yeah yeah, at one point Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights was #1 on the list, but by the time I woke up we were beaten by some sexy book.)

What happened? Simple: National Public Radio’s All Things Considered reviewed the book and it was a rave! It’s a perfect Christmas gift too—as Jesus is in it, and he’s a vengeance-seeking cyborg three billion years in the future!

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