After the Smoke Clears (Or, What To Read After Mockingjay)

2010 has been a bittersweet year. It has seen us through the exhilarating (and infuriating) end to Lost. It has seen us through the World Cup in all its vuvuzela glory. It has given us a cerebral, speculative fiction summer blockbuster with Inception. And now, it gives us the final novel in Suzanne Collins’ awesome dystopian young adult trilogy, with Mockingjay.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been counting down the days, hours, and seconds to Mockingjay’s release. And, once it is finally out in the universe at midnight on August 24th, you’ll head directly to the store and grab a coveted copy, rush home and immediately devour the whole thing in a single, voracious binge.

But have you stopped to consider what you will do when it is all over? Think back to when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released, or The Return of the King finally hit theaters. Think of all that pent-up energy, all that excitement and tension finally coming to sweet, blissful fruition. When you’ve finished turning that last page and when those credits start their slow roll across the screen, you are left empty. Emotionally drained. And yet… hungry for more.

So, fellow Hunger Game fanatics, I have decided to do you all a service. Before you get your final, jittery fix of Katniss taking on the Capitol, make sure to have one of these books nearby. After the smoke of the District 13 revolution clears, you’ll be needing your next fix of awesome dystopian goodness.

1. Battle Royale by Koshun Takami; Movie directed by Kinji Fukasaku

First off, if you haven’t read the book (or manga) or seen the film, you really need to get on this gravy train. The Hunger Games trilogy is essentially a less-violent, Americanized version of Battle Royale, and to gain some perspective it’s a good idea to check out the original recipe. The book is solid and the movie even better—kids with semi-automatic weapons fighting kids with pot lids? It doesn’t get any more delightfully gory than this.


2. The Long Walk by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)

The Long Walk is one of my personal favorite King novels, and one of his most underrated. Set in a future where young boys literally walk to the death, The Long Walk is a harrowing, powerful book.





3. The Running Man by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman); Movie directed by Paul Michael Glaser

Though the film and the novella are wildly different, both are worth checking out for fans of The Hunger Games series. Set in a futuristic world where inmates fight to the death—on national television—it’s clear that King (as Bachman) had at least some influence on Ms. Collins. (Plus who didn’t love The Running Man when it first came out? Dynamo’s sweet intro was awesome!)


4. The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

With those prerequisites out of the way, there are also a slew of relatively new Young Adult novels that the discerning HG fan should read. Starting with Patrick Ness’s superior Chaos Walking books. Just try The Knife of Never Letting Go. I dare you.



5. Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

The premise for this novel is (besides Battle Royale above, for obvious reasons) the closest substitute you can get for Katniss’ shenanigans in the Arena—not to mention the all the ensuing celebrity madness that follows her victory. Lise Haines’ largely overlooked debut novel follows a girl that loses her father in a televised sort of UFC-to-the-death national sport. And then she’s told she must marry her father’s killer. Instead, she decides to kill him.


6. Gone, Hunger, and Lies by Michael Grant

The Gone series by Michael Grant is my current favorite Young Adult series—think Under the Dome (except vastly superior, in my humble opinion—and this is from a King fan) meets X-Men meets Lord of the Flies. It is simply put, badass. Not for the faint of heart either—this is a “Young Adult” novel with serious edge, violence, and gore. In a good way.


7. The Inferior by Peadar O’Guilin

The Inferior is another book that flew under the radar, but deserves a much larger crossover audience. Peadar O’Guilin’s debut is a terrifying look at life on a strange world in which the only law is eat or be eaten. Humans living in crumbling relics hunt the other savage, intelligent species in the Arena for survival. Then, a strange woman falls from the sky, and Stopmouth’s vision of the world changes completely.


8. Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Genesis may clock in at a slim 160 pages, but it packs an enormous punch in terms of thematic depth and general awesomeness. Impeccably written and with a Twilight Zone-worthy ending, it’s a YA novel that doesn’t involve children killing each other on the spectacle of national television… but the dystopian vibe is firmly in place.



9. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Back to the kids killing each other, you say? Fine. Check out James Dashner’s science fiction-y thriller in which young boys are brought up an elevator into an enclosed, mechanical environment—with a deadly maze that locks its doors, is roamed by monsters, and mechanically shifts itself each night.



10. The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Rounding out the top ten is Carrie Ryan’s haunting, eerie zombie series. This should appeal to fans of the Hunger Games series as the books are both romantic and disturbing, in a post-apocalyptic landscape in which the dead seek to devour the living.



So there you have it! Anyone have any other suggestions for the inevitable Mockingjay withdrawal?

Thea James is one half of the maniacal book review duo behind When she isn’t voraciously devouring the latest and greatest in Speculative Fiction, she can be found idling time away on Twitter, watching bad horror movies, and making general plans towards world domination.


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