Posts Tagged With: Suzanne Collins

Why everyone should read Battle Royale

Warning: This post isn’t quite as chipper as some of my previous posts. You’ve been warned!

If you’ve never heard of Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale, think Hunger Games set in a futuristic, dystopian Japan, on steroids (this is obviously a huge oversimplification, but just go with it). There’s been a lot of controversy recently about whether or not Suzanne Collins ripped off Battle Royale, but that’s not the point of this post. In this post, I’m going to explain why I think everyone should read Battle Royale at least once, because despite it not being the best-written book in the world, it has some really important ideas that I think more people should be exposed to.

Reason #1: It makes you take a hard look at yourself

When we read books, we usually end up putting ourselves in the shoes of one of the characters. It’s hard to connect to a story if you don’t do that. But in Battle Royale, the characters are average junior high students trapped on an island, given random weapons, and informed that they have to kill each other or else the collars locked around their necks will explode. Not quite as fun slipping into those shoes, is it?

Battle Royale forces you to put yourself in the position of these teenagers and ask yourself: What would I do in this situation? And it’s such a hard question to answer, because there is no easy answer. My initial response when I started reading the book was that I would hide, try to avoid confrontation, and only shoot to kill in self-defense. Okay, great. Now skip ahead 24 hours, and it’s only you and your best friend alive. One of you has to kill the other, or you both die. What do you do now? Do you trust your best friend not to turn on you? Are you willing to die to let them live? Are you willing to live with the knowledge that you killed them?

It’s a really morbid story, and very depressing to think about. But self-reflection is never a bad thing — how else do we learn about ourselves and try to improve?

Reason #2: It drives home how senseless and tragic violence is

Battle Royale is a heart-wrenching book, and not just because 40 teenagers die for no good reason. The worst part isn’t that they die, but how they die. Two young lovers throw themselves off a cliff because they’re unwilling to even consider harming their classmates. One boy spends the entire game trying to find his best friend and the girl he likes, only to have one die in his arms, and the other panic and shoot him. Another boy comes up with a brilliant plan to tear apart the game and get them all free, but is killed right before he can set his plan in motion.

When you read Battle Royale, there’s a certain part of you that cheers for the two crazy killers who go around riddling their fellow students with machine gun rounds — survival of the fittest and all that. But the rest of you comes away feeling profoundly sad and disillusioned with the glory that the media places on violence and killing, and I think that’s something that everyone needs to feel.

I have many more reasons, but those are the main two. The one I didn’t mention is that Battle Royale is just a really, really good story in general. Again, not terribly well written, but it’s pretty much impossible to put down. So, go forth, read, weep, and enjoy!

Unrelated media of the day:

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A Reflection on the Pointless Murder of Beloved Fictional Characters

This post was inspired by Zen Scribbles’s recent post Jack Did Not Have To Die!

Today we will be discussing something near and dear to my heart: when authors kill off beloved characters for no good reason.

Now, obviously authors can do whatever they want. If they want to kill off half their characters, that’s their choice. But what I implore authors to do before they start knocking off characters left and right is to consider the audience they’re writing for, and consider what impact these deaths will have on their readers.

Example #1: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Deaths include, amongst others, Hedwig the Owl, Fred Weasley, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks.

Why was it a bad idea to kill these characters? Because the entire series thus far had been about good overcoming evil — the idea that, if you’re true to your principles and willingly help others and try to do the right thing, you will succeed. This was a wonderful message to send to children … at least, until they read book 7 and found half their favourite characters dead.

Sirius Black’s death served a purpose — it was to teach Harry caution, to make him think things through before blindly jumping in. Dumbledore’s death forced Harry to man up and get s**t done. But Fred Weasley’s death served no purpose. Lupin and Tonks didn’t even get a death scene. And what purpose could there possibly be in killing off a fluffy owl?

I know that JKR was trying to impress upon us the horrors of war, but I feel that could have been done in a different way. Perhaps maim them, like she did to George and Bill Weasley. George RR Martin (Game of Thrones) can kill off all the characters he wants because that’s the world his story is set in, that’s the genre he’s writing for. But Harry Potter isn’t a gritty political intrigue — it’s about a boy hero facing down true evil and winning. And I believe that senseless deaths have no place in a series like that.

Example #2: Mockingjay (Book 3 of the Hunger Games)

Deaths include, amongst others (SPOILER ALERT), Finnick Odair and Primrose Everdeen.

Now, Finnick’s death I sort of understand, much as I’d rather not — he was deep within a warzone, after all, so death was a very real possibility. But Primrose’s death? Ridiculous. There was no good reason for her to be in Capitol when those bombs went off. She’s a child, for God’s sake. She should have been safely back in District 13 — by all logic, she would have been. And yet, there she was when President Coin’s ridiculous plan to explode everyone happened.

The point of her death, I assume, was to … um … screw up Katniss even more than she was already? I think Peeta’s alarming mental instability and constant attempts to kill Katniss had already screwed her up sufficiently — killing off her sister was just unnecessary.

Now, Suzanne Collins has more of a leg to stand on than JKR, because she had already established that her series involved killing mass amounts of people. But prior to Mockingjay, people had been killed in a context that actually made sense. Primrose being in Capitol during the final wave of attack made no sense. Not to mention that the assorted people back in District 13 who were Katniss’s friends and confidantes would have been looking out for her sister while she was away doing totally pointless things in the Capitol.

Pro Character-Killing Tip: 

You can judge whether or not a character’s death is appropriate by viewing your readers’ reactions.

If they read the death scene in utter shock and scream, “Noooooooooo! [Insert Name of Character Here]! Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?!!!!!”, then you did well. Congratulations. The death scene you wrote was touching and believable within the context of the story.

If they read the scene with an expression of increasing disbelief, followed by them snapping the book shut and saying, “That was just stupid. Why the hell would the author do that? That made no sense!”, then you might want to consider a rewrite.

Thus endeth the rant. Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments.

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