Nathan gives us a list of Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction for Fans of The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games was (and still is, with a new movie based on the prequel novel set to be released this year) a YA phenomenon. While there are many YA clones (some good, some not so good) out there to satisfy The Hunger Games cravings, readers looking for adult fantasy and science to scratch that itch might struggle a bit.
Luckily there are still plenty of adult books similar to the Hunger Games full of deadly games, complex political allegiances, and revolutions. Here is a list of some of my favorite adult science fiction and fantasy books that did the trick when I was looking for more Hunger Games.
I’m recommending these ones in particular because they explore many of the same themes and tropes as The Hunger Games while also feeling unique and different.
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Probably the closest book to The Hunger Games on this list, this is a Japanese novel (which has been translated into English) about a class of junior high students taken to a remote island by an authoritarian regime. While on the island, there is only one rule – nobody leaves until only one of them is left alive.
This book is bloodier, gorier, and much much darker than The Hunger Games, but is also propulsive, exciting, and bingeable. There was also a manga adaptation that is really good, but it is out-of-print and hard to find in English.
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Maybe the most popular book I’m recommending, Red Rising is probably the true heir to what The Hunger Games offered. Red Rising tells the story of a society divided up by colors where each color has a distinct job and place in the social hierarchy.
Darrow is a member of the Reds, a group of people who live under the surface of Mars because they have been told by the government that humanity had made the surface completely unsurvivable. However, Darrow quickly learns that not everything is as it appears. He decides he is willing to sacrifice everything to infiltrate the Institute, where the highest ranking officials, the Golds, train and try to take down the government from the inside.
Darrow is a fascinating main character, but be ready for a brutal world and a lot of dark stuff to go down. The first book in this trilogy (Red Rising) is probably closest to The Hunger Games, with the Institute’s games mimicking what Katniss had to endure, while the other books (Golden Sun and Morningstar) transform into an epically grimdark space opera.
The series is followed by a sequel series which currently has two books out, with the third book coming this summer.
The Blood Trials by N.E. Davenport
Ikenna is a Black woman living in a white world in this epic space fantasy. When her grandfather, a high ranking political official, is murdered, Ikenna seeks to find out who is responsible by entering The Trials to become one of the nation’s great military leaders.
What results are dangerous games, gruesome deaths, and a lot of political intrigue. Ikenna is a deep and complex main character, and this book tackles issues of racism that no other book on this list really does.
This book also combines traditional futuristic science fiction elements with magic and fantasy. This is a quick and exciting read, and the second (and final) book of the duology is released in April 2023.
The Final Strife by Saara Al-Arifi
People can have one of three colors of blood. Those with red blood are at the top of the social hierarchy, those with blue blood are in the middle, and those with clear blood are at the bottom.
Sylah lives among the blue bloods and dreams of a more just world, and so she enters a series of trials put on by the government to select their new leaders. Anoor, the daughter of one of the current government Wardens, also enters to prove herself worthy of her mother’s, and people’s, love.
Set in a fantasy world rooted in the history and mythology of Northern Africa, this is another series in which not everything is at it seems, and the political twists and turns keep coming. While much less bloody and violent than many other books on this list, The Final Strife tackles themes of political oppression, tyranny, and how far people are willing to go fight back.
The second book in the series, The Battle Drum, comes out in April 2023 and completely subverts everything readers know about this world.
The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin
Like The Blood Trials, The Combat Codes seamlessly combines elements from both the science fiction and fantasy genres. Set in the far future, nations have decided that war is too costly and grisly to continue.
So, they decide that instead they will settle international disputes through single combat fought by combatants called Griever Knights. This book follows a former Griever Knight, Murray, and his young protogee, Cego, who enters the Academy to begin training as a Griever Knight himself.
Like all great books in this subgenre, Cego quickly finds out that the people in power are not as honest as they claim, and that Cego’s life is not at all what he thought it was. The Combat Codes and its two sequels were originally self-published (when I read them), but are now being traditionally published by Orbit Books.
The self-published versions are hard to find, but the Orbit version of The Combat Codes is coming out in June 2023.
Alice in Borderland by Haro Aso
This is a manga and not a “traditional” prose novel, but fans looking for more violent adult media like The Hunger Games should check it out. Mysteriously transported from the “real” Tokyo into an alternative one, Arisu and his friends must survive intense and deadly games (such as hide and seek) to collect playing cards and hopefully find their way back home.
The manga starts out as “just” a series of deadly games, but quickly deepens both its characters and mysteries as the series progresses. The manga is currently being published in English, with the first four 2-in-1 omnibus editions already released, and a fifth coming out at the end of March. If you are too impatient to wait for more editions, there is also a two season adaptation of the manga on Netflix that is complete.
The Lies of the Ajungo by Moses Ose Utomi
This is the most “different” book that I have placed on this list because there are no deadly games in this short novella (its about 100 pages long). This book introduces us to “The City of Lies” where there is no water and people are desperate.
That is, until a large and evil empire arrives and offers them water – but only if the citizens cut out their tongues when they read puberty. Tutu, the main character, decides to quest into the Forever Desert to find water and save his dying mother, but what he discovers is that the people in power are not what they appear to be.
This one has very similar themes to the Hunger Games in terms of propaganda and rebelling against authority. It is being released at the end of March 2023 and you can find my full review here.