Four years ago, the author Suzanne Collins wrote an emotional letter to mark the conclusion of her blockbuster “Hunger Games” trilogy.
“Having spent the last decade in Panem, it’s time to move on to other lands,” she wrote of leaving behind her fictional world, as the final film was released.
But now, Collins has decided to return to the story that made her one of the world’s most successful children’s book authors, with a prequel that takes place in Panem 64 years before the events of “The Hunger Games.”
The novel, as yet untitled, is due to come out in May 2020, according to a news release from Collins’s publisher, Scholastic.
“With this book, I wanted to explore the state of nature, who we are, and what we perceive is required for our survival,” Collins said in a statement. “The reconstruction period 10 years after the war, commonly referred to as the Dark Days — as the country of Panem struggles back to its feet — provides fertile ground for characters to grapple with these questions and thereby define their views of humanity.”
With a prequel, Collins will revive one of the most successful fantasy franchises of the past several decades.
Set in a fictional dystopian world where children from competing districts are forced to fight in a televised, reality show-like competition, “The Hunger Games” was a groundbreaking novel that redefined the boundaries of young adult fiction. Its gritty, violent story featured a resilient young protagonist, the bow-and-arrow-slinging heroine Katniss Everdeen. In the wake of best-selling Y.A. fantasy series like “Twilight” and “Harry Potter,” Collins’s series ushered in a new wave of dark dystopian and post-apocalyptic children’s books.
[ Read our review of “The Hunger Games.” ]
When “The Hunger Games” was released, in 2008, it became an instant best seller. Two more books followed, and the trilogy was translated into 54 languages, with more than 100 million copies in print, and remained on The New York Times best-seller list for more than five consecutive years. Film adaptations, starring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, earned nearly $3 billion worldwide at the box office.
Collins has said she got the idea for the series when flipping channels between reality TV programs and a news segment about the conflict in Iraq. The jarring contrast gave her the idea for a world where an orchestrated battle to the death was televised for entertainment as a way to appease and oppress the masses. Collins was also influenced by her father’s military service in Vietnam and wanted to introduce young readers to “just war theory” by describing a government that was so oppressive that armed revolution would be the only recourse.
Collins has stayed relatively under the radar since the conclusion of “The Hunger Games” trilogy. Her most recent book, “Year of the Jungle,” an autobiographical picture book about a young girl whose father goes off to fight in the Vietnam War, was a dramatic departure.
It’s unclear whether a prequel without the same beloved characters will hold as much appeal as the earlier books. A decade is an eternity in pop culture, and many fans of the original series may have aged out or moved on to other fandoms. But other authors have successfully managed to extend their franchises while leaving their most famous characters behind, most famously J.K. Rowling, who has extended the universe of “Harry Potter” with spinoffs set in the same world.
Still, even if only a fraction of “Hunger Games” fans pick up the prequel, it will likely still be a massive hit, and Scholastic is betting that readers will still flock to a story set in Panem.
“Suzanne Collins is a master at combining brilliant storytelling, superb world building, breathtaking suspense, and social commentary,” Ellie Berger, the president of Scholastic Trade, said in a statement. “We are absolutely thrilled — as both readers and publishers — to introduce the devoted fans of the series and a new audience to an entirely new perspective on this modern classic.”