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Books for fans of Netflix's Squid Game

By Kobo • October 01, 2021

The hit Netflix survival drama series Squid Game has gotten its dystopian tentacles around so many viewers it’s poised to become their biggest series ever (though we’ll never give up on Bridgerton).

Though there’s more Squid Game to come, if you can’t sit still waiting for the next season you can always jump into books where the stakes are life and death—even though it’s all just a game.

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Would there even be a Squid Game without Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale? The novel is a cult classic about junior high school students airlifted to a remote island and forced to play a game. The only rule: fight to the death until only one student remains. And any students who wish to abstain from violence will find themselves removed from the game—by the explosive collar they’ve been forced to wear.

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The Running Man by Stephen King

High stakes game shows were something of a specialty for horror novelist Stephen King during the time he was writing under the pen name Richard Bachmann. The Running Man is well-known to cinephiles as an 80s sci-fi classic starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the book is something a lot less cheesy and way more violent. The game is a global manhunt, where a contestant hoping to win 1 billion dollars tries to stay alive out in the world for a month while specialized assassins try to kill him—if fans of the show don’t turn him in for a reward first.

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The Long Walk by Stephen King

Another beloved “Bachmann book” by Stephen King is The Long Walk, where every year boys enter a competition to walk at a speed of four miles per hour in order to win “The Prize”: whatever he wants for the rest of his life. There’s no finish line: only death for every boy who stumbles, until there’s just one boy left walking.

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Alice in Borderland, Vol. 1 by Haro Aso

Maybe Netflix has already served you the 2020 series Alice in Borderland as a recommendation. Sure, you could watch the Japanese series about a game where the prize for winning is just more time to play—and losing means death by mysterious red laser shot from the sky. But we'll take the original book series.

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Nil by Lynne Matson

In this trilogy, contestant Charley wakes up on an island called Nil. She learns that she’s been thrown into a game where the goal is to get off the island before a year passes. And then she learns she’s not alone.

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Red Rising by Pierce Brown

On Mars, a boy named Darrow discovers that the Reds, the lowly caste to which he belongs, have been labouring underground for generations under a lie: while they believe they’re creating a habitable planet for their descendants, above ground the Gold caste is already enjoying comforts incomprehensible to the Reds. Darrow infiltrates Gold society so he can participate in a brutal game that Golds use to ensure that only their very fittest young people survive. So starts this series about tearing down a society built on falsehoods and violence.

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The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay

At a remote boarding school, a secret society of students plays a game called “Killer,” where the object is for the designated “killer” to play clever pranks on other members who are trying to avoid being “killed.” As you might expect the stakes soon rise and the quotation marks soon fade away.

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Q & A (aka. Slumdog Millionaire) by Vikas Swarup

Sci-fi elements are entirely absent from this international bestseller about Ram, a boy from the streets of India who beats a TV trivia game show only to be thrown into prison because the producers can’t believe such a lowly-born contestant could win without cheating. To earn his release and the prize he seems to have won, he explains chapter by chapter how he came to know each of the trivia answers he gave to win the prize.

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