January 16, 2014
James Frey gets $2 million for The Hunger Games 2: The Hungering
by Alex Shephard
James Frey, a lying liar who lies and author of the hit memoir Eat, Pray, Love, is back. Last week, Deadline reported that Oprah‘s ex-best friend sold a YA series, Endgame, to HarperCollins. On Monday, the film rights of said series were sold to FOX. It’s unclear how much Frey got from HarperCollins; FOX is on the hook for two million little pieces (of money).
Frey’s new venture is notable for two reasons. First, the deal with HarperCollins is rather unorthodox in that it not only involves the books in the Endgame trilogy, but a host of other Endgame-related brands: as the New York Times reports, it includes “three novels, nine digital novellas and multimedia elements such as YouTube videos, interactive games and puzzles, and social media.” HarperCollins has partnered with Google—who will distribute six of the digital novellas—on the multimedia elements. Google will create what The Verge calls an “interactive world around the story”:
Endgame‘s interactive components will have players solving puzzles to advance parts of the story. For the launch of the first book in the series, Endgame: The Calling, on October 7th, players will have clues and riddles woven into the text to solve in order to discover a key to a hefty prize: a pile of gold that will be encased bullet-proof glass. To make things even more exciting, Google plans to stream the event live on YouTube with the glass case on public display.
Typically when publishers do multimedia the results are unspeakably lame. That said, this seems to be more in the vein of the mediocre but potentially interesting Pottermore than the usual book trailer/hashtag/Pinterest board trash.
Second, the plot of Endgame is strangely familiar—in that it’s essentially the same as that of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. Here’s Deadline‘s description:
In a world similar to Earth, there are 12 bloodlines, or races. Each bloodline has a champion between the ages of 13 and 17 who is trained as a warrior and is always ready to do battle. When they turn 18, the teen warrior behind them gets promoted. This has been the case for hundreds of years, but no one remembers why—they’re always ready for some sort of battle to take place, but it never does. But the tradition continues. And then one day they’re called to fight, and all the bloodlines but the winners will be exterminated. They’re fighting to be the last race.
I imagine Frey’s pitch meeting went something like this:
Frey: “It’ll be like a sequel to The Hunger Games.”
Businessman: “That already has a sequel. Two, in fact.”
Frey: “Well then, this will be much easier, won’t it?”
Businessman: “Here is all of my money.”
OK, OK. It’s not exactly the same as The Hunger Games (Which is very similar to Battle Royale, though Collins argues it’s more similar to the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Maybe Shia’s right: ALL ART IS FORGERY, ALL CREATION IS MEANINGLESS.), but it’s damn similar, which is something you’d expect Frey, of all people, to be sensitive about. Theoretically, if you were completely discredited fairly recently for being a huge lying asshole, you wouldn’t rock the boat by pitching a series that bears a striking resemblance to one of the biggest hits of the past decade. But James Frey clearly doesn’t think that way because he doesn’t have to—over at Flavorwire Jason Diamond has some thoughts as to why.
But hey, no one will care about Endgame‘s resemblance to the Hunger Games in a couple years. We’ll all be too busy playing as everyone’s new favorite character, Matniss Neverceasing, in a super sweet interactive world.
Who needs books, anyway? All they ever do is lie.
Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.