Book Review: All You Need is Kill – Hiroshi Sakurazaka

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Speedy book review time!

All You Need is Kill is a Japanese military sci-fi novel published in 2004. A manga adaptation was released in the first half of this year, and the recent blockbuster Edge of Tomorrow is based on this book. It follows the experiences of Keiji Kiriya, a junior soldier in the United Defense Force, an army fighting against alien creatures called Mimics. Keiji is violently slaughtered during his first real battle—and that’s where the story really begins. Keiji finds himself trapped in a time-loop, Groundhog Day-style, where he relives the battle again and again, dying dozens of times over.

At 60,000 words (probably around 150-200 pages?—not sure, I read this in e-book format), this book is, in theory, a breeze. But it dragged on and on for me. Not sure if this was because of the translation from Japanese to English. I found the translated prose clunky and awkward, and rather unpleasant to read.

Although this is a prose novel, the entire time I felt like I was reading a manga. The voice of Keiji wasn’t particularly convincing, and I felt that his and Rita’s characters lacked depth and reality. The supporting characters were caricatured. I didn’t develop a connection with any of them. There is generous use of profanity and violence, which I didn’t find too gratuitous, but again, it was done in such a mundane way that there was no shock or emotion connected to it.

What did I like? In the book we get a brief but intriguing back story about the Mimics. We also find out a bit more about the robotic suits called “Jackets” which the UDF soldiers wear to enhance their fighting prowess. Generally, there are some major differences between the book and the movie, and perhaps because I watched the movie first, I kept comparing the book to the movie.

In his afterword, Sakurazaka tells us that the plot to All You Need is Kill was inspired by video games—the fact that you can die, reset and repeat, and are subsequently perceived as a warrior of great skills. It’s a fascinating concept, but unfortunately I was somewhat disappointed by the source material. I’ve seen other reviewers give it five stars though, so I’m sure people disagree!

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