The Neverending Battle: A Review of All You Need Is Kill

So I hadn’t actually heard of this book until the trailers for Edge Of Tomorrow started coming out and everyone was mentioning how the film was based on a book with a much cooler title. While I haven’t seen the film, I certainly have to agree on the title being better, and the book lives up to the fun of its name.

The story follows rookie soldier Keiji Kiriya who has been enlisted to fight in a war against alien invaders known as the Mimics. He doesn’t receive a lot of training before he is thrown into battle, and as a consequence he dies. But that’s just the beginning of the story. Keiji finds himself in a time-loop where he fights in the same battle over and over again. Eventually he decides that he will make the best of his repeating day and try to become the best soldier he can so that he can lead his side to victory and in the process hopefully end the cycle.

This story is a light novel that was written by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and eventually translated into English by the company Viz Media. In Japan a light novel is roughly equivalent in length to the English novella and is generally targeted at “young adult” audiences. I have to say, I wish more American YA novels read like this.

The majority of the novel is written from Keiji’s first person perspective, and Sakurazaka does a great job of capturing his voice. The writing is fun and light, full of humorous anecdotes and metaphors. He showcases a similar style during the one chapter of the book that is written in third person from the perspective of the story’s other lead Rita Vrataski, an American Special Forces soldier who has become iconic due to her success in battle. I thought that the writing was tight and that the voices of the characters are very well portrayed, which helped to bring me into the text. To be fair, I should note that I don’t speak or read Japanese, so all of my comments are about the translation, for what that’s worth.

The premise of the story is fun and inventive, though I’m sure the science behind some of the things that feature in the story, like the Mimics and the time-loop, is probably suspect. Still, Sakurazaka does have a reason behind everything that is going on, and whether the story relies on pseudo-science or not, everything that happens makes sense in the context of the world and is explained to the reader.

If you’re looking for a short and fun read, I definitely recommend this book. It’s only about 150 pages long, and the writing is easily digestible. There’s a lot of action, dialogue, and fun description that keeps the story rolling, and nothing that happens or is explained is overly complex. And yet, the story has deeper characters, a higher quality of writing, and more thought behind it than many full length novels I’ve read that are targeted towards younger audiences.

I think Sakurazaka did a great job with this story, and I’m now curious to see how Hollywood handled the film adaptation of his tale.

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