All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (book review).

July 10, 2019 | By | 1 Reply More

‘Groundhog Day with aliens,’ is how one might describe the Tom Cruise film ‘Edge Of Tomorrow’. Based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel translated by Alexander O. Smith as ‘All You Need IS Kill’, it was an intelligent and entertaining slice of military SF. As you might expect, the film didn’t follow the book exactly, but it did a fair job of reflecting the main ingredients of the plot.

Keiji Kiriya is a new recruit to the Japanese armoured infantry, equipped with a mechanised suit and sent out to face the fearsome Mimics, an alien species bent on conquering Earth. The name wasn’t explained in the film, but in the book there is more background on what they are and where they came from. After being slaughtered along with most of his troop, Keiji is surprised to wake up back at base and discover he’s back in the previous day.

It doesn’t take him long to realise it’s not just a dream or a hallucination, he really is re-living the same day over and over, encountering numerous ways to die. The same black humour that finished Tom Cruise off several times is evident throughout the book, though the circumstances vary. Hiroshi Sakurazaka does a great job of illustrating the repetitive nature of Keiji’s existence without the book becoming repetitive.

There are occasional pauses for introspection, but mostly the book moves along at a rapid pace and, at only 200 pages, it’s a swift but satisfying read. The denouement is entirely different to the film, giving it an overall different flavour that is nonetheless a powerful conclusion, particularly considering the slim size of the volume.

Hiroshi Sakurazaka has also given quite some thought to the mechanics of the time loop. Aspects such as the fact that no matter how much experience and how many skills Keiji gains, his body is still the same, a relatively untrained vessel. The tediousness of the same meals, the panic Keiji eventually feels when something different happens during his day and various other psychological reactions help to build this book into a realistic portrait of his fate.

As with several other translated books I’ve read, there is the added fascination of a culture written by somebody who understands it. There are Americans on the base, too, and Hiroshi Sakurazaka uses their presence to contrast Eastern and Western attitudes and customs in a lively way that adds depth to the situation. The brutality of war, the camaraderie of the platoon and the monotony of training. All of these aspects are born out throughout the plot, making this book feel well rounded and intense. It was a highly enjoyable and moving book and it’s made me want to watch the film again to compare the differences.

Gareth D Jones

July 2019

(pub: Haikasoru/VIZ Media, 2009. 200 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $13.99 (US), $16.00 (CAN), £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-4215-2761-1)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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  1. Yahzi says:

    The best part of that movie was watching Tom Cruise get beat up over and over again.

    Also, the fact that 3/4 of the way through, the movie decides to be a completely different kind of movie. I really appreciated that.

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