Sunday, March 8, 2009

“All You Need is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

Title: "All You Need is Kill"
Author: Hiroshi Sakurazaka
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 169
Publisher: Haikasoru

Summary: When the alien Gitai also called Mimics invade, Keiji Kiriya is just one of many recruits shoved into a suit of battle armor called a Jacket and sent out to kill. Keiji dies on the battlefield, only to be reborn each morning to fight and die again and again. On his 158th iteration, he finally sees something different, something out of place—a female soldier known as the Full Metal Bitch. Is she the key to Keiji’s escape or his final death?

Classification & Literary Class:
I had a very hard time starting this review. There is much to say and reflect upon, yet “All You Need is Kill” is unlike most novels the American and the European audience has had experience with. Prose, length, storytelling, characterization, internals and general take on the genre; all these elements create unfamiliar alien scenery, which needs discovering and an adventurous spirit to experiment with the unknown.

Science fiction is as wide as the universe it explores, virtually endless and while the Western culture has taken up the undying space exploration themes, colonization and the such, the Eastern have adopted the apocalypse by aliens/humans and made it their own. Try an anime and you will see what I am talking about. “All You Need is Kill” portrays the final stand of humanity against an invading alien force, devoted to turning Earth into a colony. In a sense this is military fiction, but it doesn’t get boring or falls into cliché.

The Japanese are known for their brevity in literature, mostly with the worldwide celebrated haikus, but their sense to get down to the point and write the distilled and concentrated essence of their topic crosses into speculative fiction. Sakurazaka builds his novel more around the internals of the characters and how they process the occurrences in their life much like a report. Compared to what we are used in the West dialogue is overall scarce and actual combat scenes are also few in number, but Sakurazaka creates the illusion that writing war and combat scenes is like the easiest thing in the world.

Despite its 169 pages by Hiroshi offers a full novel experience much like any title ranging from 300 to 600 pages. This proves to show that length in literature is quite subjective and the page count steps down in importance to the use of words, which combination will reduce an idea or image to one concise power pack to the reader.

Characters & Depth:
Remarkable in “All You Need is Kill” is the rapid character evolution. Keiji on page one is a rookie with no battle experience and meets his death in a cowardly manner, while Keiji from the last chapter is a veteran with steel nerves and body turned into a killing machine. This metamorphosis once you have invested all your enthusiasm in the story is invisible so to say. You pick up a change, but it is so natural given the situation that he is in a time loop and every day is a struggle to end it. But once you stop to think about it you get the wow effect. At least I have. This wouldn’t have worked, if the novel itself was longer.

The story is told in third person POV and changes from Keiji to Rita aka the Full Metal Bitch, who has become a legendary soldier, because a time loop herself. Her role in the novel is quite interesting and dramatic following the guidelines of Japanese sense of tragedy. She highlights the events that occur in the time loop through her own experience, which gives credible explanation to the constant resurrection of Keiji. Being a tough person in the present, by the same rules we are introduced to her own personal anguish and shattered existence. In the end Keiji and Rita represent two aspects of the super soldier, Keiji is the process of hardening yourself and carrying an unimaginable burden, while Rita is the broken person left in the process. There is this yin-yang polarity so to say.

Worldbuilding & Believability: I wasn’t a great fan in the beginning, when I found out this whole book will revolve over a battle that repeats itself around 160 times. I have seen the idea done before in the show “Tru Calling” and in some movies I don’t remember very clearly, so I wasn’t charmed. But then again the focus came on the internal development of the character and how he tries everything to stop waking up every day on the same date before the same battle. If you view it gamer terms, it’s having to reset the same level 160 times and every time gain new experience after failing, try new strategy and develop mad skills.

The Mimics are the core of the very problem. In the book they are described as dead bloated frogs and are basically made out of nanobots and have evolved from a remodeling tool for colonization to weapons. They even have the technology to reset time and are the culprits for the constant time loops. I won’t say more, because the whole situation is definitely more complex than that and offers twists and thrill rides that leave you “awesome”-ing all the while.

Perhaps the last element in the whole world now that we mentioned the aliens and time loops is the so called Jackets. They are your simple full battle armor with major artillery and a constant in the whole novel, plus they create this whole subculture in the army with special training system, slang and all that to make it interesting.

The Verdict: I love it and advise people to give it a chance. Speaking from a globalization point of view, now more than ever we have the ultimate freedom to touch another culture and explore it. So take a chance and see how the other side of the world does it. You know you want to.

IMPORTANT: This novel is scheduled as one of the first releases of the new Viz Media imprint Haikasoru in July, which will bring the popular Japanese fantasy and sci-fi titles into the US Market. So to make it launch with a big bang spread the word and preorder.


Anonymous said...

All that in 169 pages? Hmmm. I might have to check this one out.

Harry Markov said...

Yup. All that in 169 pages. Japanese are quite the odd birds.

Unknown said...

harkens back to the great days of western SF. some of the best novels were pretty brief, and some of the best *stories* were shorts rarely exceeding 30 pages. Brevity is often a virtue in the genre

Harry Markov said...

I guess. I am not the one to know much about these things, since it's not exactly my genre, even if I enjoy reading a title here and there. Brevity is a virtue, if done tastefully for almost every genre, but perhaps this is my own taste speking.

Mark David said...

Very interesting :) The anime-based novel Ghost In The Shell 2: After The Long Goodbye, which I bought a few weeks ago is also from Viz Media. I hope I find this one too!

Harry Markov said...

I never managed to enjoy Ghost in the Shell, but I am interested in the novel choice. This one is from a Viz Imprint. I think their website has opened since July, but I think it's manageable to get this one as well. It's quite good.

Dagoonite said...

This is a marvelous book, if a fast read. That said, I kind of want a more literal translation for comparison. This translation is terrific, but there's one portion early on where the main character bemoans everybody from the brass to the artillery to even the guy who just died. I'm of the understanding that this section wouldn't be able to work nearly the same in Japanese, so I'm madly curious about how it really would have worked.

Thank you for the good review!

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