After reading this book I can certainly see why so many people are calling The Hunger Games a rip-off. Their concepts are almost exactly identical - h...moreAfter reading this book I can certainly see why so many people are calling The Hunger Games a rip-off. Their concepts are almost exactly identical - however, there are important differences that set these two books apart and put them in completely different leagues.
Firstly, Battle Royale is disturbing. The Hunger Games is fun. I can definitively say that I did not have fun reading this book. It was compulsively readable, suspenseful, and a hair-raising page-turner, but I did not have fun. And I liked that. The concept of adolescents being forced to kill each other under the regime of a government gone mad is an incredibly violent and unsettling idea, and it should not be fun to read about, as it was in The Hunger Games.
This book did a fantastic job of addressing the psychological terror of these kids, something I felt was lacking in Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins does mention it, but while reading this book I really felt it; I was terrified for every character I read about. The atmosphere of Battle Royale has a bleakness that is absent from its American counterpart. Hunger Games felt like a rollicking adventure, and I was never really in doubt that the protagonist would survive. Battle Royale gave me no such assurance. It was almost nauseating - and thus, though unpleasant, it was a lot more powerful than Hunger Games.
It was not, however, without its flaws. The main thing that bothered was the appalling translation. I've seen this issue addressed by other reviews, so I know I'm not the only one. I understand that things get lost in translation, but really, at times I wondered if I was reading something spit out by Google Translate. I'm pretty sure a decent editor could have erased a bit of the awkwardness.
"Even if it's a lie, even if it's a dream, please turn to me. Your smile on a certain day isn't a lie, it's not a dream. But having it turn to me might be my lie, my dream. But the day you call my name, it won't be a lie, it won't be a dream."
I'm sure this is beautiful in Japanese, but in English... wat...
And at one point a character's inner monologue said this: "I am so pretty. Apart from that, I'm so smart." There's nothing technically wrong with that sentence, but it just sounds so jarring. I just couldn't imagine anyone thinking/talking in such a way.
I feel a bit bad complaining about this, because this is not the original author's fault and there is really nothing he could do about it. But it is a problem that detracted from my reading experience.
I did also experience a slight "yeah, right..." moment when like four or five girls reveal their secret deep crushes on the protagonist, Shuya. Like, really?
So in conclusion, this book was great for anyone who can stomach extreme violence and a depressing atmosphere. Just don't expect to come away with a happy feeling.(less)
This book would really have benefited if Frank McCourt's agent had taken a big knife and chopped off the latter quarter of the manuscript. It was good...moreThis book would really have benefited if Frank McCourt's agent had taken a big knife and chopped off the latter quarter of the manuscript. It was good, but by the end I was thinking, "My God does this book ever stop?"(less)
After reading the incandescent Never Let Me Go, my expectations were sky-high for this one, but I have to admit it fell a little short. I can...more3.5 stars
After reading the incandescent Never Let Me Go, my expectations were sky-high for this one, but I have to admit it fell a little short. I can't quite put my finger on why I didn't like it as much, as Ishiguro used pretty much the same style and techniques in both novels, and while I was totally engrossed in Never Let Me Go and devoured it so quickly I had to force myself to slow down, it was a real struggle at times to finish The Remains of the Day.
Maybe it was because Stevens just rambled way too much. There were several occasions where I really found myself starting to drift away. It just went on and on and for the longest time I couldn't figure out what the plot was, or if there was even one at all.
However, it did pick up towards the middle, and I would even go so far as to say that the last part of the book was a joy to read. Despite my reservations, I have to admit that it is a very well-written novel. It is incredibly subtle and intelligent, and I absolutely loved how the pre-World War II elements are woven into the narrative. Ishiguro really is the master of "show, not tell". Since Stevens hardly ever comments on his own emotions and feelings, preferring instead to observe the emotions of others, the reader has to use the reactions of people around him to gauge how he is feeling. I've never read a book that does this before, and I found it an extremely clever device.
I once heard either the book or the movie adaptation described as something along the lines of "an epic love story", which really baffled me. Like the rest of the novel, the romance is wonderfully understated - a refreshing change from the usual in-your-face instalove that is pervading the market. Again, because of Stevens' aversion to addressing his own emotions, many of the sentimental aspects of the plot are simply implied and have to be extrapolated by the reader.
I suspect a lot of the literary devices and philosophical musings went completely over my head, which might be why I didn't enjoy it as much as other people did. Nevertheless, I do acknowledge that this book is superbly written, if a little too long-winded and rambling. I would probably recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction and classics - if you prefer action-packed novels, you should probably skip this one.
This is one of the most beautiful and wrenching stories I have ever read, which is interesting because there is no purple prose, no poetic or flowery...moreThis is one of the most beautiful and wrenching stories I have ever read, which is interesting because there is no purple prose, no poetic or flowery descriptions - just clear writing and scattered memories that somehow come together in a flawless story. It seems like a very simple tale in the beginning, but when the true complexity is slowly, gradually revealed, it takes your breath away.
I can see why people are so conflicted as to whether to refer to it as science fiction. I suppose it technically is, but as a lover of fantasy and scifi myself, I don't think of this story as either. The scifi elements are very subtle and come secondary to the focus on human nature, love, loss, friendship and fate. It felt incredibly real to me, despite the futuristic subplot.
The characterisation was pitch-perfect for this kind of book. It's not the kind of book where I fall head-over-heels for the characters and want to look up fanfiction just so that I can get more of them. The characters were very real and extremely flawed, and without them the beautiful concept would not have been able to deliver as much of an impact. Kathy was a wonderful POV character - quiet, introspective, insightful and deeply honest.
I loved Ishiguro's portrayal of memory. Since this novel skips around parts of Kathy's life, joined together by a series of fragmented recollections and impressions, it would have been easy for it to feel messy and confusing, but I never lost track of the story or felt that it was difficult to follow. I loved how he used an unreliable narrator that often comments on her own unreliability.
And I really, really loved how slowly the big picture was revealed. He didn't rush into it and explain everything about donors and carers and completion, but sat back and let the readers figure it out for themselves. In that way, it feels like a very intelligent book, because nothing is really spelled out for us. We have to interpret it for ourselves. Just like the characters themselves, the readers don't quite understand the world in which they live and aren't really sure they want to find out.
This book really took me by surprise. I suppose I was expecting a rather dry read, but this was anything but. Definitely going to read his other novels. His writing is absolutely phenomenal. (less)
Very enjoyable and deeply engrossing, with a few truly poignant moments scattered throughout, but all in all it didn't really light any fires in me.
I...moreVery enjoyable and deeply engrossing, with a few truly poignant moments scattered throughout, but all in all it didn't really light any fires in me.
I admit got a little bit tired of the dialogue. It's way too cutesy. I get that these kids are really mature and blah but seriously, almost every single character in this book frequently bursts into metaphysical prose. No-one does this is in real life.
I wouldn't mind at all if it was just one character who did this, it would be an interesting quirk, but when you have Hazel and Augustus and Isaac and even some random cab driver in Amsterdam all speaking in exactly the same unique and distinctive way? It kind of ceases to become unique and distinctive and becomes rather grating. It removes the realistic element from this novel, which I kind of thought was what the author was going for, you know, to write a revolutionary cancer story that wasn't about angels and harps and clouds and saintly patient children and actually portrayed the ups and downs of a real situation. It came off feeling too stylised to be realistic, and yet not stylised enough to be a feel-good "guilty pleasure" story.
That being said, John Green has a real talent for beautiful prose, and some parts are a real pleasure to read. The humour balances out the sadness fairly well. (Although I have to say I didn't really get much feelz from this book. A few parts gave me a little twinge, but everyone keeps talking about how much it made them cry!)
Characterisation is solid but not extraordinary. I didn't really click with Hazel and Augustus the way I do with characters that I really love, but that's probably just me, since everyone is raving about how wonderful Gus is.(less)