Laura's Reviews > Battle Royale

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
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Jun 01, 09

bookshelves: grown-up-books, boys, scifi, ya
Read in October, 2008

So first things first, I have to admit that I saw the movie before I read the book. It had been years since I saw the movie though…it was actually my enjoyment of Stephen King’s The Long Walk that led me to Battle Royale. Set in a dystopian not to far off future Japan, Battle Royale is about a class of middle school students who find themselves forced into a sick and twisted military program. The Program, as it is known in the book, run by the fascist government of Takami’s Japan, takes one middle school class every year, drugs them and brings them to a top secret location (a small, evacuated island, in this case), hands them all weapons and forced them to kill one another until there is a single survivor. There are some other rules and devices to the game, such as the fact that all the kids are wearing high tech collars that will explode if they try to escape the island, but the basic premise is normal middle school kids killing each other off until there is one winner. Some of the classmates, such as our main characters Shuya, Norkio, and Shogo, try fight against the game with hopes of an impossible escape, while others take to the game with surprising brutality. Battle Royale is a graphic and violent game of survival of the fittest.

One of the things that I truly enjoyed about Battle Royale was the way that every character, even those which were fairly insignificant, had a basic story. With almost an entire class of 40 students to make up the death toll, it is interesting that Takami successfully sketches them all out. Some of the characters are just that, sketches, but they add interest and a bit of humanity to each death in the story.

That said, I have to admit that the writing of Battle Royale is extremely simple. I didn’t mind it, in fact, I think the simplistic style lends itself to the material and made the book all the more entertaining and enjoyable, but I have to put it out there. The characters and their motivations border on cliche for most of the novel, some of the action is fairly predictable, and the language in far from flowery. Maybe it is, in part, due to the translation of this book from the original Japanese into English. Despite its simplicity, I absolutely could not put this book down! It was dark and brutal, but also exciting and fun to read.

I recommend this book for reluctant readers seeking action and gore. Although I think it’s an appropriate book for (older!) young adults, I must restate that it is violent and graphic. There are some sexual references/situations as well, though nothing nearly as graphic as the violence.
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