Shannon (Giraffe Days)'s Reviews > Battle Royale

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
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it was amazing
bookshelves: sci-fi, 2007, dystopian, favourite

Wow. The movie was pretty full-on, the book perhaps more so (the book came first). I finished reading it last night and it's still revolving around in my head.

The gist of the plot is this: in an alternate present-day Japan, 50 grade 10 classes from across the country are forced into the Program, a Government-run initiative designed to subdue the population. The students in these classes are gassed while on a "study trip", and wake up in isolated locations - in this story, a tiny island - with collars around their necks, and are ordered to kill each other.

There are 42 students in Shirowai Junior High School Class B. Some of them are playing the game. No one can trust anyone. And there can only be one survivor. Each student is given a bag, containing water, bread, map, flashlight and a weapon. Weapons range from  all-out machine guns to a fork. Let no one say the perverted government in this story doesn't have a sense of humour! While officials place bets on who will win, the students must avoid the Forbidden Zones, or else their collars will explode, each other, and the deadline. If no one dies within 24 hours, everyone's collar will explode.

The novel follows the students as they hide around the island, keeping track of the body count - or, rather, of those who remain - at the end of each chapter. The hero is Shuya Nanahara, who is determined to keep Noriko alive, first for the sake of his best friend who had a crush on her, who was the first to die, and later because he falls in love with her. They are helped by Shogo, who, in a truly sick twist, was the previous year's winner. Because he was so badly injured, he fell behind and had to repeat a year at another school, putting him once more at risk of being in the Program all over again. But this time, Shogo has a plan, and if Shuya and Noriko can bring themselves to trust him, they just might be able to beat the system.

This is one violent book! While the movie was pretty gory too, we are getting pretty desensitised to graphic scenes of violence these days, but it is less usual to come across them in books. It is not sexually graphic at all, though some of the things that happened to a few of the characters when they were younger is sickening to read about. But this book isn't really about violence. It's about how we respond to unlikely, terrifying situations. It's about our humanity, our efforts to think well of others, our trust issues, and love.

I recommend this book to anyone who was affected by Lord of the Flies (it has similar themes), and anyone not easily sickened by gory scenes. There were only one or two scenes that made me really grimace, most just made my heart clench for the characters' dire situations. What I love about these kinds of stories is the trapped feeling. It reminds of the movie Cube. (Watch it with a friend, I watched it alone and had a great deal of trouble sleeping afterwards!) In that movie, a seemingly random group of people are trapped within a giant, moving cube, containing smaller cubes all linked on every side, top and bottom. Some are death traps. The really scary thing about the entire concept is that, there is no reason behind it. It's completely - what's the word - it's slipped my mind, but I want to say that although there is a shadowy figure behind it all, there's no point. Although Takami has gone to the effort of making the Program slightly logical - to its creators, anyway - the movie was perhaps more effective for making it seem completely arbitrary.

Anyway, this isn't everyone's cup-of-tea, and it would have benefited from a good proof-reader (it's riddled with typos and grammatical errors, small enough to read over), but if you're interested in the darker, psychological side of things, this is one truly fascinating "experiment".
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
March 12, 2007 – Finished Reading
September 27, 2007 – Shelved
October 26, 2007 – Shelved as: sci-fi
January 5, 2008 – Shelved as: 2007
March 13, 2008 – Shelved as: dystopian
May 15, 2008 – Shelved as: favourite

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Jess (new) - added it

Jess I haven't read Battle Royale yet, but it seems weirdly similar to the Hunger Games. What do you think?

The premise of Hunger Games seemed so original... until I found out this had been published earlier.

Shannon (Giraffe Days) When I read The Hunger Games I did think "this is similar to Battle Royale", it's true. There are differences and for sheer agonising fear this is the better one - there's a movie of it too. It's weird in a Japanese way if that makes sense, but I loved it much more than HG to be honest. But when you have 42 students - well that's a whole lot more ways to die gruesome deaths isn't it!

message 3: by Tammy (new) - added it

Tammy Fantastic review!

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