All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I prefer to read books before they're adapted into films. I don't mind it the other way around. But reading the book first gives me a chance to establish the character in my head before seeing it on screen. When I started seeing previews for the film Edge of Tomorrow and discovered that it was based on this book, I made sure to snap it up ASAP. The premise sounded very interesting and I wanted to be sure to read the source material before Tom Cruise got too far into my head. I'm glad I did, because he's almost the exact opposite of the twenty-something Asian protagonist of the novel. On the other hand, he's so different that it would be difficult for anyone to mistake his world-weary fifty-something American character for the same guy. It will be interesting to see what bits the filmmakers kept and what they completely reinvented.
The premise is simple. As the film poster puts it: Live. Die. Repeat. This is basically Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers. Keiji Kiriya is a fresh recruit in a war against alien invaders. He's thrown into battle, barely prepared, and comes to a pretty quick end. But then he wakes up and is pretty sure it was only a dream. Except he re-lives the events of the dream in startling detail until the sense of deja vu is overwhelming and only explanation is that it wasn't a dream. He's actually stuck in some sort of time loop.
Since this is translated into English from Japanese, it's difficult to know how much of the terse writing style comes from the original author and how much from the translator. I'm sure it's a bit of both. It fits the story and keeps the reader turning pages. It's very readable and I never felt lost. Description and introspection is applied appropriately. War is gritty, messy and painful. Soldiers are real people. Backstory is skillfully woven into unfolding events. The story keeps moving. I'm sure the word count puts this more into novella territory than novel, but there is plenty of character and story to make this a novel.
I really liked this book. It's well worth reading before Tom Cruise gets into your head.
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