27 February, 2011

Review: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Title: Battle Royale
Author: Koushun Takami
Published: 1999
Length:  617 pages
Genre:  Dystopia, Survival
Where Found: Borrowed from my local library
Cover: Not the most visually appealing cover, but it suits the book and I like it.

Battle Royale (Gollancz S.F.)

Koushun Takami's notorious high-octane thriller is based on an irresistible premise: a class of 42 junior high school students are taken to a deserted island where, as part of a ruthless authoritarian program, they are electronically collared, provided with weapons of varying potency, and sent out onto the island. If they are in the wrong part of the island at the wrong time, their collars will explode. If they band together to save themselves a collar will explode at random. If they try to escape from the island, they will be blown up. Their only chance for survival lies in killing their classmates. Criticized as violent exploitation when first published in Japan - where it then proceeded to become a runaway bestseller - Battle Royale is a Lord of the Flies for the 21st century, and a potent story of politics and survival in a dog-eat-dog world. Made into a controversial hit movie of the same name, Battle Royale is already a contemporary Japanese pulp classic, and is now available for the first time to the UK mainstream.

This book took me a few weeks to read. I'm normally a much faster reader, but I did enjoy taking my time reading this one. And oh, how I love this book. It had been on my TBR list for ages and I finally borrowed it from the library for my Challenges. I've been really slack about my reading and not really in the mood for it, so that's another reason why this one took me so long to finish. 

Basically the story is about this: in an alternate present-day Japan, 50 year 10 classes from across the country are forced into the Program, a Government-run scheme, which is designed to repress and subdue the population. Shirowai Junior High School Class B. is supposedly on a school trip when their bus is gassed.As they wake they are in  isolated locations (a tiny island somewhere off Japan) - with collars around their necks, and are ordered to kill each other, until there is only on person left (who is deemed the winner). There are 42 students are each student is given a bag, containing water, bread, map, flashlight and a weapon. Their weapons range from  all-out machine guns to a fork. 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. Some students are playing the game...

Let me just say that this book is violently, gut wrenchingly, fantastic. The only thing that I could mark it down was the opening prelude. The translation from Japanese to English didn't quite convey what it was meant to be and was difficult to understand. 

This book is not for the faint hearted, there is a great deal of violence - with particularly detailed descriptions. Starting out with 42 different students, all with hard to pronounce (well to someone who doesn't speak Japanese) names, I was kind of glad when they started dying... it was easier to keep track of a small group of students. Some characters you will like, others you will hate. But all are interesting. I really don't want to give anything thing anyway.. because this book are some serious twists and turns and to give them away would ruin the book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book counts towards the Book in the Day Mini Challenge = 10 points

1 comment:

  1. i love this book, it's one of my favourite... unlike you i read in in 2 days, i had a train-trip about six hours per way and i was never so happy about such a long voyage =)