For general information on this novel: All You Need is Kill entry
This review is for All You Need is Kill, the standalone novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (with art by Yoshitoshi ABe). The English edition was released in July 2009 by Viz Media, as part of their Haikasoru line. Sakurazaka has recently announced he is working on a sequel novel.
I’m not a veteran of war stories, but my interest in this novel was piqued when a Hollywood film adaptation was announced (titled Edge of Tomorrow in most territories). I have not yet seen the film (it has only just barely come out in Japan), but I will probably give it a watch at some point so I can write up a compare/contrast post.
For now I will focus solely on the novel itself. It’s the story of a young man named Keiji Kiriya, a new recruit for the power armor-wielding defense force fighting the droves of “dead frog” aliens called Mimics. The day of a huge battle arrives… and Keiji is quickly killed. It’s a jolting start that kicks off the core plot element of this story: the protagonist is caught in a time loop. Day after day, he is drawn to the battlefront, only to be painfully killed again and again. His only hope is to become a soldier strong enough to survive the battle, and so he enlists the help of his commander and an American soldier named Rita Vrataski.
It’s a rough and gritty story, and the author did well to get across just how miserable an experience it is out in the battlefield. The process in which Keiji comes to grips with the heinous circumstances he has gotten himself caught up in is described with grim straightforwardness, but the author does well to blend in some humor (dark and otherwise) to shake things up a bit. Keiji makes for a strong narrator, and the story is paced in such a way that the central plot element of repeating the same day forever never actually feels repetitive. Keiji is always trying something new, and the author is willing to skip ahead many time cycles at a time to keep things moving at a brisk pace.
All You Need is Kill is a quick read, and a page-turner that is effective primarily thanks to its engaging premise. It is a story that is held up almost entirely by its sci-fi concept though, so if the premise does not interest you there may not be much else for the novel to offer. That said, I found it satisfying from start to finish, and I look forward to the potential sequel.
Cho’s Rating: Strongly Recommended