Review: “All You Need Is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

Title: All You Need Is Kill (AKA Edge Of Tomorrow, to tie in with the film)
Author: Hiroshi Sakurazaka (Translated from Japanese by Alexander O. Smith)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Haikasoru, 2011

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that my first contact with this book was the trailer for the film starring Tom Cruise. Think Groundhog Day, but with an alien invasion. The trailer was amazing, I thought, and I still intend to see the movie, but I somehow missed the memo where they mentioned that this was a book. Obviously I found a copy, and it was incredible. I’ll be the first to admit that my reading has not been all that geographically varied, if only because there are so many books I still need to read that were published right here at home, but this was incredible. I heartily recommend it.

The novel opens as Keiji Kiriya goes into battle for the first time. Keiji is a “Jacket Jockey,” operating a mechanized battle suit (think Iron Man’s armor, minus the repulsors and integrated weaponry) in the war against the alien Mimics. Keiji survives the first few minutes of combat while friends fall all around him, and he even manages to kill a couple Mimics before he is mortally wounded. The world fades to black…and he wakes up in his bunk, with the attack set for tomorrow afternoon. Initially, he thinks this has all been a really weird dream, but when everyone persists in following the script in his head he figures out that something far stranger is going on. No matter what he does, Keiji cannot seem to survive the battle….but every death is a lesson learned, and Keiji is a good student. Throw the Full Metal Bitch into the mix, and Keiji might finally have a shot at ending the loop.

Everything about this novel was well done, if not always original. After all, the time-loop plot isn’t exactly new ground, but Sakurazaka definitely throws a new spin on things and gives us a very fun sci-fi romp. That’s what we signed on for, isn’t it? Keiji and Rita “Full Metal Bitch” Vrataski are both incredibly well-rounded characters, and while certain actions may take you by surprise at the time, everything they do makes sense in the long run. Some of the bit players are a bit two-dimensional or stock characters, but this is mostly because they are never given the time to develop–keep in mind, the whole thing happens over a 48-hour period so far as anyone but Keiji is concerned. You can’t expect a side character to develop between loops when they don’t know they’re looping. The Mimics were a well-conceived enemy, rooted in our fears that if aliens do exist, they will be very much like us in their behavior. The alien inhabitants of an overpopulated planet have targeted our world for colonization, and the Mimics are their scouts and terraforming apparatus. In fact, I got a bit of a Lovecraftian vibe from them. Maybe that was just me though. There were certain elements where the Japanese heritage of the story came through–the robotic power suits, for one thing–but on the whole I thought it translated very well. Two thumbs up!

CONTENT: R-rated language, but I didn’t find it gratuitous. Instead it was used naturally, either to drive home a point or as characters face their death in combat. I can’t honestly say my language wouldn’t get salty in this situation either…. Brutal violence, sometimes graphically described, and sometimes with a heavy emotional impact. Some sexual content, not too explicit.

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