Saturday, 3 November 2012

Book Review: Battle Royale

Sorry for my hiatus. School's been crazy busy and I haven't had time to so much as pick up a pen and write anything. (Well, except commentaries for English class, but I'm pretty sure those don't count.)

OH, quick blob of news. I've decided to try and incorporate a new element into these reviews, which I'm going to name thought-rolls for lack of a better word. (I'm seeing this taking off in the direction of replacing my SpoilerAlert!s.) Basically I'll be writing stuff down during the process of reading a book, and sticking it at the end of the review. You guys can feel free to do the same in the comments :) I always find it funny to look back on what I felt in the middle of the book once I finished it, and felt like I'd share the fun! The thought-roll for this review is kind of incomplete but it's an idea of what I'm trying to get into. They'll (hopefully) get better in the next few reviews.

Anyways, here's a new review on an old book. I actually finished this one a few weeks ago but never got around to reviewing it until now. Enjoy!

Genre: Thriller (Translation)
Title: Battle Royale
Author: Koushun Takami, translator Yuji Oniki
Rating: 3/3

Plot summary (from Goodreads):
Koushun Takami's notorious high-octane thriller is based on an irresistible premise: a class of junior high school students is taken to a deserted island where, as part of a ruthless authoritarian program, they are provided arms and forced to kill one another until only one survivor is left standing. 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, a potent allegory of what it means to be young and (barely) alive 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, now available for the first time in the English language.

My take:

This book completely stole my heart and blew my mind. I didn't find out how popular this story really was until I finished, but I completely sympathize with over-saturating this. (Also, Sourcefed just so happened to review Battle Royale the movie as I was finishing up the book, so I'm pretty sure that's an encouraging sign of some sort.)

Let's talk characters. For those of you who know me, you know that I'm a very character-driven kind of person when it comes to appreciating good novels. The character development in this book was A-MAY-ZING. I may have been reading a translation (sadly, Japanese is not on my list of known languages) but I think that just contests to the author's literary prowess. Now, I would never say this in public because most of my book-lover friends would probably jump up and strangle me, but honestly, I don't believe everything is in the vocabulary and word choice of a novel. Of course these things matter, and I, just as any other reader, may sometimes enjoy the feel of delicious words rolling off the tongue, but when all is said and done, I don't particularly care to notice if they put a syncope in their description to tone it down. Especially for books that need to hold the short attention spans of the current population, I think the most important thing is to be able to develop a character through action. The author does this extremely well and really overcame one particular challenge that he set up for himself; with so many characters in this "game" of sorts, and many that appear for only fleeting instances, the author manages to capture the essence of them in just a few short sentences. Multiple times, I felt myself bemoaning (or celebrating) the outcome of a character I had met only a few pages before. I think the author really had a knack for this particular area of storytelling and it's what really got me hooked.

Besides the amazing characters, I think the novel was quite ordinary. Of course, one mustn't miss the amazing plot; even as they realize how undeniably similar it is to the Hunger Games. (And looking at the publishing dates, it isn't hard to figure out which novel took the idea from which.) The whole time I was reading, I kept thinking about how Suzanne Collins totally stole the idea from the poor Japanese author.

If I were to compare the two, I think I would choose Battle Royale over the Hunger Games. I found the characters more compelling and relatable than the Hunger Games characters, perhaps because of Koushun Takami's magic ability to craft his characters so beautifully.

My only criticism for it would be that I could not for the life of me keep track of some of these Japanese names, especially the ones which appeared only once or twice. (Although I suppose that shouldn't really be a valid criticism since I'm sure the Japanese people it was originally intended for had no problem with it.) I highly recommend keeping a list of the characters while reading. Other than that, I absolutely loved this book and hope you guys will too.

Happy reading!

My thought-roll (Please forgive all the web-talk. I took this directly off my friend a.k.a. receiver of my spazzing 's Facebook wall. I'll make sure to make a slightly more educated one for the next review ;D)

why is it that all the girls seem to have a crush on shuya? LOL
and that couple that suicided together broke my heart... altho it was kinda heartwarming that they didn't wanna kill each other :'D

D: ahnon. the two girls die don't they.

omg kazuo... silent and emotionless killer o_O wah. so scary.
and so ruthless zomg... if not for him ppl might've actually gathered :'(
zomg this names thing frustrates me so much -.- who is izumi and when did she die?
mitsouko seems as bad as kazuo :/ holy geesh guy and girl cold-blooded pair...
why does shinji's hacking not work anymore? is it cuz he explained it to like yutaka or whatever? cuz sakamochi and them can hear them right? ughhh why didn't shinji think of thatttt T_T
SHAWWWG. i actually liked takako D:
shinji's plan seems awesome... so why do i get the feeling he's gonna fail :/
shinji could've gotten away with everything if yutaka hadn't joined him :(
hiroki just let mitsuko run away.
O_e chivalry can only go so far... or at least i thought
good guy yuichiro.
o much unrequited love gahhh
that awkward moment when hiroki's risking his life to come see kayako and she's daydreaming about another guy -.-
im sorry, but WTF?! SHE SHOT HIM?!
finished. Off to read fanfiction to fill the gaping hole where my heart was.

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