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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Published February 26th 2003 by VIZ Media LLC
624 pages
Source: Borrowed

I think it's been about five minutes since I read the last word of Battle Royale. My heart is still pounding abnormally fast, and every few seconds, I have to take a break from typing to watch the French countryside rushing by outside the train window instead.* The view is strangely soothing, and I definitely need some calming right now.

So. Battle Royale. Was. Epic. Dare I say it? It was better than The Hunger Games, and The Hunger Games is one of my favorites. Both have similar settings: a dystopian government that forces children into an arena and makes them kill each other off one by one. But Battle Royale ended up as the more striking, more intense, of the two. The novel grabbed me, strapped me to a poodle, and threw me off a cliff. How does a poodle save a person from a fall off a cliff, you may ask. It doesn't. That's why I kind of feel like an insignificant smudge on the ground right now.

Unlike The Hunger Games, which focuses only on Katniss's narrative, Battle Royale jumps around from one student to another. I didn't find that disorienting or discontinuous. The skipping around reveiled quite a lot about each participant of the Program, as the government calls this bloodbath. Such intricate lines bind all the classmates together, and it's so saddening to watch it all fall apart. There are love interests and friendships and histories and their own survival to consider as the 15-year-olds wander around an island with machine guns, scared out of their wits. What a story Takami-san has dreamt up. What a story.

And the ending, too. Wow, if you thought The Hunger Games's ending was jarring, you will be totally unprepared for Battle Royale's. Takami-san wrote it with the flare of a pro, although I kind of want to punch him now...

The only thing I disliked were the gory scenes. Battle Royale was a lot more graphic than I'd imagined. So instead of puking up the contents of my stomach, I just skipped the paragraphs describing blood and bashed-in brains. The human imagination is always a lot more vivid than a movie scene. Normally, that's a good thing, but now, not so much.

I would say that I'm now a fangirl of Battle Royale, but given the book's subject matter, I don't think that'd be entirely appropriate. Apparently, Takami-san is writing (or has already written) a second novel. I must hunt it down.

*My first vacation in Europe!

Rating: 5
incomprehensibly awesome
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