Book Review: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Photo grabbed from Wikipedia

It was through a classmate whom I first knew about it this book. I heard this classmate telling its story to my other classmate and right there, I knew I had to find the book and read it. The story just intrigued me, and so I made a vow to find a copy of it no matter how hard it might be, until at last, I found it at a bookstore in Cubao.

In the Greater East Asia where dictatorship defines the government, fifty third year junior high school classes are selected every year to play a Program set by the government. Each class is placed in a deserted island where students are forced to kill each other until only one is left standing. And these students, even their parents or guardians, cannot resist, or else, they’ll be punished.

But what’s the reason for this? It’s so that when the face of the winner is broadcasted on national television, people who are watching will feel that they can never trust anyone and will thus prevent them from forming a coup d’ eat against the government.

It’s sick, right? But as absurd as it may be, even if it was criticized as a “violent exploitation” when first published in Japan in 1999, it became a bestseller and was translated in English in 2003. A film and a manga were also made based on this piece.

All 616 pages of the novel shows where trust ends. The students, who are just a day ago sitting inside the same classroom and most of them call each other friends, are to kill each other using the weapons given to them the next day. And they can’t resist because doing so will end their own lives.

By reading about 42 students, one may think that it will be hard to remember who’s who, but no, each character is distinctly portrayed from each other that you can clearly keep in mind each of them.

Maybe it’s because of it being a mere translation, but the language used in the novel doesn’t have figures or in other words, it lacks creativity, not like the others I’ve read. It’s so straight forward with the description that it’s literally just narrating to the readers what is happening. But maybe, the author’s being uncreative in the use of the language is a style in itself to show how dire the situation of the students is.

In the end, I give this novel five stars.

If you’re up for suspense and thriller like myself, Battle Royale is must read for you. You’ll find yourself turning from page to page with excitement as to what’s going to happen next (that is, if you’re willing to disregard the absurdity of the Program’s rationale).

*Originally posted in my Multiply in 2008

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