All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurakzaka
“He died in battle . He was reborn in victory“.
In the film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray repeatedly wakes up and re-lives the same 24hrs over and over again. Each time the cycle repeats, he learns another valuable lesson about his life. All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurakzaka has a similar premise but instead of being set in Punxsutawney it is set on the muddy battlefields of Japan in the midst of a future war.
Alien creatures called Mimics have landed and are attempting to invade Earth. Slowly they are attacking each country trying to discover where humanities weak points lie. Keiji Kiriya is a fresh faced solider who is starting to panic at the thought of his first impending battle. He has never experienced war. He has no idea of what to expect or how to react. His worst fears are confirmed and shortly after the battle begins he is killed only to re-awake back in the army base where he is forced to relive the build up to his death once more. Keiji quickly comes to realise he is trapped in time and no matter how he tries to escape destiny he will always end up on the battlefield.
We also get to see the battle from the perspective of an American female soldier called Rita Vrataski, known by all around her as the Full Metal Bitch. Rita is the quintessential warrior. She and her colleagues are battle hardened veterans and seem to be the polar opposite of Keiji and his friends. As Keiji relives the battle over and over again, trying to discover a way forward, Rita becomes the only fixed constant in his world.
Where this novel excels is by taking a concept that many readers will already be familiar with, in this case time travel, and adding an interesting new wrinkle. Instead of going forward or back in time great distances, the main protagonist is trapped in the same time period, forced to continue reliving the same moments indefinitely.
I was really pleased when I heard that All You Need is Kill has had the movie rights optioned. Though the story takes place in a small geographical area it reads as epic in scale, certainly something that would translate as a real spectacle on the movie screen. My initial excitement for a movie was somewhat dampened however, when I then read that the character of Keiji is going to be ‘Americanized’. This is a great shame as some of the central concepts of the novel will be lost due to changes in nationality. There is an old samurai principle that is mentioned in the novel, ‘Kiri-oboeru’ which means to strike down your enemy and learn. This sort of detail will become irrelevant if the character is no longer Japanese.
Another concern, while trying to avoid spoilers, is that the book ends on a bittersweet note. I do hope this isn’t changed for the film adaption. I would much rather see a faithful adaption on screen than a schmaltzy saccharin sweet Hollywood happy ending.
The novel isn’t terribly long, only around two hundred pages, so it’s a quick read. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys their science fiction full of action but with in-depth characterization.