Between the Covers: Stories from My Bookcase

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

It is both thumbs up for this book, Battle Royale.

Set in a different kind of Japan, the Republic of Greater East Asia, the 42 students of a junior class from Shiroiwa Junior High School find themselves the main players in what their country has known to be The Program.

They were all happy to go on a class trip, but one by one they fall asleep while on the bus. When they awake they are in a classroom much like their own. Seated in order of their class number. But the teacher isn’t somebody they know. He tells them that the class has been chosen for the program, and their families have been notified. Before long, they see the corpse of their teacher, and two of them get killed. Later still, they leave the school grounds and must decide for themselves how to play the game.

The story is told mostly in the point of view of Shuya Nanahara. A star athlete in his Little League days, and apparently the class heartthrob. Throughout the book I kept wishing that his little group does finally hook up with Shinji Mimura. With them together, and counting Shogo’s all-around amazingness at the game, they are unbeatable.

I can see why the novel has been compared to Lord of the Flies, and also The Hunger Games. Unlike The Hunger Games though, these students had no opportunity to train or prepare for what was going to happen. They had no foreknowledge that soon, they will have to kill their classmates. Each student, upon exiting the school, was given a random day pack. Each pack contained food and water, and a weapon. No black diamond poles to help them with trekking, nothing that would help them gather more food. Cellphones didn’t work. Although there were residential areas on the island, no one was left to ask help from. Everyone was evacuated.

It was very interesting and not at all surprising to find that students reacted differently to their situation. Being a relatively nice person wasn’t guarantee that the person wouldn’t kill another. It is also very true though, if we can’t trust others, then there is just not much to go on with.

I’d love to see the movie version, but I can’t help to be a bit scared of it though. While reading, I imagined the scenes, and they were bloody for the most part. But it would be nice to see the tender moments between the main protagonists too.