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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


All You Need is Kill

Sakurazaka Hiroshi

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To purchase All You Need is Kill

Title: All You Need is Kill
Author: Sakurazaka Hiroshi
Genre: Novel
Written: 2004 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 196 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: All You Need is Kill - US
All You Need is Kill - UK
All You Need is Kill - Canada
All You Need is Kill - India
DVD: Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow - US
Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow - UK
  • Japanese title: All You Need is Kill
  • Translated by Joseph Reeder with Alexander D. Smith
  • Also published as Edge of Tomorrow in a film tie-in edition
  • Made into the film Edge of Tomorrow (2014) -- now on DVD as Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow -- directed by Doug Liman and starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt

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Our Assessment:

B+ : very well done

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       All You Need is Kill is, basically, a time-loop story, with the main character -- and narrator of most of the novel -- Keiji Kiriya, repeating the same day over and over; it is not a good day for him, since he invariably winds up getting killed in battle. The inherent danger of a time-loop story is that it gets ... well, repetitive -- but Sakurazaka (circum?)navigates this and much else in All You Need is Kill very well. Well enough, in fact, that the novel approaches classic-of-the-genre status, right up there with the 1993 film Groundhog Day (and certainly a few notches above the loose film adaptation of the novel, released in 2014 as Edge of Tomorrow).
       All You Need is Kill is set in some undefined near-future when the earth has been invaded by alien creatures from another world that are called 'Mimics'. They wreak devastation wherever they spread, poisoning the land and rendering it uninhabitable. Able to retreat and regroup in the oceans they seem to possess a primitive sort of intelligence, though they show no interest in communicating with mankind. They are certainly well-organized (on some level) and capable -- though far from invincible -- fighters. Slowly, inexorably they've taken over parts of the earth -- and now pose a threat to Japan. The government there has moved to Nagano, but Tokyo is still the vital economic engine for the country, and the Mimics are dangerously close to it. The international community has formed a United Defense Force, but in the current battles the Japanese have even asked for support from American Special Forces.
       The human fighters wear special 'Jackets' -- bodysuits and bodyarmor that also mechanically boost the wearer's strength, giving them a chance in the close-range combat against the Mimics that seems to be one of the only ways of defeating them.
       Keiji Kiriya is barely out of high school and still smarting over a failed romance. Joining the fight against the Mimics seemed like a good escape, but after six months basic training he realizes:

I now possessed a handful of skills that weren't good for shit in a real battle and six-pack abs. I was still weak, and the world was still fucked.
       He realizes that he's going to wind up as what amounts to cannon fodder for the Mimics. Except that when he finally goes into battle and does get himself killed it doesn't prove to be quite permanent: he wakes up the previous morning again and finds himself reliving the same day (something he does not immediately realize).
       Soon Keiji tries to take advantage of his situation, learning from experience. He trains, so that he's a better fighter, and, knowing where some of the dangers lie, he makes some headway in each battle -- but never quite enough.
       The one larger-than-life presence at the base is legendary American soldier Rita Vrataski, who has been the most impressive in an elite squad responsible for: "half of all the Mimic kills humanity had ever made" -- as many in just three years as: "the whole UDF put together had in the twenty years before". Keiji eventually teams up with her, as she turns out to have her own insight into what Keiji is experiencing, and can possibly help guide him to how to escape it -- and strike a blow against the Mimics
       Sakurazaka offers a decent twist to the explanation for the time-loops -- it's a bit forced, but, hey, there really aren't many scientifically reasonable explanations for time loops, and it does come with a nice twist to it, which also helps in the book's (not quite) resolution. The Mimics and their origin are also inspired ideas, the explanation of their origins and purpose a satisfying one. Their capabilities and form are also nicely handled by Sakurazaka, as he presents them as convincingly evil forces but doesn't go into too much detail, leaving much to the reader's imagination.
       Well-paced -- for a time-loop novel there is very little repetition, and Sakurazaka keeps the tension going (which is more important than keeping the action going) very well -- and well-conceived, All You Need is Kill is a superior piece of science fiction. Yes, the writing is uneven -- taut at its best, but occasionally drifting to the maudlin -- and, yes, the title is the worst (but: kudos to the English-language publisher, for sticking with what was the original (in-English-)Japanese title), but this is a good story and Sakurazaka impresses greatly in its execution.
       A good, fast read, with more payoff along the way than most thrillers or science fiction offer.

- M.A.Orthofer, 25 July 2015

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All You Need is Kill: Reviews: Edge of Tomorrow - the film: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Sakurazaka Hiroshi (桜坂 洋) was born in 1970.

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© 2015 the complete review

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