It’s over so fast, I almost flipped back a few pages to see if I had missed a chapter.
But no, I hadn’t missed anything. All You Need Is Kill sits you down, straps you in, and ignites a rocket strapped to your chair, and before you know it, you’ve finished, breathless and heart-stopping, palms sweaty and clammy.
All You Need Is Kill is the novel on which the forthcoming movie Edge of Tomorrow is based. With a cover that looks more like it belongs on the front of an anime-style graphic novel (in which I would have zero interest), I doubt I would have found it, let alone picked it up, but for hearing about it because of the film adaptation, starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. I saw Cruise’s Oblivian last summer and was pleasantly surprised to find a sleeper film that wasn’t a rehash/remake/sequel/prequel/spinoff to some other franchise.
But if it was based on a book, I reasoned, I’ve gotta read the book first.
Written in tight, gritty, and succinct scenes, Hiroshi Sakurasaka’s novel is about one man’s existential battle against an alien foe. Keiji Kiriya begins as one more green recruit destined to become cannon fodder against the seemingly numberless minions swarming Earth’s beaches. Within moments into his first battle, Keiji is dead…and waking up, back in his bunk, the day before the battle.
Repeat. And repeat again.
It’s like Groundhog Day, but with scaly, multilimbed, javelin shooting aliens and heavily armed soldiers in armored exoskeletons. Sakurasaka wastes little time, and you’re half way through the novel before you realize that you’ve haven’t taken a breath since who knows when.
And then Sakurasaka shifts the action, gives background, and lets you catch your breath before driving on for the second act.
If Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow fills in half of what Sakurasaka squeezes into the 230 pages of All You Need Is Kill, it’ll be a killer film. It’s why Sakurasaka is my new favorite Japanese writer, and I look forward to finding out if he repeats the feat that is All You Need Is Kill.
A couple caveats. Because the writing in All You Need Is Kill is tight and the story just long enough to hit the novel mark, there are some gaps in the character development. There’s only limited depth to either of the POVs presented, and then that POV is driven heavily by the plot. Also, Sakurasaka can also be occasionally crass and foul, and not necessarily in a manner that contributes to the story. Watch out for rough language.