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Temporal Instability

Lose yourself in the twists and bends of time and reality with just some paper and some ink.

Battle Royale

Battle Royale - Koushun Takami, Yuji Oniki Since my earliest youth I have weird vivid and recurring nightmares. One theme is being hunted for sport, having to find and kill my friends or be killed. Not long ago I finally dared to read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It fit in with my dreams, and that was disconcerting. But it was an elegantly written book that made you think. I liked it (the first one) I really did. It did give me some kind of 'closure' or 'background' to my dreams, even though that may sound strange. So when I found out that people where mentioning this book, Battle Royale, and that it looked way too much like The Hunger Games, I wanted to read it. And I liked it, a lot. But let's discuss that.

The bad:
1. Translation
This books translation is awfull. I hope that there will be a re-issue after The Hunger Games movie has aired. A re-issue translated by someone who can actually translate the language, idiom and such, instead of merely skimming around the edges. At times I thought Google Translator could have done a better job! Clumsy, weird choice of wording etc. It felt very unnatural at times.
So, it may be that the translation is in fact accurate and the late-writer was a half-illiterate with a publisher that didn't employ any editors or QA at all, or the translation is rubbish. Call me crazy, but I go for the latter.

2. Guts and G(l)ory
While this book is about the guts a winner of a cruel game like this one must have, it is mostly about the guts of the other players being splattered around the pages. It is one of the most gory books I've ever read. A spatter-movie in book-form. It serves a purpose and you have to view this in a cultural context (Japanese, directed at young adults) but I think it's too much. My taste is much more refined than this, and weren't it for the great storytelling, I wouldn't have liked the book at all. Now this isn't because I can't stand a drop of blood or suspense in a book. Books by Bridget Wood are for instance much more cruel and devious. But they splatter less.
A good horror movie usually is good because of abstainance of excessive gore and blood, and clever use of psychological suspense.
That is what this book lacked. The author went for quantity instead of quality in the violence department.

3. The names
Oooookay, call me an ignorant western world biased reader, but I had a hard time at the very beginning with the names. I've read a lot of books based in Japan, but come on... Yuko, Yuka, Yuki and Yukie as seperate names, most of them in the same scenes?? I had a laughing fit when I started to read the lighthouse scene. When it should've been poignant. Surely even Japanese names can have more variation to them? I really understand why the studentnumbers are necessary ;-) It's way easier to remember the numbers.

The Good
1. The Story
The author plunges you almost directly into the story, and this is a good thing. There are too many people in the story at the beginning, too many alike-sounding names. Too much pre-game-story-building would have turned me off the book.
So instead it plunges you right into the game.
The story is fast-paced and gives most of the players some background. This is nice. In The Hunger Games, everthing is so black-and-white. Katniss is good, the rest of the world outside District 12 is bad. Everyone of the contestants is out there to win against all costs.
Here in BR it's different. Almost every contestant gets a bit of backstory, explaining the persons behavior. Even the cruellest become a little bit more human, understandable. They are not excuses from their deeds, but the readers knows now why they are/act as they do/are. It makes them human.

2. Thoughtprovoking
And that is what this story is all about. Humanity. How do humans react in a horrible situation like this: trapped on an island, having to kill oneother or be killed. They are friends, they are children. Not many of us would refuse to play the game. I know I would play, if it meant a tiny chance of seeing my family again. I would loose ;-) but I would try.
We humans are no angels. Extreme situations bring out the worst ánd best in us. Unfortunately, the worst is usually the strongest.

This book, and others like it, stay with you. They permeate your thought when shopping, going outside, among other people. They make you think. Not only about the game and the contestants, but also (and more importantly) about the government. Panem et circenses, bread and games, is with todays media saturation more than ever a hot topic to be aware of. What do we sacrifice for cheap entertainment? What are we willing to accept for entertainment? What are we willing to accept for our own simple wellbeing? What are we willing to ignore as long as we have our entertainment?

This book caused a lot of unrest in Japan after it's release, more so after the movie came out. Japan is a troubled country, with an entire generation of youths spinning out of control. Having to resort to extreme measures like something like this game, may have been a real option, in a parallel universe. We see it in our 'reality shows', the lust for more and more extremes. The need to be more shocking, more real, more dramatic than the last show. The need of the media to control the population through fear. Almost everyhing on tv is about fear. It's there to both entertain and control. This is even more true on Japanese tv than on American.

I'm afraid we aren't far from seeing the first kill-shows on tv. And like the romans of yore, most of the people would only demand more blood. And gore. And guts. The stringy bits.

Hello copycat
Well, I have to confirm that Suzanne Collins really copied a lot of this book. When you've read both, it's hard to miss the the similarities.
It is more than just the premise. She can spin a beautiful story about being inspired by watching tv and greek mythology. Alright, I could swallow that. I did, actually, untill I read this book.
Everything is here, with some variation. Everyting in the first two books relates to elements in this one book. Even the leg wound and (suspicion of) sepsis, the bom, the return of a former winner, the forming of groups, the strung wire across a large span of land for escaping the game, and more . It's undeniable, and the fact that she tries to deny ever having read this book or seen the movie, is unbeleavable to me.
It isn't an exact copy and from the half of the book it diverges a bit more. And, and this is important, The Hungergames has an entire different feel about it. It feels more polished, focusses on the future and media-influence instead of just government. It has more romance (however hollow that became in books 2 and 3) and is a real 'hollywood' novel. It also has a lot less violence and erm well splattered guts.
I like both of them, they complement each other. Reinforce one message. Which message that is, can differ form person to person.

I really liked this book. Will I re-read? I don't know. Probably not. It doesn't really have re-readability quality, like eg. Steven Eriksons books. But it is a book that will remain with you for the rest of your life.