Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale is a classic horror novel about high school students being thrown onto an island by a totalitarian government and forced to kill each other until only one is left. I knew I had to read it. Although I think the timing is off. After this, the similar Hunger Games (whose author believably said that the similarities were a coincidence), and an entire popular genre of “one shall survive” video games like Fortnite and PUBG, it’s not as out-there as it would have been at the time.
One area that did not slow the gory book down is the translation, which is at the very least sufficient. The writing style, regardless of language, conveys the action very well.
However, the book is still kind of flawed. And I’d argue that there’s two main reasons. The first is that the setting is so dark that it’s hard to care about anyone, since even if their class had avoided “The Program” in the first place, it would be unlikely that they’d come to a happy end in such a ruthless state. The second is that the book is just too long for its premise.
It has the substance of a fairly short cheap thriller, which it still is in spite of its pretensions-which are a little too prominent. I had to groan at the main characters suddenly dipping into “As you know, Bob…” setting exposition at the worst possible moments. Not the book’s finest hour. Anyway, there’s a good 200 page novel there, but it’s 600 pages. And the bulk of those pages consist of kills that probably should have happened offscreen, so we could focus on the real protagonists.
That being said, I’m still glad I read this book. But it’s very much a “mean 51%”. And that’s fine!