Title: Battle Royale
Author: Koushun Takami
Release Date: February 26, 2003
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
In this dystopian novel comparable to The Hunger Games, a group of teenagers are forced by their government to kill each other.
I have to admit – when my book club chose Battle Royale as our January pick, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. While I enjoyed The Hunger Games and I knew that Battle Royale was supposed to be comparable (many said that Suzanne Collins got her idea from this novel), it was long, and I had heard it was really violent. But about a week before our book club, I buckled down and started reading it. And I have to say, I was really surprised to say that while it wasn’t the best novel, I did definitely like it.
After reading Battle Royale, I’m a bit surprised at its constant comparison to The Hunger Games, just because they are so different. Yes the basic premise of a bunch of people thrown into a situation where they are forced by others to kill one another is the same. But the details are so different. I don’t want to go into it in depth, and thus ruin either The Hunger Games or Battle Royale, but don’t feel like just because you’ve read one, you understand the other. They are very different books.
I did have some trouble with the names in Battle Royale (for example, keeping the characters of Yukiko and Yumiko straight was hard), and the translation was really atrocious. The language was choppy and it seemed to be a direct translation, so that there was no finesse. Additionally, there were pronoun errors which were frustrating. The violence wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting, but it was definitely there. It was easy to skim these paragraphs, though, so it didn’t bother me.
This entire novel really is a psychological one. It’s clear that the government forces people to play the game because they want to control them through fear. The characters in the book are never quite sure who is playing the game and who isn’t. Many don’t believe that people they’ve known for years could actually start killing, and it leads to tragic consequences. It really immerses the reader in the story, making them wonder what they would do in the given situation.
I did wish that there had been more exploration of the world that Battle Royale is set in. Almost the entire book takes place on the island where the game is going on, so everything we know about the dystopia is from the discussion that the characters have over the course of the novel. I would have been very interested to learn more, but at the same time, I don’t think I would have wanted anything to add to the novel’s heft! Still, the pages really do fly by in this book – it does not seem like it’s as long as it is.
I thought Battle Royale was a very interesting and thought provoking book. It made a great book club selection because we were so divided on it – some of us loved it and some of us hated it! If you’re interested in dystopian novels, this one is definitely not to be missed.