It’s time for Throwback Thursday, ScienceFiction.com’s ongoing column dedicated to the great science fiction of the past, and what we have for you is a real blood bath. How much of a blood bath? Well, let’s just say that out of forty-two characters, only two survive… so… yeah. That’s enough blood to take a few baths in.
‘Battle Royale’ is set in futuristic police state called the Republic of Greater Asia (i.e, it’s an alternate history conception of Japan), where students are regularly kidnapped and whisked away to complete military tests. And by military tests, I mean kill-each-other-until-only-one-remains sort of tests. But look on the bright side, if you are the last one standing, you get a lot of money! Of course, the real reason for the Battle Royale is that the government uses it to terrorize its citizens, and to keep them divided so they will not rebel, but we aren’t really supposed to know that.
If this sounds like ‘The Hunger Games’ to you, ScienceFiction.com has done a very in-depth article on the similarities and differences between the two books which you can find here.
‘Battle Royale’ is interesting in that, while it has three main characters, it focuses on all the lives and deaths of the 42 students who are sent to an island in order to annihilate one another. And I think it’s precisely that which leads to its appeal. After all, the book was so popular it was turned into a manga, then a movie, and has been translated into practically every language around the world. Instead of just one hero to save the day, it highlights each and every student as an individual, making their deaths even more poignant, from the lovers who commit suicide together so they do not have to kill or be killed, to the girls who hole up together to better their chances of survival but let paranoia destroy them. It’s a very a real look at the human condition, and a horror story of what governments are capable of if citizens don’t take the risk to rebel. In short, it’s a risky novel, and the risk paid off.
Some of you may think that 40 deaths is a lot to read, and I understand. It takes a lot of emotional strength to get through the book, but there are three characters to root for, which somehow makes the book more livable. One thinks that as long as Shogo (a past winner, and dissident), Shuya (a bass player whose Uncle was killed for being a dissident), and Noriko (the crush of Shuya’s best friend) are alright, then everything will be okay. I mean, that’s only half right, but it’s right enough.
Still, it’s a very good story, even if it’s long. It has a easy prose that is short and to the point, and an array of storylines to keep you on the edge of your seat. So if dystopia is your thing, I would suggest reading ‘Battle Royale’ as soon as you can.