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Book Review: All You Need Is Kill

G D Penman By G D Penman Published on April 21, 2016

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All You Need Is Kill is a Japanese light novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka that was brutally mutilated into Tom Cruise's latest scifi blockbuster “The Edge of Tomorrow.” As with most of Hollywood's output the protagonist mysteriously transformed from being Japanese born Keiji Kiriya into painfully white American William Cage. I am not getting into whitewashing. I am going to pretend that the film doesn't exist and just talk about the book. I don't have enough time to explain all of the ways that the adaptation ruined what was wonderful and unique about this story.

In the world of All You Need Is Kill earth has been invaded, not by aliens but instead by an alien terraforming technology deployed to translate the earth's ecology into one that will support the technology's originators when they eventually get around to actually sending a colony ship. The technology deployed encounters resistance in the form of Earth's current residents and a multi-generation long war has ensued. The alien nano-technology has formed into a semi mechanical race known as Mimics after they adopted the most efficient form that they could find on earth to wage war against humanity, the shape of a starfish. The Mimics are wonderfully alien both in appearance and behaviour but as the second part of the technology that makes them so efficient is revealed their patterns become more and more transparent. But that is getting ahead of ourself.

Keiji Kiriya is a fresh recruit in his very first battle and like most fresh recruits with only minimal training he dies fairly promptly. Then he wakes up again in his bed the previous day. The majority of the story from then on follows the formula of the “Groundhog day” loop. Where each time he dies he is returned to the same point in time to relive the day again over and over. His initial response to realising this is one of my favourite moments in modern fiction. He says “Nope,” gets up and walks in the opposite direction until events conspire to kill him all over again. Eventually he perfects his repetitions of the day and the battle, improving his skills each loop until he is on par with the greatest fighter in the special forces. Unfortunately it quickly becomes clear that he is not the only one in the loop. He is in fact inside the Mimic's time loop. Their technology allows them to transmit information a short distance into the past and each time their army is defeated they simply send information back to avoid that outcome.

I will not spoil the major relationship that Keiji forms within the loops or the emotional backbone of the story that makes it so compelling, nor will I spoil the perfect cruelty of the ending. Light novels are not terribly long and this one is well worth the short time that it will take you to read it. Assuming that upon finishing it that you don't flick to the start and read it all over again. And again. And again.

G.D. Penman writes about queer monsters for a living. He is the author of Call Your Steel, The Year of the Knife, Heart of Winter, Apocrypha and many other books. He is also a full-time freelance ... Show More

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