I don’t remember how, or when I first heard about, Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novella All You Need Is Kill, but I remember being super interested. The idea of a guy living the same day every day, fighting against an alien race sounded amazing. It’s basically groundhogs day in a sci-fi military action setting. I finally got a chance to check it out for the first time last year, and re-listened to the audiobook recently in preparation for the movie Edge of Tomorrow. It’s just as enjoyable now as it was the first time through, possibly even better.
The book starts out with our protagonist Keiji Kiriya, fighting the Mimics, an alien race invading the earth. Unfortunately for Keiji, he gets mortally wounded, but before he dies, he meets the “Full Metal Bitch” Rita Vrataski. Rita is considered a Goddess of the battlefield, with over 100 kills by herself in a single battle. It usually takes several people to take out 1 mimic, but Rita is skilled enough to do it on her own. As Keiji lays there about to die, Rita and Keiji are attacked by a group of Mimics. In an attempt to help Rita take them out, Keiji manages to kill a Mimic that’s seems a bit different than other Mimics. Killing this special Mimic has strange consequences in making Keiji relive this day repeatedly, no matter what Keiji does.
As this repeated hell continues Keiji decides that if he’s going to be stuck in this hell for all time, then he’s going to become the best killing machine he can. He trains with his squad leader every day to make himself the ultimate bad ass on the battlefield. He forgoes everything else in his life. He could do what Bill Murray does, and hook up with different girls, or learn about everyone, but he doesn’t. All he does it try to make himself a better killing machine, hence the title of the book.
While the story takes a mostly predictable path, it’s still a fun path to go down. There were a few things I wasn’t expecting. At some point the book stops following Keiji, and starts following Rita (she isn’t stuck in the time loop, it just shows you things from her perspective) and it gives you her backstory. One thing that was kind of surprising is that Rita is only 19 years old. She joined the military when she was 16, and was a killing machine from the beginning. She just got better over time. Another thing that wasn’t as predictable was the ending. While I won’t spoil it, the ending has me very torn. It’s very Japanese. For those that have watched a lot of Anime, or read a lot of Manga you will know what I mean. It’s by no means a happy go lucky ending. There is no way they would have put this type of ending in an American film.
If you have seen the trailers for Edge of Tomorrow and you think it looks interesting, you should definitely read this. The movie and the book are very different, but both are very good in their own way. Check back here tomorrow for a review of the film.