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A Reader of Fictions: Shankill Butchers - The Decemberists

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Shankill Butchers - The Decemberists

Battle Royale

Author: Koushun Takami
Pages: 617
Publisher: VIZ Media
Brief Summary:
In this alternative, dystopian history, most of Asia has been taken over by a crazy Dictator. Every year, third year junior high students (one class from each prefecture) are selected to take part in the Program. This year, Shuya Nanahara's class has been selected. Now, they have to kill one another. Forty two students left for a class trip and woke up in a classroom on an island. Only one may leave...alive.

Before there was The Hunger Games, there was Battle Royale, published in 1999. Having read and enjoyed Suzanne Collins' series, I really wanted to read this book to see just how similar they actually were. Certainly, she must have found some inspiration in this story; it seems unlikely that elements of her story are so similar without some familiarity with Battle Royale.

The Similarities:
  • Dictatorship running a rather stupid Program to prevent its people from getting uppity.
  • A character who has been through the game before, won and had to go back.
  • Hesitant romance between main characters.
  • Zones that become unsafe to force characters into conflict, rather than just hiding.
  • Announcements on a regular schedule revealing who has died.
  • The victor receives a more comfortable life and TV coverage after the Program ends.
The Differences:
  • Battle Royale is perhaps even more violent. The kids here get a whole lot of guns and there are almost double the number of kids that have to die.
  • Since they are fighting classmates, the kids know everyone, rather than just one other person.
  • There is no way to volunteer to go in someone else's place. If your class is chosen, you're screwed.
  • Battle Royale has a less clear ending.
  • Battle Royale follows all of the characters, not just one, so you know what is going through everyone's minds.
  • In The Hunger Games, you are eligible to participate from 12-18. In Battle Royale, you are eligible only when you are in the third year of junior high (equivalent to a high school freshman in the U.S.).
Battle Royale was definitely an interesting read. And I enjoyed it, in the way one can enjoy something as grisly and macabre as books about young folks killing one another at the behest of a scary government. The story was great. Unfortunately, the writing is not. What I don't know is whether it is as poorly written (seriously grammatically incorrect and awkward sentence structure) in Japanese or if it was poorly translated. The copy of the book I have is the first American edition I believe, so maybe the newer one has been better edited? I don't really know, but definitely watch out for that.

Hunger Games fans should not miss this. Next up for me: watching the live action movie.

"They used to be just like me and you
They used to be sweet little boys
But something went horribly askew"

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Blogger Owl In A Cloak said...

I tried reading it, because I thought it sounded more interesting than HG and, you know, the rumors. I just couldn't follow properly because of the point you mentioned " it was poorly translated". I'm giving it another try when my vacations start...

April 11, 2012 at 11:29 AM  

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