Ok, I’m finally getting to read this book after checking it out from the library numerous times and having to give it back before I could even start it.
Too many books coming in at the same time. I have a reading problem and I have no shame about it.
So, I sit down on my lunch break to start this book (supposedly the Hunger Games was inspired by this, though the author claims she hasn’t read the book) and begin this story, fully prepared for the violence level I’ve read about in various reviews.
Or at least I thought I was.
Hence these posts.
I’ve decided to blog about every 5 chapters to share my thoughts as I go and to brain dump the Lord of the Flies, Handmaid’s Tale, Fahrenheit 451 level depression and House of a Thousand Corpses level violence in this book. If you would like to follow along with me, feel free.
Also, there may be spoilers for the book for those of you following along with me but not reading. And I will probably curse… A lot.
I watch a decent amount of random Japanese horror movies so I spy the trailer for Battle Royale the movie and figure the book is just as bad or worse. The summaries of both are enough to tell you this not a book about bunny snuggling, these kids are kidnapped, shackled with exploding collars, and told to fight to the death till only one is left. Then you win!
As of 5 chapters in, I am hooked. I cannot use the word “love” in terms of this book because the chain of thought that says “I love this book where random teens are getting killed!” just doesn’t seem right. But I am enthralled and curious enough to want to keep going despite how completely horrifying it is.
We meet Shuya Nanahara, an unassuming kid, on a study trip with the rest of his ninth grade class. He is very smart to sense something is wrong when he is on a bus full of kids that’s completely quiet. He passes out and wakes up in an unfamiliar classroom with a metal collar around his neck. As the kids slowly awaken, Kinpatsu Sakamochi walks in with some soldiers to announce they were the chosen class to participate in this year’s “Program.”
The kids know about the program, having known people who knew people who were chosen or seeing the broken and bloodied “winners” on TV, and are understandably scared out of their minds. The Program is used as a conscription system for the youth of this alternate universe, dystopian Japan to protect their country. To show he’s not freakin kidding, Sakamochi has the corpse of their former teacher, Mr. Hayashida (who didn’t want his class in this deathmatch), pulled in and a soldier pumps a few rounds into the corpse’s head to spray brain matter on the students in the front row.
As of right now, Sakamochi creeps me out to no end. We are not even 50 pages into the book when he smiles and drops that he raped another woman, school superintendent Mrs. Ano, who also thought “Gee, I would rather not have my students fight to the death.” as calmly as you would say “I went to Starbucks before work today.” My brain goes:
Yoshitoki Kuninobu, a childhood friend of Nanahara’s, has the proper reaction a person would have when hearing an adult you admired was hurt, flips out and threatens to kill Sakamochi.
This earns him a body full of Special Defense Forces bullets.
Noriko Nakagawa rushes to help her classmate and is shot in the leg for getting out of her seat without permission.
Fumiyo Fujiyoshi whispers as Sakamochi goes through the rules of the game and earns a knife in the forehead as punishment.
My jaw fell open and I was as dumbstruck as the remaining students in that room.
My fellow readers, this is no Hunger Games. I’ve seen the start to those; the kids in battle gear, training, trussed up and paraded in front of the masses before thrown to the woods to survive. But this… Two dead students and the game DIDN’T START YET.
A quick disclaimer: I have not seen The Hunger Games apart from the opening and some trailers so comparisons to that will officially stop here. I’ll watch the Battle Royale movie, then Hunger Games and (maybe) write up a comparison later.
For now? I’m a little scared to see the movie or continue to read the book. I have been told by friends who’ve read it to “Strap in.” As I leave the first five chapters with 40 of 42 students remaining all wearing explosive collars being told to write lines of “We will kill each other” and “If I don’t kill, I will be killed” I am chilled to the bone. I feel trapped along with them.
And how do I know how many kids are left? There’s a handy note at the end of each chapter so you can’t lose count.
How helpful. (/sarcasm)