When mysterious spiders attack their small beach town, the remaining surviving AI’s must battle to save what little that remains.
If I were to sum this up, I would describe this as if the minds behind Black Mirror re-wrote the ending to Wreck it Ralph. The book has you thinking about the nature of what an AI really is and what they are forced to do at the hands of human users.
The characters may be just in-game characters, but they have all the personality and depth, I got sucked into the world right away. I had so much fun reading this and I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes original cyberpunk stories. The action starts right up and doesn’t let up very often; making this book hard to put down. Beautifully written and tense, this was a great read. 4 out of 5.
After finishing this book AND reading the end interviews in the edition of the book I had, all I can say is… WOW. I did NOT expect a happy ending by any means but it’s been a long time since I’ve felt so satisfied by an ending. Reminder, thar be spoilers.
Noriko, Shuya and Shogo are still teamed up as the students around them battle one another or straight up implode. And by “implode” I am directly referring to the events which take place in the lighthouse; where Yukie Utsumi and her friends have hunkered down. Yukie is a great character, managing to wrangle five of her friends to ally with her; Yuka Nakagawa, Satomi Noda, Chisato Matsui, Haruka Tanisawa, and Yuko Sakaki. This group finds Shuya injured and nurse him back to (comparative) health. Yukie is in love with Shuya and convinced her friends to let him stay, albeit under lock and key. Who can blame them, really.
Yukie is the class representative, which in Japan means you are in charge of roll call, moderating meetings, and act as a liaison to the school counsel. She’s a natural, kind leader and you like her immediately. So, you pretty much know she’s gonna get dead.
Enter Yuko; a skinny, frightened thing who believes Shuya killed Tatsumichi in part one on purpose. If you recall, Tatsumichi came at Shuya, they fell down a hill, and the axe (Tatsumichi’s assigned weapon) ended up in Tatsumichi’s head in the struggle. Yuko was hiding in the bushes and this is the first death she sees upon fleeing the school building. As her little group is happily making stew with whatever happens to be left in the lighthouse, she gets it into her head that poisoning Shuya is the only option to protect herself and her friends. Yuko’s assigned weapon was a bottle of poison; some “half-transparent powder” that’s never identified.
See? Here’s the problem. She sprinkles the powder on the plate meant for Shuya and just sorta trusts in fate that nobody else will taste it. Yuka takes a bite, dies in twitching agony, which rightfully frightens the room full of hyper-stressed, paranoid, gun-toting teenagers. Hell, even if the poison made it to Shuya, the others would have been suspicious when his body started convulsing despite his wounds healing up.
Gee, Yuko, I can’t imagine why your plan didn’t work.
Accusations are made, shots are fired, and before you can say “Randomly spilling poison on shit is a bad idea,” Yuko is in a room full of dead girls.
When Shuya goes to investigate, Yuko continues to flip right the hell out and makes him chase her up to the top of the lighthouse where Shuya has to save her from falling from the ledge. As Shuya tries to save her at the expense of aggravating his injuries, she suddenly realizes she might have been mistaken in her assumptions and decides to let herself fall to die on the rocks below.
This scene is the most disturbing to me out of the whole frikking book. Things go so far south so quickly, you get mental whiplash; similar to at the beginning where all of a sudden two students are dead and the game haddn’t started yet.
I’m not gonna take you through every death at this point. Suffice it to say Kiriyama runs amok til it’s just him and our favorite trio remaining. The final battle between our three intrepid survivors and Kiriyama is fantastic. I was chewing my lip as I read. You got a gun battle, car chase, explosions, and the final glorious moment when Kiriyama finally is out of the picture.
Shuya isn’t happy about having to really buckle down and kill someone but Kiriyama was a legit psycho. There was no reason, no rhyme, no pattern to Kiriyama’s behavior. Other’s could have been reasoned with to a certain extent, but with Kiriyama it was truly kill or be killed.
As for the end? Shogo, you ingenious bastard you. Turns out he was researching the collars since the last time he got trapped by this game and not only knew they were wired for sound, but how to disable and remove them. He fakes out Noriko and Shuya and gives himself up as the winner to Sakamochi. All of this is a plan to get Noriko and Shuya on the boat with him so they can take it over and escape. It’s a great plan and Sakamochi (if EVER a character needed to die) is killed by Shogo. Sadly, Shogo doesn’t survive long after the three of them take the boat.
The ending is exactly what you would expect from a totalitarian government that would make such a game in the first place; effortless spin. According to the government, Shuya and Noriko killed the winner of the game – Shogo – and the honorable government employee – Sakamochi – and are both branded as traitors and wanted fugitives. They vow to bring down a system where it’s acceptable to put kids in death games and make them murder their friends.
We end with the pair running from the cops. Two students remaining. “But of course they are a part of you now.”
After the brutal events in part one, I don’t expect part two to be any lighter or less gruesome. It’s basically a free for all. The game is in full swing and the students are dropping like flies. The two main plot points here are Noriko Nakagawa and Shuya Nanahara teaming up with Shogo Kawada – a veteran of this game – and Shinji Mimura teaming up with Yutaka Seto to try and hack the system and bring the game down.
Noriko’s gunshot wound from the beginning gets infected; as it should considering they are all in the middle of nowhere with no access to proper medical care. The bulk of their time consists of evasion and Shuya and Shogo trying to find medicine and a place for Noriko to rest. They encounter students and try to get them to join their merry band, but to no avail. Just as well since the three of them seem to travel pretty quickly and work together well.
Shinji manages to find a laptop and tries to hack into the computer system running the island. When it fails because their collars are wired for sound and Sakamochi heard the whole plan and shut them down, Shinji and Yutaka try to find a way to bomb the central location where Sakamochi and his crew are running the whole thing. This fails because Kazuo Kiriyama shows up with his machine gun and kills both boys.
Mitsuko is in rare form, too, popping off former friends and any random person she happens to come across. I have to say, she is the character to despise right now. She’s a ruthless, manipulative, liar, who has no care for anyone but herself. She shoots the injured Takako Chigusa after Takako bravely survives a brush with Kazushi Niida. Mitsuko is another character who seems to just have needed a forum like The Program to allow her to take her crappy behavior from before it into a larger stage. If they weren’t such obvious sociopaths, I’d say Mitsuko and Kazuo would make a very lethal team in this game. Let’s hope they’re both too crazy to realize this.
Confused by the names? Yeah, me too. It’s not like we get a lot of character time with these kids. Just a couple pages to get a general idea of what they were like before they came to the island (a track star, a delinquent, a martial artist, a rocker) then BAM! Gone.
Shuya is thankfully less “we can save everyone” as this part concludes. Who can blame him, really? He’s grabbing allies wherever he can, very aware of the nutjobs around the island who are participating in the game. This is a thought process I can get behind; hopeful but practical.
This book reads really fast and since some chapters are really short (as in a page and a half, short) I found myself at the end of part one fairly quickly.
As such a book suggests, once the killing gets started, it keeps going fairly quick. Noriko Nakagawa and Shuya Nanahara escape together after Nanahara manages to escape the school building without being shot with a crossbow by Yoshi Akamatsu, who shot Mayumi Tendo as she exited the school. Kazuo Kiriyama lured out all the members of his little gang and killed them one by one. Sakura Ogawa and Kazuhiko Yamamoto; “the school’s No. 1 couple” decide there’s no way they can do this and commit suicide together. Megumi Ito tries to call out for help with a phone her parents gave her but reaches Sakamochi instead. Sakamochi calls the phone, exposes Megumi to Mitsuko Souma – the class bully – and Mitsuko tricks Megumi into a hug before slitting her throat with a sickle.
Because why shouldn’t there be a sickle…
Now, I expect these kids to participate in the game or optout like the couple. It’s not how fast these kids turn into monsters that surprises me, its how many of them already were. Kazuo doesn’t feel a damn thing as he shoots all the boys who looked up to him and Mitsuko produces tears on demand to get close enough to kill Megumi. It seems the novel operates on the same concept as Crossed (don’t get me started on that one) and The Purge (which isn’t out yet but it still applies): people are just one law – or virus like in Crossed – away from complete fucking anarchy because deep down inside, we are all monsters. If you aren’t a monster yet, you’re gonna become one to defend yourself.
Aside for my soapbox, it is really hard to tear myself away from this book; save for the brain saving breaks to look at cute puppies and kittens to get my faith in life back. But there was one part that really gave me pause. Nakagawa and Nanahara stop to rest after fleeing the building and realize something: how well do they really know their classmates? How well to YOU know the people you go to school with or work with every day?
I remember the valedictorian at my high school graduation saying how we were all one great big family. The first time I heard her name was right before she made that speech. Hell, I didn’t even know the person I was sitting next to because we were in alphabetical order. They recognize me on the street now and I couldn’t remember their names if you… Well, if you strapped exploding collars around our necks and told us to fight to the death. It baffles me how they know who I am since we were never friends or spoke once in those 4 years.
Four years in the same school and I have no clue who that person is and they certainly don’t know me.
Nanahara’s naive statement of “We’re all classmates. We could never do this.” is defeated pretty early on. If it continues, I will be disappointed because how many of your classmates bodies do you have to step over to realize you’re wrong? Hell, in the last year of my life, I’ve learned you can be betrayed by ANYONE. Has that made me a monster? No. But it has certainly made me less naive.
However, the screaming guy on the roof with a crossbow? He’s probably out to get you.
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.
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.