Battle Royale - Koushun Takami

In the Republic of Greater East Asia, randomly selected third-year junior high students are abducted and placed on a remote island with one objective, fight to the death and come out the victor. When Shuya Nanahara's class departs for a field trip and wakes up on the island he realises he has to fight for survival and save as many of his friends as he can.

Battle Royale is a classic cult novel from the late 90s that is said to have been the inspiration behind 'The Hunger Games' and it's clear to see why. The concept is very similar but Battle Royale depicts a lot of violence and gore which makes it more suitable for an older audience. If you are looking for something with more grit this is definitely something for you, it encapsulates the exact feeling of horror and fear you'd expect of children being put in this situation and it doesn't hold back when the requirement of "blood and guts" was put forward. I had anticipated that Takami wouldn't focus on every student (with a total of 42 individuals it might get confusing) but as we progressed there was an explanation, a backstory, and a connection to each teenager that added complexity to the novel, making it deeper and more emotional than first perceived.

Whilst the size of this publication might put some people off I can guarantee you'll find something you enjoy. I wanted short snappy chapters and this had it, I wanted more depth than 'The Hunger Games' offered and I got it. 'Battle Royale' didn't create an almost fantasy-based dystopia, it was just a slight change in history leading to a totalitarian state where our current Japan resides making the situation more believable. By making 'Battle Royale' a believable alternate reality Takami creates a world of characters that we genuinely care about, and personally (spoilers ahead) I was heartbroken to read Shinji die. Takami's ability to generate these emotions during a gruesome story is brilliant, it's easy to see how this became a cult classic.

Conspiracy to deceive was a running worry for our key three characters; Kawada, Shuya, and Noriko. They struggled to make decisions based on their lack of trust and when the final twist popped up I was honestly shocked, had we gone through all of this for nothing? But, Takami, take a bow! The epic conclusion of Battle Royale left me flummoxed and for the first time in a long time, I needed time to recover from a book.

Closing out the year with such an outstanding read was perfect (I finished this on New Year's Eve). After the disaster that was 2020, I think it was incredible to have this 600-page beast be a five-star read!

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