Update on My Reading of Battle Royale by Koushun Takami.
I wish I could say I’m further into the book than I am. The thing is about 600 pages, and I’m at page 300. The kids and I came down with a bad cold, and when one of my kids is sick, he will not leave me alone. He will follow me into the bathroom and hang on the shower door, being as loud as possible while he swings back and forth on it. Usually, he won’t do this, but when he has a cold, I guess he likes to be with me. Needless to say, this makes reading nearly impossible so the book has been on hold. (My husband, by the way, has managed through this whole time without getting sick. Lucky.)
….Possible spoilers below…
Anyway, I can give my initial impressions of the book. When I read the first chapter, I realized there was a lot of info dumping. I didn’t know any of the characters yet, but I was told about this student and that student, etc. I don’t know why the author did this, nor do I know the author to ask him about it. There wasn’t enough time to establish a connection with any of these characters yet to care who was doing what or what the main character thought about any of them. I suspect the author wrote this while either in the middle of the book or at the end of it. (I don’t know for sure. I’m just speculating.)
I’m going to wait until I’m done with the book then I’ll go back reread that chapter because at that time, the characters will be familiar to me, and the chapter will mean something to me. I will admit, I skimmed through some of that chapter to get to the good stuff. I only kept reading because I knew there would be the moment where all the students realized they were going to have to fight each other until there was only one left alive. But had it not been for the premise and the fact that the next chapter started off at the “good point”, I would have stopped reading. Being as slow as I am with reading books, I don’t keep going past (what I consider) two consecutive boring chapters. With this book, that was the only chapter that didn’t hold my interest. But, I suspect when I do reread it, this is a chapter that just might have the biggest impact because of everything that happens later in the book.
So far, this book has been an awesome one. There are three main characters, and I do find myself rooting for them, even though I suspect the one is going to die because I’ve been told ahead of time that one boy and the girl end up together. This boy is the primary one telling the story. We are given other characters’ points of view throughout the book, but we always come back to him. I’m not even going to try naming these characters because I’d probably spell them wrong. Suffice it to say, the main characters are a boy (Boy 1), a girl, and another boy (Boy 2). Boy 1 is the character we get to know what he’s thinking and feeling about everything, and he’s the one who ends up with the girl.
So far, I haven’t been given the girl or Boy 2’s points of view. That is probably done on purpose because Boy 2 is a mystery. I can’t help but wonder about his motives. Of course, this is a good technique. I love it when there’s one character you wonder about. Is this a good or bad guy? What is his motive? I know what he’s saying, but what is he really thinking? These types of characters are often the most interesting in any story because they aren’t black or white. They’re a mix of gray, and gray makes you wonder. Boy 2, as it turns out, has survived one of these programs in the past, and that makes the story even more intriguing.
But while the three main characters are hiding out and trying to survive, the author weaves in what is happening to the other characters on this island. While I was reading through some reviews on this book, I was prepared for this, so it didn’t throw me off when this happened. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of this technique. The Hunger Games book is only given in one person’s point of view. This book, on the other hand, gives you many characters’ points of view, even that of the bad guy.
There was some criticism for this technique, but I actually like it. In a situation like this, you would run into different personalities, so there would be several ways to respond to a situation where you’re told, “Kill your classmates or risk being killed by them.” Would you do it? Would you try to get your classmates together and form an escape plan? Would you hide out and wait until you’re the last one standing? These questions are what these characters are answering. Based on their personalities, they choose different options, just as you’d see in real life.
This is not a “happy” book. It’s really quite brutal, revealing the darkest potential in the human heart. Some characters are taking the offensive and killing their classmates, and some are those they once called friends. In some ways, it’s heartbreaking because you’re investing time into a few good characters who are going to die, and you watch them die, knowing full well they have to based on the premise of the book. There are a couple characters you don’t mind seeing die, like those who I’m sure we weren’t supposed to be rooting for anyway.
I think that’s why the main characters’ story keeps weaving in and out of the rest of this. It gives the reader a centering point to go back to. These are the characters you end up really rooting for. I’ve been trying to guess how Boy 1 and the girl will end up together (and alive), but I really have no idea how it’s going to happen. The bad guy can hear them and see what they’re doing (just like they did in the Hunger Games). But unlike the Hunger Games, each student is given a collar around their neck that can explode at any time, and the students can’t remove them. So yeah, there are some major obstacles our main characters have to overcome.
I look forward to seeing how it all plays out and will report what I think when I’m done.