Book: Battle Royale

Hmm.

I read this because a few of my fellow book-clubbers were reading it (following reading The Hunger Games), and I was curious if it were somehow richer or more “authentic” (whatever that means) than The Hunger Games — operating, of course, under the impression that The Hunger Games must have been based in part on Battle Royale.

I’m not so sure about that, now that I’ve read it.

In some ways, the plot was much simpler than The Hunger Games: for unknown reasons, a fictional Japan-like Asian country (sometime in the near future) holds Programs. The point of the Program is for all the kids in a selected junior high school class (presumably most of whom have grown up together) are left on a deserted island and instructed to kill one another until there is one survivor. The rest of this fictional world is left unexplained, the reasons for this Program are only hinted at, and the personalities of the kids are not as deeply explored as in The Hunger Games (well, those of the main protagonists, that is).

It was certainly bloody and ruthless and bleak. In that sense, it was more “mature” than The Hunger Games. But I definitely enjoyed The Hunger Games more. Battle Royale was like watching a video game — how many more until they’re all dead? Will the various plots for escape happen? (no, of course not). In what manner will they die? The kids were supplied with various weapons of unequal worth. Some were given toy darts; others were given machine guns. The island was just an island. The element of fantasy was missing, and I guess that made The Hunger Games both more interesting and more palatable for me.

Battle Royale was good, but I lost track of many of the kids (they were not all that different from one another), and I didn’t find the plots for escape all that compelling. The ending was good, but I wasn’t really emotionally affected by it.

I know it’s a movie as well, and I bet the movie is violent and horrible and perhaps more compelling than the book. Is that awful of me? Oh well.

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6 thoughts on “Book: Battle Royale

  1. ugh. this sounds interesting but horrible. the hunger games was bad enough. i loved the trilogy but was in a dark place afterwards and im not looking to relive that anytime soon.

  2. James read and liked Battle Royale and told me it was harsh and violent. I’ve not read it or Hunger Games and don’t plan on reading either. Since Battle is a Japanese book written for adults and Hunger an American book written for teens it seems that while the plots are similar, the books themselves end up being very different. Maybe you can do a full-blown compare and contrast series of essays? ;)

    • I guess it was harsh and violent; the actual deaths were pretty quick, generally speaking, so I guess I didn’t find it that awful. I also thought that Battle was actually written for teens as well — some of the language and storyline was pretty simple (maybe lost in translation?). But yes, they ended up very differently… although on a similar trajectory, actually. Hmm. Perhaps a compare-and-contrast is in order!

  3. The cover of this one has attracted me in the bookstore but the story description has never made me want to read it. But then I haven’t read, and haven’t wanted to read, The Hunger Games either. And yes, I know I am missing out. Haven’t even seen the film though I will be “forced” to at some point as my wife has read the books and is wanting to see the movies despite my daughter’s disappointment with the film adaptation.

  4. Hmm. I enjoyed the HG a lot but hadn’t been tempted to read BR because it seemed too similar. Your review just reinforces my decision not to read it! :)

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