Humble Book Review: Battle Royale

I’ll just get this out of the way from the beginning – yes, I had read the Hunger Games trilogy before this, and yes, there are similarities that run so deep, it’s almost impossible that Suzanne Collins had not at least subconsciously borrowed elements from Battle Royale.

Although you might think the similarities are endless, many of them are smaller details in comparison to the overall narrative. Each book has it’s own style and target audience. Personally, I found Battle Royale to be a fast-paced and thrilling read, more aligned to what I really wanted in a totalitarian-run free-for-all.

Battle Royale, by Koushun Takami, is the story of a class of 42 Japanese high school students who, as part of the totalitarian government’s terrifying program, have been kidnapped and shipped to a small island against their will. It is this setting where they will be each given a map, food, a random weapon, and an explosive collar attached to their necks. They have been told to kill their classmates – and friends – in order to survive. If they choose not to, those explosive collars could detonate. In the end, only one student can be the sole survivor and deemed the winner, allowed to return to society.

Upon frantically running away from the starting point into every direction, the students are faced with an ethical dilemma beyond their years: do they “play the game” and increase their individual chances of survival? Do they attempt to trust their classmates and band together to increase their odds of finding a way out of the system? Or do they choose not to participate in killing at all?

Each choice; constantly moving or hiding, becoming a killer or a pacifist, to trust or to distrust; these are crucial decisions each of the 42 students need to answer quickly.

First of all, it must be said that with 42 students in the mix, a potential reader might be dissuaded with trying to juggle so many characters. However, the author had chosen to stick with 2 major protagonists, and around 3 or 4 major groups to check in with from time to time. Your head won’t be spinning with trying to remember names, but what this novel does extremely well, is flesh out each of the characters adequately. None of the characters are clones of each other, they are all unique and interesting with their personalities and actions.

Unfortunately, because of the nature of the game, the more you get to know the characters, the sadder you’ll become since according to the rules, there can be only one survivor. These high stakes urge you to fly through the pages to see how your favourites fare against the more cruel students.

Secondly, George R R Martin ain’t got nothing on the death count per page here. You need to be aware that not all of the students will make it out alive. Hell, two students don’t even make it out of the briefing room due to the overzealous and egotistical program manager Sakamochi. It is because of these reasons that you’ll find yourself heavily invested in the outcome – will the students either escape, or defeat the program itself?

Perhaps the only let-down for me is the writing style. Due to it being a translation from a Japanese author, the novel suffers from an inevitable sense of awkwardness. Metaphorical language is practically non-existent, and it sometimes reads as an objective journalist’s recounting of the events from a distance.

However, I think the incredibly engaging plot and fast-paced action more than makes up for elements lost in translation. If you’re looking for a book of what the Hunger Games should have been, this is for you.

Humble Book Review: Dolores Claiborne

What would you do if you were stuck in a loveless and violent relationship? Would you sit idly by, paralyzed by fear, or would you make a stand and reach a level ground? And after a long time together, with a growing family, if you found out a dark and sinister secret, would things change?

Dolores Claiborne, in the novel of her namesake, reminisces about her past and her struggle to remain on top, not to be fooled by her abusive husband. She opens up about her history only days after her employer, Vera Donovan, passes away in suspicious circumstances. Suspicious because Dolores, at 65 years old, was Vera’s head housekeeper, and also because on the small island they lived on, Dolores had developed a reputation warranting wariness.

Throughout the novel we only delve into Dolores’s memories, which is told in the way of a casual interview between the accused, an officer and a stenographer. There are several key moments in Dolores’s life which are worth knowing for Vera’s death, and for the protagonists’s character in general; her relationship to her husband, and to her children, particularly her eldest daughter.

There are a few great moments of suspense peppered throughout, and its all told from her very casual style of storytelling. It works quite well, since King normally gives us that corner-of-the-diner type casual vibe with his novels. This is at it’s best a character novel, and you do want to know what had happened to made her so hardened in spirit and sharp of tongue.

But, this is one of King’s lesser known works for a reason. There is some writing style experimentation going on here, with the pure singular retelling of a life, and also no chapter breaks at all can make it seem like a tiring stream of consciousness. After finishing the book, I found it wasn’t overly bad, but it didn’t really captivate me either. It’s as if this was really meant to be a novella, but it was padded out just a bit, so it could be a standalone novel.

In fact, due to the somewhat significant connection it has with Gerald’s Game, I’d have thought they’d go well together in some sort of collection.

Either way, not a bad read, but there are many King novels that rank higher. But if you’re mad on King novel cross-references like me, at least you’ll get that excited feeling of recognition.

WOTH: Platinum #15 – Split/Second: Velocity (PS3)

Split/Second: Velocity is the result of what happens when Michael Bay plays a kart-racer, like Super Mario Kart, and wants in on the action for himself.

Bay: “Let’s make a racer that’s more realistic!”

Game Designer: “Okay, well, that already exists, in games like Gran Turismo, or Forza, or…”

Bay: “No no! Realistic also means wrecking people! Where’s the fun in just driving? My chaperone does that every day.”

Designer: “Okay, but I think the Burnout series has that too, it involves making your opponents crash into things and-”

Bay: “No, I’ve seen that, it’s not enough! I want to see big ‘splosions, an-and buildings falling on people and trains falling out of the sky and… here let me show you!”

*Bay gets that childlike twinkle in his eye and gets his big bucket full of toys from under the table – the same bucket he carries around 24/7* 

Bay: “Okay so what if, like, you were racing at an airport,” *places toy cars on desk* “and BAM! A plane falls out of the sky and smashes into them all!” *throws a big toy airliner at the cars lined up on the desk, bounces off and smashes a window*

Designer: “Whoa, okay okay I get your p-”

*Bay, now high on adrenaline, lines more cars up on the floor*

Bay: “And, oh it could be so cool, like, you blow up a massive skyscraper and then BAM!” *grabs the floor lamp in the corner and throws it onto the ground* “you could take them all out! Ha…haha! HAHAHAAA!”

*The game designer grabs his phone and dials Bay’s personal handler*

Designer: “Yes, I think it’s time for his meds again.”

The man certainly lives the dream...

The man certainly lives the dream…

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WOTH: Platinum #14 – Dark Souls III (PS4)

This is one that I’m particularly proud of – a platinum trophy that requires great skill, patience, and luck. Not to mention it’s also from my favourite game series of all time!

Dark Souls III, quoted as being the last in the Dark Souls series, was an amazing way to cap it off. There was a wonderful mix of old and new faces, with many nods to former games in the larger universe of From Software games, including Demon Souls and Bloodborne. As someone who started out long ago with their first game Demon Souls, it was heartwarming to see throwbacks to such an old game (well, old for this particular genre).

For the uninitiated, Dark Souls III is an action-RPG set a medieval fantasy-esque world, where you alone fight through an open world with your weapons of choice including swords, shields, bows, clubs, etc. While exploring this visceral land, you’ll encounter questionable allies, hordes of well-placed enemies, and terrifyingly epic bosses to impede your progress. However, I’ll say nothing more on the story or the lore of the land, because your level of curiosity determines how much you understand. This game doesn’t spoon-feed you plot; you either ogle at all the cool things you fight and get on with it, or you can learn from item descriptions, and talk to NPCs to find out just who these important figures are, and why you’re pursuing such beings. There are countless YouTube channels out there that attempt to uncover the finer points of the lore, which are amazing when you realise the small touches in-game were placed there on purpose by the developers, just to check if we were paying attention.

Seems like a straightforward boss fight, right?

Seems like a straightforward boss fight, right?

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