All You Need is Kill Review: The Unending Game

For some, the idea of coming back to life is a dream come true. For Keiji Kiriya, however, it’s a living nightmare.

Keiji is one of many soldiers standing as the last line of defense against an unstoppable invading force known as The Mimics. Keiji is stationed off the coast of Japan, outfitted with a state-of-the-art mechanized suit called a jacket, and sent into his first sortie. It doesn’t take long for everything to go wrong, and Keiji to feel death’s embrace. Before blacking out, however, he manages to kill a rather “unusual” mimic.

He then wakes up, and realizes it’s the previous morning.

After going through the same battle and dying again and again, Keiji begins to realize his awful fate. He’s stuck in a time loop that triggers every time he dies, going back to the same point in time every time. After confirming this and cursing his fate, Keiji begins to adapt to his situation and starts trying to figure out how he can survive and escape this time loop. Formulating a repeatable plan of acting after dozens of deaths and repeats, Keiji soon finds himself embroiled in something far larger than simply surviving his first battle – something that could decide the fate of the human race.

First released in Japan in 2004, All You Need is Kill is a sci-fi novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (translated by Joseph Reeder and Alexander O. Smith), inspired by the concept of respawning in video games. Depicting an endless struggle against an unceasing foe, All You Need is Kill is frantic and gritty in all the right ways. While it starts out as a mostly standard sci-fi action novel, it quickly delves into the main character’s desperate state of affairs, the formulaic ways he begins to approach his unending day, and his slowly unraveling mental state.

Time travel is always a difficult subject to effectively write about, but All You Need is Kill handles it superbly and in a rather unique fashion. The novel also dives into the backstory behind the Mimics and their destructive effect on the environment, something missing from subsequent adaptations. The setting makes for an interesting and engaging backdrop to the conflict raging on throughout the story.

Ultimately, the only weakness of All You Need is Kill is how often the attempts at grittiness come off as simple pandering. Regardless, the novel still manages to create a dramatic and intense atmosphere, and kept me coming back page after page.

All You Need is Kill can be bought from Amazon (Kindle version) and Barnes and Noble (Nook version). A manga adaptation can be bought from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Additionally, there is a film adaptation named Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow (DVD/Amazon Video).

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