It was an odd choice of books for me, and one I would probably never have picked up, if it hadn't been the basis for Warner Bros.' Edge of Tomorrow, which released to Instant View on Amazon this week, and which T (age 17) has been wanting to see since it was in theaters last summer.
I agreed to watch the movie with him, if he would read the book. He agreed to read the book, but wanted to watch the movie first, hoping to avoid a major disappointment like we had with The Giver.
The premise of the movie, as well as the book, is something akin to what it would be like if a soldier could live out the life of a video game hero. He fights, he dies, the game resets, continuing over, and over again, until at last the enemy is defeated, and the game is won.
In both the book, and the movie, the protagonist, a young soldier (an American in the movie, and Japanese in the book), after killing one of the aliens, finds himself in just such a repeating sort of loop. He repeats the same day, and same battle a number of times before he begins to realize what is happening, and several more times before he meets up with another soldier, Rita Vitraski (an American in the book, and Brit in movie - or at least played with a British accent) who actually has been through such a loop before, and knows how to break the cycle, and possibly win the war.
The book fills in a number of details that the movie leaves hanging. The movie provides a happy ending, that doesn't make total sense with the rest of the story, and is not in the book. The movie also leaves out a lot, and I mean a LOT of the swearing and sex-themed soldier talk that permeates many of the pages of the book. Seriously, you could cut the length of the book by about a quarter by simply eliminating the F-word.
With that said though, I really enjoyed the book a good more than I had expected to. First off, I was thinking we were buying a Manga, and instead ended up with an actual novella. There is a Manga based on the book...
...which has gotten pretty good reviews. I just happen to prefer novels to Manga, or graphic novels, and so was pleased to have something other than a glorified comic book to read.
Secondly, as a homeschool mom, I was thrilled with all the jump off points there are in the book into other studies. It's similar enough in feel to the WW1 classic, All Quiet on the Western Front, that I've already loaded a copy of that into T's Kindle as a follow-up...
...as well as Rilla of Ingleside from the Anne of Green Gables Collection for the girls, to keep them up with the WW1 theme, and tie them into to T's reading. The protagonist's first impression of the story's heroine in All You Need is Kill is that,
"...she was a tiny little thing standing off by herself...beside the rest of her super-sized squad, something seemed out of whack. Anne of Green Gables Goes to War...the book would be a spin-off set around World War 1. Mongolia makes a land grab, and there's Anne, machine gun tucked daintily under one arm..."
If being a science fiction book, set in Japan, that mentions Anne of Green Gables (and the old Back to the Future movies to boot) isn't reason enough to like the story, there's also all the great geographical locations to look up, and study, references to interesting tidbits of Japanese culture, and strange aspects of wartime civilian culture to discuss. Oh, and there's the problem of how foreign allies might deal with the language barrier. In the book they create a completely new, grammatically simple language for the soldiers to use. In the movie orders are repeated in multiple languages over a loud-speaker.
And, if all that still weren't enough there's an umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum) eating contest in the middle of the story, that's just too much for any homeschool mom with a cupboard full of Poppin Cookins to resist.