All you need is kill - Hiroshi Sakurazaka

Awful title, awful cover, hideous blurb on the back, versus a tiny positive quote from John Scalzi on the front. This is not an obvious book to read, and indeed I took the mickey out of a friend for reading it, but he really enjoyed it, as did another friend, so it was lent to me.

So much of the awfulness seems to come from the fact that it's translated Japanese sci-fi, so a fair amount of marketing is lost in translation, or replaced with the need to manga-ise it. The idea of the series is pretty cool - take the best Japanese sci-fi, and translate it. One assumes there should be plenty of good sci-fi from Japan, so you just bring the best across and make a mint. That is, I believe, the theory.

Anyway, the story itself is... not bad. We're talking Neal Asher depth, here. 'Action-packed' is the most positive adjective that can be applied, I think. The story is Groundhog Day meets Neon Genesis Evangelion - a soldier in a high-power exoskeleton fights invading alien hoards, dies and awakens the previous day, repeatedly. It's carried off well enough, in a pulpy, computer-gamey kind of way.

(Although I found the story was somewhat improved by subconciously ignoring the author's description of the alien invading hordes, and imagining them as domokuns instead. But I digress....)

For me, the afterword was the best bit. A couple of paragraphs adding a simple, obvious meta-narrative that I'd missed. The whole story is about the author's experiences with computer games - when a game is won the characters in the game get everything right the first time simply because the player of the game has built up skill by failing and killing off so many previous instances of the character. The whole book is about saving and reloading!

Posted 2010-04-13.