How different would your life be if every day was repeated when you died?
The highly successful sci-fi novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka about a soldier named Keiji Kiriya, who, after dying in a battle with aliens named Mimics, is caught in a time loop that makes him live the same day repeatedly, allowing Kiriya to improve his fighting skills.
The movie has been made into a highly successful movie last year starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt called “The Edge of Tomorrow”.
I must confess this is one of those rare occasions where I watched the movie before I read the book and I must say I got a double feel-good as the book and the movie are each as good and each different enough to make the read enjoyable without knowing what comes next!
The story is A-class, quite short (in 200 pages it took me just half a day to read through) and packed with action. After killing an Alpha Mimic (they call it a Network server in the book), Kiriya, a Japanese soldier protecting the shoreline of Japan from invading Mimics finds himself re-living the same two days before the attack that killed him.
The movie and the book differ immensely when it comes to location and characters, the action taking place in Japan in the book and on the coast of France in the movie. The main hero is not a US Army general who is dishonored for attempting to shy out of battle but a fresh recruit with just 6 months of training behind him.
The book is written in two parts, first telling the story of Kiriya and how each re-iteration of the day left him more prepared for the next one and how he interacted with different people during his daily life (including a very hot cafeteria cook and a sexy nerdy mechanic) and how he slowly falls for the US Full Metal Bitch while trying to learn new ways to kill mimics – and a second part which is the life of Rita Vrataski.
I loved the story of how Rita came to be, how her life was growing up in a world at war with Aliens. The Mimics are terra-forming aliens that came over 20 years ago, deployed as nano-robots by an advanced alien civilization over 40 light years away. The remote planet was looking to expand their habitat and they deployed micro-robots that will search the galaxy for suitable planets with a central star. Once they landed (some of the crashed samples were taken in for analysis by the US, Russian and Chinese governments), they took a life-form design from the bottom of the sea (starfish) and created a new creature looking like a “bloated frog corpse”, no larger than a dog, very hard to kill (normal bullets had no effect).
Humans cranked up their battle gear as well, creating “jackets” – metal exo-skeletons capable of enhancing human muscular strength by adding a mass of 360kg to each of the blows. Using modern fire-power, tanks and air technology, they managed to fight off the aliens, but they still lost entire continents to them – South America is gone, Africa is gone and also parts of America and EurAsia.
Rita was just a kid when her family was killed and she enlisted with a fake name the next day. She proved to be a very skilled combatant, so skilled that they started creating new honours and medals just for her, one of them being “The Order of Valkyrie”. She goes from battle to battle, continent to continent, and she knows about the Alpha kills and the loops.
She is famous and most men are in awe of her skills. A natural born leader, she attracts the soldiers around her in a field of battle and boosts morale by sight, her crimson red battle gear being both a “target” and a visual aid in finding her in battle.
When Kiriya comes up to her and responds to a comment she made in another loop, she is happy that she has finally found someone who understands her loneliness and helps him out, fighting as a unit, to kill off the alpha again and end the loop.
When killing the network central does not work, she tells him that he needs to kill of the antennas as well and that she is an antenna. The last battle between them is bitter sweet and the ending does bring closure to the entire book & movie.
Overall Score: 4/5
Favorite Part: I got a bit teary eyed about mid-way through the book when Rita and Kiriya first meet up and they talk. No spoilers.
Least Favorite Part: When his annoying mate kicked him in the end. I thought that was a bit out of line, considering that he saved his ass and his girlfriend’s ass.
All in all, a very entertaining read!
About the author
Hiroshi Sakurazaka was born in 1970. After a career in information technology, he published his first novel Wizards’ Web in 2003. His 2004 short story Saitama Chainsaw Massacre won the 16th SF Magazine Reader’s Award. His other novels include Characters (co-written with Hiroki Azuma) and All You Need is KILL, which was published by Haikasoru in 2009.