Before beginning I should clarify that I am reviewing an English translation of the Japanese novel All You Need is Kill. This book is the source material for the popular Tom Cruise film Edge of Tomorrow. I have not yet seen the film but will likely be reviewing it separately in the near future. Now that I've made that clear I'll introduce you to some of the major characters in this novel.
1. Keiji Kiriya
Keiji Kiriya starts off as your typical everyman. He's joined the UDF (United Defense Force) within the Japanese military in order to fight the Mimics which are what the humans call the alien creatures that have invaded. He says himself that he doesn't want to be a war hero. He just wants to prove to himself and others that he is capable of accomplishing something.
He soon learns that his decision to join the military may have been a mistake when he finds himself about to die on the battlefield. Rita a prodigious American soldier stays with him as he takes his last few breaths, He dies but somehow he lives to remember it. He finds himself repeating the thirty battle over and over again. Each time he dies and wakes once again in bed to start all over again. As he starts to piece together what's happened he also trains his mind and develops fighting skills in the hope of eventually being able to defeat the Mimics and somehow return to normalcy.
2. Rita Vrataski
Rita (AKA the Full Metal Bitch) is an American soldier who has killed more Mimics in battle than anyone else and is considered a hero by people all across the world. She fights with a personalized battle axe and wears a standard issue robotic fighting suit which she had painted red in order to stand out and attract Mimic attention. She's got a kind disposition but has suffered a lot and been hardened by pain. She does not suffer fools gladly and has more than a few secrets.
Throughout the time loops Keiji and Rita begin to build a complex which is inevitably forgotten by Rita each time things are reset. She helps him to figure out what exactly has been happening and their relationship becomes a key plot point of the novel.
3. Yonabaru Jin
Yonabaru is Keiji's closest friend and in many ways the total opposite of him. He's an argumentative, womanizing, often rude soldier who is initially more experienced than Keiji. Each loop begins with him approaching Keiji to sign the same peace of paper. He dies on more than one occasion and despite the temporary nature of each of these tragedies Keiji feels a great deal of guilt for his friend's demise,
4. Bartolome Ferrell
Ferrel is Yonabaru and Keiji's platoon sergeant. He's an experienced veteran who demands respect but would sacrfice his own life for his soldiers. He believes in physical fitness, hard work and self control, Throughout the novel he becomes a great asset to Keiji who attends the same training session with him more than a hundred times. Keiji eventually surpasses Ferrel in fighting skill. Ferrel shows him a great deal of respect and seems to value him highly as a soldier.
These among others are some of the people the not too distant future world of All You Need is Kill.
The book is a very fast and easy read with plenty of action and cool visuals. While none of the core concepts (alien invaders, robotic fighting suits, time loops etc.) can be said to be unique to this book they are all done in very interesting ways. You really feel the isolation and the frustration from Keiji's strange predicament. The war does not feel like something which simply existed for the purpose of putting our protagonist in danger. It was presented like any real war between human entities. The Mimics are more like tanks than people so their nonhuman nature doesn't distance the book two far from the realities of battle.
I'm the sort of person who finds it impossible to rank things on a scale of one to ten so I won't. What I will say is that I recommend this book to anyone with a taste for good science fiction and or horror. It's thrilling, surprising and in places very touching. The characters feel like they live in a world far larger than what is presented in the book. Even the aliens have a complex and not entirely evil backstory. It makes you think about the value of life and sacrifice and it is likely to bring a few tears to your eyes.