So I have finally gotten around to reading “All You Need is Kill.” This is a book by a Japanese author, Hiroshi Sakurazaka, that the movie “Edge of Tomorrow” is based on. It’s short, a quick read. A little over the top in some places and it does not pull any punches when it comes to war in its purest brutality.
I had a particular interest in this story because I wanted to see how the author wrote the time jumps and repeats. Turns out, it’s actually pretty simple. Deftly done in way that it doesn’t actually repeat the same tuff over and over verbatim. Sakurazaka switches it up to keep you reading and the pace never slows (the movie handles the looping in a similar way, unlike Groundhog Day.) As a writer, it is worth looking at the technique he used.
The weirdest thing about the book versus the movie is that the plot of the movie is significantly more complicated. Usually you have to strip a novel to just its main action for the sake of time (i.e. Ender’s Game) but not here. Except for a few flashbacks, we pretty much never leave the army base that the main character, Keiji, wakes up in every time he dies.
There is no scientist that worked with Rita when she was stuck in the time loop. And all training is on the day of battle, during the same battle over and over (implied.) No training room montage with cheeky banter. Though seeing Tom Cruise get beat up by robot arms is pretty gratifying.
The movie slows way down when Cage, Tom Cruise’s character, tries to break the repetition of days by running away. This happens in the book too, but only once and it’s a much shorter scene and ends in an unexpected way.
The biggest point of divergence is of course the end. I will not give anything away but I have read other science fiction novels by non-Americans and it’s pretty easy to tell American writers from others, at least with the books I have read. I find writers from other countries are okay with having wide open endings with no sequel in mind. Unsettled endings and unanswered questions, not an issue. Leaving the reader in a destination they had no idea they were going to and have no way of getting back from doesn’t bother them one bit. As a child of the 80s and the American sitcom this is not how I like to walk away from a book.
But anyways, the ending of the book took me by surprise from the moment it started and I liked that. And when I think about how the movie went about solving the problem of the time loop and its creators I just think, why mess with what the author had intended? It was so much better. Why add complication where none is needed?
I’m sure it was a decision made by the powers that be at the movie studio but to me it’s an insult. Either they didn’t trust the actors to pull off that kind of complexity or they didn’t trust the audience to be able to feel something without having to have loud music and contrived conflict. See what I mean? Insulting.
One point of cool for the book in particular. The author has included an alternate chapter sequence (below.) It ends on the same chapter but huge chunks are moved around. I intend to re-read this book with this order in a few months. I want to forget it a little bit so I can enjoy it more and be surprised again.
If you’re so inclined and don’t mind some colorful language or violent deaths, I recommend reading this book. The movie's pretty good too.