I got All You Need is Kill so many years ago that it’s actually quite shameful that it took me this long to actually read it properly. Hell, there’s even been a film adaptation in the meantime, not that I was especially impressed with the look of Edge of Tomorrow. In any case, I thought that I should finally get round to reading this and seeing if I’ve kept it so long for good reason.
All You Need is Kill follows Keiji Kiriya, a new recruit in the fight against alien invaders known as Mimics. As is possibly expected for someone who’s only had six months of training, he is killed in his first battle, but not before taking out one final Mimic before dying. The fact that he wakes up again, safe and alive in his barracks before the battle even starts, is something of a surprise. After dying a second time, he realises that he’s stuck in an eternal loop until he can find a way of breaking out forever. It is only several iterations in that he finds out that the ace female soldier known as the Full Metal Bitch may know a way out of his predicament.
I was not expecting this to be quite so readable, especially since my last experience within the military science fiction genre was The Forever War, which I was not overly struck by. In comparison, All You Need is Kill seemed a lot tighter and more focused, without any of the weird world-building elements that bothered me in Haldeman’s book. Instead it’s very much focused on the main characters and how they are gradually worn down by the futility of reliving the same battle over and over. The characters themselves aren’t hugely detailed, but there’s enough there to get attached to and create an impression of. It might well be the popcorn reading version of military science fiction, but it is an infinitely better starting place for a beginner. The alien race is pretty interesting too, although the audience only ever knows as much as the characters do. So if you were looking for an enemy that has nuance and subtlety, then you may want to look elsewhere.
Overall, definitely a book that I would recommend if you’re a fan of war fiction or science fiction, and in particular if you’re looking for a quick read. The narrative is focused on the brutality and futility of war and emphasised by the time loops. Maybe look elsewhere if you want something more complex. 4/5
Next review: Out by Natsuo Kirino