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review 2017-09-13 18:22
Parasite Eve by Hideaki Sena, translated by Tyran Grillo
Parasite Eve - Hideaki Sena

Parasite Eve begins with the death of Kiyomi Nagashima. While driving, she suddenly blacks out and has the same dream she had previously only had on her birthday, a dream in which she is a worm-like being swimming through fluid. She recovers from her dream just in time to hit a telephone pole.

Toshiaki Nagashima, Kiyomi’s husband, is a researcher specializing in mitochondria. When he hears about Kiyomi’s accident, he drops everything and rushes to the hospital. Unfortunately, Kiyomi is brain dead. Toshiaki and Kiyomi’s parents agree to honor Kiyomi’s desire to be a kidney donor, but Toshiaki has one secret request of his own: he would like a sample of Kiyomi’s liver.

Kiyomi’s kidneys go to an unnamed man and a 14-year-old girl named Mariko Anzai, and Toshiaki gets the liver cells he so badly wanted. While Mariko struggles with guilt and fear over her latest transplant, Toshiaki is happily convinced that since Kiyomi’s liver cells are still alive and thriving, she isn’t actually dead. What no one realizes is that there is a monster hiding inside Kiyomi’s cells, and it’s slowly becoming strong enough to take the next step in its evolution.

I’m going to start by saying that I’ve never played the game of the same title and I have no idea how its events compare to those in this book. According to Wikipedia it’s a sequel, so my only hope is that it left Mariko and Asakura alone.

I don’t know what I was expecting from Parasite Eve, but it left me feeling so underwhelmed and disgusted that I’m glad it was a library checkout rather than a purchase. I’m a horror wimp, and even I wasn’t scared by this book. It was more gross and ridiculous than anything.

It started off okay. I was intrigued by the mystery of Kiyomi’s cells. I wanted to see how things would play out with Toshiaki’s creepy liver cell project and Mariko’s transplant. It was clear that Mariko had a lot of issues where transplants, her transplant surgeon, and her father were concerned, so I also wanted to know what had happened with her first transplant - the kidney she received from Kiyomi was actually her second kidney transplant. The author’s medical- and science-related descriptions were sometimes more detailed than I would have preferred, but I did learn a few interesting things about transplants, particularly how they were viewed in Japan at the time the book was written. I hope attitudes have improved since then.

I became more and more impatient as the story progressed and nothing much happened. Kiyomi’s cells continued to grow, the being in Kiyomi’s cells wriggled happily whenever she thought about Toshiaki (the being was female), and Mariko became increasingly closed off. I was wishing for Kiyomi’s cells to do something long before they actually did.

For a book in which femaleness played such an important role, the female characters were incredibly disappointing. Asakura, Toshiaki’s assistant, was simply a way for readers to see how odd Toshiaki was acting. Mariko became little more than a host and incubator for Kiyomi’s monster. I enjoyed the scenes of Kiyomi’s childhood, but it wasn’t long before the flashbacks revealed that her life had been taken from her long before she slammed into that telephone pole. It was depressing.

Even the being in Kiyomi’s cells was disappointing. Even though she was millions of years old, Toshiaki, a man whose life should have been barely a blip in her existence, was suddenly her sole focus. When she

finally began to create a body of her own, she designed it primarily to please Toshiaki, starting with lips, and then a breast with a perfectly formed nipple, then a vagina and womb, and finally a finger, which she promptly used to masturbate and make sure all her parts were ready for Toshiaki.

(spoiler show)

The being’s hyper-focus on Toshiaki did turn out to have a point beyond “Toshiaki understands me best,” but it was off-putting all the same.

I was glad when the action finally began to pick up in the last third of the book, but I came to regret my decision to continue reading when the monster rape scenes happened. There were two,

one involving Toshiaki that was presented more as sperm theft than as the horrifying rape it actually was, and one involving 14-year-old Mariko. While I was thankful that Mariko was unconscious throughout both her rape and her monstrous pregnancy, I sincerely wish that the author had written her rape with less detail. I did not need to know how much pleasure the being derived from that act. Also, it upset me that the things that happened to Mariko were presented as more horrifying for her father, who witnessed some of it, than for Mariko herself. Even though she was unconscious, it was her body that was invaded and her body that was horrifically used.

(spoiler show)


The final showdown was just ridiculous. In my mind I pictured it with cheap special effects and bad acting, like something out of a B-movie. All in all, I don't recommend this book.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-09-05 12:11
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

 

I never wrote a proper review for this book, but I loved it. Does that make me a twisted person? I don't normally read books like this, but I loved the manga and movie and when I found out the novel came first, I just had to read it! I am so glad I did. I was intimidated by the size, but flew through the novel in a couple days.

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review 2017-08-21 06:15
Ring by Koji Suzuki, translated by Robert B. Rohmer and Glynne Walley
Ring - Robert B. Rohmer,Glynne Walley,Koji Suzuki

Warning: This book includes multiple mentions of rapes and a main character who is likely a rapist. Also, one of the main characters deliberately misgenders another character.

Kazuyuki Asakawa is a reporter who got into a bit of trouble in the past. From what I could gather (it was a little confusing), he wrote an article that exacerbated oddly widespread public reports of supernatural sightings. That’s why his boss is reluctant to okay his most recent project: an investigation into several disturbing simultaneous deaths. One of the victims was his niece, who tore out her hair as she died. Her death, like the others, was ruled “sudden heart failure,” but would that really cause a teenage girl to rip out her hair like that?

Asakawa’s investigation leads him to a difficult-to-get-to cabin, where he watches a mysterious videotape that warns him that all who watch the tape are fated to die exactly one week later. Those who do not wish to die must follow the tape’s instructions...except that the instructions were taped over. Asakawa would laugh it off it weren’t for those four simultaneous deaths.

In an effort to save himself, Asakawa enlists the help of the one man he knows who'd actually enjoy this strange task: Ryuji Takayama, a creepy and gross philosophy professor with a grating personality.

This was a reread, but all I could remember about it, at first, was that it was pretty different from the American movie (I’ve never seen the Japanese one). A few chapters in, I regained a few more memories about the story, enough that certain lines and phrases stood out to me that I’m pretty sure I overlooked during my first reading. However, I had forgotten a lot more than I expected: although I remembered what Asakawa had to do in order to survive, I completely forgot several details about Ryuji and Sadako.

For me, the first third of the book, before Ryuji’s introduction, was the strongest. Sure, it took a long time for Asakawa to get far enough into his investigation to track down the tape, but the spooky atmosphere was excellent, and I enjoyed seeing his investigative process and anticipating the events to come. I didn’t really like Asakawa, who so rarely took care of his own child that his wife found his insistence on putting her down for a nap himself suspicious, but I was okay with that. When it comes to horror novels, I don’t necessarily need to like the main characters, and sometimes it’s even better when I don’t (less to mourn when/if they die).

Then Ryuji entered the scene. I know I just said that I don’t always need to like characters in horror novels, but Ryuji was really pushing things. Near the end of the book,

one character said that much of his behavior was a lie and that he was actually a very good man, but I happen to think that character was just deluding herself. I snorted when Asakawa decided to believe her on the basis of her woman’s intuition - if woman’s intuition was all that it took to convince him, what about his wife’s deep hatred of Ryuji, which he had never asked her to explain?

(spoiler show)


I personally think Ryuji was the man Asakawa saw, the one who’d admitted to raping multiple women and who once said that this was his wish for the future: “While viewing the extinction of the human race from the top of a hill, I would dig a hole in the earth and ejaculate into it over and over.” (117) I believe that Asakawa was so quick to change his mind about Ryuji because part of him knew he should have told someone when, back in high school, Ryuji admitted to him that he’d raped someone. The thought that Ryuji might have

lied about all of that

(spoiler show)

made him feel less guilty about having done absolutely nothing.

Okay, now that I’ve vented some of my anger about slimeball Ryuji and enabler Asakawa, on to the rest. The investigation continued to be pretty interesting, although the spooky atmosphere all but disappeared, overshadowed by Asakawa’s increasing panic over his approaching deadline. Unfortunately, the more he panicked the less he used his brain, giving Ryuji more opportunities to talk and be smug about his own intelligence.

I had forgotten most of the details of the later part of the investigation and was completely hooked, wanting to see how things would turn out. One particular revelation about Sadako took me completely by surprise, and not in a good way. So many things about that one scene bugged me. As much as I enjoyed this book in general, it was absolute crap when it came to

gender issues. Also, I did not appreciate the use of rape as a plot device.

(spoiler show)


When I first read this book, I wasn’t aware that it was the first in a series. I own the second book, Spiral, and plan to read it soon.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-07-22 22:36
Interesting story but the writing's not so great
Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America - Linda Furiya

The title and premise had me intrigued. The author, a first generation Japanese American, writes a memoir looking what it was like to grow up in Indiana where there were no other Japanese families in the near vicinity. A story of food, of growing up in a place where no one else looks like you except your family and navigating growing up as an "American" child and teenager.

 

Her story is an interesting one, from how her parents met (they had an arranged marriage) to what it was like growing up in Indiana. However, the writing is terrible. Although I could feel for her at certain points, understood some of experiences, recognized much of what happened to her is an experience many immigrants/children of immigrants share, etc. I found it to be tough to get through. The writing can be disjointed and really needed a better editor. 

 

It's a pity because a lot of what she says will likely resonate with the children of immigrants. From having to translate/speak for the parents (because of the language barrier) to wanting to be more like the other kids when it comes to something like what you have in your lunch bag/box, etc. I'd bet a lot of first generation children would recognize a lot of Furiya's experiences, even if they don't share the same background.

 

I also liked the stories surrounding the food. Once again food is very much an interesting and important vehicle for immigrants/children of immigrants and it's interesting to see how this affects Furiya growing up. From what's in her lunchbox to trying out wasabi to how some foods eventually leave a bad memory due to a really creepy man (luckily it appears nothing happened) we see the role food plays for her and her family.

 

I think a lot of people who are looking to read about her story or would like to understand what it's like to be a part of the only Japanese family for miles around might enjoy this. She does include recipes, but no pictures. I recommend the library for this, although I didn't mind paying for a used copy. Wouldn't make a huge effort to hunt this one down though.

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review 2017-07-18 03:27
The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku (book) story by Muya Agami and cosMo@BousouP, art by Yuunagi
The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku - Yunagi,cosMo@BousouP,Muya Agami

You have no idea how excited I was to learn that 1) a Vocaloid light novel existed and 2) it was available in English. I ordered a copy for myself a few weeks after finding out about it.

A few years ago I was really into Vocaloid (singing synthesizer software). I wasn’t interested in using it myself, just in listening to other people’s songs and reading about the various Vocaloid and UTAUloid avatars. I gradually found a few Vocaloid/UTAUloid tuners I particularly liked (kyaami is my top favorite) and developed a few Vocaloid/UTAUloid preferences (Kaito was probably my first favorite Vocaloid, and Ritsu continues to be my favorite UTAUloid).

I went into this book with an okay background knowledge of Vocaloid in general and Hatsune Miku in particular. Also, I was familiar with the song the book was based on (here's one version on YouTube), enough to know that the book probably wouldn’t have a happy ending.

The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku stars Shinosato Asano, an ordinary university student who spends his days going to class and doing tedious work at a robotics lab and his nights working as a bartender at a nightclub. He’s shocked when the professor in charge of his research lab singles him out to do a field test of a very special new android named Hatsune Miku. The professor wants a student like Asano, who’s responsible, can keep a secret, and doesn’t know too much about artificial intelligence, to see how well Miku can pass for human out in the real world. He’s not supposed to tell anyone, not even his family members, what Miku really is, and he has to make sure Miku goes back to the professor for regular data collection and weekly maintenance.

Miku’s speech and behavior is a little odd and stilted at first, but it rapidly improves. Asano introduces her to everyone as his very intelligent cousin from England (in order to explain why a 16-year-old girl whose Japanese is still a bit rough is suddenly attending university classes), takes her on a tour of the university, and invites her out to lunch. Lunch becomes their regular activity together, and Asano gradually incorporates activities relating to music once he realizes that Miku particularly enjoys it. He starts to realize, to his dismay, that he might be falling for her. What will happen once the field test is over?

I really wanted to love this. I’m generally drawn to android-human romances, and I was already looking forward to the Vocaloid aspects. Miku has never been my top favorite Vocaloid, but she had a lot of cute moments in the book, and I really felt for her. The way the author used Vocaloid-related details in the story was absolutely wonderful. The realization that Asano’s over-the-top love of green onions was a reference to the way Miku is often depicted holding green onions was nice, but there was one revelation further on in the book that I thought was particularly clever and unexpected.

That said, the romance was utterly terrible. It wasn’t so much Asano’s blandness - as much as I disliked how boring he was, it wasn’t unexpected. I did find myself wishing that Asano had more ideas about what to do with Miku than constantly taking her out to eat. I mean, right from the start he was told that she couldn’t eat much, and yet almost all of their outings involved food. It didn’t have to be anything special or expensive - they could have gone for a walk in a park, or gone out grocery shopping, or watched a movie. Pretty much anything they might have done would have been a new experience for Miku and would have provided the professor with more data.

I had two main problems with the romance. First, the way Miku based so many of the things she liked on things that Asano liked. For example, I don’t think she was able to taste food, and yet she’d tell Asano that a particular food tasted good because he liked it and therefore it must taste good. Asano just accepted these statements and was happy about them, but they bothered me - it was one of the reasons why I liked Miku’s budding love of music, because it seemed more purely hers than anything else she’d said she liked.

Second, it gradually became clear that Asano wasn’t so much a nice guy as he was a “nice” guy. His reactions and feelings were more important than hers. Later on in the book, for example, there were strong indications that something was wrong with Miku, to the point that it affected her physically. Rather than noticing this and worrying about her, Asano instead focused on how he felt when he held her and her statement that she wanted the two of them to be together forever. When something drastic either happened to Miku or was done to her, all Asano could think about was how much it hurt him that Miku no longer behaved as warmly towards him as she used to. His first instinct was to abandon the field test rather than investigate what had happened to her and why.

It did eventually dawn on the idiot that he was being a selfish jerk, but it took much, much longer than it should have. I was left feeling like Miku would have been better off leaving Asano in her dust and going on to become a massively popular superstar. Considering what was done to her during the course of the story, maybe leaving all of humanity behind wouldn’t have been a bad idea.

Asano continued to be useless as the sci-fi suspense storyline became more prominent, and pretty much the only reason he was able to get anywhere was because his two friends, Aika and Juuhachi, weren’t as utterly useless as he was. The various sci-fi developments near the end of the book were pretty bonkers, and the big climactic scene was way too over-the-top and ended up feeling silly rather than dramatic or tragically romantic. Although the Vocaloid fan in me did love the bit with the mysterious file.

One last thing: although the writing/translation wasn't terrible, it wasn't great either. I noticed that the author tended to be a bit repetitive. A character would do or say something and then Asano would tell readers what that character had done or said, even though the text had just described it. Once I started noticing this, I realized it happened a lot.

If you’re a huge Vocaloid fan, this might be worth giving a shot. Like I said, the way Vocaloid details were incorporated was wonderful. Everyone else would probably be better off trying something like CLAMP's Chobits or maybe even William Gibson’s Idoru (not romance, and I don’t recall the AI having much of a speaking role, but Rei Toei is practically another incarnation of Hatsune Miku).

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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