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review 2018-06-15 15:54
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World / Haruki Murakami
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World - Alfred Birnbaum,Haruki Murakami

In this hyperkinetic and relentlessly inventive novel, Japan’s most popular (and controversial) fiction writer hurtles into the consciousness of the West. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World draws readers into a narrative particle accelerator in which a split-brained data processor, a deranged scientist, his shockingly undemure granddaughter, Lauren Bacall, Bob Dylan, and various thugs, librarians, and subterranean monsters collide to dazzling effect. What emerges is simultaneously cooler than zero and unaffectedly affecting, a hilariously funny and deeply serious meditation on the nature and uses of the mind.

 

I’m not sure what to say about this book, beside the fact that it is not really my cuppa tea. Not that I disliked it, I often found it amusing and I easily read to the end, no arm twisting necessary. But it certainly wouldn’t encourage me to pick up more of this author’s works.

It took me a little while to get into the rhythm of things, the chapters alternating between two narrators. Both story lines felt a bit odd to me, despite my love of fantasy fiction. But it was interesting in its nonconformity to traditional fantasy plots. Neither narrator is really very heroic, none of the women are portrayed as serious love interests, the reasons for the adventures are largely undefined, plus there is very little wrap-up at book’s end.

Interestingly, none the characters have names—they are referred to by title (the old man, the chubby girl, the librarian, etc.). Which I guess makes sense, as I assume that they are all parts of the same brain! At least it seemed to me that the point of the book was to explore the idea of the unconscious and how it interacts with the conscious mind.

Pluses? Unicorns! Even if they were kind of sad and decrepit unicorns, they were still unicorns. And who doesn’t love enemies like the INKlings who worship a large fish with violent tendencies? Also, the narrator’s fondness for the librarian. Good taste that.

Book number 287 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2014-03-30 05:15
Ring by Koji Suzuki
Ring - Koji Suzuki,Glynne Walley

Ring (Ring Series, Book 1)
Author: Koji Suzuki
Translated by Robert B. Rohmer and Glynne Walley

 

A last minute decision forever alters the life of Kazuyuki Asakawa in this gripping story about a video of incongruous images delivering a death threat to the viewer. Four mysterious deaths in Tokyo, which are thought to be connected, piques the interest of Asawaka, a journalist. This is a race against time to solve the mysteries of the videotape.

 

It’s been quite a long time since I read any book from the horror genre. Reading this book reminded me of those days when I enjoyed watching horror movies all by myself, much to my mother’s wonder. Watching horror movies by myself wasn’t a choice, just in case you’re wondering. Whenever I suggested that we watch a horror flick, no one in the family was really interested (even when I’ve prepared the usual popcorn and drinks) so I’m left sweating and shivering alone.

 

Remember those times when the products of your imagination- something you can’t see, terrified you? Well, Ring did not fail to reawaken those old feelings of instinctual terror.

 

From the first few pages of the book, one becomes aware of an unsettling presence. A strange feeling engulfs you and when you try to shake it off, you just can’t. There is a terrific connection between metaphysical horror and unreality. Since this is a race against time, one can’t help but sense an impending catastrophe waiting to happen.

The videotape’s message of impending death would definitely terrify anyone. Some might dismiss this as a hoax, but of course, one can’t take any chances. Asakawa enlists his friend Ryuji’s help. Understandably, Asakawa grows increasingly wary, petulant and distraught as the seventh day nears.

 

As Asakawa strives to counter the videotapes curse he is also faced with a dilemma, for when he chooses to show this to anyone, that person might end up dead after seven days too. When Ryuji agrees to help, Asakawa can’t help but admire Ryuji’s courage. Not only that, Ryuji proves to be the deus ex machina throughout the novel. He steadily utilizes his connections and shows his brilliance throughout the novel. One can’t discount the fact that despite Ryuji’s peculiar character, he is loyal to his friend and dedicated, just as Asakawa is, to solve the mystery behind the videotape and avert an impending disaster. Every little success they encounter into unfolding the secrets of the videotape gives the reader a sense of relief but it is never complete and merely fleeting.

 

One of the strongest points of this dark and compelling book is the almost tangible and perceptible sense of sinister evil permeating the story. What is so scary is that the object of fear isn’t a physical being but rather an invisible entity that terrifies because of its unreality and ‘absence’ in the story.

 

The book touches on themes about metaphysical horrors that might be easily dismissed as preposterous. I would agree that the book is a concoction of somewhat fantastical and absurd elements but the writing is very convincing, so much so that the story becomes slightly plausible and even conceivable to even the most craven readers out there. If one expects bloodshed in this book then you are wrong. It is a very clever story, not the usual blood and gore you might expect from a horror book. The book expects you to maximize your imagination while it constantly spurns out the twists and turns that make this book so thrilling. The interest for the story never lags and it’s surprisingly stimulating. That’s saying a lot. I’ve read the usual horror books which weren’t very stimulating imagination wise, thanks to the lurid descriptions of horrifying events. This book expects you to use the most of your mental faculties. Not knowing what you are afraid of amplifies your imagination indeed.

 

Another thing worth sharing is the book’s striking stance to impress upon us the vastness of facts relating to the paranormal and subjects concerning clairvoyance or ESP. The author offered these facts with clarity, perhaps not to be believed immediately, but to aid a reader in swallowing much of the difficult paranormal stuff the book presented.

 

The author also didn’t fail to develop characters that we can sympathize with. The characters are distinct, never set aside and belittled despite the weighty subjects of the book. Their vulnerabilities and fears transfer to your own world making you aware of your own vulnerabilities.

 

I have left out a great deal of the story deliberately, but only to ensure a future reader of the experience of suspense and thrills this book has to offer. I assure you, there are many of those surprising details that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

 

A terrifying and suspenseful book about evil and horrors that are way beyond our comprehension. Expect a lot of twists and turns, and an ending that might surprise even the most avid fan of the horror genre.

Source: 5eyedbookworm.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/the-ring-by-koji-suzuki
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review 2014-03-30 05:09
The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa
The Diving Pool: Three Novellas - Yōko Ogawa,Stephen Snyder

The Diving Pool

Author: Yokō Ogawa

Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder

 

In Yokō Ogawa’s first major English translation, three stories present a brutally honest and fearless picture of obsession and desire. A cursory glance at the everyday lives of the characters presents the startling possibilities of cruelty and obsession. Through her discerning writing, we begin to question our presumptions about the connections we have and the motivations behind people’s actions. The mysteries of the human psyche lure you into a world of vague arbitrary signs that when deciphered can change your views completely.

 

In the title story The Diving Pool, we meet Aya who lives in an orphan house managed by her parents. Since she is the only one who is not an orphan there, she feels detached and alienated. The voice Aya has is a combination of innocence, coming-of-age and brutal cruelty. In an impulsive act, without any kind of motivation or reason whatsoever (at least, that’s what I think), she starts to abuse a baby in the orphanage. The baby’s cries give her pleasure and inspires a satisfaction that seems morbid and downright disturbing. Paired with this sick behavior is her obsession with another orphan Jun. She watches him during diving practice, noting his body and movements with utmost fascination.

 

The second story Pregnancy Diary is my least favorite but it’s as disturbing as the other stories in the book. The narrator records the progress of her sister’s pregnancy and also describes the various discomforts her sister feels. While the story moves on one can sense the narrator’s desire to create some sort of havoc that will alter the lives of not only her sister but of the baby as well.

 

Dormitory, the third story, is about a woman who goes back to her old dormitory which is run by an old man who has no arms and only one leg. For me this story had the most potential but the ending left me confused, unsatisfied and disappointed. Despite this, it remains my favorite of the three.

 

The Diving Pool is a realization that violence and cruelty can exist even in the most quiet way. The characters seem to share a common way of dealing with their negative emotions: real things are left unsaid and never thought of. It’s as if they were afraid of their own words and thoughts. The desire to cause harm to others are merely implied and never said outright as if the characters are aware that we are silently scrutinizing them. I wonder if the isolation shared by the characters warrant an ounce of sympathy from the readers of this book.

 

What struck me most is the capability of people to hide what they mean under the guise of somewhat innocent acts and language. While the straightforward nature of Yokō Ogawa’s prose drew me in inexplicably, considering the disturbing tones underlining each story, it still strikes me as beguiling that her simplicity of words can unsettle me. She easily exploits our familiarity and views about relationships, carefully leading us into the dark depths of suppressed emotions. She seems determined not to permit her characters to state bluntly what they are planning to do. Yokō Ogawa creates this innate tension that further confirms that there is always a possibility of cruelty and brutality hidden under manners and words.

 

There’s something tormenting and consuming about unspoken words and hidden motives. As the words and motives of the characters start to make sense in Yokō Ogawa’s The Diving Pool there is a stubborn sense of anticipation that motivates you to turn the pages.

 

The Diving Pool is an undeniable medley of beauty and darkness, paired with the simple and unrelenting writing of Yokō Ogawa. The conclusions of each story are entirely arbitrary, but the book’s entirety and its honesty will linger in the memory.

Source: 5eyedbookworm.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/the-diving-pool-by-yoko-ogawa
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