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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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review 2014-03-30 03:34
Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra
Ways of Going Home - Alejandro Zambra,Megan McDowell

 Ways of Going Home

Author: Alejandro Zambra

Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell

Genre: Literary Fiction, Latin American Literature, Contemporary Fiction Illustration on title page by Charlotte Strick

Setting: Santiago, Chile

Published January 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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"It's strange, it's silly to attempt a genuine story about something, about someone, about anyone, even oneself. But it's necessary as well."

- Alejandro Zambra

Before Ways of Going Home, I have not read any book from Alejandro Zambra. I can tell that this is a very personal piece of metafiction which lends voice to writers and explores how their lives are a constant search of what and how to tell a story. His writing is simple but he writes from the heart. There is this sense of sincerity within the lines, made more palpable by his unadorned writing.

 

The switching perspective, between author and character left me a little confused but I eventually got used to it. This is not, I guess, meant to fault the author. I found out recently that there are some books that I really need time to get into. Mr. Zambra's technique or methods of presenting a story is somewhat different. While most of the books I've read are more 'flowing', Ways of Going Home was a little disjointed for my taste. At times it left me frustrated.

 

That's not to say that I didn't like this book. His reflections about life and writing are fascinating. I liked how he presented the ambiguities of our youth and how growing up changes us. I guess, for most of us, in our younger years, we have led a life dictated and influenced by our parents and yet inevitably, almost inexplicably, we morph into something completely new and distinct from them. Our opinions may set us apart from them, our preferences may differ, our life views and all the other things we didn't care about when we were children are there for the taking, whether we like it or not.

 

In the book, the main character's view about his parents vary- ranging from affection and love, to sometimes being incongruous. At times he becomes too critical of his father and mother, making them guilty of things they did in the past. It seems to me that the character in the story is still trying to come to terms with his past, his uncertainties-even his guilt, are directed towards his parents. Mr. Zambra also tackled how our parents' choices are weaved into our lives. A single decision can change everything. This is exemplified in Claudia's life - a character in the first part of the story. She had to endure a life without her father, who had to assume a new identity during Augusto Pinochet's regime. Life those days were tumultuous and violent, and as such people were living in fear. Mr. Zambra believed that this fear was only present in adults at that time- children being spared the 'true' story. In a way, their ignorance and innocence have protected them and in doing so, their lives seem to be 'another' story- completely different from the lives their parents have to face day by day.

 

It is a tough book to read but there are rewards to be collected from reading it. I find that his insights are universal and timeless. The veracity of the story is palpable all throughout. There's a feeling of nostalgia as he recounts his childhood. Somehow I was reminded of how carefree it is to be a child- oblivious to the world's difficult times and issues, and how everything seems to be an adventure of some sort.

 

I guess writers will appreciate this book more. In a way, it opened my eyes into the world of writing and how at times a writer struggles and gets 'lost' at some point of the story. It's also evident from the book how personal experiences mold a story they want to tell. In the end though, as Alejandro Zambra said so well, "I knew little, but at least I knew that: no one could speak for someone else. That although we might want to tell other people's stories, we always end up telling our own."

 

>> Read Notable Quotes

 

Source: 5eyedbookworm.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/ways-of-going-home-alejandro-zambra
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