Thursday, August 20, 2009

Not another J horror

There's a Japanese literature challenge going around in many book blogs these days. While I don't really participate in these challenges, I was in the mood to read a novel by a Japanese author. I also wanted to satisfy my horror novel craving, so I decided to give this novel a go.

The Crimson Labyrinth, a novel by Japanese horror writer Yusuke Kishi, didn't really offer anything new. I was expecting a new angle on this storyline since The Crimson Labyrinth was a bestseller in Japan. In the novel, a group of 11 people find themselves to be unwilling participants in a game called the Crimson Labyrinth. The game requires them to compete against one another for a cash prize, forcing them to kill one another since there should only be one winner/survivor in the end.

If the storyline sounds way too similar to Battle Royale, well, it is, but with older characters. Kishi is an author that aims to shock his readers with narratives of cannibalism and extreme paranoia in a very hostile territory. Reading about the contestants eating one of their kind may elicit unpleasant reader reactions at first. But if this device becomes the main horror element in the novel, it just feels too drawn out. There's none of the supernatural factor that we've all come to expect and love in Japanese horror novels and movies. The novel disappoints big time.

In the end, Kishi doesn't even lead the reader to discover for himself all the unanswered questions the plot has raised. He simply explains everything, and none of these explanations can make you exclaim, "I didn't see that coming." Everything feels contrived.

Read this book if:
  1. You like J horror in all its forms.
  2. You think Battle Royale is the ultimate reality show.
  3. You're a game show fanatic.


sumthinblue said...

I've been meaning to join that Japanese lit challenge because I've read so many this year.

I'm not into horror novels, but I like detective fiction. This year, I discovered Japanese detective fiction when I read Natsuo Kirino's Out for the FFP Japanese book discussion last March, and it was great! There's also a bit of a horror factor in it (starting with the cover, haha).

Here's the link if you want to check it out:

See you Saturday!

Peter S. said...

Hi Blooey! See you this Saturday! I read Out as well, and I loved it. I have The Grotesque, but it's not quite as good as Out.

Mel u said...

Peter, as you were not crazy for this book, are you interested in swapping it? I am really getting into Japanese novels, a new area for me, Thanks to the Japanese Challenge.

Peter S. said...

All right, Mel. You can have it.

Charlie said...

Sorry about you having to read, and then review, a bummer book. You do us a service, though, by separating the chaff from the wheat.

As far as gross-out, I can do that all by myself--sans cannibalism, that is. I tend to like my humans alive and with skin on.

Peter S. said...

Hi Charlie! Somehow, writing a review of a bad book makes it better.

Mel u said...

Peter-I just finished the book-to me it was my first Japanese horror book so I thought it was an ok book-I did not really get into the characters and I could not find much sympathy for the lead character. I felt little or no vicarious fear as I read the book. Can you recommend any other Japanese horror or sci-fi books?

Peter S. said...

Hi Melvin! You should check out Asa Nonami's Now You're One of Us. It's a bit similar to Rosemary's Baby but with a twist.

Mel u said...

I will check out the book you suggest-where do you think best place to find it in the QC area might be-by th way have you read Lovely Bones by Ann Sebold?