October 25, 2007

Paradise (1990 novel)

Written by Koji Suzuki.

It's a shame Suzuki's popularity is mainly based around his horror work. It's not even his work, but rather the loose adaptations of fantastic filmmakers. I'm not complaining about the films - I love The Ring and Dark Water - but, frankly, those are not Suzuki at his best. Forest Under the Sea is. Loop is. This, his debut novel, is. His finest writing isn't about viruses or ghosts, it's about people. People struggling to find their identity and looking to the past for some form of answer. While these are elements that do, on occasion, pop up in his horror tales, here they finally get to stand in the forefront instead of getting buried within creepy dripping and moldy flesh.

Paradise is a near masterpiece. It's a love story spanning generations - from stone-age Asia, to a Polynesian island in the 17th century, to America in the 90s - a tale of people moved to complete the journey of their forgotten ancestors. And it is beautiful.

I only had two problems with the book, but they are not overwhelmingly glaring. First, the opening story is a bit cliche. A man's tribe is attacked, his wife is stolen, he sets out to rescue her. It's a basic plot that's been used in everything from Conan to Spaghetti Westerns. Suzuki makes up for it in little details and beautiful execution, but it's noticeable, nonetheless. The second, near the end of part three, is when the characters have sensations and experiences bordering on the supernatural. I don't mind ESP being a part of the story, my problem is that the rest of the book is so grounded in reality that these intuitions just pop up out of the blue. Granted, one could argue that Suzuki was making a statement about past lives and hereditary memories. Fine. And, yes, it's a pseudoscience and far less of a stretch than the contents of his RING trilogy. But, in the end, it stands out from the rest of the book as an element that doesn't fit the whole.

Anyway, it was a fantastic read. I eagerly await Suzuki's next publication and hope it's something more along the line of this than his supernatural thrillers.

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