Old Reviews

Novel Review: Ring by Koji Suzuki

Ring by Koji Suzuki
Series: Ring #1
Adult ∴ Horror > Japanese ∴ TW: Rape
Published April 25th 2004 by Vertical (first published 1991)
Paperback ∴ 282 pages

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A mysterious videotape warns that the viewer will die in one week unless a certain, unspecified act is performed. Exactly one week after watching the tape, four teenagers die one after another of heart failure.

Asakawa, a hardworking journalist, is intrigued by his niece’s inexplicable death. His investigation leads him from a metropolitan Tokyo teeming with modern society’s fears to a rural Japan–a mountain resort, a volcanic island, and a countryside clinic–haunted by the past. His attempt to solve the tape’s mystery before it’s too late–for everyone–assumes an increasingly deadly urgency. Ring is a chillingly told horror story, a masterfully suspenseful mystery, and post-modern trip.

*sigh* I had such high hopes. Japanese, Chinese, and Korean horror is some of the scariest and unsettling stuff I’ve seen. This, not so much. It isn’t normal for me to like a movie better than the book, even the crappier, less scary, American version… Honestly, I think a lot of the issues I have with the writing and the pacing are because it’s translated. I assume lots of the nuances and word play are lost in translation.

So, the scariest part of this book was in the beginning, when the girl, Tomoko, has to deal with the repercussions of watching the infamous video. It’s got all the tension and atmosphere one would expect from this kind of horror. But after that, it’s just boring and slow.

The main character, Asakawa, is whiney. He just bugs me. His best friend, Ryuji, to whom he shows the video and recruits to help solve the “charm,” is a sociopathic serial rapist… Charming, I know. Asakawa is the only person who knows of Ryuji’s crimes and does NOTHING about it.

Asakawa and Ryuji spend the whole novel trying to discover the “charm” to break the curse in the most boring way. They visit libraries and professors and talk to locals. That’s it. 200 pages of talking to locals and bitching at each other.

But did you think the rape stopped there? NOPE. Turns out, the cause of the curse, Sadako, was raped by a doctor. Cool, right? Don’t you worry, it get’s better. Sadako had a condition that caused her ovaries to develop outside of her body, like testicles. What’s this got to do with anything? IT DOESN’T. Are we gonna keep bringing it up over and over again throughout the rest of the novel? We sure are! (I’m not salty, it’s fine) Asakawa and Ryuji bring it up frequently over the course of the last quarter of the book, debating on whether her having “testicles” makes her a woman or not, because THAT’S CRUCIAL TO THE STORY.

Thankfully, Ryuji dies and Asakawa plans to make a copy and show the tape to his in-laws because he’s an asshole. THE END. That’s it. That’s how it ends.

It’s honestly really hard for me not to just rant endlessly about this book. I was so excited. I thought, “How could this be bad?! It’s Japanese horror, the best around! And in book form!” I want to give another of his novels a chance, but I’m weary. I know there are cultural differences, and that it was originally published in 1990, but that’s no excuse for how they talk about women in this novel (I’m not going to go on about the other stuff, it’s just not worth it). There’s nothing special in the writing, but that could be because it’s translated and it’s just missing pieces from the original Japanese, but this just isn’t worth it. Just watch the movie. Apparently, it’s a series, but I’m probably not going to bother with it.

∴ 2 stars ∴

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