Koji Suzuki

Vertical, Inc, 382 pages
Review by Matthew Tait

A name now synonymous with dark fiction, Koji Suzuki rose to prominence as the original author of the Ring Cycle books, a sub-set of accomplished horror outings sparking off not only English translations, but a veritable trove of manga and movie adaptations that gave rise to a kind of renaissance in Japanese horror fiction and cinema. Quick to catch fire overseas, this new-found genus soon found an audience across the Pacific with American director Gore Verbinski re-making the original Ringu for English audiences … an interpretation that to this day remains all enduring with its atmospheric tones and tension-wrought climax.

It’s an impressive resume, but right off the bat I’m going to inform Hellnotes readers that Edge is my first introduction to the author’s prose – and partly why I decided to take on the book for appraisal. Here, Koji shifts gears in a largely new direction from what we have come to know in his thematic world of J-Horror: poltergeists given a wide birth in favor of terrors more existential in nature … the fear of nature itself. In the past few decades, science (and in particular fields of study such as quantum mechanics), have offered us a glimpse of an unseen world that lies just under the surface of our perceived senses and this one. Through a universal language like mathematics, we are discovering that this realm is not only more mysterious and complex than we ever imagined, it is ultimately spiritual in nature … with consciousness itself playing a vast role that is capable of influencing the material world.

After the mysterious disappearance of her father in 1994, freelance reporter Saeko Kuriyama feels divorced from life. When unexplained phenomenon begin to take hold of Japan – namely that of individuals and families vanishing into thin air overnight – Saeko feels drawn to the mystery as though it could be her personal calling. Reminiscent of disappearances such as the ghost ship Mary Celeste in 1872, the vanishings begin to spread over the entire continent in what soon becomes a disenable pattern involving fault-lines. When drafted by a magazine editor to explore the vanishing of one Fujimura family, Saeko teams up with a local TV station and a psychic to investigate the case. Together they slowly peel back the layers of a genuine unknown to find something far more sinister than a motley crew of missing persons … it is an anomaly that is rooted in natural causes – a profound disturbance in being itself.

For a novel originally composed in another language entirely, the translation here comes off clean. With only one typo apparent, Koji’s syntax is free-flowing and smooth. There are some metaphors that just beg to be read out loud, and the overall structure of the writing is intelligent and heart-felt. I suppose one criticism that could be levelled in this case was the distinct lack of action – and there are a lot of scenes where characters (and in particular Seako) spend numerous passages merely ruminating about underlying philosophies, coming to final conclusions that are only guessed at but then given verity merely by deduction. However, when dealing with the subject matter – that of quantum horror – it seems Koji has purposefully taken this path. Edge, for all its wonky science, is a moody journey. When delving into the climax, a reader can almost hear a cinematic soundtrack at the heart of the story … a sensation that was not unlike experiencing some of the finer aspects of Gore Verbinski’s The Ring.

An ambitious novel to take on, I can see that there will be a few disgruntled readers with the topic at hand, and the blurb attached to various websites and the novel itself is overly misleading with how the story pans out. Personally, however, the focus here is a theme I’ve always held a fascination for: that of ancient civilizations and the advanced world they left behind. Our known recorded history – the one that we were collectively taught – seems inherently flawed with new evidence coming to light that seems to raise more questions than answers. Through astute personal observations and modern physics, Koji tries to find the answer to those mysteries, and ultimately delivers a unique reading experience that is reflective of the current cultural climate.

[Editor’s Note:] Matthew Tait’s The Grief School will be free on the Kindle today, September 4th. So don’t miss the chance to pick up your free copy: The Grief School

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