Monday, May 18, 2009

Let sleeping dogs lie.

Years ago, waaaaay before Boogiepop, Kadono Kouhei wrote a novel. It was rejected. He wrote it three more times, failing each time.
Then came Boogiepop, and thirty other novels, including the Jiken series...and he decided that old failure would fit in nicely. He started sowing the seeds, and then announced the next book would be The Cruel Tale of Zankoku-go.
Took him four years. Severe writer's block? Problems making it work?
He probably should have abandoned the idea.
Because this is the single worst thing he's ever written.
I have literally been reading this fucking book for two months. I polished off the second half today, but that first half was an interminable slog that took a whole hell of a lot of stubborn persistence to get through. I'm really not sure why I bothered.
Story generating from characters or from high concepts is a running theme on this blog lately, and it's been partly because I've had this book on my mind. Kadono is a writer who has built his entire career on his fascinating, elusive, unique characters.
This book is all about fucking plot. Endless god damn dreary exposition, no god damn reason to give a flying fuck.
Sure, it has moments; one supporting character even manages to be sort of awesome, and she'll hopefully show up in a good book some day.
But large chunks of it are just BAD. Even when people are actually doing something they have a tendency to spout ghastly cliches like, "Let's finish this!"
The change in artists doesn't help. The cover is awesome, the character I liked has a particularly cool design that shows how much the artist tried to capture the berserk aesthetic the original one brought to the series, but ultimately he wants to be fucking illustrating an eighties sci-fi books, and there is some embarrassing battle jump suit and cape combos that totally take the books some place way blander than the first four novels. Which goes along with the relentlessly large scale plot.
Zankoku-go worked in Some Tragedies of No Tear Land because he was a small cog in the book - a gigantic monster fight that flitted through a much more ground level, personal, intense drama. Here he's an utterly bland force of nature in a plot that is all world on the brink of destruction massive shit. Avoid.

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