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Into the Forbidden Zone: A Trip through Hell & High Water in Post-earthquake Japan

3.43  ·  Rating Details  ·  208 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
Just weeks after multiple disasters struck Japan, National Book Award winner William T. Vollmann ventures into the nuclear hot zone, outfitted only with rubber kitchen gloves, a cloth facemask, and a capricious radiation detector. In this Byliner Original from the new digital publisher Byliner, Vollmann emerges with a haunting report on daily life in a now-ravaged Japan — ...more
Published September 12th 2011 by Byliner Inc. (first published May 1st 2011)
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Franco  Santos
"Maybe he's too close to the radiation!" laughed the driver, and who can say he was not correct? For this is a story about things we can scarcely believe, let alone understand.

Emotivo retrato del Japón fustigado por el desastre nuclear de Fukushima luego del llamado Gran Terremoto —y posterior tsunami— que les costó la vida a más de 15 000 personas y dejó más de 4000 desaparecidos en 2011.


La prosa de Vollmann acompaña a la perfección el clima desolador que se muestra en este ensayo, el cual
Dec 16, 2014 Zadignose rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 21st-century
This is an honest bit of reportage, which is to say that since not much happened during Vollmann's trip, he really doesn't have much to say. The text is far from being essential reading (unless you're a completionist... wink wink). The events of the Tsunami and the nuclear meltdown are quite significant, and a few comments to reflect local attitudes and experiences do have some degree of interest. I understand Vollmann's overall anti-nuclear perspective, and the book even did get me to rethink t ...more
William T. Vollmann goes to Japan shortly after the earthquake\tsunami\nuclear crisis in March or April. I'd heard of him and this was a Kindle single for $2.99 and about 60 pages.

Cool for a shortish story, but I had a hard time following for some reason, and some of the writing was eye-rollingly bad and I just can't forgive.

I bookmarked a couple, the most egregious being as follows:

"By now the trees had already started to decompose, so that when they edged up to the sides of houses, they infi
A short read. Basically an extra long gonzo-style magazine article on the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

It's a weird one. The main piece I took from this is how little any of the public knows or understands of becquerels and milli-sieverts and what radiation does or how it works. He spends the entire piece nervously referring to his own potentially unreliable dosimeter. While in comparison many of the Japanese he speaks to seem to trust in their own government to tell them when it's dangerous.

A little investigation into the hot zone of Fukushima and the flooded environs. Floods, temperamental dosimeters, and meditations on Buddha and the atom.

It feels strange to read a Vollmann this short - I wonder if there are parts excised, and if they will be released later.
Thomas Vollmann's Inside the Forbidden Zone was my first Kindle Single purchase. At approximately 60 pages (1070 Kindle locations), it's an ideal for an e-reader (too long for a magazine and not long enough to be published as a book) and its $2.99 price tag. Radiation measurement device in tow, the most engaging parts of this journalistic work/opinion piece are Vollmann's interviews with Japanese residents in and around the Fukushima evacuation zone, including one man who was in the plant when t ...more
Jim Elkins
Oct 14, 2012 Jim Elkins rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american
A short book or long piece of reporting, a la Harper's, on the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. It has some sharp writing, and it's economical with descriptions (reminiscent, in that regard, of Edmund Wilson), but it also displays Vollmann's tics: he doesn't quite get the right dosimeter to measure radiation; he masters some aspects of the math of radioactivity, but not others (two footnotes disagree on the dosage in an ordinary X-ray); he complains about the amount he has to pay his informants, ...more
Jun 28, 2012 Angela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The tone is whimsical and tragicomic; Vollman lingers on things such as the weird (and almost incomprehensible) units of measurement for things like radiation poisoning. (I assume he was also making a larger point about the Japanese government intentionally obfuscating details of the nuclear reactor explosion.) Overall, an absorbing, too-brief account of Vollman's explorations in the post-disaster Japanese countryside. This could have been a full book, and I wish it had been. As such, it felt ab ...more
Oct 12, 2014 Downward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Essentially a longish magazine article, Into The Forbidden Zone follows Vollmann to Japan in the immediate wake of the earthquake/tsunami/fukishima disaster. There are some terrifying images, mostly of the earthquake and the tsunami that followed, told first hand from people Vollmann interviewed, but the real horror of the piece comes from Vollmann's attempts to explain radiation and his own anxieties with regards to the radiation levels his body is consuming. It presents this America/Japan juxt ...more
Usually these Kindle singles are a cheap bargain but they're not exactly top-drawer material.

This guy Vollmann is apparently a big award winner but you can't tell from this weak bit of reporting.

The most annoying and blatantly insensitive question he kept asking the Japanese was: "Uhhh, do you think this nuclear fallout in Fukushima is worse than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?"

His writing is also wince-worthy, full of bad and confusing metaphors.

I wish he would've been m
May 07, 2011 Leigh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been following the ongoing situation at Fukushima, and thus was extremely interested in the latest Byliner publication. The response to this nuclear disaster has a frustratingly familiar tone (i.e., the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico): officials debating without conclusion as to the magnitude of the problem; communities left guessing at how to respond; individual confusion about the impact on one's health, resources, and way of life.

This fine piece of long-form journalism brings the mul
Jul 18, 2013 S. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hookah
my third Vollmann, although I have yet to read any of top three most famous books, Europe Central, Rising Up, or Whores for Gloria. yet, at this point, I might be slightly getting over the whole name-dropping thing about him, having generously given Riding Towards Everywhere the 4 (probably really a high 3), and reconfirming Poor People at the 4/5. Vollmann Vollmann Vollmann. the literari's name-dropped name, coming up so capricously in new york times editorials or in other non-fiction works. is ...more
J. Shimotake
Mar 10, 2012 J. Shimotake rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"Into the Forbidden Zone" is an account of Mr. Vollmann's experiences traveling through Japan after the earthquake. Because of this, it is from the perspective of a traveler. He flits and floats across Japan. I didn't get a sense of how people are living, which was all I wanted. He does expertly get across the generalities that one does when they are surrounded by a general sense of paranoia and fear. However, I guess what I wanted was a lot more intimate than was given. There was a distant betw ...more
LeeAnn Heringer
I found it a fascinating short read with snapshots of post-earthquake Japan. The American attitudes toward nuclear energy and fear of radiation vs the Japanese trust in their government and ties to their home. It reminds me of the joke about 3 blind men describing an elephant and the description depended on which part of the elephant the blind man grabbed hold of. We can only ever be one place at a time and see portions of a more complete story, but man-on-the-ground essays such as this one help ...more
Sep 20, 2012 Brent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William Vollman visits Japan shortly after the series of disasters and an interesting time finding a reliable means to measure radiation. He brings his unique examination style to the situation, looking over a lot of emptiness, denial, and much that just can't be known yet. He highlights the government's chosen response as well as the mood of those who were there. A quick rewarding read that reminds of the humanity in the situation and leaves us with a lot of tough questions.
May 23, 2011 Bryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This personal, reflective first-person narrative recounts the author's journey to Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake/tsunami/reactor disaster. His treatment doesn't focus on reporting facts and figures, but instead on the stories of the Japanese people he meets. While short, this book is a nice companion to traditional journalism.
Jul 06, 2012 Azhureheart rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: blanche, bad-apples
D'un bout à l'autre, il m'aura laissé une impression désagréable, comme le narrateur en fait. L'ayant lu en français, je ne jugerai pas de l'écriture mais en ce qui concerne le contenu, je l'ai trouvé inutile, sans profondeur, satisfait. Heureusement qu'il était court et emprunté à la bibliothèque.
Derek Fenner
May 16, 2011 Derek Fenner rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vollmann
For $2.00 I was glad to read this 50 page treatment of WTV strapping on some rubber gloves, arming himself with a dosimeter procured through his dentist, and heading to post-earthquake Japan. An informing and on-the-ground look at the things left bare in our media-scape.
Petra Willemse
The subject matter is gruesome - there is no doubt that the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan will be felt for years to come. However, Vollmann's account does tend to wander a little aimlessly at times. Great firsthand reporting of survivor stories nonetheless.
Jun 07, 2011 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting article about the fallout from the Earthquake and Reactor meltdowns. Really stuff I wouldn't have gotten through any other media source.
Jun 28, 2011 Brent rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of Vollman's sketches are haunting; others are just disjointed and add little to the narrative.
Tomoya Miura
Jun 24, 2011 Tomoya Miura rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
Sep 27, 2011 Billy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
he is just a great author
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William T Vollman...: 2011 Into the Forbidden Zone 2 19 Nov 01, 2012 07:06AM  
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William Tanner Vollmann is an American novelist, journalist, short story writer and essayist. He lives in Sacramento, California with his wife and daughter.

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