Surprisingly readable; especially as I hadn't been expecting much of anything. It reads as a 'futuristic'(and clearly, fictional) Generation Kill sort...moreSurprisingly readable; especially as I hadn't been expecting much of anything. It reads as a 'futuristic'(and clearly, fictional) Generation Kill sort of thing where an embedded reporter follows a group of a lobotomized-and-reprogrammed marines on a mission, only to discover that there are some Very Bad Things out there. There was more of a political twist than the basic monster survival story I had been expecting. Which... I'm not sure why I thought that, considering the game world and its story, which this is a retelling of from an outside POV.
This book (less horror and more mystery thriller with some vaguely horror elements) is interesting at first, until you realize that it doesn't intend...moreThis book (less horror and more mystery thriller with some vaguely horror elements) is interesting at first, until you realize that it doesn't intend to shift to the main character of the Blood series anytime soon. The first half of the story, while intriguing, has the same sort of lack of focus that have become characteristic of Mamoru Oishii's more recent films.
Heavy on psychology, sociology and philosophy with little explanation of why a given character even knows all this information -- educated sounding soliloquies abound, taking 5 or 8 pages longer than I feel is necessary to get any single point across. Granted, I do find the twisty, labyrinthine verbal plot-point-latin-historical-sociological-political-walk-throughs to be interesting and at times amusing, but they don't actually help the narrative all that much.
I stopped reading at the chapter long, deliberately obtuse thesis on the morality and scientific development of vampiric folklore as related to society at large, with a side dose of 'modern science' and random throwaway Latin.
It was amusing to see that the lack of focus that I found in the main character, who was some sort of student political activist, was actually deliberate on the author's part -- why did he fight? What political group did he belong to? Is he right wing? Why does he never say anything about what he believes in, well, other than the ennui that is Japanese teenage life?
"Pretty piss poor for a bunch of activists. Marx is rolling in his grave."
Shibino shot back angrily, "We're not Marxists!"
"What are you?"
"We're extremists. Do you have a problem with that?" Rei spoke up for Shibino, glaring at Gotouda. "I have a question, are you really a detective?"
You and me, kid. And oi, "I'm an extremist." isn't a particularly good answer either.
I'm amused, but in no mood to continue reading. It seems well written/translated enough that I definitely will return to it. But at the moment, it's going into my 'stalled' folder while I shift my attention elsewhere.(less)
**spoiler alert** Keep in mind that I read this book when the movie first came out, and it was one of my introductions to hard epic fantasy (along wit...more**spoiler alert** Keep in mind that I read this book when the movie first came out, and it was one of my introductions to hard epic fantasy (along with Conan and various books about unicorns) I have no t had a chance to reread in recent years due to my fear of losing my nostalgia-- something that's happened when I discovered well loved books I'd read in my youth no longer hold up to my reading level now.
While I found the 80s era movie to be quite entertaining and fun, I will be the first to admit that it wasn't exactly the highest brow movie that was ever created, in either concept or execution. Where the movie lacked, the book adaptation not only fleshed out but infused a level of seriousness that had me both immersed and shock. The story concept is pretty basic for a fantasy story. There is a baby that is destined to destroy the greatest evil in the land that happens to be this sorceress-usurper of the throne. So of course she wants to kill the baby. And the child's mother, the legitimate queen, sends her daughter out to the wilds in an attempt to save her from the hunting dogs. The baby comes into the possession of a Little Person who is now charged to leave his village and go out into the world for the very first time.
On one hand, this is a rather typical fantasy about destiny, prophecy and succession rites. On the other hand, it's a shockingly good novel about disillusionment, culture clash, and the painful process involved in expanding beyond your own mental and physical 'limitations'. It is a story about the building and rebuilding of destroyed self-confidence. It's about learning how to come into your own power. Learning to trust in someone and/or something other than yourself. Learning to believe in the intangible.
Pretty much every character in the story, the swordsman Madmartigan in particular, has their character fleshed out. Incredible amounts of detail is worked into their back stories, requiring almost appendix-like insertions that stylistically reminds me of Marrius's backstory in the unabridged version of Les Miserables. The writing is clean, without too many purple words and fancy descriptions. It gets the point across smoothly, but with just enough embellishment to really get the sense of adventure and creepiness across effectively (and with appropriate levels of dramatics).
It never ends up either cheesy or over dramatic in the way many high fantasy novels tend to fall into. This is possibly due to the very amusing level of disbelief that several of the in characters exhibit both of each other but of the very premise of the story itself. It isn't often that one sees a character go on a journey to fulfill a prophecy that he doesn't believe in. And it isn't often that you see characters spend most of the story not believing in each other. In fact, there is so much disbelief happening, that the reason they all come together isn't so much the prophecy, but their desire to keep each other from dying out there in the wilds. I find this viewpoint both refreshing and largely realistic.
Still, one has to also continue to remember that this IS a low brow hack-n-slash written in the 80s. It hasn't completely avoided that. But, for what it is, it's very excellently done and is still in some ways better than some newer books that I've gotten my hands on.
It is a pity that the sequels to this book are written, badly, by George Lucas who is a far better concept creator/director than he is a writer. But, if one pretends the sequels do not exist, then this one book is a fun read for the time period it was written in. (less)
Somewhere online, I read a review that described 'After the Last Goodbye' (written as a prequel to the Japanese animated movie 'Ghost In the Shell: In...moreSomewhere online, I read a review that described 'After the Last Goodbye' (written as a prequel to the Japanese animated movie 'Ghost In the Shell: Innocence') as being a slow burning jazz song infused with an extended action sequence. And that’s exactly what this story is.
This story is essentially three different stories. On one hand, it's an action thriller with yakuza, armored car chase scenes and explosions. On the other hand, it's an existential story of a cyborg and his own personal levels of humanity. As a third story-- one can say it's just a simple story of a man searching for his dog.
Some people have compared this story to Bladerunner and Do Sleeping Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep. I would say: Certainly! This is, after all a cyberpunk novel. However, Masaki Yamada manages to give a sense of hopeful humanity that I often find missing in the nihilistic, painful and almost anarchist dystopias that one often finds cyberpunk worlds to be. Because the story is told from an adult outsider's point of view, this story gives an interesting angle to the old questions of what it's like to have friends, to want to live, to want to have some sort of meaningful interaction with other humans. It asks the rather melancholy questions of, "How can one be certain that one is feeling something? Do my emotions and dreams become less and less legitimate the more hardware I add to my body and brain? Where is the legitimate emotion? The heart or the brain? Can I even be counted as human any longer?" These questions are even more poignant because the man was once completely human and has very legitimate reasons to ask these questions.
Despite the two typos I spotted, which is unfortunate and the editor's fault not the translator's; the translation is strong. It flows nicely and smoothly, without any sense of questionable synonym choice that sometimes appears in translated works. The prose is dreamy at times, melancholy, easily transitioning to something more coolly analytical and robotic. Other times, the voice is mildly sarcastic and amusingly self-aware. The main character knows he's big and scary, and his observations of people's reactions and his own attempts to mitigate his big scariness is fun to read.
I bought the hardcover version of this book on impulse, drawn by the texture of the matte cover, and the wonderful size that fit snuggly in my hand. As I read, I kept saying to myself, "Wow, this is good." It turns out that writer is famous in Japan and winner of multiple awards in science fiction. Go figure. I have to say that I hope more of his books become available in English, because I am very much interested in reading them. This prequel to the latest Ghost in the Shell movie manages to do, textually, what the movie did visually. It fully compliments the movie conceptually. Where the movie failed in its script, Yamada picks up and runs with it in a far more effective manner. I have to say this book is an improvement to the themes and concepts that are presented in the movie and currently one of my favorite novels. (less)