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Kappa Quartet

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  259 ratings  ·  51 reviews
Shortlisted for the 2017 Singapore Book Award for Best Book Cover Design

Kevin is a young man without a soul, holidaying in Tokyo; Mr Five, the enigmatic kappa, is the man he so happens to meet. Little does Kevin know that kappas—the river demons of Japanese folklore—desire nothing more than the souls of other humans. Set between Singapore and Japan, Kappa Quartet is split
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 2016 by Epigram Books
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Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  259 ratings  ·  51 reviews

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Dec 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
A couple of caveats before we start:

-I believe reviews should be honest about their intentions and their preferences before they start, so I'll just come right out and say that Daryl Qilin Yam is a close friend of mine—

-this is a very specific novel, written by a very specific writer, and this is crucial to how much you enjoy this book.

I'll start by articulating the previous statement. When I say that this is a very specific novel, I don’t mean to say that it’s restricted in its time and cultu
Aug 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Curiouser and curiouser, Kappa Quartet is perhaps one of two things: (i) an intricate enigma, or (ii) an undercooked entrée. But is it really one or the other? Hardly. The very last line of the novel hints at its own ambiguity: (view spoiler) — gesturing suggestively at the pervasiveness of unresolved tensions, which I took to be a central motif of the novel.

Indeed, many tensions and 'subplots' (if one can call them that) remain unresolved
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Confounded and yet truly in awe of this book. There's a particular strain of work appearing in 2016 that seems to baffle people, be it Sense8, The OA, and this book as well, that seems to go against the grain of everything we've come to believe in and really challenge our expectations + expose our biases of what we ought to expect from a certain sort of medium / media / genre / art. There was an initial resistance, admittedly, that I clung onto quite stupidly before I realised that I simply had ...more
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Interesting. Murakami and Japanese book fans should try it.
Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: made-me-cry
I'm in love with this book

I wonder why this has low ratings it was such a beautiful connection of eight stories characters flowing across stories weaving their lives into one another

Author did such a great job to make me care about each and every single character

I don't read mystery or thrillers but this was mystery and thriller at some point though mystery isn't solved and I wonder if thriller scenes were actually wonderful scenes for characters

There's happy ending but there's not

Each story gav
Validus Pius jacob
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Don't expect to finish this book in one sitting.

Read each story carefully, each narrative with a keen attention to the subtle hints and details brought to light. Take note of the date before each chapter, and form the timeline in your head. Then read and find yourself pausing after every story simply to digest the story you just consumed.

You will find yourself wondering a lot and asking many questions, but just keep reading. Let each story tell its own tale. Your only job is to piece the informa
Nov 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: singlit
i'm very sleepy but this is a very nice book. daryl has a very nice way of interacting and manoeuvring words. the concepts that are explored in the book are very interesting to think about, and the mythology created behind them. i liked it a lot, but upon reflection, i've revised my rating a little for how much i remember it. it could do more, somehow. ...more
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
yo – am not here to rate books but i just wanted to chip in and say that you need to read this. trust me. i dunno why, but yeah. i can attempt a summary but that would be too wild haha. my brain is on fire and my body is in the water.
Joel Wong
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
It felt like a dream, a dream that we all want to return to one day. Murakami-lite? Maybe, though at the same time completely unique in its own way. It's a thematic novel that embodies its themes. A masterpiece in its own right. ...more
Priya C
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The first Singaporean book I ever read, and from start to finish at that. Confounding but brilliant – can't wait to read the other books on the Fiction Prize list. ...more
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very original, reminded me of Haruki Murakami or David Mitchell. A lot of intriguing characters and stories and introduced without any resolution, but that didn't make it less enjoyable. ...more
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
“Kappa Quartet” is a very heavily based around dialogues of many types of characters, some human some kappas, beings inspired by Japanese folktales. The book is divided into a number of segments in which you slowly but surely peak little further into who kappas are, how they interact with the world of humans and what soul really means to the characters you encounter while you skip from Singapore to Japan.

Personally I enjoyed the story very much and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy
Sep 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
Contrived and confusing. For the most part, characters engage in cryptic dialogues while stationary.
Jan 30, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a novel that Singlit needs, a novel that transcends the usual genres Singaporean authors find themselves preoccupied with, to veer out into the realm of the surreal. I'm glad this novel exists. Having said that, I felt a certain sense of hollowness in the story, like the son without a soul. But let us backtrack a little. The pacing and switch of perspectives every chapter reminded me of Confessions by Kanae Minato, which I enjoyed. Confessions was more tightly knit, stemming from the epi ...more
Epigram Books
Advance Praise:
“Located somewhere between the shattered filmic worlds of David Lynch and Satoshi Kon's apocalyptic anime, Yam's narrative hypnotises us into questioning our reality in ways that are terrifying, revelatory and fundamentally profound.”
—Cyril Wong, award-winning author of Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me

“Irreal and intricate, Daryl Yam's riveting debut teases the perimeters of what a Singaporean novel can be.”
—Amanda Lee Koe, award-winning author of Ministry of Moral Pani
Sam Brustad
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Swept up in the captivating mood of Yam's writing I finished this book in no time at all. I would absolutely reccomend this novel.

Jumping through the minds of each new character, with every addition making the story disconcerting clearer created an odd feeling. It felt as if these new characters were intimately connecting me with the narrative, by sharing their 'souls' I began to loose a sense of my own definitive place as a reader. These characters felt so intrinsically human, it was impossible
Jun 27, 2019 rated it liked it
goodness, this book took me for a ride. prepare to be confused for about 90% of it. strongly recommend reading it in one shot and then re-reading it. it’s a very meticulously planned and woven storyline but that’s almost all i can tell you. i remember at one point being very frightened, and i thought that was amazing and wonderful
ZhiKun Soh
Dec 29, 2016 rated it did not like it
Finished it with a lot of ???? -

I guess my rating will not be valid. Not my cup of book. I am totally lost in the story. I don't know what happened in the story. I wont say it is a bad book but just isn't my cup of tea.
Karen Kueh
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I gave myself a week after finishing this to re-read it again. My brain lit up. I hardly ever annotate my books, but if you looked at it you would think I was mad.
I Am Kappa
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A troll shall be fought by a kappa.
Feb 22, 2018 rated it liked it
“Wow,” I said. “It’s a good feeling, isn’t it? Finishing a book.”

“Best feeling ever,” Ahab said. He kept his eyes locked forward. “You know, once I was on the train, and I saw someone finish a book right in front of my eyes. The look on the girl’s face was priceless.”

“That’s nice,” I said. I looked out of the window. “Would you recommend the book to me?”

“Sure, yeah,” said Ahab. “I’d recommend it to anybody.”

(This is not one of Yam's stronger quotes, just entertaining to me because I am currently
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Loved how uneasy and strange it made me feel. The sense of strangeness ebbs and flows masterfully, and is ratcheted up in sharp moments. I think technically speaking, this is one of the best pieces of Singaporean writing I've come across in awhile (I don't read much of this geographical genre, admittedly). Narratively (plot-ly?) sophisticated, perhaps a bit too much so - it became a little difficult to figure out who was where or which near the end. I'm not sure how or what the ending means, whi ...more
Musings of a Middle-aged Mum
My husband recommended this book to me. He said it was weird, he wasn't sure of the ending, and that he thought I would like it. So after much nagging (partially because I was in the middle of a series or two) I went to read this book.

This book is a bit weird. It's totally different to what I was expecting, and being set in Japan with Japanese cultural references, I read the first chapter or so, not really understanding what was going on, but wanting to.

But not having read the blurb, as I was ju
Yifei Men
Finishing this one took some perseverance, but overall I think it's worth the effort.

This is definitely a work of a talented young writer, the fabulist genre that Yam works in is not easy to get right; and I struggeld at points to understand what's the contract with the reader -- am I supposed to connect the dots and unlock a mystery, or just go with the flow and not try to understand? This novel does has a strong mark of Murakami, with its dreamlike quality and bending of reality; but its short
Jo Q
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing


“It’s a particular kind of loss,” he said. “Something I can’t quite put my finger on, but it’s there. The more you look into it, the more it stares back at you, leaving you cold on the inside.” He paused. “It feels like a void of some kind, the kind that hurts around the edges—and yet the longer I stand there, the less I can feel it hurting. The fuller I feel I’m becoming.”

His thumb had stopped moving. I smiled to myself, and pressed my hands against my eyes. I asked the old guy i
Jerric Leong
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Yes, this book is not Murakami, because Daryl is NOT Murakami.

Kappa Quartet is an abstract art in written form. You form your speculation based on your own understanding and gut feelings - form mental relational web and why they happened. You can try to link everything together, but that wasn't the main point. You form your own understanding.

I love how the suspense poof into thin air with minimal explanation.

OR maybe I didn't understand the novel. I love it. I think Kappas are kinda badass.
Wei Hao
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“The seed of a desire,” I replied. “Do you know what a shirikodama is, Ms Neo?”
“I think so,” she said.
“It is said to contain the essence of one’s soul. It is also said to resemble a small bead, nestled deep in one’s anus. This,” I stressed to her, “is a particular belief held amongst a subset of Japanese people: that the anus is the centre of the soul.”

And yet her face had a way of catching the light, in a way I couldn’t explain. At that moment I realised that there are people out there who
Kasey Futurama
You can’t read a book that takes place in Tokyo with disappearing wives and jazz without referencing Haruki Murakami. Murakami did it so well, hence, all the parallels. Besides the first chapter, I didn’t sense Murakami so much as the writer’s voice became more profound. The plot revolves around an ensemble cast of characters, some reappearing, some not. In a way, I wish all the loose ties were resolved in the end. My favorite chapter was Lover Man and I’m disappointed it didn’t come up again.

Nov 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
honestly,,,,,,, was seriously contemplating a 5 star review for this one for the sole reason of THE LAYERS!!!!!! THE WRITING!!!!!! THE WONG-KAR-WAI-ESQUE SERENDIPITY DONE RIGHT!!!!!! but i settled for a four star bc this book has given me much to ponder about and it wouldn't feel right to give it 5 stars when i have not made up my mind entirely about what this book means to me,,,,,, so. will update.

update: okay, i've made up my mind. this was everything i could have wanted in a book. by no means
Tan Clare
Dec 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
Good grief. Another of those kind of experience where despite finishing the book, I come away completely bewildered, with minimal concept of theme, plot or characterisation at all. I only have a threadbare inkling that somehow the characters are all interlinked in the style of determinism, and the story has a minor supernatural context, to bring out the notion of emptiness of our lives. I suppose I wasn't reading diligently enough, but even then, this is really beyond me. ...more
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Daryl Qilin Yam is the author of Kappa Quartet, a novel published by Epigram Books in 2016. He is also a co-editor of the SingPoWriMo anthology series, a director at Sing Lit Station, and a stageplay producer at non-profit collective Take Off Productions. He holds a BA (Hons) in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Warwick; he won the Second Year Prize from the Department ...more

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