Saturday, October 22, 2011


Ring, by Koji Suzuki

I've seen the (American remake of) the movie, of course, as anyone even vaguely interested in horror movies will have done by now, considering that it came out nearly a decade ago.  I don't remember the finer points of the film, but from what I do recall (and based on a brief conversation with my youngest sister, K, who probably has a better memory of both the novel and the book than I do), I feel safe saying that this is an example where the movie was better than the book.  (There.  Is that long-winded enough for you?  ;o))

My biggest complaint about the book is simply that it's not very well written.  It is a translation, so possibly it's better in the original Japanese, but honestly, I don't see how it could be that much better.  Also, there's not much of a feeling of horror, which is a bit problematic in a horror novel.  I won't deny that there are occasional moments-- the first drive up to Pacific Land is full of foreboding, for instance-- but more than horror you get dread.  ("Oh  no!  These characters I care about only mildly may die horribly... in a few days.  Possibly.")  Dread can be powerful, but when it's dragged out too long, it's just tiring.  There were too few shocks to the system.  So much of the story seemed better on film than in words.  Of course, with this kind of subject, it's probably a lot harder to write it than to just show it...  For example, in the movie, the "video" was naturally quick and easy to show.  (Well, everything but the sensation of smelling, hearing, tasting, and feeling things, like they do in the book.  I can't recall if that was mentioned in the movie at all...)  But in the book, it took pages to describe the series of scenes.  It wasn't nearly as effective.

So, I wasn't terribly impressed, but maybe I'd have liked it more if I hadn't already known the story.  (There are at least a few differences between the book and movie, but the basic elements are the same or very close.)  As it was, I really just wanted to finish it so I could start something new.  (Usually a bad sign.)

Spoilery observations/comments:
  • Asakawa is (especially in the earlier parts of the book) kind of a jerk to his wife.  "He wished his wife would act like her name, which meant 'quiet'. The best way to seal a woman's mouth was not to reply."  Gee, what a dreamboat. 
  • More of the romantic Asakawa:  "Although they'd been married for a full three years, he and his wife had a relatively good relationship."  Wow.  You mean they have a "relatively good relationship" after a full three years?  What a great achievement-- not to mention a wonderful advertisement for marriage.  (Ugh. I hate anti-marriage tropes.)
  • I was going to comment on Ryuji's being a psycho and Asakawa's own sickness that allows him to  know of but not do anything about Ryuji's supposed crimes (not to mention his bringing R. into the home where his wife and daughter live)... but then at the end of the book, the author throws in a twist.  Well, I still think R. is a bit of a psycho even to tell A. such things (even if they weren't true)... and it really doesn't change my poor opinion of A. at all, since he believed R.'s stories.
  • "...There are a few people who can actually produce psychic photos.  But there can't be too many paranormals who can actually project images onto a television tube without any equipment whatsoever."  (Yes, I doubt there are "many" (read: any) who can do that.) The parapsychobabble got on my nerves.  Look, it's paranormal horror.  There's no need to explain it; it's unexplainable, and your audience is aware of this.  Just give us the creeps, ok? That's all we're really after.
  • Very occasionally, the particular wording used struck me as odd.  I wonder if it just didn't translate well, or what...  For instance, grown-man Ryuji speaking to grown-man Asakawa: "Imagine being able to go night-night in a place like this."  Night-night?  Um, okay... (Alright, so I tell my dogs they have to take their "night-night walk", but they're dogs, so it's perfectly normal and not at all weird.)
  • This made me laugh:  "The next morning, Sunday, Asakawa dialled Ryuji's number as soon as he woke up. 'Yeah?' answered Ryuji, sounding for all the world like he'd just woken up."  Ha!  Why's A. so shocked that R. sounds (for all the world) like he's just woken up?  Didn't A. just wake up, himself?  A. then should've said something about R. being a lazybones.  It would have made me happy.