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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the Miso Soup
What at a glance appears to be a fairly standard concept for a novel - is our protagonists client the serial killer at large? - is taken in a very different direction by the time the story ends. It's a direction that I can only imagine a Japanese author taking it: disturbing but poignant, and maybe a little frustrating in its ambiguity - though it's the frustrating...
Published on 14 Jun 2005 by E Parry

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ...stick with the characters...
I think the previous reviewer is right in many respects, but I wouldn't describe the central 20 pages-or-so of ultra violence to be any kind of 'climax'.

The real interest in this story, for me at least, was in a kind of character exploration of two desperate people, in a desperate place, at a desperately lonely time of year. Had the novel focussed on just this...
Published on 14 Jun 2006 by Simon Richards


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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the Miso Soup, 14 Jun 2005
By 
E Parry (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: In the Miso Soup (Hardcover)
What at a glance appears to be a fairly standard concept for a novel - is our protagonists client the serial killer at large? - is taken in a very different direction by the time the story ends. It's a direction that I can only imagine a Japanese author taking it: disturbing but poignant, and maybe a little frustrating in its ambiguity - though it's the frustrating things that are ultimately most rewarding. Of course only a Japanese author could have written it because the novel is essentially about the closed nature of Japan's society: alienating to foreigners and in a state of self-denial.
I'm usually a slow reader but this novel hooked me in from the start and I finished it in less than 24 hours. The writing style is much more fluid and rich than other Japanese novels I've read, such as Haruki Murakami's, though I'm never sure exactly how much of that is down to the translator rather than the original author. The author does, however, clearly have excellent ability when it comes to the pacing. Perhaps around the last third of the novel it loses its narrative drive, but the change to a slower, more thoughtful style is what gives the book its unique edge, taking it from being simply a gripping read to a novel that leaves a lasting impression and screams out to be read again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Gross & Engrossing read indeed, 9 Jan 2010
By 
O. Ahmed "Al-Londoni" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In The Miso Soup (Paperback)
This is the first Ryu Murakami book I have read, though I am more familiar with the other, equally surreal Murakami (Haruki). Once you have read the backcover and then onto first page you instantly find yourself engrossed in this story as it unfolds...

You find yourself in a Tokyo beyond the sushi, anime and hi-tech gadgets - the reader is taken, as if almost on a tour of the red-light districts vibrant, diverse and perverse night-life. But what is central of course are the two main characters - a local night life tourist guide and a fat American tourist.

As the story progresses, it perpetuates the guide's paranoia and eventual fear of this strange foreigner - something about him just doesn't seem right as you will discover the more you read on.

What I found most interesting was the author's brave yet honest, and in many ways justifiable criticism of how - like many nations- are loosing their own cultural heritage and identity in favour of the globally appealing Americanism.

Murakami paints a picture of a highly modern people, more so than the West - yet utterly confused about who they are - and what it means to be Japanese - to such extents that some foreign characters know more about the traditions and culture of the locals than the locals themselves.

Paradoxically, at one point a Japanese character seems to know more about a certain thing or too about American culture than our American tourist.

As many other reviewers and many others who have read the book will tell you - there is "that" one scene - it will stay in your mind perhaps longer than any other aspect of the story, message or plot, etc - I am not sure if this is the intention of the author but it is truly unforgettable.

It truly was one of- if not the most gruesome, explicitly detailed and violent scenes I have ever read depicted in prose. Ashamedly, however you find yourself still carrying on reading with a sort of frown on your face reflecting the natural distaste and disgust at what you are reading. The scene is not even that long - yet it feels incredibly long - even for the character as it were. Though I must say, it surely must require some talent to come up with this - though it does make you question the goings on of the mind that produces such flowery imagery.

One disappointment though, is that toward the end the pace and excitement starts to slow - of course this is because it is drawing to its close - however it starts to take on a whole different tone, focussing more on the life behind this American tourist - in an attempt to explain why he is - like he is. Though I wasn't too convinced and a little disappointed there was no "twist" that would completely knock you off balance from where you thought the plot was taking you. The ending is rather anti-climactic with no real closure- though with a lot to reflect upon about culture and identity.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ...stick with the characters..., 14 Jun 2006
By 
Simon Richards "golgo" (godforsakenmidlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In The Miso Soup (Paperback)
I think the previous reviewer is right in many respects, but I wouldn't describe the central 20 pages-or-so of ultra violence to be any kind of 'climax'.

The real interest in this story, for me at least, was in a kind of character exploration of two desperate people, in a desperate place, at a desperately lonely time of year. Had the novel focussed on just this I think it could have been a classic.

Instead, Ryu chose to mix it up with the theme of mass murder and some ludicrously over the top - almost comic, almost pantomime - violence. I'm not a prude or squeemish in any way, but never has anything seemed to me to be so 'gratuitous'.

Basically, the character situation was more interesting than the plot. Characters are what Ryu is good at...try the genius of 'Almost Transparent Blue' instead.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, psycho thriller, 12 April 2005
By 
Andrew Howell "andyhowell3" (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In the Miso Soup (Hardcover)
This is 'the other Murakami' - just as entertaining and as fascinating.
The narrator of the book is a young Japanese man who works as a 'tour guide' for foreigners exploring Tokyo's adult entertainment industry. The Japanese are supposedly not much interested in foreigners and since the onset of HIV it has become difficult to explore the industry without a guide. Our guide is looking after an American over the Christmas and New Year period. As the blurb suggests, the guide begins the think this man may be a killer that is targeting the homeless and women working in the sex industry.
This is a short book which moves so fast that you can read it in one setting. You kind of know that something nasty is going to happen, but when hell breaks loose you're still taken aback with surprise. I won't say anymore!
However, there is a lot more in this book. There is quite a lot of thought here about how japanese culture interacts with other culture, particularly that of the west. There is quite a debate going on here with the author seemingly floating a whole series of idea for discussion.
This is a great book. I must admit that I probably wouldn't have bought this (given the adult entertainment industry theme) unless I had read a good review in the UK Guardian newspaper. But this grips you every inch of the way. You're in for a real treat!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange, unpleasant and essential reading., 17 Nov 2004
This review is from: In the Miso Soup (Hardcover)
Murakami wrote the screenplay for the deeply nasty film "Audition".
I have to say that I didn't know this when I first read this book, which I picked up on the strength of one of his other books "Coin locker Babies" (which I picked up in mistake for a Haruki Murakami novel... a happy error!).
This book is every bit as nasty.
I will give nothing away, except to say that the book gives a completely convincing account of contemporary Tokyo and the place of the outsider within it, be that outsider foreign or one of the many "underclass" who seem to wander the streets of the city, and that once you have started it, you will be reading non-stop to the end.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Miso Soup, 1 May 2006
By 
Fred Stidston (Cranborne, Dorset) - See all my reviews
This review is from: In The Miso Soup (Paperback)
Started well with a lot of promise and mystery.

Enjoyed it alot with alot of expectation for the ending. Nice writing style too, though could have been more sensitive in places.

However, for me, the ending for me was too simple.

Once it had built up to the climactic halfway point all the questions in your mind that made the story extraordinary and exciting were simply answered.

In place of the earlier excitement was a generally more philosophical tone that was too subtle and underplayed to be engaging and failed to add anything essential or valueable.

I got well into the book and couldn't put it down, but after The Main Event of the story, my continued enthusiasm was not well rewarded.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Country For Old Men goes sex tourist Japan, 20 Oct 2009
This review is from: In The Miso Soup (Paperback)
This dark thriller is my favorite Ryu Murakami book so far. It's about a real terror who walks into another person's unguarded life and creates an inescapable sense of real danger. Would you run? Hide? Or simple try to wait for the situation to pass? There is much more nerve jangling suspension than real sex and violence. But when violence does happen in this story it's far and away more graphic than anything I could imagine myself. The US character Frank is a schizophrenic mix of the assassin character from No Country for Old Men and a blue chip company sex tourist.

Without giving anything away, the ending won't please traditionalists. But personally, I hate those McNovel formats anyway. I feel the translator Ralph McCarthy deserves a mention for his excellent work on this book.

Here's another Japan psychological thriller book which gets really good in the second half:
Out
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Will give you nightmares., 22 April 2009
This review is from: In The Miso Soup (Paperback)
A Japanese tour guide specialising in showing tourists around the sexier elements of Tokyo nightlife is hired by an eccentric customer but as the gruesome murders begin to pile up, he realises he may have made an awful mistake.
Murakami's novel is relentlessly dark and absorbing, delving into a Japan where the bright colour and gaudy lights hide a deeper darkness and sense of futility. The story is beautifully paced, short and impossible to put down. Frank is one of the most chilling characters I have ever read about, his manipulations of logic fascinating and frightening.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeps you turning the pages, 27 Feb 2007
By 
Russell J. Watts (Southampton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In The Miso Soup (Paperback)
I picked this up randomly and I'm glad I did. Ryu does a wonderful job of keeping you gripped and constantly reading page after page just to find out what's going to happen and whether your suspicions are correct.

A perfect example of what happens when people are left to their thoughts through self-solitude and not quite fitting in with the rest.

Written from the first person, this book follows Kenji, a Red Light District guide, and his involvement with Frank, an American visitor to Tokyo looking for a good time. But Frank leaves you guessing, not only about himself, but about both characters. Literary genius !
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting ... and unsettling, 15 Feb 2008
This review is from: In The Miso Soup (Paperback)
This is an excellent read. It's very compelling, and although it might get a bit daft towards the end, 'In the Miso Soup' is a really interesting meditation on Japanese culture and its relation to the West.
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In The Miso Soup
In The Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami (Paperback - 23 July 2005)
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