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First you see the Ring,
This review is from: Ring (Paperback)Koji Suzuki could easily be considered the Stephen King of Japanese horror, with several movies (and remakes) of his bestseller novels -- particularly "Ring." Yes, that one. The one where you die in a week after seeing the cursed tape. While not quite the same as either film, Suzuki's original novel is a quiet, understated horror classic.
Four teenagers watch a seemingly cursed videotape, which will kill them in one week's time. Seven days later, all four die of heart attacks, including one young man simply keeling off his motorcycle. The uncle of one girl, Kazuyuki Asakawa, also finds the videotape and watches it. Now he has seven days to figure out the mysterious instructions, which happen to be missing. If he doesn't, he's dead.
Accompanied by a less-than-pristine professor, Ryuji Takayama, Asakawa goes in search of what is going on -- he suspects a virus that causes a heart attack. As he goes hunting through the woods for the secret to the videotape, he discovers a legacy of death and terror, left behind by the malevolent Sadako Yamamura. Asakawa's time is running out -- how can he unravel the mystery of the Ring?
Don't expect a carbon copy of the "Ring" movies: No TV apparitions, the lead is a man, and despite her beautiful female appearance, Sadako is a hermaphrodite. However, the "Ring" book is far more horrifying, solidifying Suzuki's position as a classic horror writer. It's impossible not to shiver when you look at the TV, after seeing this.
Suzuki's skill is in calmly, coolly describing horrific events in simple words. It packs a more visceral punch than if he just had floods of blood and gore in detail. The scene where Takayama sees the curse working on his own body is enough to make your skin crawl. And as good horror writers do, he creates a horrific plot based on something everyday. It's so easy to set off the curse, and that is what is so terrifying.
As Suzuki often does, he doesn't make his characters all sympathetic and noble. Asakawa is a cynical, rather self-absorbed man -- although this is what the plot hinges on -- and Takayama is a nihilistic rapist. It weakens the book slightly to not care much about either. Though in a way, the book is more about the "curse" -- which is more a virus -- and about Sadako than either of these men.
Perhaps that's a part of Suzuki's subtle cultural critiques in here, as well as Japanese supernatural beliefs -- nensha, for example, which is how Sadako created the lethal tape -- and the male and female roles in society. Finally he takes a hard look at this question: Should you allow your loved ones and yourself to die, or risk contaminating the world with the lethal videotape?
There's an almost apocalyptic note to the finale of "Ring," although it resulted in two more books. And Suzuki's original, deeply creepy novel is a must-read.