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on 15 September 2010
There's no middle road with David Peace's writing style. Love it or hate it. The Tokyo Trilogy is along the lines of 'GB84' and the 'Red Riding' stuff, only bleaker and if possible more brutal. As a fan of Peace I couldn't put this book down even though at times I really wanted to. Tokyo Year Zero won't make you smile, laugh and feel generally good about life but it will stay with you for a long time and have you eager to read the next two in the trilogy. Either that or you'll hate it after the first few pages and never buy another of his novels again. Take the risk.
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on 20 August 2017
Probably the most difficult book I have ever read. I put it down for 6 weeks but eventually finished it as I was getting annoyed at who the serial killer was. Obviously it is the way David writes but he doesn't make it easy for the reader.
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VINE VOICEon 7 December 2009
It is the year after Hiroshima and in a shattered Tokyo Detective Minami investigates the murder of two young girls found close to each other in Shiba Park. The chief suspect is very quickly identified and charged and the majority of the book follows Minami as he searches for connections to a number of similar murders; all of which point to a hidden truth in his own past.

The murders and the identity of the killer are secondary to a mediation on the meaning of identity and are ultimately a metaphor for the birth of a new Japan- a country struggling to find itself after the devastation of American victory.

David Peace is a writer, for me, whose imagination and stylist inventiveness are barely contained by the robustness of his craft. He treads a very fine line between dazzling brilliance and unreadable pretentious twoddle. Never more so than here.

The plot points, the characters and the stylistic flourishes will be familiar to any reader of his Red Riding Quartet, but everything is turned up to eleven. We have the familiar corrupt cops, the lead character tortured by his past and searching for redemption. We have the betrayed family, the lust for prostitutes, the underworld father figures, the drugs and a killer- whose identity is a clue to the protagonist's shady past. All of these will be familiar to anyone who has read 1974 and 1977, as will be the cascading text, narrowing to a point of a single word, and the repeating mantras that make up such a bulk of the text.

Tokyo Year Zero is undoubtedly an impressive book, it is a beautiful evocation of time and place, written in a hugely distinctive style which can be both exhilarating and disturbing.

In parts Peace's writing is simply stunning, but too often it loses itself in a miasma of repetition and the substance becomes buried by the style. Still, it has to be said that not many authors chart the territory of inner turmoil as thoroughly or as effectively as Peace.

This is a hugely ambitious novel and in parts fails because of it's aspirations, but the ending is shattering and just about manages to pull it back into something worth the undoubted effort that it takes to read this book. Just about.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 April 2014
I have read all of David Peace's earlier novels and so had an idea of what to expect when I started this first part of his Tokyo Trilogy, a series that is being written at the same time as other novels based on the lives of Brian Clough and Bill Shankly. Peace has lived in Tokyo for over a decade and so has immersed himself in that country's history, culture and post-war economic and rigidly hierarchical social development.

It would be pointless to claim that Peace's books are not difficult. Here, the first page is a stream of consciousness text that is continued at various stages throughout the novel. We have the added complexity of dealing with the Tokyo setting and the linguistic complexity of Japanese. Some of this might be considered as an `advanced course in Peace studies' following the more basic courses of his `Red-Riding Quartet' and `The Damned United'.

There is also no point at all in trying to rush this book. It will result in confusion, flagging interest and intense irritation. I found it better to take it chapter by chapter, reading it almost as a novel in a foreign language. However, there is a great deal of multi-coloured vomiting so it would be better not to read this immediately before, or during, a meal. There is also much genuflecting and apologising to work colleagues and superiors that helps to embed the novel in confusion of post-war Japan.

The novel, set in the Tokyo of 1946, offers the author a wonderful historical and social landscape unknown to most readers. The very artificial literary style might be seen to reflect the confusion that those living in the city feel, uncertain whether a third atom bomb will be dropped on the capital, reeling from the Emperor's announcement of surrender and the everyday presence of the allied Victors. I was completely ignorant of the vicious battles ongoing between the Japanese and the long-embattled Koreans, Chinese and Formosans seeking to punish the Japanese for their military and criminal excesses. Violent death is never far away, a corpse is found and a Korean is summarily executed on the basis of little more than his apparent inferior nationality. Accidental deaths and suicides are dealt with in a throwaway line or two.

The book is narrated by Detective Minami of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, who becomes immersed in a hunt for a serial killer - this is based on a factual case so its outcome and the killer are not secret. Minami, who is handed the case on the same day as the Emperor's radio announcement of the surrender, is not in the best of physical or mental health, and is addicted to sleeping pills and nicotine, which can only be obtained in the quantitites he needs from the local crime boss who is openly contemptuous of the police. Peace gradually introduces the reader to the extent of Minami's many-layered problems, another reason for the structures he imposes on this book. The creation of a new Tokyo is evident on almost every page, through the percussive `ton-ton-ton' of the hammering and the descriptions of the damaged and ruined buildings, and wastelands, that offer ideal hiding-places for disposing of corpses.

In a similar manner, Minami's excruciating itching, due to lice and his poverty-induced wearing of a single set of clothes for years on end, is evidenced by the noise of his interminable scratching `gari-gari'. Slowly, through flashbacks, we learn about his family life and his mistress, Yuki; information that adds to the reader's sense of dislocation. Local crime bosses, their intimate relationship with the Japanese police and the administrative and military forces of the Victors, and the scale of their operations are all very forcefully described.

If all this were not enough, the police and other professions are undergoing investigation by the Victors, leading to senior officials being sacked, resigning or committing suicide. Others simply change their names and reappear - leading to the refrain that `now no one is who they say they are, no one is who they seem to be'. The scale of the social dislocation is immense, with families separated, often without any idea as to whether relatives are living or dead, and with the ashes of so many dead unable to be respectfully dealt with according to Shinto tradition by the bereaved. These and other ghostly figures abound.

Few authors have as distinct a voice, perhaps best-described as a `verbal collage'. Relentless staccato phraseology, liberal use of italics and diminishing lines of type all help to unsettle the reader. At the end of the novel there is a much-needed Glossary and a listing of the fiction and non-fiction, films and music that formed the research for this book. There are also b/w photographs whose purpose is also unclear and unsettling.

The reader may or may not be satisfied with the murder mystery, but will undoubtedly be much more aware of a region and period in 20th-century history about which we know and understand very little. Not an easy read, I very nearly gave it a 5* rating, but I found the effort well worthwhile. I will, however, wait a while before reading the second part.
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on 17 February 2009
A fantastic original work that contains real substance in defining the nadir of a nation's history before its renaissance. A range of literary styles are cleverly worked to depict an artistic layering of perspective: cine-documentary style observation, sub-textual psychological references, sensory descriptions, rhythmic soundtrack, non-linear narrative. All of these and much more provide an orchestral literary experience that requires concentration and imagination by the reader. This work could easily be visualised as a screenplay and that gives it something extra in terms of reader involvement.
The novel transcends the limitations of pure fiction and non-fiction by successfully combining the two. The 'noir' crime drama format is beautifully adapted without sacrificing the excitement and tension that punctuates the story at regular and unpredictable intervals. This is not a standard procedural "who done it" and may not appeal to followers of popular crime best sellers.
There are few novels that I would read more than once,however,'Tokyo Year Zero' is a work invested with so much original talent and detailed research that I will read it again in sections to more fully appreciate it's content.
I understand that part two of the trilogy is out this summer and look forward to it with high expectations
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on 19 January 2009
God, I'm baffled by all the negative reaction to this novel. I thought it was just the most stunning, visceral, haunting and hallucinatory book I've ever read. Peace's style risks teetering into self-parody, but in my view he avoids it here - and the result of that risk-taking is to put you right inside the mind, the body, the soul of Detective Minami, to make you breathe the foul air of postwar Tokyo, to make you ache for his poor wife and children, and to dream his recurring nightmares.

It's exhausting, and it's far from easy or light-hearted, but please please please if it sounds like your kind of thing, don't let the low average rating on here put you off. It's Peace at his best - and that's saying something.
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VINE VOICEon 21 September 2008
I felt mildly uncomfortable reading "Tokyo Year Zero". It's definitely an ambitious novel, based on a true crime committed in post-surrender Japan, in a country where lives have been destroyed and a proud people are surviving hand to mouth. Given the struggling state of the country, it's odd to think that murders are being investigated but Inspector Minami is assigned to the case and quickly uncovers that the murder is not a once-off but part of the handiwork of a serial rapist and killer.

It's clear that Minami is a man struggling with the world around him, and Peace uses inner monologues to bring the character to the reader. Repetitive sequences of words are designed to evoke the sounds of the world but fail to engage. Instead they feel intrusive and distracting. Although it's clear that the book is well-researched and the despair of post-war Japan is quite evocative, the unexciting plot, combined with the repetitive writing, means that the book falls short.
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on 31 March 2008
The (paperback) cover offers a recommendation by James Ellroy and whoever managed to finish Ellroy's "The Cold Six Thousand" won't despair of reading Peace's latest. Both push the possibilities of hard-boiled narration to its limits. But whereas Ellroy remains cool and doesn't seem to be in need of boosting his narration with stylistic devices, Peace tries to convey his first-person-narrator's desperation by indulging in endless repititions on the phrase level.
This is a pity as the setting is ingeniously chosen and the characters and their backgrounds and motivations convincing. But the plot is not very original and surprising only because one tends to expect more as it finds its final resolution. So one might suspect that the manneristic speech just masks the plot's shortcomings.
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I picked this up at an airport bookstore, browsed through it and though: "Wow! A James Ellroy noir atmosphere in post-WWII Japan - this MUST be the best of both worlds!" Well, it turn out to be more of a disappointment than not...

The prose is a collection of tiresome staccato repetitions. That does not make it hardboiled and it is not style.
The obsession with bodily functions, sounds and endless fidgeting is insatiable. This is not insightful realism.
The story is not overly original. It does not save the day.

I never abandon a book once started but I have to confess: I was really tempted with this one...
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on 18 February 2009
*** Contains very slight plot spoilers ***

I had been intending to tackle David Peace first through GB84, but this came my way beforehand so was my rather impromptu introduction to his literature.

Whilst I found it as easy to read as glue, I found some of the literary device to be actually rather effective. Contrary to a couple of other reviews here, I did find myself immersed in the imagined claustrophobic dust and heat of a shattered city being rebuilt. The endless phonetic repetition (such as that of the seemingly never-ending thuds of the machinery rebuilding the city) did create the nightmarish atmosphere I think the author was aiming for.

Whilst the protagonist, being based on a 'real-life' serial killer who stalked post-war Tokyo and its suburbs, is revealed early on (I suppose this is unavoidable - we know who it is anyway), the novel follows our lead, Detective Minami, as he tries to link other murders to the killer, all the time sparring with the seedy, sweaty underworld, his own unit, and his own roving morality.

The novel hits the spot in a couple of aspects; I feel the author really does evoke a convincing portrayal of a ruined, nightmarish city, screaming with the souls lost within it. The lead is gritty and satisfyingly imperfect, and his eventual descent into insanity, whilst rather hackneyed in its conclusion, is hauntingly done.

However, the novel is an absolute struggle, I wouldn't be at all surprised if a great many people gave up after the first 100 pages or so. It can often flow like treacle, through overusage of previously-mentioned literary devices, and one finds themself hoping for a passage of clear, unadulterated text to 'put you back on track' of what's actually going on. I also agree that to Anglicised ears, fighting past the similarity of the Japanese nomenclature can become confusing and tiresome.

The main gripe I have with Tokyo Year Zero is actually a rather fundamental one - I simply didn't enjoy reading it. One can appreciate the technique and style of an obviously talented author, and I knew I was absorbing quality literary weight, but it's a whole different challenge to take any real satisfaction from concluding this book.
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