Books, Japan, Novels, Reviews

Spiral

A triumph of unpleasantness in the everyday, Suzuki’s unsettling sequel to Ring is creepier and superior in every way…

(Warning: contains spoilers!)

When the body of an old friend from medical school turns up on pathologist Ando’s slab ready for dissection his curiosity is naturally aroused. His marriage in tatters after the death of his son, there’s little to keep him from brink of depression beyond his work.

Soon Ando is uncovering the original mystery of the Ring virus, but behind it lurks a greater danger, that it is mutating so that Sadako’s evil can find another way into the world whatever it takes.

The actual film version of Spiral – originally released back to back with Ring – may have more poorly received than the adaptations of the original and the short story that became Dark Water, but the book itself is a far more impressive effort than the original.

Brilliantly building tension from the most routine and innocuous events and objects, like the later Asian horror movies, Suzuki manages to instil a leaky tap or an open window with a sense of dread and foreboding. More tightly paced than the original, the result is as unsettling as it is compulsive. You almost dare yourself to turn the page, even with an apprehension of what you might find.

Perhaps it was the extended gap between books, some four years, but Suzuki has a playful disregard for his audience. He throws everything they thought they knew about Sadako’s curse away, leaving them as clueless as our main protagonist. The deeper we are drawn into the mystery, the more we learn that, like Ando himself, there’s no turning back.

And if Suzuki’s original book had a nod to video pirating, Spiral is a more knowing acknowledgement of the books and his own success, as the virus looks to spread through the written word, as Asakawa’s original account of the Ring looks set to be published and even turned into a film! (Perhaps the making of the film must had been announced or at least discussed, even if it did take a couple for years for Hideo Nakata to bring it to the screen.) Such confident self-knowing, so playful of the slim boundaries between reality and fiction, is reminiscent of that scene in Scream where the lead character complains she’ll be played by Tori Spelling in the movie version, only for that to happen in the sequel.

There is a far greater purpose in Suzuki lengthy explanations of the virus, even if, once again, he reaches just a little too far in his conclusion, setting up the final book in the trilogy. He even manages to include the details from original book almost verbatim, yet without boring the reader. Meaning that the novel can be read as a stand alone as well as a sequel. A gripping page-turner, this is a must for fans of Asian horror.

About the author

Andrew Heskins
Founder of easternKicks.com, which he's been running since 2002. And it's all thanks to Monkey, Water Margin and those damn fantastic 80s Hong Kong action movies! Andy works as a graphic designer in London... More »
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