It’s October! (Okay, it’s been October for 5 days now, but that doesn’t make my initial statement any less true.) In honor of the month of Halloween (and my love of all things scary), I’m planning to review only thriller and/or horror novels this month. (And, to be honest, this is incredibly easy for me since I read a lot of these types of books.)
Image courtesy of bettyleighverbeke.com.
In The Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami
I really wanted to read some of Ryu Murakami’s work after seeing the movie Audition a few years ago. He wrote the book that the movie was based on, and it was one of the better Japanese horror/drama films I’ve seen. It was pretty fucked up (though most Asian horror is), but the most shocking scene almost came out of nowhere. I mean, watching it you know something is going to happen (judging from the genre alone), but it just kind of slowly builds up to one scene where you’re like, “Oh. My. God. What. The. Fuck. No. More. Please.”
Anyway, Murakami has written several books that sound interesting to me, but In the Miso Soup is the first I’ve read. The novel is based in Tokyo around New Year’s Eve (which is apparently a really big deal in Japan), and focuses on two main characters: Kenji, a Japanese man in his early 20s who makes his living as a tour guide to Tokyo’s nightlife (i.e. peep shows, love hotels, etc.), and Frank, a very odd overweight American tourist. From the beginning, it’s pretty obvious that something is “off” about Frank. The story is told from Kenji’s point of view, though, so throughout much of the book it’s difficult to tell if Frank is actually dangerous or if Kenji is simply paranoid. And then, much like in Audition, CRAZY SHIT HAPPENS.
I never like to go into too much detail about plots and twists, mostly because I don’t want anyone reading this to feel like I’ve ruined anything for them if they decide to pick up one of the books I’ve written about. Additionally, I don’t want to look back on any of my reviews and think, “Oh … I guess I don’t need to reread this one since I basically laid out the entire novel plot point by plot point.”
That being said, I won’t be sharing too much about the novel. I will say, though, In the Miso Soup wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was an entertaining read. I also felt like I learned quite a few things about Japanese culture that I never knew (not that I really knew much to begin with). I’d say my one complaint was that the writing was very simplistic. I’m not sure if this was due to the translation or if that’s just the way he writes. I’m not saying it was bad writing … It just didn’t blow me away the way I imagined it would.
I should note that simplistic writing doesn’t equal a weak book … In fact, I tend to hate it when authors describe every minute detail and spend pages upon pages explaining things that really aren’t that important to the plot. It just seems like they’re trying too hard. I guess the simplistic writing in In the Miso Soup just took me off guard … I was expecting it to be written differently, I guess. Regardless, it was an entertaining and easy read!
I would recommend this book only if you’re not squeamish. It takes a lot to make my stomach turn, but there were a couple of things in here that made me feel a little sick. For example, I hate eyeballs. I was kind of expecting some eyeball stuff based on Audition, but … Yuck. Even though it was brief in this book, it was still gross. If you’re a fan of Asian horror/drama, I’d definitely encourage you to pick this up. I’m no connoisseur of Asian horror/drama or anything, but I’ve seen a fair share of movies in this genre and In the Miso Soup is worth a look if that’s something you’re at all into.
I give In the Miso Soup FOUR STARS. As I mentioned before, it was entertaining and held my interest, and I’d read it again.