A Slow Burn Murakami-esque Magical Realism Mystery that will Transport Readers to Tokyo and Beyond

  • Location: Tokyo
  • Author: Gordon Vanstone

Review Author: TonyL



In the tradition of Murakami, the protagonist of Vanstone’s novel is slowly drawn into a world of strange and supernatural characters. Fred, a slightly roguish and lost young man, feels he’s being pushed and pulled toward some end from the signs, symbols and sages who cross his path on a metaphysical odyssey from Okinawa to Tokyo. With an authentic voice Fred becomes a classic unreliable narrator as dreams and delusions are distorted and amplified by booze in the dark alleys and under the neon glare of Tokyo.
The author goes to great lengths to portray Japan’s culture and beauty with particular detail paid to Tokyo which he paints in bright halogen hues and conveys with a hallucinatory, cyber-punk vibe. The novel is elevated beyond your typical ‘my year in Japan’ novel by Vanstone’s original plot structure, creative use of allegory and illusion as well as his investigation of timeless and universal themes such as fate, destiny, love, loss, regret and redemption.
There is homage paid throughout to the the great writers of Japan who obviously influenced the writer as well as a peek inside some of the more unique cultural curiosities and oddities (the Okinawa bullfights or living in an internet cafe), not explored in most novels which are an outsiders view of Japan.
While in parts I felt like the edit could have been more thorough and certain paragraphs and pages a better scrub, in the end what won me over was great characters, an interesting plot and prose that was poetic and really hit the mark most of the time.
If you are looking for an engaging and exploratory read to accompany your next trip to Japan, this book is a must.

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