Books: Hell (Yasutaka Tsutsui)

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2012-02-27 14:00:00 No comments

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A plotless meditation on the concept of hell (or, strictly speaking, purgatory) as seen from a Japanese point of view. Several people who have recently died find themselves in a place that is much like the life they just left behind, but with some key differences. Everyone else's thoughts are readable; past and present intermix freely; and the things you worry about have a nasty tendency to come true. The only way out is to stop struggling — a conceit that students of Buddhism will recognize immediately, but Tsutsui uses it for satirical ends all the way through.

Maybe Tsutsui's brand of satire doesn't translate into English as effectively as it reads in Japanese, or maybe Hell is just not one of his better works. I'm leaning more towards the latter, especially after having gotten my hands on the English edition of Paprika, which shows him off in much better form. Here, he has a lot of ideas, but they remain little more than that. This is a rare case of a short book that cries out to be expanded into a longer one instead of vice versa.

Tags: Japan Yasutaka Tsutsui books fantasy review satire science fiction