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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Spiral

by
Suzuki Koji


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Spiral



Title: Spiral
Author: Suzuki Koji
Genre: Novel
Written: 1995 (Eng. 2004)
Length: 281 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Spiral - US
Spiral - UK
Spiral - Canada
Double hélice - France
Spiral - Deutschland
  • Japanese title: Rasen
  • Translated by Glynne Woley
  • Spiral was made into a movie titled Rasen in Japan in 1998, directed by Joji Iida, and then re-made in the US as The Ring Two, directed by Nakata Hideo and starring Naomi Watts and Sissy Spacek
  • Spiral is the sequel to Ring

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Our Assessment:

B- : some good ideas, but too far-fetched, and the presentation bogs down

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 20/4/2005 Kim Newman
USA Today . 23/6/2004 Christopher Theokas
The Village Voice . 21/6/2004 B.Kite


  From the Reviews:
  • "Suzuki blends the dispassionate, inquisitive, sometimes terrifying urban character-types to be found in Haruki Murakami's work with the plot mechanics of a Stephen King or Michael Crichton. This isn't a deep book, but it is a clever one." - Kim Newman, The Independent

  • "For those who haven't read Ring or seen the Hollywood movie, Spiral stands alone as a well-written medical thriller. (...) (T)he fear that permeates the story steadily grows into something with larger, more deadly implications." - Christopher Theokas, USA Today

  • "Spiral's principal pleasure lies in the invention with which Suzuki works variations on the motifs of the original novel." - B.Kite, The Village Voice

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Spiral is a sequel to Ring, but comes at the story from a different angle, and takes it considerably beyond the first book. (Spiral can be read without any familiarity with Ring; the story is fully recapitulated in the sequel.)
       The central character this time is Mitsuo Ando. The tragic death of his young son in a drowning accident destroyed his marriage and wrecked the comfortable career path he seemed set on. Instead he's still stuck at his job as a pathologist. But it's when an old friend, Ryuji Takayama, winds up on the slab at the M.E.'s office that his life really gets turned upside-down.
       Performing the autopsy on his old buddy, Ando is surprised by what he finds. And he soon discovers that it's not an isolated case: there are a few others, including the wife and daughter of journalist Kazuyuki Asakawa. Asakawa is alive, but in no condition to talk, but Ando pieces together what information he can find and comes to the obvious conclusion: there's a killer video tape out there, which somehow infects those that view it with a smallpox-like virus -- and causes those who see it to keel over exactly one week after watching it.
       The video premise is far-fetched, to say the least -- both how it came to have these powers, as well as what those powers are supposed to be. "Maybe the images on the video somehow influence the victim's cellular DNA so that it metamorphosed into the mystery virus" is about as convincing as the hypothesizing goes. Still, the functioning of the virus -- especially how those infected can stay alive -- is ingenious (if implausible) and makes for some decent moral dilemmas and a few thrills. As Ando uncovers the awful truth things he finds himself in quite the pickle. As in Ring, Suzuki does find a neat resolution -- though the stage is certainly set for considerable additional complications: the story certainly ain't over.

       Spiral begins well enough. Ando and his problems are nicely introduced, and the mystery begins to unfold fairly well. But early on already things become too pedestrian, Suzuki too careful with his step-by-step explanations, with each of Ando's actions closely monitored and explained. From codes to DNA to smallpox and similar viruses, Suzuki tries hard to explain what's going on (much in the Michael Crichton mode) -- but given the underlying paranormal causes most of this doesn't exactly convince.
       The story is literally unbelievable, and Suzuki probably would have been better off acknowledging that and not trying so hard to make it sound scientifically plausible. (Certainly, readers would have been better off.) As pure fantasy, vaguely grounded in reality, it likely would have been more considerably compelling.
       Suzuki generally writes decently enough when he isn't focussed on recounting the details of the steps Ando is taking. It's the scenes that don't directly have to do with the deaths and the virus that are most interesting -- his relationships with the various women, his memories of that awful day his son died, etc. But some of the writing is just god-awful -- so, for example, when one of the autopsies is described and readers are told: "The pair of testicles, a grayish flesh-color, looked curiously adorable."
       Spiral is a just passable thriller: some good ideas, a few genuinely scary scenes, a bit of food for thought. But it's roughly shaped, and it is one of those that books that feels like it could have been so much better.

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Links:

Spiral: Reviews: The Ring Two - the movie (2005): Rasen - the movie (1998): Suzuki Koji: Other books by Suzuki Koji under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Suzuki Koji (鈴木光司) is apparently an authority on childrearing.

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© 2004-2008 the complete review

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