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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

    

Bullseye !

by
Tsutsui Yasutaka


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

To purchase Bullseye !



Title: Bullseye !
Author: Tsutsui Yasutaka
Genre: Stories
Written: (Eng. 2017)
Length: 223 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Bullseye ! - US
Bullseye ! - UK
Bullseye ! - Canada
  • These stories were first published in Japanese collections between 1973 and 2015
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Andrew Driver

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Our Assessment:

B : good fun, good variety

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Japan Times . 16/9/2017 Alyssa I. Smith


  From the Reviews:
  • "Yasutaka Tsutsui’s imaginative stories evoke societies that teeter between the mundane and chaos, the familiar and the bizarre. (...) The genres skip from science fiction to surreal comedy, and Driver’s translation successfully emulates the colloquial, madcap language Tsutsui uses for his off-kilter characters and settings. (...) Although Tsutsui’s stories can be off-putting and feel offbeat, his voice is indisputably unique." - Alyssa I. Smith, The Japan Times

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:

       Bullseye ! collects twenty stories by Tsutsui Yasutaka taken from collections published in Japanese between 1973 and 2015. They have not been arranged chronologically -- as translator Andrew Driver writes in his Introduction: "The journey is of course not linear but meanders through the ages like one of Tsutsui's antiheroes" -- and it already speaks for the stories that the older one don't stand out as particularly dated; indeed, it can sometimes be difficult to guess which are the newer tales and which the older ones.
       Tsutsui can't simply be pegged as an author of a specific type of story either. He does enjoy the surreal, and many of the stories do feature such elements; certainly he likes to offer a twist -- or, as often, a double or multiple twists, to repeatedly turn his stories in unexpected directions. There are a variety of speculative premises and scenarios to these stories, ranging from fairly realist present-day situations to outright science fiction. And while there's the occasional poignant turn -- variations on lost (and the occasional returned-to-the-fold) family members, for example -- the stories are also marked by their humor -- Tsutsui favoring the absurd and sly, though he's not above the simple ribald, either.
       The title story is a sort of miniature-tour of typical Tsutsui, a quick succession of the bizarre -- yet narrated with a completely straight face -- which opens:

     There was a clock on the dining room table. It worshipped me. Clocks are funny things, but a clock worshipping a person is simply ridiculous.
     The clock asked me to smash my coffee cup on the floor, so that's what I did.
       It's not the last thing the narrator smashes on a rather wild and unpredictable tour through his day, enlivened by things he slips out of their owners' possession along the way (a wad of cash, a gun); referencing French Romanian surrealist poet Gherasim Luca (The Passive Vampire, etc.) and Roland Barthes, and with the fast-talking narrator able to reframe situations so as to throw his antagonists -- would-be muggers and the police among them -- completely off balance, it's a typical wildly mixed bag of a Tsutsui story.
       Tsutsui plays with unusual perspectives: the short 'The Onlooker' hinges on the final revelation of who the narrator/title character is, throwing a whole new light on how the story unfolded; in 'It's my Baby' there is no surprise about the premise, but the situation is an absurd one: the narrator's male co-worker, Masada, is pregnant. Several stories feature completely life-like androids; the narrators of 'Narcissism' and 'Sadism' both treat the ones they deal with in ways they wouldn't treat a human -- which comes back to haunt them in the twists in each of these stories.
       Like the android-stories, others take place in a technologically more advanced future -- and one of the best, 'Zarathustra on Mars' even on another planet. 'Zarathustra on Mars' is a clever take on a too-recognizable world "where dumbing down was already an art form", as also:
     There was no religion on Mars; there were no heroes. Instead, there was a gaggle of B-list celebs, empty-headed idiots who perpetually courted fame and were constantly hounded by the media.
       The rediscovered Nietzschean text -- translated then into the simplified language of the day, and recast as a first-person novel to make it more appealing -- makes a huge splash, and then leads to an entertaining comedy of errors, in this amusingly spun-out story.
       'Sleepy Summer Afternoon' is a short, effective tale of a nuclear-like apocalypse, while 'Running Man' is a future-tale covering a much longer period of time, beginning with a narrator participating in a modern-day Olympics, which barely anyone pays attention to any longer: he's one of three runners in a road race that takes place on the busy city streets, with seemingly no one else aware that there's a race being run. Runners even get to pick their own routes, which leads the narrator on a truly extensive detour -- indeed, almost a whole lifetime's worth -- and a surprise when, years later, he's reminded of what he had originally set out on.
       A simpler story, 'The Good Old Days', finds a family whose life is thrown out of whack when they buy a new TV and give away their old one -- but find themselves briefly without a TV at all, as the new one's delivery is delayed. Eventually, they try: "what people dd in the old days, before they had TV or radio. They would gather round the fire and listen to one of grandpa's stories". They do get quite into the story-telling session that follows -- getting amusingly carried away in the telling, and the story.
       'Oh ! King Lear !' features an actor who has devoted his life to the single role -- and suddenly finds renewed success of a different kind when he improvises one day when an audience-member's cellphone ringtone sounds. King Lear is successively transformed -- and, yes, the actor's daughter plays a role in the story too.
       'A Vanishing Dimension' is a particularly creepy horror tale of a man with a wife and baby -- and a toy monkey that crashes cymbals together. Tsutsui comes up with a Poe-worthy resolution to this tale of an alter-world and this family's experiences between that and the real one. In some ways the least typical of the stories -- there's no effort to be particularly comic, for example, as there is in almost all the others -- it is perhaps the strongest stand-alone piece.
       One other noteworthy element of Tsutsui's stories in the collection is the varieties of tone: he mixes things up linguistically for effect and depending on the story, which Driver gamely tries to recreate in English. It's an impressive variety, too -- Tsutsui shows great range -- and it works, mostly -- but the occasional imitation-hip-speak would sound odd under any circumstances; e.g.:
     "Young dudes these days ain't good," said Zarathustra. "They sure is good at talkin', but they can't do nothin' real. I don't dig young dudes. Chicks are OK, though. They're cool."
       Bullseye ! is an entertaining collection of imaginative and often amusing stories, with a lot of clever (and also many creatively bizarre and enjoyably unsettling) twists to them. Even as Tsutsui takes some pretty wild leaps, the stories remain fairly straightforward and easy to follow; there's some depth to quite a few of these, but Tsutsui's main aim still seems to be simply to entertain. There's little here that is truly remarkable -- but certainly enough to keep readers pleasantly entertained.

- M.A.Orthofer, 10 December 2018

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Links:

Bullseye !: Reviews: Tsutsui Yasutaka: Other books by Tsutsui Yasutaka under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Popular Japanese author Tsutsui Yasutaka (筒井 康隆) was born in 1934.

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© 2018 the complete review

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