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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Isle of Dreams

Hino Keizo

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To purchase Isle of Dreams

Title: Isle of Dreams
Author: Hino Keizo
Genre: Novel
Written: 1985 (Eng. 2010)
Length: 156 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Isle of Dreams - US
Isle of Dreams - UK
Isle of Dreams - Canada
Isle of Dreams - India
L'ile des rêves - France
Trauminsel - Deutschland
  • Japanese title: 夢の島
  • Translated by Charles De Wolf

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Our Assessment:

B+ : powerful, creative urban portrait, though some of its power sapped by its resolution

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Japan Times . 27/3/2011 Steve Finbow
Publishers Weekly . 18/10/2010 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "An eerie, contemplative novel, full of hallucinations and history, obsession and possession, the urban surreality of Isle of Dreams is part eco-slipstream part-Japanese ghost story." - Steve Finbow, The Japan Times

  • "As inventive as the late author's efforts to anthropomorphize Tokyo are, they consume his focus; the human characters never develop and attempts to parallel two stories don't come together. Hino's illustration of the heartbreaking desecration of a Tokyo still haunted by its past is a real achievement, though, and readers will feel genuine empathy for the city." - Publishers Weekly

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:

       The central figure in Isle of Dreams is Shozo Sakai, a widower in his fifties who lives in the construction-booming Tokyo of the 1980s. He works for a construction firm, too, and enjoys wandering around and watching the changing cityscape. One weekend he heads out to Harumi Wharf, for the spectacular view of the city from there, the first of a series of adventures to 'isles of dreams', artificial islands in various states that lead him to reflect on the shifting nature of Tokyo ("Tokyo lives", it dawns on him at one point) -- and of reality.
       Going to Harumi Wharf he finds himself in a sea of children and adolescents, all on their way to a fanzine bazaar, many costumed. There are no adults, and even he barely seems to exist in the alternate reality there -- no one takes notice of his presence -- and he wonders:

Had Tokyo's neighborhoods become such dreadful places that it was only here, on this artificial island, that these children could act out their fantasies ? It was, after all, he and his contemporaries who had produced that same metropolis.
       The isles he visits are increasingly removed from the city proper. One is the area beyond Reclaimed Land Site #13, a landfill in the process of being filled that will eventually serve as the foundation for more expansion of the city. As Shozo explains to a colleague who arranges for him to visit the area:
But recently I've had the strange feeling that I need to verify some sort of starting point. We've been working like madmen for thirty years. Who are we, and what have we been doing ?
       Eventually he winds up in an even more isolated spot, among the rotten remains of an old, deserted outpost in the bay from the time when Admiral Perry arrived to open Japan to foreign trade, a symbolic place (in a variety of ways) that is an intersection (and nightmarish vision) of Tokyo's past and its future.
       Along the way, Shozo encounters a mysterious woman, Yoko Hayashi -- and a woman whom he takes for her sister (but each denies she has a sister ...). One straddles a huge motorcycle which she races at high speed, the other is an artist who creates window-displays; Shozo is fascinated by these elusive, split personalities and repeatedly seeks them out; they, in turn, help him expand his horizons.
       Hino masterfully conveys the different city- and landscapes, right down to the harrowing final island scenes. Shozo's receptiveness to more down-to-earth experience -- in a world where "earth" is hardly stable, and much of it reclaimed from the detritus of the (often very recent) past -- makes for an evocative and quite powerful vision of urban growth and decay, and how vicious and immediate that cycle can be. The woman complicates matters: a useful, intriguing mystery figure, Hino demystifies too much in the conclusion, wrapping up his story too conventionally neatly and thereby undermining even the strong touches he offers there (such as the image that: "in his eyes Tokyo was mirrored -- upside down"). Nevertheless, the novel, and its vision, is a haunting one.

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 May 2011

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Isle of Dreams: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Hino Keizo (日野 啓三) lived 1929 to 2002.

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© 2011-2021 the complete review

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