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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Sleeping Dragon

Miyabe Miyuki

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To purchase The Sleeping Dragon

Title: The Sleeping Dragon
Author: Miyabe Miyuki
Genre: Novel
Written: 1991 (Eng.2010)
Length: 301 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: The Sleeping Dragon - US
The Sleeping Dragon - UK
The Sleeping Dragon - Canada
  • Japanese title: 龍は眠る
  • Translated by Deborah Stuhr Iwabuchi

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Our Assessment:

B : effective use of its premise, making for a quite entertaining read

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Japan Times . 10/1/2010 Mark Schreiber

  From the Reviews:
  • "Although use of unworldly devices is not considered fair play in mainstream mystery fiction, Miyabe makes the reader want to believe. Teamed up once again with Deborah Stuhr Iwabuchi, translator of The Devil's Whisper (2008), she has produced an entertaining work in which the two main protagonists are attributed with characteristics from two different genres of fiction amateur detective and psycho-thriller. (...) While now removed from its contemporary social context by nearly two decades, The Sleeping Dragon still impresses on its own strengths." - Mark Schreiber, 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:

       The Sleeping Dragon is narrated by journalist Shogo Kosaka, and begins with a chance encounter during a typhoon. He picks up a hitchhiker, high school student Shinji, and they come across the scene of a small tragedy: someone moved a manhole cover on the road, and it appears a young boy was washed into the manhole.
       Shinji soon reveals that he has some special abilities -- that he can read other people's minds and thoughts -- and he puts on a fairly powerful demonstration of his powers for Shogo. The journalist has his doubts, but can't explain how Shinji would know the things he does otherwise. And among the things Shinji knows is who moved the manhole cover -- though without more tangible proof there's no way the responsible parties could be charged.
       The manhole cover-story offers some interesting insights into Japanese notions of honor and shame, societal duty and responsibility, class, and societal pressure. An early confrontation puts the responsible parties on guard -- and is seen as having taken away their opportunity to 'do the right thing' and go to the authorities of their own accord. Shinji feels very bad about having handled the situation badly, and his actions weigh terribly on him -- something Western readers may have a bit of trouble understanding.
       Shogo has also been getting anonymous notes for a while now, and when one of them also mentions his former fiancée Saeko he tries to get in contact with her again, after not having seen her since their engagement fell apart. Once again, matters of appearance in front of the community matter a great deal, having driven Saeko's actions all these years. The letters, and some other activity, are all suspicious, but it isn't clear who is behind them, or what they are so upset with Shogo about. Eventually, however, there is a shift from this relatively harmless sort of threat to something real and dangerous.
       After Shinji revealed his talents to Shogo, the journalist received a visit from Naoya, who claimed to be Shinji's cousin -- and quickly debunked all that Shinji had said. Or did he ? Maybe Shinji isn't the only one with psychic powers .....
       Miyabe shifts back and forth between suggesting Shinji's talents are real and that they're not fairly well: it's hard to make a thriller with supernatural elements very convincing, but for quite a while she balances things very well. It all goes overboard by the end, of course -- but at that point she can rely on the tension of the what criminal who has been harassing Shogo has in mind to keep the tension high.
       The crime at the heart of the novel (and who is behind it, and why) is fairly predictable, but Miyabe keeps readers guessing about enough aspects of the action -- including the role of Shogo's new love-interest (Nanae -- who is mute, to add another quirky complication) -- to make for an engaging read. Miyabe recognizes how silly some of what she proposes is, but the healthy dose of skepticism characters bring to it throughout the book helps make that palatable. Ultimately she can't help but fall back on some truly ridiculous silliness, but she does the rest well enough that it's almost forgivable. The various romantic entanglements -- actual and wishful -- also offer an interesting glimpse into Japanese society, and the dialogue is ... actually quite snappy.
       The Sleeping Dragon is easily among Miyabe's best books.

- M.A.Orthofer, 25 June 2010

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Reviews: Other books by Miyabe Miyuki under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Miyabe Miyuki (宮部みゆき) was born in 1960. She has written dozens of novels, and won several literary prizes.

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