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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Gun

Nakamura Fuminori

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To purchase The Gun

Title: The Gun
Author: Nakamura Fuminori
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 198 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: The Gun - US
The Gun - UK
The Gun - Canada
The Gun - India
Revolver - France
  • Japanese title: 銃
  • Translated by Allison Markin Powell

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Our Assessment:

B : solid obsessional noir

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 3/1/2016 Marilyn Stasio
Wall Street Journal . 1/1/2016 Tom Nolan
World Lit. Today . 5-8/2016 J.David Osborne

  From the Reviews:
  • "More a suspenseful study of obsession than a crime novel, Nakamura’s noir story, translated by Allison Markin Powell, is about liberation." - Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Nature versus nurture, free will versus fate: Such are the themes that flicker almost subliminally through this shocking narrative, which also emits echoes of Poe and Mishima." - Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal

  • "Nakamura successfully weaves in a commentary on modern Japanese culture with respect to its relationship to outsiders, specifically Americans. This is done in a nonintrusive way that blends seamlessly with the propulsive narrative. (...) We have so much fun in the first two-thirds, living in the wormy brain of this strange man, that we feel a bit wrenched from it when the plot kicks in. Overall, however, this is yet another masterwork from one of the best modern practitioners of the crime novel." - J. David Osborne, World Literature Today

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 Gun -- Nakamura's debut -- is narrated by a student in his early twenties, Nishikawa. On a rainy night he comes across a dead man -- and a gun. He pockets the gun -- a Lawman MK III .357 Magnum CTG -- and doesn't alert the authorities.
       This is Japan, where almost no one has a handgun and where gun ownership is strictly controlled. To find and (secretly) keep a gun in Japan is something very different than in, say, the gun-crazy United States. Regardless of these circumstances, however, Chekhov's gun-principle proves yet again to be near-universal: if a gun pops up in the first act you can be pretty sure it'll ... be put to use in some way. So the tension in The Gun comes from the question of what will happen with the gun, and why.
       Nishikawa feels empowered by the gun (and the four bullets it still holds), its potential energizing him. He coddles it, polishing and cleaning and admiring it. He carries it with him, not for protection but because it becomes such a meaningful part of his identity:

The gun was already part of me -- it may have been an exaggeration to say this, but it had penetrated my sense of reason.
       Soon it isn't just integral to his identity, it becomes indispensable:
Losing the gun would turn me into an empty shell of myself, and the prospect of carrying around that lifeless husk for the remaining years of my life seemed like endless torture.
       More self-assured and confident, he enters into not one but two casual affairs. But his only truly meaningful relationship is with his gun -- which is, of course, problematic:
The gun was everything to me. I was meaningless without it -- I felt a savage love toward it. And yet the gunw as cold to me. It drove me mad to think that the gun did not care, not even if I were consumed by that darkness.
       The danger of discovery is, initially, not great: the man who was killed is identified, but there's nothing to connect him to Nishikawa and enough other plausible explanations surrounding the circumstances of his death. Still, the gun would tie Nishikawa to the murder, so that is of some concern. Worse, Nishikawa isn't just emboldened but becomes reckless. Soon enough a policeman shows up at his door -- a policeman who has put the pieces together. Still, Nishikawa has options, and ample opportunity to extricate himself from this situation he has gotten himself into. Except that that would mean giving up his much-loved, much-needed gun .....
       Nishikawa is something of a cipher. Eventually details emerge that provide deeper insight into his background and circumstances -- and suggest why he might not be well-equipped to handle the situation he finds himself in.
       Nishikawa artfully twists reason in explaining himself and his actions:
     The gun was a man-made device, so it stood to reason that it had a purpose and, to stretch the point, a philosophy and ideology.
       This is Nakamura's first protagonist, but he already fits a mold, entirely absorbed and driven by an abstract concept and idea that becomes ever more real to him. Inescapably so: he can't escape his fate.
       The Gun is rather overwrought -- though part of this is surely a result of how very differently guns and gun-ownership are seen in Japan and elsewhere. But Nakamura does obsessive and delusional very well, and the small cast of characters is well presented.
       The Gun lacks some polish, but it's a solid, pleasantly disturbing noir, a fine first effort by a talented author.

- M.A.Orthofer, 31 October 2015

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The Gun: Reviews: Nakamura Fuminori: Other books by Nakamura Fuminori under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Nakamura Fuminori (中村 文則) was born in 1977.

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© 2015-2023 the complete review

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