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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Kingdom

Nakamura Fuminori

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To purchase The Kingdom

Title: The Kingdom
Author: Nakamura Fuminori
Genre: Novel
Written: 2011 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 218 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: The Kingdom - US
The Kingdom - UK
The Kingdom - Canada
  • Japanese title: 王国
  • Translated by Kalau Almony
  • With an Afterword by the author

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Our Assessment:

B+ : atmospheric; nicely twisted

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 11/10/2016 Barry Forshaw
The NY Times Book Rev. . 31/7/2016 Jan Stuart

  From the Reviews:
  • "It’s a plot (let’s face it) that has seen service before, but Nakamura’s take on it is multilayered and intense, with monstrous crime lord ‘Kizaki’ a formidable nemesis." - Barry Forshaw, The Independent

  • "Nakamura front-loads his narrative with tantalizing strangers and enigmatic acquaintances from Yurika’s distant past, yet the novel’s initial allure gives way to a surfeit of existential window dressing and brooding meditations on that old devil moon. Much like its alternately victimized and victimizing antiheroine, The Kingdom pins the reader in the cross hairs of bullets and bombast." - Jan Stuart, The New York Times Book Review

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:

       In a brief Afterword author Nakamura describes how when he was writing The Thief he: "wanted to write not a sequel but a sister novel". The Kingdom has this overlap he was apparently aiming for, with elements -- and, in the seemingly near-all-knowing Kizaki, one major character -- in common with the earlier novel; the two do complement each other well.
       The Kingdom is narrated by Yurika Kajima. "Properly speaking, I'm not a prostitute", she notes early on, but she plays at being one -- before incapacitating her would-be clients and taking pictures of the men she meets up with in compromising positions, creating: "a point of weakness in his life" which the organization she works for can then exploit, using it to blackmail and influence them. She's good at her job and earns quite a bit of money at it.
       The person she reports to, Yata ("but that's probably not his real name") reminds her: "One of your best qualities is that you don't pry. Remember that." But maybe Yurika hasn't pried quite enough all along: in a sense she has no idea what she's doing, and that proves to be quite a vulnerability. She doesn't realize quite how deep in she is, or exactly who the powers-that-be who (as it turns out) are playing her like a puppet are and what they want with her.
       When one of her assignments goes very wrong Yurika suddenly finds that her range of options has been drastically reduced. She is a pawn between her Yata and the mysterious Kizaki, each trying to pull one over on the other -- even as all this seems to be part of an even bigger game. She's quick on her feet, but Kizaki, in particular, seems to anticipate all her moves as he continues to toy with her. As he eventually tells her, he's been aware of her far longer than she could have realized -- and:

Of all the kids, you were the most beautiful girl with the most evil eyes. How perfect. I thought I'd write your story for you.
       As another of his underlings tells Yurika:
That man, he makes fiction of our boring world.
       'Yurika' is, of course, literally an invented character in a work of fiction (this novel, The Kingdom), but it turns out much of the character's life has been scripted, too, as in a novel -- a devastating realization for the independent loner who always thought she was in control.
       Yurika was roped into this business she's in by a rare show of vulnerability, the death of a friend and illness of her friend's son, Yurika having taken it upon herself to do whatever she could to get the boy proper medical treatment. An orphan, her few, limited ties are also to other orphan-figures; in Kizaki she is confronted not so much by a father- but god-figure, as he repeatedly toys with her fate.
       "My life itself is a trap", she sums up, in trying to extricate herself from it, as Nakamura has built up a nice and very sinister set-up. While perhaps going a bit overboard with the consequences of what she's gotten herself into -- background news reports reveal some very bad things unfolding, and the obvious implication is that Kizaki has managed to get some dominos to fall in a very high-level game -- but it's kept distant enough, with the focus sufficiently on Yurika, that even that works quite well (and certainly adds to the in-way-over-her-head atmosphere).
       Nakamura plays all this out very nicely, and Yurika is a compelling lead-figure and narrator -- especially in facing the mysterious character of Kizaki. Effectively unsettling, The Kingdom offers both psychological suspense on the most intimate personal level as well as some sinister geo-political (un-)doings in the background.
       A quick, dark read, in which the reader is -- like Yurika -- constantly kept off balance.

- M.A.Orthofer, 4 March 2016

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The Kingdom: 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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