Once upon a loooong time ago, I interviewed Derek, the author of today’s novel, about where he drew his inspiration from for this book. It turned into a fascinating conversation involving Japan, its culture and its attitude towards life after the atomic bomb.
I’ve been patiently working my way towards reading this book for what feels like forever- I guess 6 months is a long time- and FINALLY I got to crack open the cover on this beautiful volume to see what’s inside. It was well worth the wait.
The first thing you should know about this book is it’s absolutely beautiful. The cover art has a gorgeous misty quality to it but what surprised me was the delicate formatting on the pages inside. LOL, I know, the formatting seems like a weird thing to drool over, but when you see it, you’ll totally understand. Inside, each page has a very sleek and almost zen format to it. The chapter headings are beautifully balanced, and some particularly powerful moments in the story are heightened further with really cleverly designed typography. If you do read this book, which I will already say you should, get the dead tree edition. It is absolutely worth it.
So, anyway, enough about the brilliant graphic design let’s get into the meat of;
Written by: Derek Vasconi
Book Description: The bastard child of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 and Stephen King’s CARRIE, KAI explores how one innocent girl becomes the target of enormous rage living inside another girl-who is seemingly from another world.
Satsuki Takamoto is an invisible otaku teenager in Hiroshima. The only thing she has going for her is the upcoming birth of her sister. No longer will she be alone. But when her mother has a gory miscarriage right in front of her, Satsuki loses her one chance at happiness. She spirals into a deep depression, shutting out everyone and everything by locking herself inside her bedroom-for good. Her sadness, however, pales in comparison to her uncontrollable anger. It spreads like a nuclear fire, ambivalent to what or who it destroys, and won’t stop until Satsuki accepts her sister’s death.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world in Evanston, Illinois, Seul Bi Rissiello can’t sleep because every time she closes her eyes, she relives her adoptive parents’ gruesome deaths. Why is she thinking so much about them now, ten years afterward? As she struggles with working at a clinic for the mentally disturbed, Seul Bi starts to unravel under the weight of living a lonely life and being twice an orphan. Her life devolves into a series of ominous and dangerous hallucinations that threaten not only her sanity, but her very existence as well.
As both girls struggle to understand what is happening to them, their enigmatic connection comes into focus, raising the question: What if all the suffering in your life was carefully choreographed by somebody you’ve never met? [amazon]
The main thing to know about this book is that it is a beautifully crafted tale rich with cultural details and a story that focuses on characters who’s identities go beyond complex. These people feel real.
On one side of the story, in Japan, you have Satsuki who is isolated and quiet with no real drive beyond her manga, Nintendo DS and trying to fly under everyone’s radar. Her struggle to cope with life is painful, but one than any of us who’ve survived middle school will completely understand. No one notices you if you’re the quiet one. You’re old enough that your parents start to give you less attention, and even if you do manage to have made friends, you still tend to feel like a a leaf adrift in a sea of purposelessness.
On the other side of the world, near Chicago, there’s Seul Bi- who is struggling to cope with day-to-day life and her crippling depression. She loses herself in work and an obsessive drive to draw dismembered arms. She can’t sleep because of the visions in her mind of what happened to her parents. She’s wandering through a twilight world that starts to swirl with hallucinations because her mind won’t rest. Her struggle with her identity as a Korean girl adopted by an american family feels real. And really spoke to me as a 20-something who is always asking that same question; “Who am I?” Her questioning is heightened by the tragic deaths of her adopted parents when she was about 12. And I just feel so connected and invested in Seul Bi’s journey.
This story starts off grounded in a rich and dark reality, building up the characters and taking it’s time to paint the world around them in vivid details. But about a third of the way through the book a shift takes place and the bizarre things that horror fans like us love start to happen. But they are too interesting to get too far into. I want to spoil as little of this book as possible for you.
Poetic at times in a way that brings the story out of the world around you and elevates it to something else entirely. With this writing style I wouldn’t exactly call this book a story, I’d call it an experience. One unlike anything I’ve ever read before. And one that I hope Derek continues to bring to the world.
Scenes of exquisite horror
Part of why the language is so important to this book is because of the scenes that Stephen King fans will feel right at home in. There’s one scene in particular that took a nightmare and escalated it to existential horror. You’ll know the scene when you read it. I was repulsed by the graphic imagery, yet pushed almost to tears because of what the dream meant.
5 out of 5 Blood spattered stars. Buy a physical copy, read it, share it, and then repeat. This is an amazing book that horror fans everywhere should take the time to read.
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