Book Review: 'Audition' - Ryu Murakami
Posted 21.12.2012 by The Chemical Dream under Book Review
Another Japanese novel translated to English. All I need now is to post a review of Battle Royale and then I'll be a stereotype.
I read Audition quickly. The novel was easy to get into, the style was fluid and the pacing fast. This seems to typify the writing style I like, so will probably govern many of the books I choose to purchase. At this stage, style is not a problem. The flow of events is logical and consistent, no time is wasted on superfluous or gratuitous scenes.
Even though this is a translated work, there's nothing to fault the style or overall plot on. Many Japanese texts, I notice, seem overly simplistic when translated to English, as though they lose some of their literary flair. I'm told this is quite possible, as Japanese is a fairly simplistic language, but then the word forms change as the register changes depending on whether you're dealing with a more or less formal setting, superiors or inferiors etc. English has many ways of saying the same thing, Japanese has one way of saying each thing but the application of the register is very specific. Even taking all of this into account, there's nothing to really dislike.
The characters fulfilled their roles in the plot well, but they didn't feel fully rounded. They existed to move events forward, that's about it.
The single glaring problem, which is made all the more glaring by the fact that this book is marketed as a thriller, is that there was zero suspense.
From the get go we know that there's something fishy about the protagonist's love interest. The blurb at the back gives this away, for starters. So knowing the premise of the novel, maybe there was a chance to do something different. Perhaps she wasn't the danger, but there's something in her past that is. Or maybe, once the villainous element from her past is pushed off a cliff, back in the hotel room it turns out that she was evil all along and the former 'villain' was once in the same boat as our protagonist and is now out for revenge. Knowing the premise, which i arguably the reason I bought the book, meant that I was hoping for a few surprises or an element of mystery or detective work or something.
Without any of that or any suspense to carry us through, it's a fairly paint-by-numbers sequence of events building up to the climax. The climax was suitably violent and made me cringe in sympathetic pain, but the rest of the novel felt like a stable, Japanese version of Bridgette Jones's Diary in which the central characters tried so gosh-darn-hard to convince us of what likeable, interesting, two-dimensional people they really are.
I'd like to read another story to see if it's any better, if maybe not having a blurb give everything away reveals a more masterful handling of suspense. Always be fair enough to do that.
It just upsets me that this felt like it had potential,and then failed monumentally at the one thing it set out to do.