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Japan, S A Special Police Squad Is Tracking Down One Of The Afflicted To Recover The Stuff Although The Operation Seems Like A Drug Bust, The Stuff Is Actually Some Kind Of Text Death Sentences A Work Of Science Fiction That Shares Its Conceit With The Major Motion Picture The Ring Tells The Story Of A Mysterious Surrealist Poem, Penned In The S, Which, Through Low Tech Circulation Across Time, Kills Its Readers, Including Arshile Gorky And Antonin Artaud, Before Sparking A Wave Of Suicides After Its Publication In S Japan Mixing Elements Of Japanese Hard Boiled Detective Story, Horror, And Science Fiction, The Novel Ranges Across Time And Space, From The Left Bank Of Paris To The Planet MarsParis, Andr Breton Anxiously Awaits A Young Poet, Who May He Recalls Their Earlier Encounter In New York City And The Mysterious Effects Of Reading Who May S Poem Other World Upon Meeting, Who May Gives Breton Another Poem, Mirror, An Even Unsettling Work Breton Shares It With His Fellow Surrealists Before Breton Can Discuss The Poem With Him, Who May Vanishes Who May Contacts Breton About A Third Poem, The Gold Of Time, And Then Slips Into A Coma And Dies Or Enters Another Dimension Copies Of The Poem Are Mailed To All Of Who May S Friends Breton, Gorky, Paul Luard, Marcel Duchamp, And Other Famous Surrealists And Dadaists Thus Begins The Magic Poem Plague Death Sentences Is The First Novel By The Popular And Critically Acclaimed Science Fiction Author Kawamata Chiaki To Be Published In English Released In Japan In As Genshi GariHunting The Magic Poems , Death Sentences Was A Best Seller And Won The Japan Science Fiction Grand Prize With Echoes Of Such Classic Sci Fi Works As George Orwell S , Ray Bradbury SFahrenheit , William Gibson S Neuromancer, And Philip K Dick S Martian Time Slip, Death Sentences Is A Fascinating Mind Bender With A Style All Its Own A strange, but compelling book, this takes the see me and die theme of Ringu, or Pahlaniuk s Lullaby to new mysterious dimensions Weaving in and out of time and place, from 30 s Paris to 2030 s Mars, the Surrealist movement of the early twentieth century is made responsible for the fate of the world, as some of them always thought they were I thought the translation was a bit awkward, but it did leave an unreal feel to the novel, so maybe it was meant to be that way. Warning minor plot spoilers also some possibly trigger y stuff about sex and violence The use of the word masterpiece to describe this book is to stretch the meaning so thin that you could read the classifieds through it.This translation of Kawamata s sixteenth novel which won at least one major Japanese genre prize is out of the U of Minnesota, so it comes larded with critical hoo haw on both sides foreword and afterword In between is a novel that reads sort of like this The woman was reading the novel.She had seen the book listed in a university press catalog, and ordered it specially in advance of its general publication date.It was supposed to be a fascinating mix of Japanese SF, mystery, and literary genres, which she found intriguing.But the novel itself was not enjoyable to read It made every sentence or two into a paragraph The critics seemed to consider this explosive, and daring, or something.The woman found herself skimming.No kidding, every sentence is pretty much a paragraph, and the sentences are oddly generic and repetitive Apparently this is a stylistic tic of Japanese popular novels, designed to give the reader nothing to dwell on in any particular sentence, thereby propelling her onward into the story To which I say Jesus Christ, that s a bad idea.The book was published in 1984 and I don t know the order of precedence, but the underlying concept here a surrealist poem that intoxicates and poisons people, killing them or possibly transporting them to another dimension is very Ringu If Kawamata came first, good for him That idea is about the only interesting thing about this book, which declines to sully its hands with things like character development or ennobling language.This is also a book with major gender trouble, a fact that I didn t see addressed in its critical apparatus It looks to me as though everyone involved with bringing this book to market has a y chromosome, which might explain why nobody calls Kawamata on his bullshit In a relatively short book that strips the narrative down to the barest essentials, we nonetheless get the following scenes A detective strips a woman and finger rapes her to extract a hidden item from her vagina, then shoots her in the head Another detective tells a woman he s accosted that he ll let her go if she has sex with him She has sex with him, dies anyway We get an explicit description of her genitalia before she dies The only female employee of a publishing company is repeatedly ogled by every man who meets her, complimented on her good looks, etc She presents herself as the secretary of the boss for a business meeting, although she s an editor She ends up marrying the editor in chief and quitting her own work, for no apparent reason Not sure why she s in the book, actually There are pretty much no other women in the book There are basically no women with significant roles.So Maybe 1980s Japan wasn t the most egalitarian place, but this is a book translated and published in 2012 Seems to me like this is something worth mentioning, even if just to say, Look, we think this is a great book but we know it has some weaknesses, try to take it with a grain of salt Anyway, if you re super duper into the Surrealist movement, enjoy bare bones prose and nonexistent characterization, read mainly for concepts, and can put up with a lot of what the translators and editors consider challenging, bold stylistic moves and what I consider dropped plot threads, vague ideas, tense shifts, poorly constructed scenes, and so on and if you like a healthy dose of lady bashing in your noirthis one s for you Quick, light read Some style lost in translation but the short sentences propel you forward very quickly as meant to be Book is sort of skipping genres French art and literary history, drug heist, a possible war on humanity, all in different settings across space time So in that sense a lot of typical Japanese creation and viewpoint involved Was a bit repetitive in the middle and then ending was abrupt but was fitting and nice, the short type where you either have to get it immediately or otherwise think about after reading Other reviewers commented on the objectification of women but it wasn t that central to the story so I didn t feel overly affected, it is after all a Japanese novel Pay no attention to the Bechdel Test It s meaningless drivel This is a good book, if flawed Those flaws have nothing to do with gender issues however Reform School Girls and She Devils of the SS both pass that test Are you going to try and tell me that those films don t objectify women In fact, it s often harmful If a book is dominated by males and a female character makes her mark, it fails the test If a woman is an introvert, the book fails the test Under the test, a woman s relationship concerns are dismissed and any woman who can t communicate also fails the test The Bechdel test is just a bunch of gibberish And none of this criticism seems to understand the idea of conflict and that the world is full of it If a novel doesn t conform to your ideas of what the world should be doesn t mean that it should be dismissed I recall when American Psycho was released, how there were protests then about that book Clearly those protesters hadn t even read it because it was a work of satire But the bigger issue is that the text is a place for us to work out our problems in society If those are Bowdlerized and ERASED, then there is no hope for us We don t want to look at ourselves.